Friday, October 24, 2008

New Review Scale

While I like the ideas behind my old review scale, I took a hard, objective look at it and realized... it's kind of stupid.

The descriptions add an extra layer of complexity to something that I wanted to just keep as simple as possible. To an outside observer, it would take longer to decipher the real difference between "delcious!" "mediocre!" and "digusting!" without having it explained to them, and that's completely against the entire philosophy of my review scale.

The whole reason I stripped it to three ranks was because I felt that numbers were arbitrary. I still stand by that sentiment. Honestly, what's the difference between a 67 and a 68, or a 6.7 and a 6.8, or even a 6 and a 7? But then again, at least people are familiar with that number scale. Having a personal scale that only applies to this blog? Stupid.

Beyond that, there were still flaws in my rating scale. Having a middle rank was always kind of a cop-out for myself, so the decisions wouldn't be quite so tough because some games really do seem to sit right in the middle of the scale sometimes.

Then I realized that spending time and money on a game is even simpler than that. Either you do or you don't. Whether a game comes out to an 8/10 or a 74/100 or a D-, it's always reduced to a binary value: "Based on the review score, I will/won't spend my time and/or money on this game."

This leaves me to present the new (hopefully final) scale:

Thumbs Up!      Thumbs Down!

It's a pretty self-explanatory scale: A "Thumbs Up!" rating means the game is worthy of your time and money, and a "Thumbs Down!" rating means the game is not worthy of your time or money. Simple as that.

Many reviewers have expressed resentment that the general public seems to skip over the text of the review and jump directly to the score. I feel differently. It allows people that aren't invested enough in a game to read the entire review to just get a quick thumbs up or down assessment. Occasionally there are times where I'm personally just not interested enough in a game to go deeper than finding out more than the basic "how was it?" And depending on the score, I might go back and read the review to learn more about the game.

I feel that the rating should be the most concise version possible of my review. My goal is that by the time you've reached the end of the review, you don't even need to see the rating because you already know what I'm going to put. You should never be surprised by the rating I've given a game if you've read the review.

I'll have some tough decisions to make with the games that feel unworthy of a "Thumbs Up!" yet a "Thumbs Down!" feels harsh, but I think that it leads to a much better experience for the reader.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Microsoft Offering Free Storage To Arcade/Core Users

Microsoft has made a lot of poor decisions this hardware cycle, and they haven't handled many of them too well. So when news broke that their "New Xbox Experience" would take 128MB of space, call me cynical, but I really didn't expect Microsoft to remedy the situation quickly or generously.

Well, hot dog.

Microsoft has come through for the Arcade and Core users that would've otherwise been screwed by this update in both a quick and generous way. Free 512MB memory cards or $19.99 20GB refurbished hard drives can be redeemed by Arcade/Core users here. An impressive move by Microsoft, and one that's surely going to drive their profits down even further. Bold.

Contrast that with Nintendo, who have been promising to remedy their own storage concerns for months now and have produced nothing. Nintendo, the company where they drive to work in cars made of money after having a nice hot money bath and kissing their wives (also made of money) goodbye, have no solution in sight. No free SD cards for Wii users! Never!

And contrast all of that with Sony, who everyone lambasted when they first announced the ridiculous $599.99 price tag. At the very least, we should give Sony credit for truly fulfilling their promise of making the PS3 future proof. Everybody's got at least a 20GB hard drive, everybody's got wireless network access, everybody's got HDMI, etc.

The only thing I'd truly accuse Sony of doing incorrectly is not being more aggressive to drive the price down, especially this holiday season. Mind you, even though they "have no plans" to cut the PS3's price any time soon and think what they offer is "an excellent value proposition" (it is), that doesn't change the fact that the PS3 is now twice the price of an Xbox 360.

Again though, kudos to Microsoft for offering up such a quick solution to this. Let's set aside any claims of "they should just offer a hard drive with every 360" and the like and just give Microsoft credit for finally handling a crisis maturely and efficiently.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Spider-Man 3 is the worst movie in the history of movies.

I decided to take a break from PixelJunk Eden to watch Spider-Man 3 again.

What the hell was I thinking?

Let's rewind back to May 4, 2007, the day a piece of me died.

Spider-Man was awesome. Spider-Man 2 was awesome. The trailers for Spider-Man 3 have been badass, and now I'm sitting in the theater at the premiere with a row of my friends. I'm fucking giddy. This must be what heaven feels like.

