Friday, January 29, 2010

The Olympics and Games

I was in China (in Wenzhou, a city on the East Coast about halfway between Shanghai and Beijing with a population rivaling that of New York City) in 2008, during both the lead-up to and actual event of the 2008 Olympics. And, by pure coincidence, I returned to my hometown of Vancouver and am currently living through (read: tolerating, barely) the civic hype machine of the 2010 Winter Olympics. So you could say that, for better or worse, the Olympics have been an incidental part of my day-to-day life for the last two years at least.

Kotaku links to an article published in Macleans wherein it is proposed that videogaming be included in the Olympics. The argument goes that the line between real and virtual athletics has been blurred to the point where focusing exclusively on "real" events is outdated, irrelevant, and just plain not very cool.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I think this is a ludicrous idea for a number of reasons. First of all, NO ONE is going to be interested in watching a bunch of people play games on TV. I don't care how you gussy it up, it is just not interesting enough to compel the average person to sit through it when they could be playing videogames themselves. Secondly, despite the bent of the article, gaming and athletics are (I'm sorry to say) pretty much mutually exclusive. That's not to say there isn't a huge crossover between the two interests, but there are established venues for each and including gaming in the Olympics smacks of 'desperate marketing ploy'. You are, of course, more than welcome to disagree with me in the comments.

Having said ALL of that... I was deeply amused when I played Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games and saw that all the skylines were those of Vancouver.

Has there been either a Mario game or a Sonic game set in YOUR city? How about both of them at once? I thought not.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lost: The Adventure

In honour of the fact that Season 6 of Lost starts in less than a week!

Silly Jack. You should know that you can't pick up fire, Hurley, or coconuts.

Actually, maybe you should try those coconuts again. Try throwing a can of Dharma peas at the tree. You'll need it when you meet that polar bear later.

(Penney Design has 8-bit movie-game mockups for Wall-E, The Dark Knight, and more right over here.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dragon Quest: The Bar

A Dragon Quest-themed restaurant called Luida's Bar has opened in Tokyo's Roppongi District. I'd have more to say but I'm busy booking a one-way flight to Japan as we speak.

(Yes. I plan to live there, in the restaurant itself, lurking under tables and gathering scraps of fallen food until I have enough material to craft a liquid metal sword. You heard me.)

This is simultaneously the greatest news I've heard all day, and the worst. The greatest, because clearly my daily prayers to the Goddess have not only been heard, but answered; the worst, because I promised to sacrifice my first-born child (as yet unconceived) for it to happen.

One-Line Wonders: B:AA, SH:H, Cogs, KH:358/2D

Today marks the debut of what I hope to be an ongoing column. One-Line Wonders is my attempt to cut back on my usual word-salad approach to blogging and review a handful of games in a single sentence (or equivalent.)

So without further ado, here are your One-Line Wonders for Tuesday, January 26th, 2010.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC, 360, PS3)

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Design: 9/10
Batarangs: ∞
dB of vocalised alarm expressed upon the unanticipated appearance of Killer Croc when attempting to open an entirely mundane, though mercifully locked, door: 77

I never realised until THIS MOMENT just how utterly devoid of meaning my life was without the ability to hang upside down from a gargoyle, silently pick off an escaped convict, and then observe from afar as his cohorts discover him and absolutely lose their shit in unbridled terror.

One quickly learns that the goal of Batman: Arkham Asylum is not survival, but how best to screw with otherwise calm and collected individuals

Silent Hill: Homecoming (PC, 360, PS3)

Graphics: 6.5/10
Sound: 7.5/10
Gameplay: 5/10
Design: 7/10
Pyramid Heads: 1 (to date)
Duration between end of intro cinematic and start of gameplay to realise you are indescribably fucked: 10 seconds

It may be a rehash of every entry in the franchise to date, but if nothing else, Silent Hill: Homecoming has the dubious distinction of making me lose control of my bowels more quickly than any other game I've ever encountered (critical moment of bowel-loosening: Pyramid Head, in shadow, dismembering someone on the other side of a locked door before you've even managed to extricate yourself from they gurney you were strapped to during the intro.)

Silent Hill's legendary toilet stalls return in full force

Cogs (PC)

Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 5/10
Gameplay: 7.5/10
Design: 8/10
Steampunk appeal: 9.5/10
Severity of curse-word obscenity prompted by the first dozen puzzles: Impolite even within sea-faring company

Why is this game so hard, goddammit?


Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (DS)

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Gameplay: 8.5/10
Design: 7/10
Days that are actually playable: less than 358
Bars of sea-salt ice cream eaten by Roxas: 8 million

The foundation is there for this to be a watershed entry in the Kingdom Hearts series, but recycled music, enemies, characters, worlds and weapons, along with a bland and uninspired storyline, trite, tedious cutscenes, and the game's tendency to abruptly skip over weeks of unplayable days at a time makes it feel like a hugely wasted opportunity - and maybe just a phoned-in contractual obligation on Square Enix's part while they invested the bulk of their efforts into the far-superior Birth By Sleep.

Ah, the Rocky Expanse, from Disney's classic nature film The Suicidal World of Lemmings... My childhood nostalgia has been fulfilled

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hitler's Revenge Contains Neither Adolf Hitler Nor Vendettas.

This is a perfect example of the kind of nonsense we as gamers had to put up with during the 8-bit NES era.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

First Person Tetris.

