Archive for Game Life

Professor Layton

When I was a wee child, I absolutely adored puzzles. Puzzles of any kind – jigsaws, magic squares, cryptograms, acrostics, crosswords, you name it. Even something as inane and simple as the “Jumble” feature on the comics page was latched onto and savoured. Puzzles were my pals – much more enjoyable to spend any sort of time with than the cretinous little jerks that I was forced to endure as my classmates or (dripping sarcasm coming) “peers” (dripping sarcasm ends).

Let me tell you, finding out that school was more “being cooped up in a room full of semi-literate morons” and less “reading cool books” was a huge and life-changing shock for an impressionable 5-year old.

Ahem. Anyway, I loved all puzzles, but the absolute best puzzles were the logic and perception kind. I would search for these everywhere – books, magazines, even the occasional Reader’s Digest – and delight over every manipulation and solution. If there were 12 visually identical weights and a scale that you could only use 3 times, I was there, baby. All of which – and in a rather roundabout way – brings us to the most insanely awesome videogame release of the last 2 years, Professor Layton and the Curious Village.

This is a game that you must buy if you have a Nintendo DS, and if you don’t have a Nintendo DS you should go out right now and buy one. Period. And if you know someone who doesn’t own a Nintendo DS you should go out and buy one for them and then give them a copy of this game to prove what an awesome friend you are. Really.

The game is a joy on virtually every level. The art direction and animation is impeccable, with a classic European feel (think Belle and Sebastian or Tintin) that is wonderfully refreshing in a world saturated by cheap anime. The sound and voice acting is impeccable, the writing is delightful, and the presentation classic and clean.

All of which, of course, pales in comparison to the puzzles. Everywhere you go, everywhere you turn, some door or entrance or clue is blocked by a puzzle, which you must solve to unlock the next step in the adventure. Hundreds of puzzles, lurking around every corner and waiting to delight and reward you. I have taken the liberty of reproducing one of the first puzzles in the game here – just a warm-up, found in the early minutes of the game to get your brain lubricated and working. It is a variation on a classic, and still a fun little diversion:

As shown in the diagram below, you have exactly one quarter of a circle. Within this circle is the rectangle ABCD, which touches the edge of the circle at D. Point B is located at the exact centre of the circle, and all of the angles of the rectangle are 90 degrees. How long is the diagonal line AC?

A classic

See? Awesome. Imagine an adventure game that lets you poke around and explore a world that is packed with these little gems – every one demanding that you produce the solution before you can move on to the next. And, via the built-in WiFi functions of the DS, new puzzles to download from the Nintendo mothership each and every week.

I’m not religious, but if I was – and by extension believed in some sort of “heaven” concept – it would be like living in this game forever.

Absolutely perfect.

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith

So, yeah, the worst-kept “secret” in the videogame world is now official: today Activision officially announced the impending release of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. All Aerosmith, all the time. The game will ship in June and be available for the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and (maybe) the PlayStation 3. Activision is definitely hedging their bets on the PS3 thing in the press release, which much be causing yet another round of eye-gouging and self-flagellation over at Sony.

To promote the news (and to get to the whole point of this post) Activision is offering a free (that’s free, as in gratis) download of Dream On for owners of Guitar Hero III on the Xbox 360. It will only be available from February 16th to the 18th, so don’t miss out.

Meanwhile, the first screen shot of the game makes Joe and Steve look far less hideous than they do in real life. Whew.

Guitar Hero Aerosmith screen shot

A Karaoke Revolution Moment

The song Friends in Low Places is really fucking hard.

Just saying.

Rock Band “Stage Kit”

Best Buy had this listed very briefly on their Canadian web site:

“Interactive and synchronized light and smoke stage show for Rock Band on the Xbox 360”

Rock Band

The listing has now been taken down, and the only other reference I can find to it is on a GameStop page (sans picture) here, but if this is the real deal then life just got a whole lot cooler. The release date on the GameStop page – June 28, 2008 – matches the date that was on the Best Buy page, so hope certainly springs eternal.

Please please please let this be true …

Professor Layton & The Curious Village

The long-awaited and much-lusted-after english-language release of Professor Layton & The Curious Village is finally almost here, and you can almost taste the puzzle goodness. Not to mention to insanely awesome art direction.

