Playing With My Weiner

Gaming at the mercy of miniature daschunds.

Weinercast Wednesday! December 10, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,5 weiners,Games,Reviews,WeinerCast,World of Warcraft — Gwyddia @ 3:20 pm

The Weinercast is go! This week: Reviews of Persona 4, Prince of Persia, and Penny Arcade Episode 2, and a discussion of WoW fatigue.

As always, the Weinercast is available on Gwyddia - Weinercast

Please leave us a review or a comment/question, and we’ll address it on air next week!

A non-iTunes link if you need it.

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Review: Snoopy v. The Red Baron December 1, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,Games,Reviews — Gwyddia @ 7:14 pm
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snoopy-vs-the-red-baron-ss1If you’ve been waiting for the sequel to Crimson Skies, your wait may be over.  Don’t be discouraged by the adorability of the title character – this is timeless dogfighting from an era long before Michael Vick.

 

Theme:

You are World War I flying ace Snoopy, and you are flying approximately 20 missions to defeat the evil Red Baron and defend freedom.  Look for mostly well-done cameos from Snoopy’s owner Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally and more.  Along the way you get to collect upgrades to your flyer, like the potato gun and the Woodstock missile.  The game is mostly aerial combat with a just a little Sim Flyer in the mix.

 

Art:

 

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz would be pleased with the way his most popular character has been rendered on the PC, PS2 and PSP.  The game looks a lot like the holiday specials we remember from childhood, only now in 3-D!  It is bold, colorful and will make you smile.  

 

Gameplay:

 

The game play is simple, but solid.  Fly, barrel roll, strafe, and bomb to your heart’s content.  Of the three systems, the PSP version seems to be the players’ choice for the most solid controls, and that’s saying something for Sony’s red-headed stepchild of a handheld.  

 

The difficulty is mixed, though.  Some missions are so simple that you’ll feel like this is a kiddie game, while others will have you tearing your hair out in frustration.  It would be nice if the difficulty scaled over time, but after the first couple of missions if seems that annoyance can strike at any time.

 

Overall:

 

Snoopy v. The Red Baron is is a solid air combat game and the rare licensed game that doesn’t make me want to try and revoke the developers’ license.  It’s a nice addition to a genre that has been pretty quiet of late, and it would be neat to see a longer, slightly smoother sequel, perhaps for PSN.

 

For being fun and nostalgic, if somewhat uneven, Snoopy v. The Red Baron gets 4 Weiners out of 5.

 

Review: Fable II October 28, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,Araan,Games,Reviews,XBox 360 — Gwyddia @ 3:57 pm
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From Araan:

 

This is NOT a stereotype.  No.

This is NOT a stereotype. No.

You’ve seen a lot about Fable II on this site. Actually, I should say you’ve seen a lot about Peter Molyneux, Fable’s creator, who has Chronic Foot-In-Mouth Disease. You may have seen an article or listened to a Weinercast here and there in which his penchant for over-promising and under-delivering has been discussed.

 

I’m a fan of the original Fable and was ready to give Fable II a fair shake. I eagerly slipped the disc into the Xbox 360 and waited impatiently through the Microsoft and Lionhead bumpers for the actual Start screen to show.

 

Starting the game allows you to choose between playing a male or female Hero — a choice unavailable in the original — and is followed by a beautifully rendered cutscene that drops you into the middle of the action into the town of Bowerstone from the first game. It’s hundreds of years after the time of Fable, though, and the world has changed greatly. You’ll find early on, for instance, that no one really believes in Will (magic) anymore, and that firearms are now commonplace. Fable II represents a more rational, almost Renaissance-like world compared to the more fairytale-like medieval world of the original Fable.

 

Many of the elements of the new edition of the land of Albion will seem familiar. Yep, there are still Demon Doors that lead to treasure once you’ve figured out what’s needed to open them. Chests containing goods abound. The chief difference is that the Hero’s Guild is no more; it was destroyed in the time between the two games, and there are no heroes anymore until you come along. (It’s implied throughout the game that you are a descendant of the character from the first Fable, who is referred to as the Hero of Oakvale.)

