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Archive for January, 2010

Richard Abowitz, a known Vegas writer and contributor to the Daily Beast has recently put up an interesting article on why Pornography as an industry is dying.

Reason #4? Online gaming. Here’s the excerpt –

4. Online Gaming

One of the strangest challenges porn faces is competition from online games like World of Warcraft, though the connection may at first seem random. “It is all entertainment that you are getting involved in the same way as porn is entertainment,” said Aiden. “I won’t say everyone, but a lot of people in the industry play videogames. The games are competition for porn. Fans jerk off to porn and are done, but you can keep playing a game.”

Aiden (no last name, this is porn!) should know, as he is also Webmaster for his wife Belladonna’s successful site EnterBelladonna.com. As for his online gaming, his wife wants him to cut back. “Yeah, my wife and I occasionally argue about the amount of time I spend playing.”

—-

Read the full article:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-01-10/top-5-reasons-porn-for-profit-is-dying/full/

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Space Invaders Extreme was released in 2008, for the 30th year anniversary of the original Space Invaders. As the cliché goes, this ain’t your fathers Space Invaders.

Released for both the PSP and the DS, this review will focus on the DS version.

Quick Facts:
Game: Space Invaders
System: Nintendo DS
Players: 1 (2 player with Nintendo WiFi)
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Released: 2008
Time to Complete: 1 hour or so per playthrough.

Space Invaders Extreme takes the original SI formula, and cranks it up to the umpteenth degree. More enemies, more varieties of attacks, more music, more flashing, more stages, more modes – just more of everything.

As an immediate disclaimer – This game at its core is still an old school arcade shooter. If moving side to side, dodging enemies and pressing a fire button repeatedly doesn’t sound fun to you – You can go right on ahead and skip this title. However, if you have a nostalgic side and enjoy those arcade classics, you won’t be disappointed.

Space Invaders core game play is called “Standard” mode – Which consists of a 5 stage adventure through 20 waves each, and a boss fight. There are a few different colors of enemies, and when you kill several of them in a row, you get weapon power ups – such as lasers or explosive shots. Your score multiplier goes up for killing many enemies without dying, and you can even level up – which will increase the rate of fire and power of your shots. Something cool is, the game scales to your skill – The better you do, the more options you have to unlock harder stages. So while there are only 5 stages you play in a complete game, there are actually 12 different stages, in addition to the EXTREME mode versions of the 5 basic stages for a total of 17 stages.

It will only take you an hour or so to complete a playthrough, but if you aren’t good, you’ll need to restart – It probably took me 3-4 hours to get through a complete playthrough my first time – and then I was able to do it faster on the normal modes.

During your stages, if you kill enemies in a certain order, you will engage mini games such as Round Start and Roulette which will allow you to try other challenges or complete power ups.

The actual presentation is pretty fun – The music is extremely catchy and you’ll find yourself bopping along to it. The game supports rumble if you have a slot-2 rumble device, which is also cool. The flashes and colors and lights can be a tad distracting at first, but they are fun and visually interesting. Figuring out the enemies and what their shots do will take a little time, but once you get in a flow you’ll know what everything does.

And the end of each stage is a boss fight! The boss fights are a neat addition, putting a very unique spin on the Space Invaders formula – You’ll need to figure out the trick and weak spots of the bosses and execute them.

So while there isn’t a lot of depth, this is without a doubt one of the hardest games I’ve played in a long time – But it’s up to you how much of the challenge you want to take. Maybe you don’t want to unlock the harder stages or bother playing with the extreme stages. Regardless, this is a fun short-time game that can easily be picked up and put down.

There is a good deal of replayability in that you have not only the Standard mode (And varying difficulties), but you can also challenge yourself with Stage mode (Play each stage), as well as Ranking mode – Which has you attempting to go through Story Mode to get the highest score possible – and it compares your scores against other players. There is also a WiFi multiplayer mode where you can go head to head.

If you like the classics or dig a good challenge, or high scores still excite you, this is a great title to snag.
Graphics:

I mean, it’s still Space Invaders. Brighter colors, flashy backgrounds and explosions, and giant pixilated Space Invaders are coming your way. Simple, but fun.

Sound:

The sound effects are totally retro and fine – But the music stands out as being really catchy and enjoyable. The rumble adds a nice deep bass groove too.
Control:

The game controls just fine – You really only use the D-pad and a fire button, though the shoulder buttons will hold your special weapons so you don’t waste them. Nothing fancy here.

