Friday, August 29, 2008

Grinding it Out

Now that the weekend is upon us, we come to crunch time. I have to finish playing Too Human, write the review and then write my Mr. Binky column. Given that I want my column to be about Too Human, both the review and the column will have to be done by the end of the evening on Sunday for that to happen. I think I can write most of the column now, but I don't want to fully make fun of the story without seeing how it ends.

Finishing up this game has turned into a supreme grind. It probably doesn't help that I've played it every evening this week, every morning while working out and have come home at lunch two days this week and played it. It's just not good enough to warrant this much attention, but alas, it's what the job requires. My review, technically, isn't due until Tuesday, however when the opportunity to run a column about a game I'm reviewing presents itself, I like to take it. Plus, I need to start Tiger Woods 09 for the Wii and I want to get some time in on Mercenaries 2 for at least one evening before I leave for Vegas. It's a lot of writing about Too Human in such a short amount of time, and honestly, the game doesn't deserve this much attention, but given how half of that attention will be spent making fun of it, I guess I'm ok with it. Also, I don't have any better ideas as to what to write my column about, so it's either this or some last ditch, Sunday night attempt. Those never go well.

My hope is that I can finish the game tonight so that I can be done with it, but that seems improbable. I can only hope this mediocre jaunt ends soon as I've been ready for this thing to be over with since yesterday. That's the sign of a quality game right there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Employment Change

I was informed by my son today that my impressive skills as a "fixer" have awarded me the illustrious position of custodian at his Power Ranger Academy. I couldn't tell if the school is a school for the Power Rangers, or one where the children are taught by Power Rangers as the story changed with every passing second, but I can tell you that I'm now the man in charge of fixing things.

The fact that I was given the job after absentmindedly not drilling a small test hole first, thereby drilling a hole into the wood that was large enough for a drywall anchor but way too big for the screw goes to show you the incredible state of disrepair in store for the Power Ranger Academy. I can only hope that their problems are limited to busted light bulbs, clogged toilets and the occasional ceiling fan replacement. If one of the Power Rangers accidentally bowls a hole in the wall, I can fix that too, however it'll take me a few months to do so. Anything more than that and these poor folks are well and truly fucked.

I was also introduced to a sport taught at the Power Rangers academy whereby a super ball is rolled on the floor with one's hand. First it was called Floor Ball, then Floor Hand Ball, then Hand Floor Ball, then "One" and finally "Thirty Eight". I wish I was making this up. After hearing about the rigorous PE program at the Power Ranger Academy, complete with shifting names and made up games, I'm glad that my duties exist solely in the realm of fixing things. I'd hate to tell the kids that we're spending the period playing a rousing game of Fifty Seven when they're clearly dressed for a match of One Hundred and Seventy Nine. That would just be too embarrassing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vegas, baby, Vegas!

So next week I'll be heading to Las Vegas to spend the day playing the upcoming gangsta sandbox game, Saints Row 2. I didn't mention this before because I wanted to wait until all of the details were nailed down. They are, so now I can chat a little about it.

Basically, they're flying me to Vegas and putting me up at the Four Seasons. I'll spend six hours in my hotel room with a debug 360 unit and a copy of the game and will spend all of that time shooting up the city of Stilwater and engaging in various gang related shenanigans to prepare myself for the inevitable review. After that, I'll get a small break and then head to the penthouse and engage fellow games journalists in spirited co-op play. It should be a hoot. Once the co-op play is done we're free to do whatever we want, with the itinerary mentioning hitting Vegas with the folks from THQ. On the one hand, that sounds like fun, on the other hand, it seems like an invitation to get labeled as "that jackass who threw up the Elvis impersonator".

As many of you know, I'm not exactly the type of person who goes out clubbing or whatever they call it nowadays, so I'm not sure what I'll do once the controllers are down and all of the consoles are powered off. Honestly, the whole notion of a game publisher paying for a trip such as this speaks to the current problems with the gaming press so much that as a gamer, I should probably be a little appalled at the notion of such a trip, but at the same time, I know how to be objective when reviewing games, if I didn't do it someone else would, and honestly, the game does look like a lot of fun.

The idea of just sitting in my hotel room for six hours playing the game is kind of strange, but not much stranger than what I did a few weeks ago when Linda took the kids to Chattanooga for the weekend, namely sit in my basement for 5.5 hours and beat Half-Life: Episode 2. Luckily, the bevy of Las Vegas buffets will ensure that I get enough to eat prior to the dropping off of the debug unit so that I'm sufficiently sated until the drinks and dinner provided at the co-op event.