Then the movie started.

One hundred and thirty-nine excruciating minutes later and the credits began to roll, but no one stood up to leave. The whole theater just sat there in complete silence. No one looked anyone else in the eyes, and it was painfully obvious why: they had just been sodomized.

Eventually I stood up and did the only thing I could do. I took my friend's straw, stabbed my eyes out, and then jammed it into my throat to end my misery.

If only.

No, finally a guy near the front stood up and said "Spider-Man 3 is the worst movie in the history of movies," and walked out. Everyone else began to follow him, but I just sat there wondering, what the hell happened? They must have known how bad that was when they were filming it. Obviously there is no god.

Fast forward to a few hours ago. A friend left his copy of Spider-Man 3 here and I thought I'd give it another shot, that maybe I'd just had unrealistic expectations before and enough time had passed. How wrong I was.

Let's do a quick countdown of the three worst things about Spider-Man 3:

3. Topher Grace

I like Topher Grace. I do. He was funny on That 70s Show and he was even pretty good in that one movie with Dennis Quaid. But Topher Grace had no business playing Venom. He's super skinny and he's not scary at all.

Before the Venom transformation, he was decent when contrasted with Tobey Maguire's embarrassing performance, but once he donned the black, it was a train wreck. He tried to make the role funny with clever quips and corny jokes like holding up Mary Jane and saying "my spidey sense is tingling... if you know what I mean."

What an awful casting job.

2. Worst Ending Ever
At the end of the movie, Venom dies in a cheesy explosion, Harry dies from being exposed to too many cliches, and Spider-Man and Sandman have a heart to heart about how much their lives suck until they both start crying, Spider-Man forgives him, and Sandman literally just flies away into the sunrise.


So Sandman is still an escaped convict wanted for murdering Peter Parker's uncle, robbing a bank and a security van, causing millions of dollars in property damage, at the very least endangering the lives of countless citizens if not killing many, and attempting to kill Spider-Man, but that's all okay because his daughter is dying? Bullshit.


This is Spider-Man, not Dr. Phil. Wipe your tears and go kick his ass.

1. Peter Parker

It was impossible to like Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3. He went from being a self-absorbed jackass to a total pussy to an insane person who, in the span of two minutes, goes from playing the piano and dancing in a jazz club to hitting women in the face, and finally back to being a pussy.

In Spider-Man 2, you could sympathize with the guy. His girl is engaged to someone else, his job sucks, he's failing his classes, his aunt finds out he was indirectly responsible for her husband's death, his best friend wants Spider-Man dead, he's losing his powers, and the city he's sacrificing it all to protect still hates him. Not to mention the dude with four mechanical arms trying to kill him.

But the reason why you cared was because he was a good, likeable person, and so you rooted for him. You wanted him to triumph. Had he been smacking Mary Jane around, dancing on tables and flipping his hair, you would've just been like, "whatever, man; he deserves it. Eff that guy." So by the end of Spider-Man 3, I wanted nothing more than Peter Parker's head on a pike. How could I not?

What I'm trying to say with all of this is that The Dark Knight was awesome. But if Christian Bale starts singing and jumping in front of American flags in Batman 3, people will die.

I'm a man of my word.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Site Banner

    Okay, hopefully you've noticed the new site banner. I finally got sick and tired of looking at that hideous default banner, so I loaded up Photoshop and went to work, the result of which you can see above.

    It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile, though I never really had any design in mind. Usually I load Photoshop with a clear idea of what I want to execute, and considering that this time I had next to nothing, I'm really happy with the way it turned out. Definitely an evolutionary process; I wish I had saved some of the iterations to show off. Some were awesome; some were really, really atrocious.

    A good thing about the design on this one is that the color can really easily be switched, so once I get tired of this color, I can swap it out on a whim. The only problem with it is that now I really want to switch the blog to black, but the way Blogger is set up, I'm not sure I'll be able to get it exactly the way I'm envisioning, so who knows what the future holds?

[UPDATE: Just messed around to see what it would look like in black, and it's not worth it. Yeah, the new banner looks great in it, but everything else becomes so generic. Totally not worth it; keeping what I have now.]

