Playing With My Weiner

Gaming at the mercy of miniature daschunds.

Preview: Hands On With Mirror’s Edge November 7, 2008

Filed under: Games,Previews,PS3,XBox 360 — Gwyddia @ 7:58 pm
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mirror-s-edge-first-gameplay-footage-1With only a week remaining until its North American release on the XBox 360 and PS3, it is time to delve into Mirror’s Edge.  We’ve been playing the demo here at the Weiner and we’ve got some pretty interesting stuff to report.

 

Mirror’s Edge is a new twist on an old genre – it is a first person parkour game.  As per Wikipedia:

Parkour (sometimes abbreviated to PK) or l’art du déplacement (Englishthe art of movement) is an activity with the aim of moving from one point to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body.  It is meant to help one overcome obstacles, which can be anything in the surrounding environment—from branches and rocks to rails and concrete walls—and can be practiced in both rural and urban areas. Parkour practitioners are referred to as traceurs, or traceuses for females.

Founded by David Belle in France, parkour focuses on practicing efficient movements to develop one’s body and mind to be able to overcome obstacles in an emergency.

 

I may not kick your ass, but I'll run like Hell.

I may not kick your ass, but I can run like hell.

The protagonist is a courier named Faith who takes to to the rooftops to deliver important packages in a world where information on the ground is locked up tight. Faith’s world is detailed in shining white with spare primary colors, notably red, indicating your path.  That isn’t to say that the game is linear, but instead the bright accents give you a sense of direction when your body is hurling through space.

 

There is some fighting in Mirror’s Edge, but the action centers on Faith’s movement through the levels.  Weapons are generally used to get out of a jam and then tossed, because combat will slow you down too much.

 

The demo feels solid.  The jump buttons are on the shoulders, which gives your motion a more organic feel as you maneuver through the sky. They offer a couple different configurations, but the default has (Jump/Duck-Slide) mapped to the LB/LT and (Punch/Kick) to RB/RT. (Although RB will also do quick turns.)  It takes a moment or two of getting used to, and then it really feels smooth.

 

There is a definite sense of urgency to the missions, which makes it feel even better when you hit your jumps and turns and swings just right.  In that way it feels like a well-designed platformer, and the pleasure you derive from play is oddly similar to what you might feel when flawlessly completing a level in a Mario game.

 

 

Falling to your death never looked this good.

Falling to your death never looked this good.

The checkpoint system is reasonable, which is good.  You’re going to plummet to your death 20 or 30 times while getting the hang of this thing.  The time trials are not nearly as forgiving – the demo’s “qualifying time” of 2:00 will take more than a few tries.

 

All in all, Mirror’s Edge looks like it has come together well, and shaped up quite a bit from when we saw it at PAX.  Check out the launch trailer here and enjoy the game when it comes out next week.

 

Review: Guitar Hero World Tour October 27, 2008

This is not Rock Band.

 

Beat it!

Beat it!

I need to get that out of the way right now. I also need to state that we are playing this game on Xbox 360 with the Rock Band 2 drums and microphone, but the Les Paul Guitar Hero III guitar.  I have to admit that I went into GHWT thinking of it as a Rock Band 2 expansion pack. I quickly learned how wrong I was.

 

The art style of GHWT is animated and over-the-top, and each instrument and type of play has a series of hysterical cutscenes that just scream “rock”. The characters, both the pre-made type and the ones you can create are the colorful distorted, exaggerated “Judy Nails” types you’ve come to expect from GH. The venues, both real and imaginary, are fully rendered and complete down to the broken chairs and half-eaten wings. Maybe the venues are a little TOO realistic, as they are festooned with in-game advertising for real world brands.  I understand having Sabian cymbals and Marshall amps, but do I need to be told which fried chicken to eat while playing?

Screw my hair, check out my knobs!

Screw my hair, check out my knobs!

 

The controls and setup are so-so. Despite promises to the contrary, the Rock Band drums do not map perfectly onto the GHWT songs. Drummers are encouraged to hit silver-topped notes harder for more points, but the velocity sensitivity is variable at best. It is nearly impossible to deploy Star Power, as the regular set requires you to hit the Green and Orange cymbals together, and those two notes don’t usually show up together in the drum track. The tutorial is not available for drummers that aren’t using the GH set, either. We aren’t using the GHWT set because having tried them both at PAX, we found the Rock Band 2 set to be crisper, quieter, and more responsive, with a good spring in the pedal. The GHWT set we played was mushier, louder, less accurate, and just all around not as good as the Rock Band 2 set, though it was an improvement over the original Rock Band drum set.

