Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Sidebar: Meet Ska Studios

Since posting last week’s invitation for content, I have learned two things: 1) Some people would actually enjoy hearing me talk about Magic The Gathering, and 2) People did not like the 2011 Video Game Awards on Spike TV. I wish I could be saying that I found some novel way to unite these two into a powerful, Voltron-esque article, but rather, I took inspiration from the latter issue foremost. It pertains to an issue that has bothered me for some time, with regards to the video game industry. Disclaimer: I am not about to lament everything in the VGAs.

What was most apparent to me about the VGAs is that the music and movie industries have one powerful thing that the gaming industry does not. Something so lacking, and of which it is in such need, that the VGAs endeavored to transplant this missing organ from movies and music. It is a simple thing, but rather awkwardly also something for which most games players probably do not care much, but if our industry is ever to be taken as seriously as its two bigger brothers, we’re going to need it. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: The Mainstream Celebrity.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Sidebar: Welcome

Silent Hill 2's James Sunderland stares into the depths of a Sunday, and it stares right back.

Sundays, and weekends in particular, have always been an Internet bête noire of mine. For anyone as accustomed as I am to surfing the web for nigh-on 16 hours per day, the weekend tends to recoil into a chasm of content, a crevasse of creativity, an absence of articles. On weekends, sometimes it can be hard to find something good to read is what I’m trying to say. What’s worse is that this negative space occurs right on the few days that I have more than enough time on my hands to indulge any and all of my interests.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

All quiet on the blog front, but why?

If I had Post-It notes, and a fishing rod, and VGW was a boat, this would make more sense.
Sincerest apologies, hallowed fan who has been wondering where all the cool news, thoughts and updates about my gaming life have gone to. I have some 'splaining to do, I suppose. So I shall begin. It's always best to begin at the beginning, they say.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This Week I Have Mostly Been Playing: Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers

The handy little beams of light help to show you what's going on throughout each phase.

In case you hadn't already noticed, Xbox Live have started advertising low-price XBLA items on the Spotlight section of the Dashboard. I'm not sure if this phenomenon is UK-only, but I failed to pick up on it whilst I was in the US, and just happened to notice it last Saturday evening, whilst casually perusing the Xbox with little to do. I missed out on an incredible deal as part of their Friday-only offer, which was Torchlight at 400pts, but settled with a 33% reduction on MtG:DotP and was happy, although much to my chagrin they further reduced this from 800 to this week's 400 banana bucks. That's a price at which you'd be mad to miss it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Crimson Alliance (XBLA)

Releasing poison gas is almost always a bad idea.

Crimson Alliance is a co-operative dungeon crawler for XBLA. Offered for free if you bought all four of this year's Summer of Arcade titles, is it worth purchasing individually?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic Gets A Release Date

Lightsaber duels: sure to be unsatisfying when button-bashed.

If you were hoping to be able to get through your Christmas exams before finding your life wholly devoured by Bioware's new MMO, well, there's no easy way to say this: I have some really bad news for you. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

You beta believe it: Diablo III

And then the Witchdoctor, he told me what to do, he said "Summon arcane death!"

I took some time today to watch footage of the beta test for Blizzard's highly anticipated sequel, Diablo III. The most interesting part of the video, unless you happen to be mad-keen on watching lots of running and gold collecting, was examining how each of the five different character classes play, and of course, as an aside to that, how quickly you can find yourself drawn to one in particular.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Suffering Through Final Fantasy XIII: Part III

This scene looks blooming marvellous. Pity I never made it that far.

My occasion to further experiment with Final Fantasy XIII has come to a close, and to be honest, I'm more than ready to draw the curtain on it. As much as I would have loved to have made it through the requisite 25-hour-long tutorial that opens up the game, in the end I found myself lacking the time and, perhaps most importantly, the willpower to make it through to the slightly less linear second half.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Leedmees (XBLA)

Leed on mee, when you're not strong, etc.
One of few XBLA titles to feature Kinect controls, Leedmees had me immediately interested for that reason, being as it is that Microsoft's motion-capture hardware has suffered and been criticised for a lack of quality software with which to use it. Konami's new puzzle game features impressively accurate Kinect control wrapped in an enjoyable puzzle game.

Quick Review: Techno Kitten Adventure (XBLA/iOS)

Techno Kitten Adventures will surprise your senses.

I heard about this game from the folks over at Super Happy Funtime Show podcast. Available through the Xbox Live Indie Games community, and also the App Store, Techno Kitten Adventure is a veritable epileptic fit of good fun.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Just completed: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (X360)

Adam Jensen: Hater of lightbulb fanatics.

