Between Gigs

March 25, 2008

Crispy Gamer has kept me very busy for the last month or so. There are two new reviews for you to check out that were written by yours truly.

I absolutely love Frontlines: Fuel of War. I think it’s already one of the most underrated games of 2008. I’m going to be partaking of the Battlefield: Bad Company online beta on Xbox 360, probably soon after I finish typing this and playing some more Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, but Bad Company is going to have to be really phenomenal to pull me away from Frontlines.

You can find out in my review just why I liked it so much, and obviously I was lucky to not have technical problems like some folks did, but suffice to say it’s so good because it’s laser focused on taking and holding ground. There are a lot of jobs you can perform, but everyone’s an attacker or defender and I think that’s exactly what you need in capture point games. Nobody really wants to be a medic, so Kaos Studios did the right thing and did away with that entirely. It creates a harsh reality of quick death online until you learn to be more careful, but I think that ultimately results in a much more entertaining game.

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The other game you can read about is another I found to weigh in closer to the top end of the scale, FlatOut: Head On. If you dig racing games (and crashing games) and have a PSP, you really can’t go wrong with it. The nu-metal will grate with some folks, but you can turn that off, and the rest is definitely good enough to keep your interest for a very long time.

It’s one of the few PSP games that seems built for portable play, and I think that’s one of the most important things when you’re looking at handheld titles. I don’t want my games on the go to keep me tied up when I have to shut the lid or flick the switch and I really prefer when I can be at the end of a segment before having to do that. FlatOut: Head On gets that right. Definitely check out the review if you’re looking for some racing on PSP.

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There’s more on the way with my reviews of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 on all major console platforms submitted. I’ll be sure to post here when that pops up. Also, I’m working on something else for Crispy while also checking out some games Sega dropped in my box. One of those is Viking: Battle for Asgard from Creative Assembly which I’ve already had some decent fun with. It sure is a pretty game, especially after you drive away the forces of Hel and make things all spring-like again. The brawling combat is a good time also.

Speaking of a brawl, the kids got Super Smash Bros. Brawl from the Easter Bunny and they’re in Nintendo heaven with that one. I’m right there with them wishing I had more time to play it, too. It’s hard to believe that the game surpasses Super Smash Bros. Melee because that title was already tipping the meter toward brilliance, but Brawl is easily the better game. It’s the kind of game that you know you’ll still be playing until they make another one… if they ever do. I don’t know where they’d even go next.

As an aside, a lot of what’s cool in the unlocking of stuff in Brawl was cribbed from the completely underrated Kirby Air Ride. I’m really glad to see designer Sakurai not turn his back on that title developed while he was still at Nintendo. It may not have come together perfectly, but that game is one my kids still play, and with good reason. It’s a quick and entertaining racing romp that contains a lot more technique than is evident at first glance, but its real genius was the unlocks board where you kept getting neat stuff just for playing the game and trying different things.

I really can’t wait to see what Sakurai works on next!

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Update!

March 15, 2008

Yes, I’m still alive!

Nothing new to link to, but two reviews are in the can awaiting posting. Another one will go in this weekend and another five soon after that (all those for the same game).

I bought another Xbox 360 to replace the one that’s back getting fixed for the second time. Once the one getting repaired returns from the magic 360 repairland, I’m going to ditch it on eBay.

The “new” 360s are clearly manufactured better than the earlier models. Even the power and audio-video cables fit better when you plug them in. It’s just plain obvious now that the machine was rushed to market, consumers be damned. I hope it never happens again, because to me it’s pretty insidious shit and makes me very unhappy to have been a pawn in their silly competition that they seem destined to lose anyway.

Anecdotes from the Three Red Lights 360 front… the local UPS lady asked “Is that an Xbox?” She knew just by the sight of the box. She specifically said that she gets around ten to fifteen per week. PER WEEK. Think about that for a minute before continuing…

She also noted that around the holidays it was far greater numbers, and last year it pretty much gave UPS all the work they could handle. The console is shit. Sure, there are some cool games, but the console hardware itself is shit.

At Game Crazy, while buying the new one today, someone else was trying to get theirs replaced. Also got the three red lights. He had some fancy faceplate and all painted up and whatnot. They had no used ones and there weren’t any anywhere in the company locally so this guy had to leave without a functioning one despite having a warranty purchased through them! Unbelievable. And the guy just took it. Walked out with his busted console and his tail between his legs while his mom talked about the Wii with the hired help and all the games she enjoys on there. I wish I could’ve had a Microsoft Exec right there to watch the scene unfold. It was positively absurd.