 

Fable II is a game that I would say appeals to both “passengers and sailors”. That is, it’s very easy for even the most casual gamer to enjoy, while also offering rewards for those who wish to play deeper inside of it. Let’s take two cases to illustrate: the Dog and making money. A lot has been said about the Dog, and I find the concept and the implementation both innovative and refreshing. Honestly, what hero runs around with a minimap in his head? The dog is a much more natural way of finding your way around. There’s also a trail of “reverse breadcrumbs” wherever you go — you’ll find that following a golden, glowing trail will lead you to your quest destinations.

 

There’s so much going on in Fable II that it’s tempting to delay pursuing the story while interacting with the rest of the world, much as I did. You’ll find that the story itself is well-plotted and full of unexpected twists and a couple of breathless, I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened moments.

Take A!  And B!  And A again!

Take A! And B! And A again!

 

And then there’s money — it’s ridiculously easy to come by. A number of jobs have been implemented in the game. These are essentially minigames that you’re paid to play. They have different “skins” as it were, but the play is more or less the same whether you’re a blacksmith or a woodcutter. You mash the A button at the right time, you make gold. That’s it. You can rack up a few thousand gold coins in a short time. If you’re eager to upgrade your gear it’s an easy way to make some money; if you’re looking at a longer-term investment you can put your cash into real estate by buying a house or business. Your rental fees accumulate even while you’re not playing, so it can be a big moneymaker over time to invest for the long term.

 

The game shipped with some problems. Audio sometimes goes out of sync with the rest of the game, causing stuttering and other annoying effects. I also have to fault Lionhead, again, for releasing the game without the promised — and still MIA at the time of this writing — online multiplayer feature that so many were looking forward to.

 

For being worth your $60 despite Molyneux’s best attempts to the contrary, Fable II gets 4 weiners out of 5.

 

Review: Stone of Destiny for iPhone October 24, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,Games,Reviews — Gwyddia @ 3:34 pm
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A typical SoD puzzle screen.

A typical SoD puzzle screen.

When is the childhood game Seek and Find worth $10? When it is presented with as much care and elegance as Stone of Destiny, a recent iPhone app. Originally selling for $9.99, but now available for only $0.99, Stone of Destiny is a full featured “hidden object” game developed for iPhone by Atrur Ostapenko You are a young niece or nephew whose uncle has disappeared, leaving you a book, a world map, and a metric ton of objects to find. Each level is presented as a beautiful still photo, with objects ranging from Chinese fans to paper clips hidden in plain sight. A double touch zooms in, allowing you to easily scour dusty old libraries and ancient temples for the objects that are required. After each level there is a rune drawing mini-game, and after every few levels you are presented with a classic puzzle such as the Tower of Hanoi.

 

Stone of Destiny is a classic puzzler’s dream. It is gorgeous, with richly layered items hiding under every pixel. It brings back memories of puzzles you may have done in school and forgotten, and serves these old chestnuts with a delicious touch screen polish. The game is challenging, but not stressful. There is a timer, but it is very reasonable and only “punishes” a player when they really start poking the screen randomly. Ostapenko wraps this all up in a decent story and serves it warm to any player who has a few minutes to kill on a bus. As a result, iPhone users get a truly solid game app that is unlike a lot of the dross that is out there. If you have any interest in puzzles or beautiful art, check this out. If not, why do you own an iPhone anyway?

 

For being a fun and simple puzzler with excellent visuals, I give Stone of Destiny for the iPhone 4 Weiners out of 5.

 

 

Review: Silent Hill: Homecoming October 13, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,Games,Reviews — Gwyddia @ 11:06 am
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Everybody run! The homecoming queen’s got a gun!

 

Well, if by “queen” you mean “zombie nurses”, and if by “gun”, you mean Pyramidhead and his giant sword, then yes. Silent Hill is back, and everything old and creepy is new and creepy again. This time your protagonist is Alex Shepherd, a young solider returning from war to the psychotic battlefield of his hometown of Shepherd’s Glen. The sleepy little town is, of course, overrun by the Silent Hill cult and overrun with the kind of creatures that would squick out H.P. Lovecraft.

Oh hai...

Oh hai...

 

Homecoming marks a change in guard for the series. Instead of being made in Japan, Silent Hill: Homecoming was to be the first in the series produced by a Western developer called The Collective. That was almost the case, except that The Collective had merged with Backbone Entertainment in 2005 to form Foundation 9 Entertainment, and Foundation 9 then merged The Collective with Shiny Entertainment to create Double Helix Games. Silent Hill: Homecoming is a Double Helix production.