There are a chosen few titles - such as Half Life, Legend of Zelda, or World of Warcraft - which come to secure a place in gaming's collective consciousness, but when Ion Storm's Deus Ex came out in 2000, it quickly scaled the ranks to become not only an instant hall-of-famer but to be regarded by many, including PC Gamer magazine, as 'The Greatest PC Game of All Time'. High praise indeed, if fruitless, for although the sequel, Invisible War, was still considered to be a decent effort, it failed to captivate players to the same degree as its forefather. All of this goes some way to explaining why I had completely missed the PR regarding Eidos Montréal's prequel, Human Revolution. What a mistake I had made, and boy am I glad it was rectified.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

League of Legends lets me down, Dance Central 2 still looks good

The is the first screen you'll see on the battlefield in LoL.

My Age of Empires Online ambitions were swiftly and permanently curtailed this weekend upon discovering that the version of Windows XP to which I had access was pre-Service Pack 3 and so ineligible for an install. Not one to be put off, I moved immediately onto something else Windows-only: League of Legends.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Suffering Through Final Fantasy XIII: Part II

Lightning whips through foes like... an electrical storm.

I've managed to clock in seven hours now, and at this point, it feels as if the game is starting to open up a little more. I'm still tracking that same linear pathway as before, but at last the combat engine looks to finally be waking up a little.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Suffering Through FFXIII (X360)

Say what you want about gameplay, but FFXIII is beautiful to behold

A rejected copy of Final Fantasy XIII has laid ignored for months beside me, and so last week I decided to give it a chance. Upon release, Square Enix’s latest iteration of the Final Fantasy franchise was much maligned, among other things, for its linearity. Depending on who you’d believe, the game has what amounts to a glorified tutorial section that lasts between fifteen and twenty-five hours, after which point the real game begins in earnest. Challenge accepted.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Xbox Summer of Arcade: Fruit Ninja Kinect, Renegade Ops

Fruit! Slicing! It can only be Fruit Ninja Kinect!
Arriving this week for review on Xbox Live Arcade is an already popular game on smartphones the world over. Now infused with motion capture, I was keen to see how the new iteration, Fruit Ninja Kinect, would compare to its low-budget counterpart.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Xbox Summer of Arcade: From Dust and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (XBLA)

The clean, Flash-esque visuals really work to ITSP's advantage.

It’s been just over a week, and the second and third instalments of Summer of Arcade have been released, so let’s go take a look at them, shall we?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Catherine is frustrating, Kinectimals is cute, Dance Central is great

Catherine could just as easily be renamed 'Tower of Ragequit'.

I decided to take a dabble into the world of Catherine, the new game from the developers of the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona franchise. A survival horror puzzle platformer dating sim certainly sounds like a new experience. But does it work?

Monday, July 25, 2011

XBLA Weekend: Torchlight, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, and others

Torchlight is an excellent dungeon crawler.

Saturday evening turned into a bit of an XBLA proving ground. I downloaded a whole host of titles in my continuing mission to find a game worthy of my 800 points. In and amongst the games were a few choice highlights and a very certain lowlight. Winner of the night – Torchlight.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer of Arcade: The Kid loaded up Bastion, and it was good (XBLA)

Bastion looks new and familiar all at once.

After much hype and fuss since I first heard of its development, SuperGiant Games’ Bastion finally saw release this week, as part 1 of Xbox’s Summer of Arcade season. If the trial version is anything to go by, this is a very impressive little title.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Alice continues to dazzle and delight; Alan is barely awake

The swift justice of the Vorpal Blade really shows off A:MR's visuals.

After another week of playing, I’ve seen even more of the alphabetically prime Alice: Madness Returns and Alan Wake, the latter of which I finished last night. Asides from that, I took some time to try out a couple of releases; some new, and some not so new on the XBLA Marketplace.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

First Impressions: Alan Wake (X360)

Alan ain't afraid o' no ghost.