While I'm there, I'll definitely be gambling, but what I'll be playing is currently in debate. I know nothing about blackjack and enough about no limit Hold 'Em to get myself into a heap of trouble. Roulette is a waste of money, and I can't understand Craps, so that basically leaves slot machines and video poker. I guess I could play Keno, but only if the lighter I'd usually use to burn up my money in the hotel bathroom garbage can doesn't work, seeing how the results will probably be the same. I had planned on putting money down on the Redskins game, as I'll be in Vegas for the season opener, but after the way they played against Carolina this past Sunday, I think I'd be better off with Keno. Or the lighter. So, it looks like slots will be it. Me and the blue hairs will undoubtedly have a great time. If you never hear from me again after next Thursday, me and Doris hit the progressive jackpot and have retired to Boca.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekly Weigh In: Week 13

Man, I have been slacking off something fierce in the posting department. Damn. I don't know how you put up with me. Oh wait, you don't, or so the referral logs would appear. Yeah.

Any way, this week saw my triumphant return to the world of exercise as our bike was fixed. The guy who repaired it basically did a Six Million Dollar Man job on it and rebuilt pretty much every moving part on the thing from the ground up. Were it in his reach to weld a new frame he probably would have done so. As a result, the bike is quieter than it has ever been. There are times I'm not sure I'm even using it, so quiet it is, but then I realize that I'm about to keel over from a massive heart attack and I remember. As Monday he was still fixing the bike, I didn't start riding it until Tuesday. Even without a full week of exercise, the weight loss continued to astound and I'm down to an even keeled, 172 lbs. Whee!

I didn't exactly keep to the diet this week, so the fact that I lost more weight makes me one very happy camper. It's going to be hard to get back into the exercise swing of things, made all the more difficult by the remnants of tropical storm Fay causing night time thunderstorms that send my stupid dog into a panting frenzy. If last night's stellar four hours of sleep is any indication, it's going to be a rough exercise week. Last week I watched The Insider and really enjoyed it. This week I'm forgoing a movie as I was too lazy to pick something out, and am instead playing Too Human. Along with making it so that I don't have to make a movie watching decision, this also gives me more time to get my review finished. This morning I spent 40 minutes walking through various halls in the game. It was thrilling! And by thrilling I mean stiflingly boring. Better I do that in the morning than spend my only gaming time at night traversing the halls of Norse cybserspace. Don't ask.

Now that the bike is back, I'm hoping that I can get rid of the remnants of my gut quickly. I've dropped the Sunday morning work out as my kids were starting to drive me crazy. When I'm riding the bike I have a hard time refereeing the various fights they get into all of the time now, and it was just too much of a hassle. Once I lose the gut, I can decide how much I want to ease off of the diet. I kind of thought that by now I would have hit a plateau and am curious to see just how much weight I could lose before my body got used to everything, but then I see a Baconator and become curious as to how many I could eat in one sitting. I'll give you one guess as to which curiosity would win out.

Finally, and this isn't exercise related, but soon I'll be collaborating with the always excellent Greg Howley on a gaming site called Lungfishopolis. I'm quite excited about it and Greg has been doing a bang up job on the site. Between this site, Greg's site and my reviews, it means a lot of writing for me, but it's important to flex one's muscles when one has them. Of course, that would mean that I have to start writing more here, but these are details that can easily be dealt with. If I could teach my son to type, he could recount for you the thrilling Power Rangers tale I was subjected to, I mean treated to, over the weekend. I think it was called Red Power Ranger and the Tale of a Thousand Millenia. At least that's how long it felt.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Braid Review

My review of Braid is up. Yay for fantastic games!

A few items of note about the review. First, is that I gave the game an A+, but the final grade ended up being an A. Honestly, I don't know what qualifies a game as an A+ game over an A game, obviously, given my flagrant mis-grading. Is Braid perfect? No, but no game is perfect. Any way, don't let that lack of a "+" discourage you from playing the game because it is fantastic. EDIT: Apparently we don't grade higher than an A. Yes, I am an idiot.

Second, eagle eyed readers may notice that I dropped the nickname from my name in the review. I started doing that on a lark and it has become my thing, as I appear to be the only person who does it. Usually I use it as a means to pile on additional scorn, or just generally be snarky which befits my acerbic nature. That and I hate everything. For this review I couldn't come up with a nickname that didn't sound like I was making fun of the game, and I didn't want to make fun of this game. So, I dropped the name. Don't worry, when the great review engine cranks up again, I'll be sure to put the name back.