 

Double Helix draws heavily on Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 for this outing. Most of your classic terrors are there (i.e. Pyramidhead and his sexually abused nurses). In a twist that usually doesn’t work, however, Double Helix adapted some things from the Silent Hill movie. For example, the “tearing” sound when you slip between worlds is straight out of the film, as is the nurses’ reaction to light.

 

With all of these homages, it should come as no surprise that Silent Hill:Homecoming plays more like a Greatest Hits disc than a new game in the series. The visuals are sharp, the voice acting is reasonable, and the controls are a big improvement from Silent Hill IV: The Room. Silent Hill fans may find themselves playing through looking for a twist that never comes, however. The interactions with classic series antagonists are creepy, but don’t get under your skin the way they did the first time you saw them. And forget about save points. The save system is a ruthless checkpoint system married to a “find the glyph” save point. Prepare to lose time and effort here.

 

They kept the glyph, but not the title.

They kept the glyph, but not the title.

Silent Hill: Homecoming is a darn sight better than Silent Hill IV, and is a welcome addition to series fans who have ben waiting to get their Hill on for so long. It’s also not a bad entry point into the series for someone who has heard about Silent Hill, but never played. Just don’t expect anything revolutionary.

 

For being a solid, creepy game with good visuals, voice acting and controls, Silent Hill: Homecoming gets 4 Weiners out of 5

 

Review: Mega Man 9 September 29, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,Games,Reviews,Uncategorized,Wii — Gwyddia @ 11:36 am
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Ow, my most of me.


Welcome back, Blue Bomber.  Forget Mega Man X, Mega Man Tutu Adventures, Rush eXtREME, and the rest. Mega Man 9 is the real deal.  8-bit graphics, delightfully tinny rock music, and punishing gameplay. Authentic flicker options complete the thing, making Mega Man 9 a worthy and true sequel.

 

For those of you who weren’t around or paying attention in “the old days”, Mega Man is a little blue robot designed by the wonderful Dr. Light.  He starts out by shooting little power pellets at his enemies as he leaps and bounds through painfully difficult platforming levels.  At the end of each level is another robot, this one designed by the Evil Dr. Wily.  When Mega Man defeats these evil robots, he acquires their sweet, sweet power. There’s a dog, too.  Rush, Mega Man’s canine companion starts with the ability to spring you to new heights, but can gain the abilities to race you across spikes and more.

 

Exciting new "box art"!

Exciting new "box art"!

Mega Man has always been part shooter, part platformer, and part puzzler, and MM9 is no exception.There is a “best” way to make it through the game in that some powers are designed to make traversing other levels much easier.   I won’t give away too much here, but isn’t Galaxy Man’s board shiny?

 

All of this is not to say that there is nothing new under the pixellated sun. This time around, Mega Man can collect screws that he can trade to his buddies Auto and Roll for power ups, including Shock Guards and Beat Calls, which will allow you to avoid one spiky death and and pitfall per purchase.  There are also a number of challenges, ala XBox Achievements, such as “Complete the game in 90 minutes” and “Don’t miss with the Mega Buster and finish the game”.  Yes, its layering brutality on top of brutality, but isn’t it fun?

 

The first lady robot in the series and she's a mermaid.

The first lady robot in the series and she's a mermaid.

 

In general, MM9 lets you party like its 1989 for only 1000 Wii Points and all the hair you can yank out of your skull while playing.  If you have any left, that is.  Apparently I’m old, because when I started playing MM9 in front of some of my late 80s baby friends, they began to giggle and squeal that the graphics were so blocky and the music was so annoying, and why did I keep dying?  After I threw them out of my house, I continued to enjoy myself, and decided to give Mega Man 9 four weiners out of five.

 

Review: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen September 22, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,DS,Games,Reviews,Square Enix — Gwyddia @ 7:46 am
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I was fairly excited about this release.  I tore the box open this week, ready and willing to relive hours upon hours of my wasted youth.  I squeed with delight as the Dragon Quest theme began playing in all its tinny regal splendor.  And then the game began.

 

Let me say, first and foremost, that I did enjoy playing Dragon Quest IV.  Arte Piazza, the art directors from Dragon Quest VII, took the lead on this remake, and it shows. The refresh on the art is welcome, but not intrusive or overdone.  Akira Toriyama’s monster design is still charming and bright, including the bosses. The sound is a near-perfect translation of the original and still rings true after fifteen years.  The problem is that most of the mechanics are also still the same after fifteen years, and they don’t quite stand the test of time.