Last weekend, Amazon delivered two new bright young things to Notre maison d’amour numérique: Alan Wake and Alice: Madness Returns. I spent the week mostly engrossing myself in the psychological thriller that is Alan Wake, and took a backseat to watch my girlfriend work through Spicy Horse’s sequel to American McGee’s Alice. Both games deal with eerie worlds in almost diametrically opposed ways.
Alan Wake plays like a television series – the game goes so far as to even be split up into ‘episodes’, whilst Alice: Madness Returns is a more whimsical affair, though its cute and colourful visuals look to belie a serious, blackened core of a story. Essentially, both of the protagonists in these games are disturbed by their thoughts, and suffer in varying degrees as victims of their own psyche. Whilst running and gunning certainly has a time and place in terms of good, clean fun, I have always found myself to be most drawn in by a good story, and if there can be even so much as a dash of suffering, I’m on board. Let’s take a look at Alan Wake first-off.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New Adventures in XBLA

Journey isn't on XBLA, but it represents how I feel when I sit at the Marketplace menu.

A recent change in both location and situation has left me with substantially more free time to spend playing video games. Laden with such time, my first port of call was my list of older games I wanted to catch up on, and after some deliberation I chose to start with the serially-delayed Remedy joint, Alan Wake, of which many good things were heard. Having then placed the order with my good friends at Amazon, I opted to pass the waiting time by delving into the cavernous realm of Xbox’s Game Marketplace to try out a few mostly-recent demos. Here are my impressions on them:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Nostalgia Buck: Is Gaming going the way of Hollywood?

Child of Eden has all of the colours, all of the sounds, all of the time.

Last week, not one, not two, but three separate hotly-anticipated sequels to three relatively antiquated titles saw release: the testosterone-laden shooter Duke Nukem Forever (Duke Nukem 3D, 1996), the synaesthesia-influenced Child of Eden (Rez, 2001), and gothic fairytale-retold Alice: Madness Returns (American McGee’s Alice, 2000). All three of these originals share a common trait of having been considered singular at their time of release and yet have made for a combined wait of thirty-six years to finally escape into the market. But was it worth the wait? And is this a sign of a wider, darker trend in games development?

Monday, June 13, 2011

E3 Round-up, Duke Nukem Forever, Silent Hill 2

Duke Nukem 4eva, baybee.

Another year, another post-E3 week, with only a mere 358 days until the next event. Get marking your calendars, people who attend E3. Disclaimer: I wasn’t at E3, though it has long been an ambition of mine to attend it. Ideally, that would be in a professional capacity, though. Anyway, I thought I’d touch on the announcements that piqued my interest most throughout the event.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

E3 2011: Impressions of the Nintendo Conference

Reggie Fils-Aimé working his Force Lightning pose.
In many ways the most highly-anticipated of the Big Three this year, everyone was perched and poised, ready to witness the unveiling of the first console to be a member of the next generation. Running at just around half the length of Microsoft’s media extravaganza, Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aimé came armed and serious, confident in an outcome that wowed us all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E3 2011: Impressions of the Microsoft Conference

You can't see how much I love Don Mattrick because he's so small here.

Well, I’m a day late but guaranteed to be not a single dollar short. I managed to catch the Microsoft E3 2011 Press Conference last night after work and I have to say I’m still not quite sure what I thought of it. They definitely know what a Kinect is, of that much I’m sure.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Unbearable Entertainment: The Survival Horror Genre

The wretched and foreboding beginning to Silent Hill 2.

From big-budget franchises such as the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series, to lesser-known titles such as Overblood and Illbleed, the Survival Horror genre is one of the most remarkable areas of the gaming world. I say this because I feel that it marks itself out from much of the rest of gaming based on its founding principle – It is not fun to play. You do not ‘win’ a survival horror game in the traditional sense. You make it out alive, barely.

Monday, May 30, 2011

DJ Hero 2, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Rhythm Games

I still prefer calling it DJ Herp.

Asides from my early teenage forays into Konami’s Guitar Freaks series, and a mild preoccupation with Beatmania, DDR, and Stepmania, I was never much into rhythm games once they made their way across the earth and became a bit of a thing in the western gaming world. Does that make me a games hipster? Perhaps, although my main problem with them was always firmly rooted in the difficulty levels I encountered, or rather didn’t, as it were.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Living under a rock: Portal 1 (X360)

Hole-ly disappointing.

Well well well, talk about late to the party on this one. Portal has pretty much been a mainstay of Internet gaming culture since it was released way back in 2007. I still remember the hype in ’08 of the game coming to Xbox 360 as part of Valve’s infamous The Orange Box package deal. For some reason, I was completely unenthused by its release at the time. I put this down to the fact that I have a fear of playing sequels before their original iterations, and TOB being primarily comprised of Half Life 2 left me quaking in my OCD boots. Furthermore, it was never fully explained to me that all of Half Life 2 was there, and not just Episode 2, which was the impression that I received from all the news. That’s no doubt my own fault for not paying attention in games class. Finally, last week, I got a chance to play through Portal from start to finish, a process that took me two sessions, if I remember correctly.