You should play First Person Tetris. Here are some glowing first impressions from people who have happened to stumble into the room while I've been playing it:

"No. That hurts my brain."
- Cait (my roommate)

"It satisfies some strange primal adaptive mechanism... That part of the brain that separates us from the reptiles..."
- Doctor Strange

[First Person Tetris: A Dizzying Take On The Classic Puzzler, via]

Excellent Advice.

8-Bit Conviction, by mycoldman.

mycoldman has some equally valuable advice pertaining to ExciteBike, Pacman, Duck Hunt and Tetris.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pixified: Gaming Wallpapers

A handful of gaming-themed wallpapers, submitted for your approval. Click through or right-click and save for full-sized images.

Megaman by ~ivanev (1280x1024)

Cute, cheerful, simple lines, and I like the background raster effect.

Alice In The Mushroom Kingdom, artist unknown (1366x768)

Wonderland = Mushroom Kingdom.  It's so obvious.  I can't believe I never saw it before. 

Half-Life 2 Evolution, artist unknown (1920x1080)

Half-Life 2 may well be the greatest game ever made, but I'm still confused by the whole "Combine being aliens\mutants\hybrids\from the future\from a different dimension" thing.  This clarifies it only slightly.

Rapture (Bioshock), artist unknown (1680x1050)

On a similar note... Bioshock had one of the most incredible opening sequences ever.  I love the simplicity and Saul Bass-inspired graphics here.  

Pip Boy (Fallout 3), artist unknown (1440x900)

I've been catching up on my PC gaming lately, and Fallout 3 has rapidly risen to the top of my current list.  This image captures everything great about The Vault: the innocent, cheerful optimism of Pip-Boy scraped away by decades of grunge and grime.

If anyone knows the source of the unattributed images above, by all means let me know in the comments.  I hate posting links to artwork without giving credit where it's due.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2010 Indie Games Festival

Boing Boing has a feature on 20 or so stand-out games from the 2010 Independent Games Festival, which I'll just refer you to rather than attempting to emulate here.

I will, however, point out that amongst the many fine indie games mentioned (including personal favourites Cogs, Miegakure, and Today I Die,) is a long-forgotten gem which I mentioned in one of my very first gaming-related posts on my other blog - Limbo. After four years of total silence on the part of the developers, I'm excited to see that this game is finally coming to fruition.

In Boing Boing's words:

Limbo is one of IGF 2010's biggest surprises, both for having fallen completely off the map for over three years (it was originally featured here on BB in early October, 2006), and for re-emerging with one of this year's best-realized atmospheric treats.

Despite the time between there and here, it still offers pretty much exactly what you wanted it to from that first video teaser above: a warmly and softly lit monochromatic world that stands in surprisingly harsh opposition to the cold realities that await your young adventurer within (that bit with the terrifying tree-monster in the video? That doesn't end so well on your first encounter), and a series of delightfully modeled physics-based challenges that give that world real weight.

And for reference, here's that clip.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where's My Jetpack?

Just a quick status update: Apocalypse POW! is still alive, but your humble blogger has had far too much on his plate to update in the last couple of weeks - a situation which will be remedied shortly, I assure you.

As for what I've been up to, here's an overview:

· 12/26/09: Assisted my mother in the purchase of a new laptop and wireless router.
· 12/27/09 - 12/28/09: Set up and configured said laptop and router for said parent.
· 12/29/09 - 12/31/09: Preparation for, and execution of, New Year's Eve plans (which mostly involved drinking extensively - on all three days - and watching TRON).
· 1/1/10: A hungover viewing of the Doctor Who season finales, and joint teary farewells to David Tennant, with my roommate.
· 1/2/10 - 1/3/10: The purchase of parts for, and assemblage of, a new HTPC\web server\gaming rig.
· 1/4/10: Start of the school semester.
· 1/5/10 - present: Your standard chaotic first week of classes.

So there you have it.  I am, naturally, very excited about the new rig and getting caught up with all the PC games that have come out since 2004 (which was the last time I was able to play anything new) and subsequently getting even more manic and obsessed with the state of gaming as it stands in 2010.  I've already started playing Batman: Arkham Asylum and Fallout 3 and could not be more impressed with either.  But I'll save my philosophical ruminations on both for a later date.

Also of note (and a brief tale of the origins of Apocalypse POW!):

Sometime in 2010 - hopefully sooner rather than later - this blog will be shifting over to a new domain and joining the Hit Points web family.

The Hits Points is a geek-rock band started by my exceptionally-talented brother Jordan (who is also a webcomic artist!) and Kevin Gau, lead singer of The Left.   Their songs range, in theme and lyrical content, from 8-bit gaming nostalgia to dating a fellow Dungeons & Dragons player to just how mind-bogglingly old Cthulhu is (clue: very old,) and so on, and though I am clearly biased and not in a position to be objective, I'm of the opinion that they sound pretty god-damned great.

About a year ago, around the time the band formed and they were still in the song-writing phase, Jordan, Kevin and I were throwing around ideas for album titles.  I suggested "Apocalypse POW!", which they liked, but there was no way of knowing whether or not they would ever end up using it at that stage, and since I considered it a far-too-brilliant name to pass up just like that, I decided to adopt it as the name of my new blog instead.

Well, it's now a year later and Jordan and Kev are in the studio, putting the final touches on their debut album.  It seems more likely than not that they'll go with the Apocalypse POW! title, which is cool, but will potentially create some cognitive dissonance, so what we've worked out is that we'll be establishing a central blog hub (and by we, I mean myself) which will host a number of affiliated blogs: this one, the official Hit Points blog, a film blog, and possibly others.  

So, exciting developments in the mix.  Watch this space!