Archive for Game Life


One of the coolest things about the Application Store for the iPhone is that the distribution mechanism (ie; insanely easy, with no overhead at all for the developers or publishers) and the profit margin (way more money into the developers’ pockets than any traditional model) means that we are now seeing the advent of “impulse” software purchases. Since the developers can sell their product for 2 or 3 bucks and still make some serious coin, software is for the first time ever priced at a point where you can just buy something on a whim, and if you dont like it or you only use it once … big deal. It costs about as much as a cup of coffee.

Which is a very roundabout way of getting to the actual point: I bought Wurdle on a complete whim because it was a puzzle game (which I like), a word game (which I love), and only cost $2.99 (which meant that I said “what the hell” and gave it a click). The result? Wurdle is an insanely great game, totally addictive, perfect for any sort of “got a few minutes and need a break” play, and is way more interesting and well-thought-out than most of the game software you buy for 49.99 down at Ye Olde Best Buye.

If you have an iPhone or an iPod touch, get Wurdle. Period. Or else.


Mario Kart Wii

I won’t bore you with prattling on about how awesome Mario Kart Wii is … suffice to say that is is awesome, and repeatedly so. It is pretty much the perfect pick-up-and-play game, the perfect party game, and the perfect game for hardcore game geeks. Again, awesome.

Just buy the damn thing.

However, what I will prattle on about is my Mario Kart license number. You wanna add me to your roster? Go for it – the digits are 4124-5420-0252.

Game on!

Bubble Tanks 2

It’s been a long time since I pimped a workday-wasting browser game, so let’s rectify that little omission right now. Bubble Tanks 2 puts you in charge of a mass of bubble that drives around shooting other bubbles. The key here is that after you blow up your bubbly opponents, you can gather up the bubble wreckage to make your own tank bigger. Get it big enough and you can upgrade to a tougher or faster tank – you decide which upgrade path you want to take – and eventually you get to the King Bubble Tank Of Doom.

Keyboard to move, mouse to aim and fire, and stay away from anything red on the screen. Everything else, you can discover on your own.

Click here to play.


A friend of mine recently regaled me with a tale of watching a guy play Guitar Hero 3 at a competition. The contestant played Metallica’s One and ripped off 93 percent on the “Expert” setting. That is good – very good. In fact, we can engage in some hyperbole here and throw in the extra “very”, in bold.

Very, very good.

We are not here, however, to talk about “very good”. We are here to talk about “completely and unbelievably fucking awesome” which is what the performance in the following video most definitely is. Through The Fire And Flames is generally considered to be the hardest song in GH3, period, bar none, end of discussion, thank you. One is difficult to be sure, but Flames is rather more difficult in the same way that Crime And Punishment is somewhat longer than Green Eggs And Ham. And on “Expert”, it becomes something exponentially more intricate, the notes akin to an arcane language that you can hear, but simply have no hope of ever comprehending.

And while there are some things of note in this performance – the excellent two-handed technique in the long hammer-on section at the start, the switch from the strum bar to two-handed tapping and back in the really hard part at 2:24, and the crucial drying of the hand on the jeans at 4:00 – there is no real point in trying to quantify or even understand the way this plays out. Just watch the video.

You’ll know.

DS Demo Download Service

If you have a Nintendo Wii (funny how, after all of the joking about the name, everyone has settled in and now just goes with the flow on that one) you have probably updated your console to include the “Nintendo Channel”. For the uninitiated – those of you without a Wii or without the technical skills to perform the 1-click upgrade now and again – this is a section of your Wii interface that feeds videos and news about current and upcoming games. It is essentially advertising, but couched in enough “content” – interviews with developers, “making of” videos, gameplay tips – that it is at least semi-palatable. So you have probably looked at it, seen a couple of game examples, maybe even rated a game or two.

That said, with nothing at the top levels of the channel to really draw you in, you have probably missed the best part of the whole thing … to wit, the DS Demo Download Service. From there you can download demo versions of new games for your DS, and try them out to your hearts content. It is fast and easy and free and it not only rocks from a consumer standpoint, but could probably sell a shitload of games if Nintendo had the brains to make it a little more obvious.

If you haven’t found it yet, here is the drill:

Spark up the “Nintendo Channel” on your Wii

Ignore whatever is blaring at you from the splash screen and select “To The Video List”

Once there, hit the “Find Titles For You” button.

And way down at the bottom of that screen, pick “DS Demo Download”

Once you are there, browse the games, pick one that you want to try, and then follow the instructions. Like most of the Wi-Fi and user interface components on the Wii and the DS, the download is startlingly easy to do, seamless, and pretty much foolproof. If the local sample is any indication, it is i a powerful sales tool, since after trying CrossworDS for the DS, I immediately went out and bought the thing. Which, by the way, I recommend as an absolute must have title for your DS.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can try the damn thing out for yourself.

CODA: I am amazed by the number of people who do not realize that their DS has a full Wi-Fi suite on-board, and will talk both 802.11 and Nintendo’s own wireless protocol right out of the box. I really think the big N needs to pimp that more – there are boundless applications to be had here, if only the user base – and, more to the point, the potential buying public – was better filled in. Get with the program, guys.

