Be nice and play with your friends: DS multi and the big jump

Originally posted at GameSpot on July 15, 2008

Playing a bit of catch up on the gaming front; my brother-in-law had some time before he stated his new job, so he can over last week on Monday (June 7) and Thursday (June 10). He and his girlfriend just bought a DS – one for each of them. How sweet is that?

Monday it was just him and I, and we played The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. This was the first time I had ever seen the game in action, and I was impressed; I hope to get this someday for my DS as well.

I was able to see some of the single-player action; from drawing the path of your boomerang to blowing out candles through the mic. The game play looked engaging, and I think it would be great intro for me into the Zelda universe.

Watching him play was fine, but the multiplayer was outstanding. Playing as either Link or the soldiers, each of you had to stop the other from reaching your respective goals. If Link, the goal was gathering jewels – if a soldier, your goal was stopping him from doing so. The warp doors, wind barriers, and vision tricks the game made each map have its own special craziness.

I especially liked the power-ups – cloning yourself, speed or strength, and then being able to run over and deny them from your opponent was great.

We closed the night with a little “Boarding Action” from Halo: Combat Evolved. He won, naturally – but I will say I enjoy that map a lot more than I used to. Some good moments.

Thursday had even more going on with four DS’s in my living room. My wife was able to try Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends, and she liked it. I was finally able to play some multiplayer for the first time on Star Fox Command, and it didn’t disappoint. Power-ups spread throughout the map were well-balanced, from bombs to various laser options, and barrel rolls while trying to get behind the enemy.

I won more of these battles; but to be fair he had never played the game before.

Other DS multiplayer action involved the New Super Mario Brothers. This is one of the best games for the DS, not just because of the tremendous single-player campaign, but for the fantastic multiplayer. We played some very intense ten star matches, each of us jumping or shooting fireballs like mad trying to crush each other.

Besides the “level” multiplayer, we played some of the mini-games as well. Card games, rolling snowballs, and bouncing Mario’s all made an appearance here – including my former best, the hidden faces! He dominated in a way I didn’t expect – I need some training. Perhaps a refresher course with some Where’s Waldo books?

You can’t play any new Mario without thinking of the old, and I showed him the GBA version of theSuper Mario World. I am currently stuck on a level, but I booted it up just to give him a little nostalgia.

I entered a world just to show him where I was at, and after commenting on how I found the game a little tough I promptly fell off the edge into nothingness. We lost it, laughing so hard at the perfect illustration of my current game progress. Oh course, funnier if you were there, but it was the best set-up I could’ve had.

He fell off once as well for good measure, and we figured it was time to put that baby down before wereally hurt our pride.

Even with all the DS goodness, we managed to get some Xbox in. After trying (and failing) to figure out the multiplayer of Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory, we ended up with Need for Speed Most Wanted.

I finally beat the “Get through 6 police roadblocks” on the challenges, but the real jewel of the evening came when my brother-in-law was trying to beat the same challenge. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the best features of the game is at certain points of the city, the camera will snap back into a cinematic third-person view while everything moves in slow motion. It mixes up the racing very nice at key points, and I find myself trying to hit those “slow-mo points” with as many cops behind me as I can, just to make it a cooler shot.

Anyway, he had just come up to a road block and smashed through; happens all the time right? What was special about this time was the fact that his car was thrown in the air lop-sided, and it was just over a hill at a slow-mo part. So when he flew in the air, car twisting around, it was like watching our own action movie. The car flew up and we both could hardly speak due to all the awesomeness, and then he jumped up with an “Oh yeah!” that I was more then happy to second.

As the car landed he went back into first-person perspective, and we actually saw the landing through the windshield – the car flopping back into place. Simply put, it was a fantastic gaming moment that made us stand up and cheer. When we rushed upstairs to tell the ladies what had happened you could see the light in our eyes, describing how sweet a moment we had just witnessed.

They might not have shared our enthusiasm, but that didn’t matter. It was a great jump, and a great night.

Post tenebras lux

Turtles through Time

Originally posted at GameSpot on March 10, 2008

Currently playing through TMNT for the GBA and at first I wasn’t sure how much I liked it; then something happened – I beat the first level. Many times a game might not seem like a good investment, but then you make some actual progress – and the game is as good as gold.

This is the case with TMNT, and I’m sitting pretty at Act 3. I forgot how much I enjoyed the turtles as a kid, never missing one second of the cartoon and going to see the first movie in the theatres. (I’m sure I saw the second movie in theatres as well, but I don’t know about the third one – the first movie was the good one though.)

Playing through the game got me thinking about my gaming with turtles past. First up, the arcade game. This was out at the height of the turtles (first round of) popularity, and it was a great beat’em up that you could play with a friend. I can remember forking over quarter after quarter in order to keep Donatello and the others alive as long as I could. I never beat the arcade game; either because I wasn’t good enough or wasn’t rich enough – probably both.

Next up was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES, and it was a must-own for any fan. The game, however, took advantage of that fact and was awful. Annoying levels (swimming through electric seaweed) and punishing difficulty sucked most of the fun out of this one, although picking your turtle and a well done intro-sequence helped to ease the pain a little.

I vaguely remember playing (or renting) some other turtle games, mostly emulating the side scrolling multiplayer fighting action of the original arcade game – which was a good thing.

I know there have been a slew of TMNT games in recent years, but this GBA title seems to be the only one with a decent score. I haven’t played them, so I can’t personally vouch for how good they are. However, it has been fun to re-visit a franchise I enjoyed as a kid and find there is still some life there.

Turtle power!

Post tenebras lux

A big bowl of thanks

Originally posted at GameSpot on March 3, 2008

Being thankful isn’t something I do enough of. I know it’s cliché, but I need to strive at being more aware of the blessings I enjoy each and every day.

This is no different when it comes to video games, and I want take time out with this blog to review what an amazing 4-5 months it’s been in my gaming world.

Due to the generosity of family at Christmas and our tax return, I’ve been able to advance more in my game library is these past few months than I have in quite a while:

Xbox:

Chessmaster

Forza Motorsport

Jade Empire: Limited Edition

Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders

Project Gotham Racing 2

Project: Snowblind

Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow

DS:

Astro Boy: Omega Factor (GBA)

Diner Dash: Sizzle and Serve

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Mario Kart DS

Mario Party DS

New Super Mario Brothers

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Risk / Battleship / Clue (GBA)

Star Fox Command

Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 (GBA)

TMNT (GBA)

Uno / Skipbo / Uno Freefall

Hardware:

Nintendo DS Lite (2)

Fanatec Speedster 3 Forceshock Xbox Racing Wheel

I look at this list with a sense of awe and intimidation, both excited about the purchases but wondering how I’m going to find time for all of them.

That’s the problem with my gaming hobby – I’m acquiring games faster than I can play through them.

I’m not the first person to have this problem, nor will I be the last – and as far as problems go, I think having an abundance of games is probably the best kind to have.

Post tenebras lux