I have personally been waiting for this thing for two fucking years now, and the last few days are going to be hell. Just to make us squirm a little more, Nintendo has put up a “teaser’ web site which is more akin to “torture”. Come on, February 10th! Jeezus!

Free Rice

I first saw Free Rice a couple of weeks ago, and kicked around the idea of adding a link to it. It’s a straightforward vocabulary game – just match words to their definitions (think “It Pays To Enrich Your Word Power” from Readers’ Digest) – and for every one you get correct the sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to hunger relief through the United Nations’ World Food Programme. Ultimately, I decided against it for two reasons: One, the words seemed a little to simple to offer any real challenge, and two, it just seemed too good to be true. Play a game, and corporate sponsors pony up for some carbs? There’s gotta be a catch, right?

That would have been the end of the matter, but the Metal Queen herself dropped me a line to recommend the game. Chastised, I did some poking around that the whole thing is on the up and up: You play, and the rice goes to them that needs it. Period. The words are still pretty simple, but I guess I can overlook that in the face of some overriding charity here. So go and play Free Rice – your vocabulary will get a little kick in the pants, and the world will be just a teeny tiny bit better for it. 10 grains of rice might not seem like a lot, but if you get 10 words right that is 100 grains for someone who would otherwise have just about zero. Zip zilch nada.

Bupkus.

And when bubkus is the alternative, 100 grains of rice is a lot.

UPDATE: An increase in sponsorship means that every word you hit the definition on will now buy 20 grains of rice instead of just 10. Which is twice as much, where as twice bupkus is still bupkus. So there is no excuse – take a few minutes out of your day and go play a few rounds. Everyone wins.

Factory Balls

Most of the fun in Factory Balls is actually figuring out how to play it, so I won’t say too much here. Suffice you say you have to get the balls into their boxes, and when you run out of balls in the ballblender your game is over. It’s fun, you need to use your brain and experiment, and it is prefect for a boring Friday afternoon at the office. The only caveat is that you cant turn the music off, so you will have to turn down the sound on your workstation. Enjoy.

Peanutbutter Flipover

Back in the day, when I was just a little geekboy, the premium after-school snack was something we called a “peanut butter flipover”. The concept was simple – a single piece of bread, spread with peanut butter, and then folded in half (the “flipover”) to make what was essentially a half of a sandwich, but with what was effectively double peanut butter. There was a temptation, I believe, to extend this to a “peanut butter and jelly flipover”, but that did not have the same sublime perfection – doubling up on the “J” as well as the “PB” with the fold just made for a soggy sandwich. With a peanut butter flipover part of the appeal was definitely the comforting simplicity of the thing.

Anyway, that’s not the point here. The point here is that “Peanutbutter Flipover” would be a totally awesome name in Rock Band, and I offer it up free gratis. You want it, it’s all yours. Just make sure you do the name proud, okay?

Rock Band Names

Many of you are less than a week away from the release of Rock Band – specifically, those of you in the United States who are getting the game on November 20th. On behalf of the rest of us, who have to wait until December, allow me to point out that we hate your fucking guts. With a passion.

Ahem. Now then. There is a temptation by a lot of people to assume that this is just Guitar Hero with drums. This is a bit (okay, a lot) of an over-simplification: While Harmonix did build the basic mechanics of both games, Rock Band is a much deeper experience. The way that you manage your band’s career is just as important as hitting the notes – if you take a gig at a venue that is over your head and stink the place out, you will have to work for months to get back on track. A the stench of a bad show follows you around like dog shit on your shoe, destroying your reputation. Even small items like creating the setlist for your gig become – as in the real world – crucial decisions that can make or break a particular show and by extension, a career.