Netflix Instant Streaming, or What it means to truly feel love

All Netflix employees go to heaven, too. Just sayin'.

Two posts in one evening. Be still thy beating heart, dear reader! Fear not, this is simply a rabid burst of productivity, and normal service will resume promptly. We have our top men working on dragging me down, so simply enjoy this content overkill whilst it lasts.

I want to write many, many words here, but it simply must be stated: Netflix Instant Streaming is probably the most amazing advancement in modern home entertainment. There, I said it. When I think of Netflix Instant Streaming, I want to write sonnets about it. I want to take it out to dinner, and laugh at all its jokes. I want to sit with it in the evenings, and hold it close while it reminisces with me about that time we watched Johnny Mnemonic but it turned out to be terrible and so we had to go to bed without finishing it. In short, I never want to be without Netflix Instant Streaming.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Post-match Analysis: PAX East

PAX East Expo Hall from the Skybridge.

Well, call off the hounds. Here I am, back again on British soil. PAX East was an experience and a half, to say the least. If you are reading this, and you have not been, there aren’t enough superlatives in the world to justify a description of just how best it was.

So, I figured that rather than spew all the same coverage you will find on the various quality video game sites, I would eschew that approach for a brief overview, alongside some lessons learned from the experience.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

PAX East: Preparing For Launch

What will get in my way?

Today is one my final few days in the country before I depart on a journey that will ultimately take me to Penny Arcade Expo East. Being my first experience of a convention, as seems in fact to be the case for many people I to which I have spoken, I am really keen to witness this quintessentially American experience. Of course, there are similar conventions that exist closer to home, but when it comes to the crunch of indulging and nourishing a niche market, the vastness of The States lends it a considerable advantage.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Games consumerism: How many is too much?

I googled 'pile of games'. I reaped what I sowed.

So, I’ve been ruminating on this point for a few days, and I figure that this is as good a place from which to launch forth as any other. As you may be able to tell from the myriad posts on this site, I do not buy a lot of games. Most certainly, I do not buy a lot of new releases. In part, this is due to the simple fact that, until recently, I could not afford to splash out £50-odd on a new title. Except for the big boys. A quick look over at my games shelf quickly tells me that the last new release I picked up was Halo: Reach. If anything, a perfect case in point. A great title that received much hype in the run-up to its release, I found a few friends who were willing to co-op the campaign with me, and I was ready to go. Fast forward to a fortnight later, and it was stowed away where it hasn’t been touched since. It got me to thinking, who is buying all these new games, and how often?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why I bought a DSi one month before the release of the 3DS

DSi still sounds like a Vauxhall Corsa sports model to me.
So, I am now pretty pumped/stoked/high on hype for PAX East. I still don’t totally believe that I’m ever actually going to end up at it, despite having purchased everything necessary. Something will get in the way. I know it. Nothing that I get excited about ever works out, and it’s painful because, as each day passes, I become more and more excited about the idea of the whole thing. Guess we’ll see what happens, eh? I would love to be proved wrong. But what does this have to do with buying a DSi? Do you know nothing of product cycles? I was getting to that.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My favourite meme on the Citadel

Just hangin' out.

The final part of Mass Effect 2, the ‘Suicide Mission’, was one of the most edge-of-your-seat gaming experiences I have had in a long time. Making decisions that directly affected your teammates’ chances of survival, alongside watching them die, made for an exhilarating final chapter to what has been a very enjoyable game. I can plainly understand why this received so many Game of the Year commendations.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2010 in 2011 #1 - Mass Effect 2 (X360)

It's really, really good.

I came charging into this year with the intention of getting solidly into this thing, providing a better document of my gaming throughout the year to come. This past week and a half, it’s been really tough, and it’s all Mass Effect 2′s fault.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BioShock 2 (X360)

I don't know what that is, but it sure looks angry.

After around four months since buying it from, I decided to begin BioShock 2 again last weekend. When I first started  out, it just didn’t compare to its predecessor. Everything felt hackneyed, tacked-on, needless. Then I encountered my first Big Sister, and I became intrigued.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gaming in the past: 2010 in 2011

Osmos: It really grows on you.

Another year marks almost the first anniversary of this web log, and the pretty harrowing reality that I have made eight posts in that time. That’s an average of something like two posts every three months, which frankly sounds like more than I feel I have made. In the spirit of the season, I make the resolution to post more often; to try and get into a schedule that I can manage.