Gameplay:

It simple, it’s classic, it worked 30 years ago, it still works now. Move your ship side to side, avoid enemies and falling lasers, and kill as much as possible. This version adds more than enough spin on the classic though so it doesn’t feel dated at all. Go for that high score, and challenge yourself.

What I liked:

1. Classic fun gameplay.
2. Excellent presentation.
3. Very challenging!

What I didn’t like:

1. I think some sort of museum/classic SI inclusion would have been fun.

Recommended:
Yes

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Plants Vs. Zombies is a very fun, entry level foray into the “Tower Defense” gaming genre. Tower Defense games involve building “Towers” that usually cannot move, but can attack invading enemies in a variety of ways. Plants Vs. Zombies features a cute family friendly visual style, some great replayability, and as much challenge as you want to get out of it.

Here’s the description as seen on the Steam website:

“An all-new action-strategy game from PopCap, makers of Bejeweled and Peggle! Zombies are invading your home, and the only defense is your arsenal of plants! Armed with an alien nursery-worth of zombie-zapping plants like peashooters and cherry bombs, you’ll need to think fast and plant faster to stop dozens of types of zombies dead in their tracks. Obstacles like a setting sun, creeping fog and a swimming pool add to the challenge, and with five game modes to dig into, the fun never dies!”

I really enjoy tower defense, and I enjoy games of the “casual” ilk – as I get older I don’t always have time to delve into a long experience like Borderlands, and my gaming roots are in the early days – So most of your gaming experiences were shorter with replayability. Plants Vs. Zombies comes from this school. The game boasts 50 levels in the adventure mode (which can be played multiple times with different difficulties) as well as some great minigames and “Survival” mode (Probably my favorite).  When I started this one, I didn’t want to put it down. The game offered a moderate amount of challenge, but was very enjoyable from start to finish. The learning curve was a little slow moving, but they really wanted to make sure everyone understood what was going on – and the ability to purchase varying upgrades added some personalization to the experience.

The imagination and variety of both the plants and zombies is great, including Michael Jackson dancing zombies, and plants that toss Watermelons. The graphics are fun and family friendly – the music is very catchy, and the sound effects are very acceptable – mosly involving varying degrees of… “Brains…” chants from the enemies and various piffs and poofs from your plant arsenal.

If you’re looking for something fun and silly, and you enjoy killing Zombies, P Vs. Z is a very fun, family friendly game that you’ll want to keep coming back for.

System Requirements
OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista
Processor: 1.2GHz processor
Memory: 512+MB of RAM
Graphics:
128MB of video memory, 16-bit or 32-bit color quality
DirectX:
8 or later
Hard Drive: 65+MB of free hard drive space
Sound:
DirectX-compatible sound

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So, I need to get this off my chest. I am sure most of you are at least vaguely aware of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) which is the organization responsible for E/T/M labels on your games. While I do not support censorship, I understand the need for people (Parents) to know what they are getting themselves or their kids into. So, I understand why there are movie ratings, I understand why there are Explicit Lyric warnings on music, and I understand why there are ratings on games.

That being said, this absurd phrase “Online Interactions not rated by the ESRB” that seems to show up whenever I power up any game these days needs to go away. I suspect this is basically some sort of marketing ploy by the ESRB to make everyone think they are important or something.

There’s a couple of things at work here which proves how meaningless this phrase is.

1. Dealing with other people is not considered part of the product itself.  When you watch a movie trailer, there is no disclaimer saying “Interactions with assholes or annoying crying children not rated by the MPAA” When you buy a CD, there is no added sticker, “Interactions with frat boys or other drunk party/concertgoers not rated by the RIAA” When you go to Disneyland, there is no sign saying that your kid friendly experience may get interrupted by an irate or exhausted parent. You get the point.

People are an X factor that can change your experience. They can be jerks, they can swear, they could try to have some sort of naughty content spray or whatever. This should be COMMON KNOWLEDGE. I don’t need a message to pop up every time I play Space Invaders Extreme telling me that playing online might be a different experience. This wastes my time and is not needed.

2. Nine out of ten times, online play involves playing more or less the same game you are playing single player, so playing online only changes the experience in that the human element is involved (see point 1). However, some exceptions may include games that are online only, such as Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2 – But even if that’s the case, the rating should take this into account in the first place. If you feel that there is a high probability of someone doing something “adult” while playing a game, just treat the game like you would treat GTA or any other adult title at that point.