One of those small items – or, depending on your state of mind, not so small items – is the name of your band. The name you pick is not just for your own amusement – it will be publicly displayed on the networked progress boards, on the covers of magazines that document your progress, and in any on-line performance (being the opening act for a more experienced band is a great way to get exposure) you might get into. And while most of you probably have a Secret Awesome Band Name that you have been carrying around in the back of your head for ages, Harmonix has you covered if you can’t think of anything cool. There is a “name generator” in Rock Band and if you draw on it, the game will randomly take one word or phrase from list “A” and match it with one random word or phrase from list “B” to come up with your nom du guerre:

List A List B
Aardvark Agony
Apocalypse Amplitude
Bad and the Hex
Bikini Apples
Boston Arcade
Breadstick Atrophy
Broken Babes
Bucket and Baggage
Camden Baptistes
Captain Barbers
Cephalopod Bees
Chekhov’s Blood
Coastal Bonnets
Covers Brain Stem
Death Bubbles
Death-Pit Byron
Delicious Cannon
Delta Captains
Digital Cart
Donkey Charismatics
Dr. Chow
Eccentric Circus
Electric Coma
Estimated Commas
Faceless Contacts
Facial Cordial
Fallen Culture
Father Cybersquad
Fever Dream Death
Fiendish Diddies
Five Alarm Diet
Foot Disaster
Four Alarm Dog Party
Fretless Dornholes
Galileo’s Dropbear
Gin and Ether
Goony Flavors
Grizzly Bear Fraternity
Grum FreQs
Guest Friday
Hardlaser Friends
Harmonicus Frijoles
Hedgehog Furnace
Hopopotamus Gerbil
Horse Glory Days
Hound Goblins
Jefferson Goons
Kafka’s Gun
Killa Harmonicus
Killasaurus Hat
Languishing Heroes
Loading Hill
Lord Hipopotamus
Lunchbox of Horse
Luv Howler
Mantiss Icarus
Masterful in a Day
Men With Index
Metallic Kohlers
Metric Legends
Mikey and Lemonade
Miss Lincoln
Monkey Lock
Moustache Machine
Mr. Mantiss
Orange Mechanotherapy
Original Mistress
Orlando Monday
Penguin Monkeys
Penny Monotremes
Perspiring Moustache
Pixelface Not Included
Prague Notre Dame
Raspberry of Nouns
Razorblade Oranges
Real Pallor
Salt Horse Pants
Sir Party
Snuggle Pastries
Stir-Fry Phase
Supercilious Philosophers
Taming Pixelface
Taxonomic Prophet
Texas Psychos
The Pump
The Babbling Punkaceratops
The Cabinet Puppy
The Damp Ramp
The Doo-Wah Razor
The Empty Robots
The Grunting Rotunda
The Holy Sally
The Howler Saturday
The Hyperbolic Sham
The Inverted Silverfish
The Low Simpatico
The Navel Smiths
The Nose Soul
The Odious Spiral
The Shaven Spring
The Stylish Stabwounds
The Totality Strumbar
The Whining Sunday
Three Alarm Surprise
Toasty Survivors
Tog Sushi
Try for Syrup
Ultra Taxonomy
Unicorn Teutonics
Vapor the Crustacean
Waxy the Loaf Dogs
Weekend of Theatrics
Whiteboard Therapy
Wooly Thorns
Wynnum Thursday
  Tipper
  Tongue
  Towel
  Train
  Tuesday
  Undulates
  Variant
  Vees
  Vicars
  Visage
  Warbear
  Wednesday
  Weekends
  Weelie
  Whiplash
  With Thugs
  Yaks

Some of the possible combinations are positively sublime – you would certainly be hard pressed to do better than “Weekend of the Loaf Dogs”, which has awesome Swedish heavy metal written all over it. Once again, Rock Band appears to rule large.

Vector Runner

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …

Hang on, wrong post.

Er, a long time ago (and I am showing my age here) the “bleeding edge” in videogame technology was “3D vector” graphics. This was nothing more than a fancy way of saying “straight lines” but it was a huge step forward because the graphics were scalable – as they moved towards you, they could get bigger, providing a very shaky illusion of depth. The best know of these titles was Atari’s Battle Zone but there were other lesser known entries as well.

Vector Runner is a tip of the retro hat to those games, mixed with a bit of Pole Position and without the stupid pointy tank that you could never ever kill. Use your arrow keys to steer your ever-accelerating cube – er, vehicle and try not to hit the cones while grabbing the coloured power-ups.

It’s pretty much a twitch-fest, bit it is also a fun little time-waster for 5 or 10 minutes on a Thursday afternoon – made more interesting by the rather unique feature wherein it costs points to pause, and the basic sort of inertia that the playfield seems to be subject to. Have fun.