Finally, I wasn't kidding when I said that this review was hard to write. It's probably just my lack of skills as a writer, but I had a hell of a time explaining why this game was so good, and I think that it's because the game struck such an emotional note with me. That's a much harder thing to quantify. Now, even if there were no emotional beats in the story and Tim was just some wacky dude in a suit, the game mechanics and visuals would be enough to make the game a strong recommendation, but the story, particularly the ending, is where it all comes together. Obviously, your reaction to the story will be different, and I realize that my desire for a strong story causes me to rate games with great stories higher than their more technically impressive counterparts (witness my review for The Darkness), but I play games for the story, so if there's a game that absolutely nails a narrative, I'm going to rate it higher. Personally, I don't have a problem with people saying "oh, he only gave it a high rating because it tells a really good story", as if any one discusses my scores in the first place. We all play games for different reasons, and I play for the stories. Well, achievements and then the stories. The ability to ignore my children is up there too.

Now I'm just waiting for Too Human to arrive. I'm excited to see how the final version came out, what with all of the mixed reviews. I wasn't thrilled with the demo, but I'm not a big fan of unskippable cut scenes in any game, much less in a demo. If, five minutes into your demo, you're making me just sit there, I shut your demo off. I'm more than happy to give your game's story time to breathe in the full game experience, but in the demo, I ain't got the time for your jibber jabber. Besides, everyone in the cut scenes had dead eyes and it was kind of freaking me out. I don't see that changing in the retail release, but maybe it just won't bother me that much. I doubt it, but I'm trying to be impartial going in to this whole mess. Using the word "mess" certainly doesn't help. Whoopsie.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekly Weigh In: Week 12

Once again, the dieting sans exercise paid off with yet another pound of weight loss. I'm now down to 173.5 pounds, which means that I officially weigh less than when we first moved to Georgia. Granted, it's only half a pound, but I'll take it. I'm basing my move weight on my driver's license which means that I've been a filthy liar for something like two years now as it's been at least that long since I weighed the 174 on my license. For the record, I also now require corrective lenses, despite my license's insistence to the contrary. Well, one eye does any way. It's like my wallet is just one big lie.

I finished Braid over the weekend and absolutely loved it. On the other hand, Conan is trying my patience. I spent an hour and 45 minutes last night on one boss battle. One boss battle. It was the same boss broken into two stages, if that makes any difference, and it was a complete and total pain in the ass. I'm almost done with the game, and it would appear that I've missed two of the 60+ chests needed to get the achievement despite me following a guide to find all of the chests. This pisses me off to no end as part of what has made the game take a long time is taking the time to find all of the chests. I've read reports of people getting the achievement with two chests left, so maybe things are buggy and I'll get lucky. I don't think I'll be playing the game again, so I may just have to be happy with the chests that I have.

After Conan comes Too Human which, by early reviews, appears to be a big mess. I'm not exactly surprised as I wasn't very impressed with the demo. We'll see. Hopefully I'll have it for the weekend as nothing says weekend gaming like mediocre action games based in cyber Norse mythology.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Carnival Games DS review

My review of Carnival Games for the DS is up, notable because the tag line implies that this game will cost you a piece of your eternal soul. I have no real data to back up this claim as I'm still alive, so the final resting place of my soul has yet to be determined. Upon death, if communication with the living is still an option for me, I'll be sure to let you know what ends up where.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Weekly Weigh In: Week 11

You've heard of the expression "a day late and a dollar short"? Well, this week's weigh in found me a week early and half a pound short. Which means that I weighed in at a whopping 174.5 lbs, yeah that's right, half a pound down from my goal and one whole week under the wire. This was without exercising as the bike is still broken. The repair guy came out today to fix the bike, but alas, all of the parts that they sent were for fixing things that aren't wrong with our bike. Bummer. He offered to put it all back together so that we could ride it, but the speed sensor is broken and it still makes noise, so I couldn't see him doing all the work to put it together when a) it's still broken and b) he'd just have to take it all apart again. In the mean time, I'm getting dangerously used to sleeping in, even if it's only an extra 25 minutes or so.

Even though I hit my goal, I'm still not done with the dieting and exercising as I still want to drop a few more inches off of my waistline. Not sure how long that will take, but I'll keep reevaluating as I'm going along. At least now, I can have an occasional dessert or breakfast biscuit and not feel like I'm doing damage to my progress. I really want the bike to get fixed though as I'd like to watch Casino Royale again.