 

Vocals are a nightmare. There is no “Tambourine Hero” fill section during long instrumental solos. Instead vocalists have fills which seem to be randomly inserted passages of swirls in which you can earn multiples of 9 points by saying “la” over and over and over.  Vocals Star Power can only be deployed through hitting your microphone or holding your controller the whole time and hitting a button. It lasts for about five seconds, and then you have to go back to hitting buttons like a rat hoping for a food pellet. There is no musical staff guiding your pitch adjustments, but rather one line for you to follow the whole time through. The accuracy level and pickup are just plain bad. I scored about 15% lower in GHWT on songs that I have completed perfectly on Hard in Rock Band 2.

 

All of that being said, if you’ve enjoyed Guitar Hero before, keep on keeping on. You’ll probably enjoy this game. The Guitar and Bass work just fine. If you are new to GH, or are trying it after Rock Band, keep in mind that GH is significantly different, and don’t count on the manual or the early tracks to help you find your way. The manual is eight pages long and barely goes farther than “turn the game on and play”. If you are eligible to play a tutorial, good luck finding it. You have to search around through stacks of menus to find the tutorials or anything else in the game.

 

I was disappointed in Guitar Hero World Tour. I guess I expected more after I saw the excellent track list. I did enjoy the cameos from rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Zack Wylde, and the game is fun to watch in general, but I’d almost rather watch than play, and that’s a bad sign. Maybe they’ll get it right on their inevitable next time out, but on their initial foray into the full band genre Activision has put too much focus on being different for difference’s sake and not enough on streamlining and gameplay.

 

For being a mediocre comparitor to Rock Band 2 when it could have been so much more, Guitar Hero World Tour earns 3 Weiners out of 5

 

Weinercast 4 – Indy Gaming Edition September 24, 2008

Filed under: Games,Indy,Other Folks,Penny Arcade,Pups,WeinerCast — Gwyddia @ 7:35 am
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I'm Indy, and I approve this message.

I'm Indy, and I approve this message.

As always, the Weinercast is available on iTunes.

And a non-iTunes link if you need it.

And here are the Indy gaming links I promised:

 

The PAX 10:

The Amazing Brain Train from Grubby Games.

Audiosurf by Dylan Fitterer.

Chronotron from Scarybug Games.

The Maw from Twisted Pixel.

Impulse by Rochester Institute of Technology students Dominic Holt, Joseph Plourde, Andrew Ray, Ben Solt, Paul Solt, Mike Thomas and Andrew Williams.

Polarity by Carnegie Mellon University students Howard Braham, Daniel Bryner, Przemyslaw Iwanowski, Stanley Rosenbaum, Gaurav Shrivastava, Samuel Spiro and Allison Theus.

Project Aftermath from Games Faction.

Strange Attractor 2 from Ominous Development.

Samurai Bar Sushi from Molly Rocket.

 

More Indy-approved independent game sites:

I has an itch for games.

I has an itch for games.

The Independent Gaming Source. If indy gaming runs in your blood, you have to be here. Since 2005, an incredible source for what’s out there, what’s coming, and what you need to do to get it done.

IndieGames.com. From the people who bring us such sites as GameSetWatch and Gamasutra, IndieGames bills itself as “a guide to the independent game movement and the very best indie video games.”

GameTunnel’s Top 100 Indie Games. If you can’t find something to play here, you’re not trying.

 

Wil Wheaton gave me Plague September 21, 2008

Filed under: Other Folks,Penny Arcade — Gwyddia @ 9:21 am
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No, it’s true!  Wil was beleaguered by ConSARS at PAX.  He gave my husband a terrorist fist jab because of their shared great taste in Minibosses t-shirts.  My husband developed a sinus infection, which, due to airplane pressure, caused a ruptured eardrum.  This week I followed suit, with objects coming out of my nose that could easily make the Creature stage in Spore. This week, Araan’s throat began to ache.

 
The pathogenesis is clear.  Wil is Patient Zero.  We are in a hot zone.  Beware.