    Now that that's done, it's back to playing PixelJunk Eden for me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Further PixelJunk Eden Impressions

    Not a liveblog, but I just thought I'd jot down some thoughts I've been having about Eden. So far, I'm enjoying it, but I've been having some mixed feelings about a lot of the design choices:

The Pros
  • It's definitely fun and relaxing. The presentation is excellent, the environments look interesting, and the music is awesome.
  • When everything is working just right and you're swinging through the gardens and getting huge combos, it's so satisfying.
  • At no point have I thought about whether or not this game was worth my money. When you aren't thinking about that, you know something's very right.
  • It's's just fun.

The Cons
  • Falling from the top of a garden to the bottom because you just barely missed a jump is one of the most demoralizing actions in any videogame, ever. I joked in the liveblog about being able to web-sling like Spider-Man, but that really should've been in there.
  • The time limit/life bar is the worst idea known to man. As I said in the liveblog, it didn't work in echochrome, and it doesn't work here. I don't like to be pressured in a game like this. There's just no reason for it. What if in flOw, you had to keep eating a certain amount of other organisms to refill a depleting time bar? It would've completely broken the vibe of the game.
  • I'm really debating at this point whether enemies were really necessary at all in this game. Platforming is fun enough on its own, and the enemies are just kind of annoying. They just don't seem to be adding a lot, but then again, I've only seen like two types thus far (I'm on like Garden 04).
  • Being forced to replay these gardens over and over is getting on my nerves. Even if the target is to get, say, three Spectras (or is it three Spectra? oh well), I should be able to go for more without being kicked back out to the level select. The target should be a minimum, not a maximum.

    I'll probably post more impressions as I continue to go through it. I'm pretty sure there's supposed to be 10 gardens, so I'm not even halfway completed with this game yet. Posting my impressions as I go along is probably better than just not posting anything at all about it until a week or two later and then have a huge review, right? (I may discuss this kind of "extended game coverage" thing again later.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

PixelJunk Eden: The First Hour - Liveblog

    I'll get a full review done once I've had sufficient time to digest the whole game, but as I stand now, I've only played through the first three gardens, two times each. I did just buy the game a few hours ago, you know. I don't get advance review copies (I can dream).

    Out of sheer laziness, rather than type up anything new, I'm just going to type up the recordings I made as I played. It's more entertaining to write, so hopefully it's more entertaining to read as well. Tell me if you like it. Here you go:

0 Minutes In: I've never done drugs, but the PS3's menu background for this game is tripping me out.

5 Minutes In: Why can't I throw my silk out like Spider-Man as I fall? Dude, not cool. Maybe I'll get used to it as I go.

6 Minutes In: Nope. I should be able to Spider-Man my way around. Developers, patch that shit in.

10 Minutes In: Okay, this is pretty fun. Got my first Spectra...thing; kind of unhappy that it just booted me out back to the level select after that though. Would've been nice to explore more.

11 Minutes In: Garden 02 is awesome. Great music, loving the red background here. If there's a garden in Eden specifically designed for hot, hot lovemaking, this must be it.

14 Minutes In: Still not happy with it booting me out to the hub world once I get one of those Spectra things. Besides, who named those anyway? Wasn't that the evil organization in the old James Bond movies?

18 Minutes In: I've already got to backtrack to old levels? Lame.

20 Minutes In: Never mind. They're still fun.

24 Minutes In: Wow. I was about to grab a second Spectra to end the level and some little bitch comes out of nowhere and knocks me down to the bottom. So not cool.

26 Minutes In: OH MY GOD. He did it again. What is your problem, bro? I haven't done anything to you. In most games, yeah, I understand why dudes are attacking me. You though... totally unprovoked. And now time ran out. I have to start over. Awesome.

32 Minutes In: That's it. Gloves are coming off. I'm going to find your family and use my silk strand of justice on them.

33 Minutes In: Holy shit; I can kill those things? I did not know that. That was easy. Well, now that I'm completely unopposed, I can just mosey on up to the next Spectra. Ha!

34 Minutes In: Okay, you had friends. No matter, because I freaking ninja'd past them. What now, bitches?

36 Minutes In: I think it's going to become annoying having to trek up all these plants every time I want to go to the next level, especially since they get farther and farther away each time.

40 Minutes In: These enemies are insane. If I don't completely destroy them the first time, they just reform their remaining bits and fly off, then come back at the worst possible moments once I've forgotten about them. Jesus. I can just imagine them cackling and twirling their mustaches as they tie my girlfriend to some train tracks.

47 Minutes In: I really hate this time limit. Why do games even have time limits anymore? It didn't work in echochrome and it doesn't work here. Just give me a mode where I can explore a level freely. Rez got that perfect; it had a mode where you were invincible and could just play without any fear of dying.