In gaming news, I'm playing Conan on the 360, and while the game does have its share of problems, at 20 bucks it's a pretty good value. If I wasn't going for achievements, I'd probably be close to finished by now, but as it is, I'm enjoying the grind, so there's no need to stop. I'm also playing Braid for review purposes and man, this is one amazing game. I can't wait to see how it all ends.

Top Spin 3 Review

My review of Top Spin 3 for the Wii is up, albeit in a completely hacked up form. I tried to do something a little different in this review, and apparently it wasn't appreciated as it was removed completely. How I'm supposed to grow as a writer when attempts at doing things differently are removed and any request for explanation falls on deaf ears is beyond me. All I know is that the money is the same whether I try to step things up or not, so there's not much point in doing anything other than what I've been doing. That appears to have been fine all this time, so it can continue to be so.

Friday, August 08, 2008

It Lives!

It's the Top Ten List several months in the making, GameShark's Top Ten Summer Game Releases. Hooray! Seriously though, this thing took forever. I wrote a top ten list that basically just had games of this decade, but then when Bill noticed that System Shock 2 was released in the summer, but summer of 1999, I foolishly mentioned that we could do an all time list. He asked me how, and I said I'd just sit down and do the research.

Yeah, it's not quite that easy. I mean, it is that easy, you just have to search multiple sources to find the North American release date, and then, the right one. Then, you have to take all of the choices, there were many, and boil them down, being sure to include ones that your editor specifically asked for, only to have him then drop it from the final column. I was a little sad to see MechWarrior 2 dropped for Tie Fighter, but when the man who doles out the work says it's so, then it's so. The original list had a lot more games that I had played personally, so I was a lot more invested in it, but this is a good list too, and it scratches the retro gaming itch that people seem to have. Doom 3 was released in August, so this list also allows me to continue to get hate mail from people about how I forgot Doom.

For those that may be interested, here's the original list, back when we weren't trying to include every game in recorded history:

10 - Metroid Prime: Corruption
9 - Dead Rising
8 - Soul Caliber 2
7 - Icewind Dale
6 - Eternal Darkness
5 - Max Payne
4 - Deus Ex
3 - Diablo 2
2 - BioShock
1 - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Not a bad collection of games there.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The New X-Files Movie

So I had a chance to see the new X-Files movie recently and I'm telling you, this movie is much, much better than people are making it out to be. Now, I'm a die hard X-Phile so I may be a bit biased, but I thought it was pretty damn good. The story was straightforward, it had a nice creepy vibe to it, there were a ton of nods to fans of the show, but most importantly, Duchovny and Anderson just did fantastic jobs with their portrayals of Mulder and Scully.

Maybe I was just really happy to see them back on the screen again after so long away. I don't know. Back when Linda and I lived in upstate New York, watching The X-Files on Friday nights was a huge deal. We had another couple we were really good friends with and we'd switch off whose house we'd go to to have dinner, play some games and then watch the show. Those nights were some of the best nights I can remember. We always had a really, really good time. Henry was a puppy at the time and our friends had an older Lhasa mix and the dogs would always play together when everyone was at our house. When we went to their house, Yin and Yang, the two cats would usually spend the evening beating up on Henry while he tried to make friends with them. Once the show started, everyone would hush up and we'd all get scared together, or laugh together or say "what the fuck was that" together. If you could call a tv show a friend, or a companion, then in this case, on these evenings, The X-Files was just that.

Watching the movie brought a lot of that back, but my enjoyment was more than just from reminiscing. Mulder and Scully have moved on from their jobs in the FBI and the characters show that. The problems arise when Scully asks Mulder to get back involved, just to debunk a psychic, and in typical Mulder fashion, once he realizes that there's no debunking to be done, he's in with both feet. The conversations that ensue were so well done because if you've been in a relationship for some time, you know that you don't have a lot of fights, you just have the same fight over and over, and these characters have had this fight before. Scully doesn't want to get pulled in, but Mulder can't help it. He's already there. Furthermore, he's there because Scully asked him to be there. He can't understand why she doesn't want to come with him when it was her idea, and she can't make him understand that she wanted him to only go so far, not all the way. It's amazing to me that they could craft a conversation and a conflict like this, one that seems so grounded and realistic, and place it in a movie with missing FBI agents and shadowy medical experiments and not have it sound stupid or corny.

I'm sure that those who don't know the show, or weren't huge fans, won't find much to like here, and hell, I realize that I liked the show more than most, so I probably liked the movie more than most, but I don't care. I thought it was great and I can't wait for it to come out on DVD so that I can buy it, unlike the original movie which has been on my wish list, unpurchased, for years now. Now that we've moved away and had kids, Linda and don't have friends like we did when we watched the show, and in fact, haven't really kept up with couple we spent all of those Friday nights with. Seeing Mulder and Scully again, and seeing that there was hope for them, despite their problems, was like seeing old friends, if only for a night. I don't know what's going to happen to them, and I may never see them again, but I know they're ok. Somehow, that's enough.