Mario Kart Wii

I won’t bore you with prattling on about how awesome Mario Kart Wii is … suffice to say that is is awesome, and repeatedly so. It is pretty much the perfect pick-up-and-play game, the perfect party game, and the perfect game for hardcore game geeks. Again, awesome.

Just buy the damn thing.

However, what I will prattle on about is my Mario Kart license number. You wanna add me to your roster? Go for it – the digits are 4124-5420-0252.

Game on!

Guitar Hero At Your Desk

Yes, really. Activision just released this little widget that lets you embed Guitar Hero on any web page. There are only three songs (I will let you discover them) and each one is pre-set at a difficulty level (one is easy, one is medium, and one is … surprise … hard). Yes, it is a cheap marketing trick and shows that Activision is just a teeny bit desperate in the face of the Rock Band juggernaut. But that doesn’t mean you cant have fun with it. Rock on!

Note: Instead of picking through the source of this page, you can get your mitts on the embed/object code from the widget itself … just click on “Grab Code” instead of “Start Rocking” when you click on the widget. Then paste it in whatever web page you happen to have at hand. Viral marketing gone mad!


Jonesing for a Friday morning time-waster that might actually have a redeeming value or two? Why not give TypeRacer a shot? It is a twist on the old “water race” games you see at the carnival … instead of shooting a stream of water into a clown’s mouth to propel your little car/horse/snail/Spongebob/whatever, you type. The faster and the more accurately you, the faster your car goes. Just the thing for all you blogger types who now have mad keyboard skillz after years of bashing out your deathless prose.

Hot tip: You have to go back and fix a typo immediately – the instructions aren’t overly clear on it, but if the typing box turns red you must go back and the misspelled word now, you cant let even the smallest typo slip. Any typing you do while the box is red is just a waste of finger energy.

And no, for you smartasses, the game would not be better called TypoRacer when I am playing. Hmph.

Rock Band Roundup

The idea of entire albums being added to the Rock Band catalogue gets closer and closer – today owners of Harmonix’ sublime music game will have noticed that about half of Boston’s debut album hit the download list, for 2 bucks a track or a sawbuck for the whole package:

Hitch a Ride
More Than a Feeling
Peace of Mind
Rock & Roll Band
Something About You

If you played the original versions of Guitar Hero, you know that “More Than A Feeling” was a wickedly good time, so this would seem to be a no brainer download. Anything that smacks of cock-rock is usually worth the time and effort in this particular gaming genre.

Also, the Wii version of Rock Band is now 100% official. It releases on June 22 in both Canada and the United States, and the main product will be the standard “game, drums, microphone, and guitar” bundle. Guitar Hero controllers for the Wii will also work with the game, and (praise be!) all of the instruments will be available separately on launch day. No word yet on whether or not downloadable songs will be available*, but there will be 5 bonus songs included in the original package.

This has got license to print money written all over it. It may surprise you to know that the Wii version of Guitar Hero 3 outsells all other platforms, including the ubiquitous Playstation 2, but the people at Harmonix are well aware of this and ordering larger wallets even as we speak.

*Given the fact that there are extra songs already included, I would say that the immediate answer would be “No” to the question of downloadable content – the Wii’s built-in storage just isn’t large enough. However, the downloads are a huge money factory for Harmonix, so that will probably not be the situation for all time. As soon as the Nintendo adds the ability to address an external hard drive, you can bet that the download store will be open for business.

Zack & Wiki

Back in the day – and I am probably dating myself here – there was a genre of adventure game known as “point and click”. The folks at Sierra were the undisputed kings of this particular market, with titles ranging in content from the traditional to gritty, passing through wacky and the generally tasteless on the way. The games were a lot of fun, but were eventually superseded by richer and deeper products – games with character growth, better narrative, open-ended gameplay and (eventually) on-line play and evolving content.

The somewhat simple narrative and linear storylines – not to mention the distressingly lame graphics – did not age well, and the genre as for the most part faded away, although there are certain people who work tirelessly to keep the flame flickering.

Anyway – while the entire adventure game industry has moved on to bigger and better things, some brave souls over at Capcom thought that the Wii and it’s tactile control system would be a natural fit for this sort of thing. And after some messing about they came up with Zack & Wiki, which is an utterly delightful little exercise in welding traditional adventure gameplay with the waving and thrusting of the Wiimote. The game is a ton of fun, but has sadly remained pretty much entirely under the radar. The game is in the stores, but the chances are very high that you have never ever heard of it.

So, in the spirit of public service and of wasting a good 30 minutes of your work day, I feel obligated to point out this on-line demo level of Zack & Wiki. It uses the mouse instead of the Wiimote, but the general concept is the same: click on the various items that highlight when you mouse over them and figure out the order you need to use/trigger/manipulate them to get to the treasure. When you get to the page, click on the “Gameplay” tab to get to the demo level.

Go try it. Consider it your Wednesday diversion. And if you have a Wii, you really need to think about picking this one up.