 

JRPGs are known for slow-paced combat, and DQ is the grandaddy of them all.  Twelve year-old me had no problem with this, probably because I didn’t know anything else.  DQIV is turn-based, and forces you to go through several menus to choose exactly what everyone wants to do, every time. Unlike the recent re-release of Final Fantasy IV, there is no Auto-Attack option.  This means is that early fights can take forever as you whittle down slime after slime.

OMG, 176 damage!

OMG, 176 damage!

 

Inventory is suboptimal.  When I didn’t know that only being able to hold eight items per person (plus one overflow bag) was an arbitrary difficulty modifier, it didn’t bother me. Today, trying to stock up on Medicinal Herbs that don’t stack and cannot be used except by the player who is holding them is nearly unforgiveable. This is particularly true in the early stages, when those herbs are your lifeline, and its a long way back to the save point.

 

Ah, yes, saving. Another “fun” DQ innovation. In DQ, you save by “confessing” at a church. That’s it. No save points in dungeons, no way to port out and port back in, nothing. This means that if you trudged all the way out to some Light forsaken tower and spent two hours grinding through it just to die on the final boss, you are out of luck. Do it all again. This time with feeling. And mana regeneration? Forget it, until you can obtain items that will do restore your juice. So make those spells last. They’re the only ones you’ve got.

Slime after slime.

Slime after slime.

 

Finally, level grinding. I’m a 4-year WoW player, so level grinding is nothing new to me. That being said, years of playing WoW and Final Fantasy games have conditioned me to expect that if I play through a game normally, entering dungeons and facing bosses in sequence as I meet them, I stand at least a fair chance of prevailing. Not so in DQ. Most of the time, if you try to take on a challenge as soon as you encounter it, you’re going to die. End of story. Expect to wander around aimlessly looking for fights for at least an extra level, better two, beyond the level you are when you first encounter The Next Big Thing. Oh well, at least you make lots of gold, right? Wrong. Forget being able to get the latest and greatest gear available from each new town, at least at first. DQ is stingy with the money, and dungeons drops are rare. Be prepared to wander.

 

I knew all of this going into the game, though. I knew that there were things that were going to bug the heck out of me because I’ve come to expect more from my RPGs since 1992. That’s why I still enjoyed DQIV so much.

 

The storyline is still fairly epic, even by today’s standards. The characters have life, and feeling, and the localization teams have done their best to make each Chapter feel like it takes place in a completely different part of the game world. Even if this does lead to some horribly funny Japanese-to-Russianesque-to-Rusjapenglish in Chapter 2, it gives you the feeling that you are a large world with varied ethnicities and real danger.

 

My favorite Chapter is still 3, the tale of Mara and Nara, the dancer and the fortuneteller.  As a kid, these ladies inspired me even more than warrior princess Alena.  That part hasn’t changed a bit.  Fighting with clubs and daggers is de rigeur, but using fans, claws and cards as weapons is a blast.  Grinding through the merchant quest still sucks, though.

 

The city of Townsville.

The city of Townsville.

I also have to give credit where credit is due.  What little new stuff there is here really works. The DS two-screen approach offers a lot of screen real estate for this game.  This is invaluable in dungeons because it lets you get a better sense of where you are going, and cuts down on the random lost roaming of the original.  The towns look lovely, almost on par with Dragon Quest VII. There is an online Chance Encounter mode that allows you to expand your own town through Nintendo WiFi play.  If you have other nostalgia-starved friends who pick this title up, you’ll enjoy sharing your own little piece of Heaven with them.

 

All in all, I think Arte Piazza did a good job updating this classic for the modern era. I hope this brings a new generation of proto-geeks to DQ, and to the appreciation of substance over style (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy X-2). I’m looking forward to the ports of Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride and Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie, the second and third titles in the so-called “Zenithia trilogy”. Most Americans (including me) have never had the chance to play DQV and VI. DQV was released in Japan in July, so hopefully the U.S. release isn’t far behind. Maybe they’ll even evolve out some of the rough parts this time.

 

For being an epic RPG that, despite its many flaws, is still playable and enjoyable fifteen years after its original release, I am giving Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen 4 weiners out of 5.