Renaissance Man

Not only am I an accomplished humor writer and games reviewer (Ha!) but I'm also a Transformers news hound!

Check my front page (for now) submission about finding Universe Silverbolt out at retail.

Man. I need a life.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Weekly Weigh In: Week 10

Sorry for the late weekly weigh in post. Last night I got to playing the Eschelon demo from Greenhouse games and well, there went the evening.

If you like old school RPG's, Eschelon: Book 1 may scratch that particular itch for you.

Anywho, this week, despite only working out one day (the bike is still busted), I dropped another pound and a half and am down to 175.5 pounds. I find it very hard to believe that I lost that much weight only by dieting, but hey, all I can do is weigh myself three times and if the scale says the same thing each time, then it must be true. Who knows? Whatever the case, I'm only half a pound from my goal of 175 and I have until August 16th to do it. I bought the bike on 5/15, and started on 5/16, so three months would be 8/16. I don't expect to have lost any weight this week, and possibly to have gained some, what with me not believing the scale from this past weigh-in, so hopefully I can get the bike fixed so that my goal isn't in jeopardy.

I mean, I could always find another way to work out, but let's not get hasty.

Just because I've hit my target, I'm not going to stop as I want to lose the gut as much as I can, which means another couple of inches off the old stomach. Right now the diet is pretty much on auto-pilot, so it shouldn't be too hard to keep going. If I find that I'm dieting and exercising and not making any progress, I'll just be happy with how I look and call it a day. Once that happens, the exercise will continue, and for the most part, I'll stick to smaller portions, but if I want to eat a little more at dinner from time to time, or have a Frosty, then by God, I'll do it. Just watch me.

More Reviews

This time, it's a review for Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns. As it turns out, I don't like roguelike RPG's. Good to know.

Monday, August 04, 2008


If you want to see me absolutely go to town on the frakked up mess that is the Hellboy PSP game, then tardy no longer! Head on over and check it out. I must have been in a bad mood that day because I was pretty cruel. Oh hell, who am I kidding? I'm in a bad mood every day.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Last night marked the end of my GTA IV experience until the downloadable content drops as I killed my last pigeon, thereby earning the coveted Key to the City achievement for completing 100% of the game. So, what exactly did that entail? Well, you had to do the following:

All story missions (there were over 60 of them if I remember correctly)
All 10 courier missions
Win all nine street races
All ten car export missions
All thirty stolen car missions
All 30 most wanted missions
Twenty vigilante missions
All five helicopter tours
All nine assassination missions
Beat the computer at every game (bowling, darts, pool, QUB3D)
Take every friend out to every event
Fly under all 14 bridges with a helicopter
Meet all 21 random characters and do all of their missions
All 50 stunt jumps
All 200 pigeons killed

In addition to this, for achievement purposes I also won an additional 11 street races, rolled a car five times in one crash, did a 500 foot wheelie, scored with a woman, escaped a four star wanted level, survived a six star wanted level for five minutes, scored 180 points in darts, bowled a turkey in bowling, performed 10 melee counters in four minutes and blew up ten cars in ten seconds.

It took me about two months to do all of this, and this was with using a strategy guide. The guide certainly helped in some places, such as finding pigeons and finding the stunt jumps, but not so much in other places like actually completing the stunt jumps or for things like rolling your car or blowing up ten cars in ten seconds. For those, it was nothing but try, try and try some more.

I was pretty happy last night when my final achievement (the roll over one) popped, but sad at the same time as I've spent so much time playing this game that I'm bummed to see it go. Not since Mass Effect had I played a game that I looked forward to every night. Oh sure, I love me some Rock Band, but when it's not the same thing. When I wasn't playing GTA, I was thinking about it. I looked forward to sitting down with Niko every night. Not as much once it was just stunt jumps and pigeon hunting, but I still enjoyed it even then.

Now that GTA is done, and I have my achievement for completing the vocal tour on hard in Rock Band, I've started playing Condemned 2. So far I'm enjoying it, but I'm only about 45 minutes into it. I have three weeks until Too Human drops and I have to review it, so I'm not sure what I'll do once Condemned 2 is finished. I'm sure I'll think of something, but being in between games is so unsettling to me. It's like I'm lost, rudderless in a sea of inactivity. God forbid I do something constructive with my time.