So can we stop wasting everyone’s time with this needless and meaningless phrase? People change the experience. Got it. Let’s all move on.

-LAG

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It’s been a very hectic couple of weeks for me, between working my yobs and the holidays winding down – So after beating Borderlands, knowing I had a couple road trips come up – I decided to eschew any serious gaming, and play some light fare. That light fare involved a WHOLE LOT of Plants Vs. Zombies which I snagged off of Steam a while back due to some strong recommendations, but never got a chance to get into.

The game is very fun, very silly, and very addicting. Also, for a bargain title, it offers a surprising amount of replayability. In addition to the main mode, it also rocks several mini games, challenges, and survival mode (Probably my favorite). I also liked the Beghouled mode. If you’re into tower defense games, or just into something a little lighter but still fun, this is a very strong game.

I also had some buds over and got to play some Guitar Hero Smash Hits and Metallica with them. I got the World Tour kit about a year ago, and just rarely get a chance to play because I rarely host gaming sessions, and it’s a shame – I like it, its fun – But it’s obviously more fun with people who get into it and want to get better – Can be tough for a super casual crowd who don’t really buy into it or feel a little silly playing. That being said, I enjoy it a great deal.

Also, I’ve been picking at World of Goo – which I like, but find it hard to play for more than an hour at a time. This is going to sound whiny, but my wrist actually starts to get sore after a while. So I am about halfway through the game which some people say can take under 10 hours to beat. I love the style, the humor, and the gameplay, but I can’t help thinking maybe I didn’t make a mistake by getting it/playing it on the PC. And since I paid for it on the Wiiware, I feel compelled to play it there.

As an addendum, when in god’s name is Wiiware going to offer something in the way of fun 4 player party games for those over the age of 6? For the love of god, it’s been 3 years. Come up with some sort of decent party/group game for a more mature gamer.

Similarly, I went to look for Mario Party 8 as a gag gift for someone – and this is a nearly 3 year old Wii title with generally mediocre reviews. Yet, the game still sells for $50 off the shelf, $45 used, and even in Ebay, you’re looking at 30$ plus shipping. NO GAME 3 YEARS OLD SHOULD BE $50. Come on! Also, since I decided not to buy it, I went to my local Blockbuster – I don’t ever go to Blockbuster, and in addition to being stickershocked (2 games for $15 rental) they didn’t look to even carry this title. Probably because it’s too old. So a bust all around.

Also, on my DS I’ve been rocking some Space Invaders extreme, following the light gaming trend – but let me tell  you, despite the simple gameplay this is one of the more challenging games I’ve played in a very long time. If you’re into classic arcade action, give it a shot. Doesn’t offer a TON of depth, but the replayability is high if you’re into high score chasing.

Next week I’ll probably be snagging the Island of Dr. Zed DLC for Borderlands. I also need to dig into Torchlight.

-LAG

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Many of you saw my post blasting 2k for the broken multiplayer in Borderlands. I finally was able to spend the time to play through the game, and here’s my final review – Even though Multiplayer still didn’t deliver the way I had hoped, the game itself is stull a very enjoyable single player experience.

I’m a big fan of post apocalyptic anything, so when I first saw the Borderlands trailer, I was intrigued. A cooperative shooter set in a barren world, with an eye catching visual style, some good jokes, and a rocking soundtrack sounded like a fantastic game. I was incredibly excited for it, as I got a few of my gaming buddies to buy in, and we planned to play it. Unfortunately, the Multiplayer function on the PC version is implemented pretty poorly, but the game still was a very fun single player experience.

Quick Facts:
Game: Borderlands
System: PC (Also avail for the 360)
Players: 1-4
Genre: FPS with RPG Elements
Released: 2009
Time to Complete: 30ish hours per playthrough (You can playthrough twice)

Borderlands takes your FPS formula and interjects some popular RPG elements, such as a skill tree, quests and loot drops. There are 4 “classes” you can choose from, Soldier, Hunter, Siren, and Brick – each with a distinct style of play. I also loved how depending on your gun drops throughout the game, your game experience could vary wildly from someone else’s game. Between the classes and gun variety, it’s hard to have a generic experience with the title.