56 Minutes In: All right, well, I'm done for now. This game really seems like it's meant to be played in short bursts considering that you have to replay the same levels over and over and they take longer each time you play them.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

PixelJunk Eden Feature: Preventing "Burn In"

    UPDATE (7/21/2008): After speaking with one of the petition founders who had experienced burn in even with Monsters Encore (where there was an option that dims the logo to help prevent burn in), I had another quick correspondence with Dylan Cuthbert and it looks like Eden will go even further to dim that logo and prevent burn in. He says, "if it causes burn in at the new dark setting I'd be very surprised." Good to hear.

    ORIGINAL STORY: Gamers with plasma TVs need no longer fear the PixelJunk game series on PlayStation 3.

    In PixelJunk Racers and Monsters, a white "PixelJunk" logo was displayed in the bottom center, potentially causing the dreaded "burn in" for some TVs to occur where an image displayed long enough can damage the pixels on the screen and cause image retention. The problem is serious enough for some gamers that there are still a few online petitions floating around if you want to look for them.

    Personally, I was completely unaware of this problem as I moved recently from an old CRT TV to an LCD HDTV, where burn in is really quite unlikely. I happened upon one of these petitions today and decided to pop the developer, Q-Games, an email to see what they're doing, if anything, to fix it. Here's the response I got back from Dylan Cuthbert, founder of Q-Games:

Hello there,

Thanks for dropping us a line - this is a problem we didn't envisage simply because noone we know owned a plasma tv.
From PixelJunk Monsters Encore onwards we have an option in the menu to help you prevent burn-in.


Dylan Cuthbert
Q-Games Ltd.

    It's good to see that they're taking this issue seriously. Now, if they could patch in burn in prevention for Racers and the original Monsters, that would be really impressive. As you can see from this screen shot from the upcoming PixelJunk Eden, the logo in the bottom is definitely something that could've caused some serious burn in left unaddressed:

    PixelJunk Eden will be released on PlayStation Network on July 31, 2008. I can't wait.

Screw Windows

    Wondering what's been taking so long? Let me just be completely candid here: I hate Windows. My computer crashed, wiped my hard drive, and with it, all the articles I had written, the graphics I had made, everything. That happened a few months back. After that, I was pretty discouraged and didn't write or do anything productive in relation to this blog for awhile.

    But I think it's been long enough, and now I'm on a MacBook, so I think I'll be able to return to work pretty soon.

    I really should've cleared the air sooner though, because looking at the front page, it just looks like I keep promising to reboot and keep pushing it back for no apparent reason. Kind of frustrating to see, actually.

    Anyway, there you go.

Monday, April 21, 2008

God Bless Innovation, aka Greed Hero

    Hey, just wanted to make a quick post to give an update on the status of this blog and just touch on some gaming news I just read today.

    So first off, as you can see, I haven't "revived" the blog yet. But I am still writing articles; for instance, I wrote my reviews for Half-Life 2, HL2: Episode One, and HL2: Episode Two a little while ago and am planning on writing reviews for Portal, Team Fortress 2, and a few others pretty soon. I've got some comprehensive features cooking up and I've already finished making the graphical banners for everything I've mentioned plus all the stuff I haven't. I've just got to keep at it and make sure I've got enough to make sure that this revival won't be futile.

    Second is that I have no idea what Activision is thinking by incorporating additional instruments into Guitar Hero IV. Well, actually, I know exactly what they're thinking: cha-ching! They're certainly not thinking about innovation, because I could've sworn I've heard of that idea somewhere before...

    But instead of corrupting the Guitar Hero franchise, why not just come out with some side franchise? Call it Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll and just take all the crazy stuff of Guitar Hero like battling against the Devil and having intense guitar fights and just run with it. Take it to the extreme. Make it about being on tour and really living the rock star lifestyle with your band. If you want to make an analogy out of it, then how about Madden : Blitz :: Rock Band : Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll.

    That'd be badass. Obviously it's a terrible idea for marketing and family value and they're smart enough not to actually do it, but you have to admit it would be fun.

    But you get my point. It just doesn't make sense to be playing drums and singing in a game called Guitar Hero. Honestly? Guitar Hero sales are good enough where they don't really need to worry about ripping off Rock Band. All they need to worry about is getting their downloadable music act together. The folks behind Rock Band are certainly reaping the benefits of it.