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

Advertisements

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

Ice crystals cause a gasp!

Originally posted at GameSpot on February 14, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 – We were sent home from work early because the weather was so bad, and I took advantage of the opportunity to get some gaming in. It was almost a year to the day (Valentine’s Day of last year) that work was cancelled because of the snow, and it still felt just as good as it did then.

Quick hits:

Got some good time in with Super Mario World and Star Fox Command. I feel like I should give the latter its own entry, but that might come later.

Super Mario World is getting better, and that’s due directly to the fact that I’m actually progressing in the game now. Figuring out the puzzles or hitting a jump right goes a long way in keeping me playing. Just got out of the Forrest of Illusion and it’s on to the Chocolate Island. I get a little tired of the constant Ghost Houses, but I think that’s just because they’re tougher.

Star Fox Command has really impressed me. Any flight sim I’ve played has been on the PC, and while the game isn’t a simulation per say, I’ve never seen flight combat represented so well on any other platform. The DS control handles very well once you get used to it, and pulling out of a drive or making a sharp turn feel like you’re actually doing something.

The difficulty is just right, bordering on easy sometimes – but then a tough boss or missile shows up to even things out. I do enjoy the missile mechanic of the game more than I thought – it ratchets up the tension, knowing that you could have beat the rest of the level but missing one beacon means it was all for nothing.

The story is nothing too special, although the dialogue gets pretty good when the characters have extended interaction. Lines like, “Outta bed and full of beans,” tend to make you smile every time. I do enjoy the story surprises, though – you finish an area and all of the sudden BAM! Team Wolf pops out of nowhere!

– In both games, I’m found something I didn’t know I missed – the gasp! By the “gasp!“, I mean literally sucking in a lot of air – loudly – whenever something happens. In Super Mario World, this is usually when I die on the same jump for the tenth time in a row, or when I actually squeak by a difficult level. On Star Fox Command, it’s when I’m hitting that last beacon to destroy a mother ship or frantically trying to finish a level before time runs out. During these moments, it’s not unusual to hear a gasp! – or several of them.

I think the gasp! has been missing (or at least in the consistency of when I’m now experiencing them) due to the fact that I haven’t really progressed through a game in a long time. I’ve been racing with the new wheel, or just playing through games I’ve already beat when I have time like Star Wars: Battlefront II. But now I’m playing through levels, advancing unknown stories, and playing the DS in short bursts instead of sitting in front of my Xbox for an extended amount of time.

One isn’t better than the other, but I do enjoy this change of pace – and I’m excited about the potential gasps! to follow.

– Three great lines have come from my wife during this week, all related to Puzzle Quest:

“I’ve done this more today than I’ve knitted.”

She has really been getting into the game, and rightly so – it’s a great game! I showed it to her the night I got it, she said it looked cool, and then I left for work the next morning.

Since then she’s picked it up, and can’t put it down! I’m excited that she enjoys it, and so far she’s played it more than me – for the record, she’s on level 17 and I’m at 5.

“This is my kind of Fable

My wife “played” Fable with me on Xbox, and now she has a version of her own. With the knights, orcs, swords, and other Fable-ish items found in the game, it reminds her a lot of the world of Albion. Seeing her enjoying the puzzle aspect of the game and having her first taste of some RPG elements feels really satisfying – she told me she understands now why I get excited when I level up a character (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), or want to expand my kingdom as much as possible (Shogun: Total War). Ah, music to my ears! Now she knows why I get excited over the things that I do

“I used yours since my battery died.”

Just as she was about to topple her foe, the DS’s battery died – but instead of quitting and waiting for her battery to re-charge, she finished the game on mine. I think that speaks for itself.

Post tenebras lux

Wheel of Fortune!

Originally posted at GameSpot on February 1, 2008

Patience. It’s a virtue few people seem to have, and even fewer have mastered. While I don’t claim to be in either of those categories, I know that waiting to buy something can really help you out when it comes to saving money.

Case in point, the Fanatec Speedster Force 3 Feedback Xbox racing wheel. What was originally sold for $170.00 when it first came out, I was able to get on eBay for $20.00 ($40.00, if you include S&H). I’m still getting everything I can out of my Xbox, and this wheel definitely extends its life-span.

A few observations:

– All my old racing games are new again, including Project Gotham Racing 2 which I had sold but bought again for the wheel. It’s been worth it, actually – what I remember as being a mostly blah game has now turned into something fun every time play. I use first-person view now, and it really helps to immerse you in the game. There’s nothing like seeing someone you cut off in your rear view as you speed down the track. While I’ve mostly been playing PGR2 with the wheel, Forza is no slacker. Once I get as far as I can on Gotham, I’ll probably switch to that.

– One game I won’t be playing with the wheel is Rallisport Challenge. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the best racing games I’ve played – but I need a guardrail man! If I don’t have something keeping me remotely on the track, I fly all over the place. No, Rallisport will stay a thumbstick game.

– The wheel is family-friendly. What do I mean by that? I mean that even I have been surprised by everyone’s reaction to it. For both friends and family, I can say that those who are familiar with video games and those who are not both enjoy the wheel. And that makes me happy.

– While this doesn’t reference the wheel directly, I realized something I sub-consciously love about racing games – you never run out of gas.

– It’s a long story, but we actually have an old van seat set up in the basement – so you really do feel like you’re in a car. Plus, it’s a two-seater! So, just like real life, someone can sit beside you and dispense helpful hints!

Post tenebras lux

Friday Night Frivolities

Originally posted at GameSpot on February 1, 2008

This past Friday night (January 25th) my family and I went over to a friend’s house, and we were able to get some good gaming in. I brought my Xbox and wheel, and they had no less than four DS systems to play with. Since I got one, I was looking forward to some wireless play.

The big surprise for me was playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on the DS. I didn’t think a FPS would translate well to the touch screen format, and for the first few games I was right. But then, much like StarFox Command, once I got used to the DS screen it was a lot of fun. I even logged a few kills, which after having trouble even aiming on the first run-through I was happy about. Having the computer terminals that triggered the map and radar was interesting as well – not just a toss-in gimmick, but actually affected game play in a good way.

In other news, it was fun to show off the Xbox racing wheel. My friend enjoys a good race; the cars on Forza Motorsports really had him excited. I love it when people enjoy a game for the first time – and if I’m a part of it, then I feel even better.

And now – the lightning round!

They let me borrow Mario Hoops: 3 on 3 – so far so good. The learning curve seems a little high for a Mario game, but it’s not like have to remember every nuance to make the game fun. I haven’t played it too much with everything else going on, but I would like to spend some more time with it.

Wireless MarioKart DS. We had about five going at once; I used to think I was good at the game. . .

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 was a big hit, as usual. I’m a fan, so it makes perfect sense.

Yoshi’s Island for the GBA – my wife used to love the game, so I watched her on it a little bit.

Homemade pizza + sweet iced tea + fresh cookies + friends = great Friday night

Post tenebras lux