The story itself involves you as more or less a bounty hunter – Dropped on the planet Pandora to look for something called “The Vault”. It’s basically implied that if you find the Vault, you will become incredibly wealthy. Once you land on the planet, a mysterious angelic character starts beaming you messages to assist you in this task. You’ll also require the help of the locals, and this is where the story mostly permeates from – You doing things to help out the locals and make Pandora a better and safer place for all.

Pandora itself had become more or less a haven for scum – gangs and other treasure hunters, and the game has a Wild West feel. Go kill thug X so the townspeople are safer – that sort of thing. The story is fairly weak, but coherent, though you never really care for the NPCs or the task at hand – other than a few of the bit player being pretty funny (Scooter, the redneck mechanic – notably)

The gameplay takes a pretty solid FPS standpoint with a cel-shaded graphical style, a huge variety of weapons and some pretty varied enemies – from armored beasts, to bandits, to highly protected mercenaries. The interface itself is mediocre, performing some tasks like equipping weapons and checking quests logs I felt was a tad cumbersome, and the AI is incredibly bad. The landscapes are fairly similar, though visually interesting if you look at the details, but be prepared to see a lot of brown, sand, and rock.

Despite these primary flaws, I found myself having fun whenever I played. Unfortunately, because of it being quite simply broken at launch – and then still frustrating and complicated after they “fixed” it, the Multiplayer was MUCH harder to get into than it should have been, especially for a game marketed as a mutli-player experience. I still haven’t gotten to play much multiplayer, except at a buddy’s house who also has the game on the Xbox360.

There have already been two DLC packs with added content released for the title for the Xbox360, the 2nd one should be out for the PC within a couple weeks of this review being written – so it’s good to see the franchise is getting support and additional content to keep the game fun and dynamic. All in all, despite its flaws, I had a lot of fun playing the game – I hope they fix it up and are successful enough to create a full sequel that puts the multiplayer issues to bed.

Graphics:

The PC version is far and away better looking than the Xbox 360 version. It’s a crisp, interesting looking shooter with some fun effects. Some people are turned off by the cel shaded style, but I dig it. For a wasteland, there are cool things to see if you look, but some players have noted the backdrops can get a bit repetitive. Not a ton of variety in the enemies either.

Sound:

The music is fun and rocking, and sound effects are engrossing. There is a very limited supply of one liners that the enemies use, and that gets a little obnoxious, but the voice acting is decent enough – and some good humor is supplied by a few of the characters. Again, I liked the style.

Control:

The control can be a little sluggish – You may need to adjust some of your mouse settings. You can use a gamepad on the PC, but most people will opt for a mouse and keyboard approach. I found the interface itself to be a bit subpar, though you will get used to it and fight through the pain.

Gameplay:

The gameplay itself was good. A great marriage of FPS and RPG elements, though the skill trees were a little too limited for my tastes. The variety of gun and loot drops made for interesting and fun fights, and allows you to really choose the style of shooter you are – which I enjoyed a great deal as well. You like pistols? Use pistols. You like to snipe? Snipe. You want to blow stuff up? Blow stuff up. Some of the weapons are clearly better than others, but you can probably make do with about anything.

The story was thin, but not out and out bad – and the quests kept you moving. Vehicles, teleportation, and convenient respawn made getting around the world pretty convenient.

The default inclusion of a second playthrough option with tougher enemies I liked as well.

What I liked:

1. Setting, style, presentation.
2. Well done marriage of FPS and RPG elements.
3. Fun FPS gameplay.

What I didn’t like:

1. Multiplayer was horribly broken, and still not great.
2. Bad AI.
3. Some repetitiveness in enemies and locales.

Recommended:
Yes

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Off far too long…

Between the holidays and my jobs, I’ve been away far too long and I apologize for that – Will get some more regular content flowing soon.

A couple of things all gamers should be aware of: Steam has been running some pretty insane holiday sales on must have titles like Torchlight. They’ve also been offering some great prices on probably should haves like L4D2, Borderlands, TF2, etc.

I haven’t gotten to play much TF2 since the Demo/Soldier update went live – But I’ll have some thoughts on that soon. I have played the HELL out of Borderlands – I’ll give a full review soon, but I will just say despite its flaws and its frustrating multiplayer, the game still is a ton of fun single player as well.

For those into CO-OP play – COD MW2 (Which I don’t need to hype) offers a Spec Ops mode which is tailor made for bite sized Co-Op gaming. It’s a lot of fun, challenging, very well implemented – and something I hope to see more of in the future .

More to come soon.

-LAG

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