Of course that same Exec would have laughed as I purchased my second box. Let it be known that I wouldn’t have bought this one if I wasn’t reviewing product on the system. If it weren’t for that, and my still insatiable need to stay informed about gaming to give you the best coverage I can, this would have been it. Two failures is two too many. Microsoft better fix their shit next generation (if there is a next gen… recession on the horizon and all…), because if they don’t, it’s clearly all over for them with consumers. People can’t possible accept this kind of bullshit again. They just can’t be that stupid… can they?

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Back on the Horse

March 3, 2008

It’s been a little while since I was able to point to recently published work of mine on the Internet or elsewhere, but that time has finally arrived again.

Dave Long reviews Professor Layton and the Curious Village for Nintendo DS.

That link will take you to Crispy Gamer, a new site being led by John Keefer. John is the former Editor In Chief of Gamespy and has ten years in this business at the top level. I consider it a privilege to be able to contribute to the site given all the name writers that are contributing to it right alongside me.

Special thanks goes to the folks that gave me a good reference and helped me establish myself in the media throughout my writing career, especially Steve Bauman who gave me that first chance in the pages of Computer Games Magazine and Phil Hansen at Evil Avatar who helped me get the notice of Steve by having me as a second in command of his site for awhile. I’ve also gotten a lot of help from Tom Chick, Jason Cross, Ben Sones and of course the mighty GamerDad, Andrew Bub. Extra special thanks to them as well.

As for the review, Professor Layton didn’t capture me quite the way I thought it would. I really love the artistic style of the game as well as the voice acting, the story and the characters. The problem is that the puzzles alternate between facile and frustrating and you never really know which side of that coin a puzzle will fall. Sometimes the easiest ones are the hardest to grasp and while I’m usually a really easy going guy, I get pretty miffed when the obvious answer can’t be found for an hour. Worse, sometimes I’d be thinking on a completely different logical level about the puzzle and miss the point entirely. Fortunately, we have GameFAQs so I never got 100% to the point of pitching the game in the trash, but there were moments where I felt like the whole exercise really bogged down on me. As noted in the review, I think the game is best played in short bursts, which is what most people will do. They may never find the frustration I did, but others will and for them this just can’t be wholly recommended despite its high quality.

I really dig the Crispy Gamer review classifications. It’s liberating to be freed from the constraints of numbers, stars or the new black in game scoring, letter grades. I think you’re going to see a lot of “Try It” recommendations from all the writers. It’s an easy way to fall back into that middle ground of “this is pretty good, but maybe not for everyone” which is where I think most games tend to fall. I know I’m going to take it really seriously when I put a “Buy It” on a game because I’m basically saying to you that your money is well spent on that game. We all know a lot of folks don’t get beyond that rating and the “Hot” “Not” part of reviews, so I think it’s more important than ever to really nail that rating at CG.

This is just the beginning for me and Crispy. I’ve got more work lined up for the site including something that should be here in the next day or two. I’ve got one of the major releases next week (no, it’s not Super Smash Bros. Brawl) and more to come after that. I’m going to be busy so if this blog doesn’t get updated quite as regularly, don’t be surprised. I’ll be back as soon as things slow down again.

Be sure to check out some of the other great writers at Crispy Gamer and check in there often. Mr. Troy Goodfellow, whose blog I link to, is also part of the team and I think he’s one of the best in his strategy/wargame corner of gaming. Mr. Chick should also have a column there soon and I know you won’t want to miss that. Steve Kent is another contributor who you might recognize because of a book he wrote. If you haven’t read that book, you need to do so. I think it’s required reading for those not well-versed in the hobby, especially if you’re coming from the PC side and didn’t live through the rest of gaming’s past. Even if you did play Pong in an arcade way back when, there are piles of anecdotes you may never have heard and still reverberate through the industry today. Of course, GamerDad Andrew Bub is also involved at Crispy Gamer so you’ll want to check out his work as well. All the rest of the writers are not personal or Internet acquaintances of mine like Chick, Bub and Goodfellow, but I’m getting to know them and really enjoying what they’re contributing to the site, too. All of them are pros and that’s what makes the site unique. You’re going to get top quality editorial and it’s being overseen by a guy who knows how to bring it to you. That’s a cool thing to be a part of.

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