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In advance of Portal 2 coming out, a very well made first person puzzler, Portal, is available for free on Steam until May 24th. If you’re looking for an excuse to play this title or to get in on Steam in general, here’s a fantastic chance.

http://store.steampowered.com/freeportal/

Or just log into your Steam account and download.

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And is worth the price of admission, especially since the price is whatever you want to pay.

http://www.wolfire.com/humble

This title alone well worth the price you choose to pay.

Two days left in the sale, don’t miss it to support a good cause and get some great games at a probably bargain price.

Super Laser Racer is a a retro racing game released by New Star Games – It can be had off their website or from Steam. Since I love Steam so much I would marry it, I always suggest purchasing titles from there when you can.

Quick Facts:
Game: Super Laser Racer
System: PC
Players: 1
Price: $5
Genre: Retro Combat Racing
Released: 2009
Time to Complete: 10 hourish to do all difficulties/courses.

In freeze frame, it's impossible to capture the chaos that can ensue in this game.

Regular readers of my material know that I love a few things. I love cheap games. I love quality games. I love games with simple mechanics, and I love games with a classic arcade feel.

Super Laser Racer wins on all fronts. On a base level, SLR is a retro skinned vector graphics combat racing game, sort of a mix between Geometry Wars and Super Mario Kart (Even one of the racers is named Geo and shaped after the primary Geometry Wars ship) Your goal is to race against 11 computer controlled opponents in a series of futuristic courses, utilizing your own skill and reflexes, as well as weapons and speed boosts scattered throughout the course. The game offers 12 different courses and 3 difficulties out of the box, though the game also includes a level editor – so you can make your own courses or download some of the great ones that fans have made.

The game can be controlled via keyboard or gamepad, though I think serious gamers will prefer to use a gamepad for better control and arcade feel. The action is fast and furious, the intensity can be great, and the challenge factor (especially at high difficulties) can be great – the outcome of a race can turn in an instant. The AI of the enemy racers is quite good, though not unbeatable, and the speed of the game makes for easy replayability without much frustration.

In addition to the standard tournament racing, there are also addition modes like Survivor and Eliminator to add some replayability (and to make it a smidge easier to get some achievements for those concerned with such things), as well as a level editor to add even more depth. The game also features leaderboards, so you can try to compete to see if you can get the fastest lap.

As you can see from the screenshot, the game uses an eyepleasing retro vector graphics update, similar to Geometry Wars. It’s eye catching and fun, and the electronic dance music packaged with the game adds a great futuristic feel to the title.

So what didn’t I like? Well, this title begs for a online multiplayer component. Yes, the leaderboards are nice, but to actually be able to race against other people/friends would have been awesome and really have pushed this title into the must have category. Also, I thought the weapons were a tad bland, some were fairly useless. A little more variety would have been welcome. And this is nitpicky, but I would have liked a tutorial with the level editor.

All that being said, for the price, this is a bargain. This gives you everything you want out of a title of this style. As a side note, I would have loved for them to have released a Super Laser Racer screensaver. I’d definitely have let that bad boy run in my background.

Graphics:

Very eye pleasing, fun, bright vector style graphics. The explosions and weapons are enjoyable, and no slowdown at highest resolution play.

Sound:

The sound is standard, nothing that blows you out of the water, but the music is great.

Control:

Control is much better with a gamepad, so I suggest having one – though some players say they enjoy using the keyboard just fine.

Gameplay:

Fun, intense, fast paced racing action with some thrills spills and missiles. If you’re into racing or combat racing games at all, you’re going to enjoy it. If you’ve never dealt with the genre, I strongly encourage you to dip your toes into the SLR waters.

What I liked:

1. Crisp fun presentation.
2. Fantastic soundtrack.
3. Basic but challenging gameplay which keeps you coming back.

What I didn’t like:

1. The lack of online multiplayer is the glaring flaw in this title. For $5 though, we let it slide.
2. Admittedly, I didn’t spend a LOT of time with the level editor, but a tutorial of some sort would have been a nice touch.
3. A few more weapons/better weapon variety would have been appreciated.

Recommended:
Yes

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/

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

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

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