Category Archives: controllers

The 10 Worst Video Game Controls

Here’s one from The Angry Video Game Nerd, ironically enough, a fellow Edgewood Regional Senior High School alumus. Take it away, AVGN…

Hmmm… and I can’t even make controllers work for games with no glitches…

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It’s a Fish Eat Fish World

I am always leery of movies, especially sequels, with long names and longer subtitles. I guess I should have the same aversion to that type of thing in video games as well. Here, we have another free download from the PlayStation Store called Feeding Frenzy 2: Shipwreck Showdown.

Now I had never heard of Feeding Frenzy before, but apparently the game from Pop Cap and Sprout Games has been around for a while and is even available to play free online. The set up is pretty simple, you’re Boris the Butterfly Fish, you eat the fish smaller than you and avoid those bigger than you. When you eat enough little fish, you become a bigger fish. Simple as that, survival of the fittest basically.

I really kinda dig this very simple game and wish I’d tried it sooner. Regular readers of this blog know I have a lot of trouble with the PS3 controllers. Feeding Frenzy actually offers an easy and efficient way to get used to using the controllers. The more I play, the more practice I get in for future games of other types.

Besides being a great gaming practice games, it’s also kind of relaxing with a fun score. I dug this game a lot.

Partially Fatal Inertia

Now I downloaded a lot of free demos for the PS3. Some because I knew the game, some because I thought they looked cool, and some because I thought I could write about them here in the blog. Fatal Inertia EX falls squarely in both the second and third categories. And apparently it’s not even really a PS3 game, as it is only available as a download. I’m not sure what that even really means bottom line, but it is an interesting point.

Stripped down to the basics, Fatal Inertia is just space motocross, so yeah, just a race game basically, but wow, what a race game. The graphics are startling and fun just to watch, as long as you’re not playing. The problem, at least for me, was, as usual, the controller. I needed lots of practice steering before I could master anything else like the racing part. It’s fun though, and I can see how this would be a blast for someone who had mastered the controls.

Once you know what you’re doing as far as the racing part goes, you can worry about other stuff like smashing into stuff, running out of gas, brakes overheating, or, say, even winning the races. It was very frustrating at first, but the more I played, the more excited I was about it. That said, I still can’t play, but I want to.

At higher levels it becomes a bit like the old “Speed Racer” cartoons where you can fight with the other racers as you race. Nice. It adds a whole new dimension to what I thought was just a race game. I just need one of my game gurus to come over and show me how to do this.

Totally in the Dark

I’m a comics guy, not a gaming guy, but this one completely eludes me. The Darkness, and The Darkness II were both hard games to get into. It’s based on a comic book by Top Cow, so you’d think I’d be into it, but the fact is I don’t know all that much about The Darkness. And that’s the comic, not the band. I like the band.

Here’s what I know about the Darkness: published by Top Cow, he wears a mask over the lower part of his face, and the guy who created him – his favorite band is Journey. That last bit stuck with me from a nearly all forgotten Wizard Magazine article about the creator. I can’t remember his name but I remember that little tidbit because The Bride is such a big Journey fan. That’s it.

Apparently he’s a mob guy who is possessed by evil dark stuff or beings. Not much else of it makes sense. For the real scoop, I consulted Wikipedia for this entry. Does that make any sense? Here’s what I got from that. Jackie Estacado is a mob hitman who is cursed on his twenty-first birthday to carry the curse of The Darkness, an entity that can access the otherworldly dimension of the Darklings. Thus he is granted a gamut of super powers, not the least of which is darkness manipulation, yet somehow, especially in the videogame, he depends mostly on guns. Got it?

The opening to The Darkness is disturbing and creepy, like 1990s Nine Inch Nails music video disturbing. By the way, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, this game (nor its sequel) is not for the kids. From all appearances it is a first person shooter crossed with Japanese tentacle porn. So, best of both worlds, I guess. There’s a sweet voice cast involved, including Mike Patton from Faith No More, and Lauren Ambrose from “Six Feet Under” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day.” Beyond that, and a lot of shooting, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. At least not to me.

First there’s a crazy race through a tunnel, crashing and being shot at, then a shootout in an abandoned building. Once the controllers are gotten used to, and what they do memorized, it could be fun. The thing is, every single button, every single one, is used. I should have a diagram in front of me to play. This could be fun, maybe.

Darkness II still has a creepy opening, the protagonist, played in first person shooter style by you, is being crucified, and the makers of the game, Starbreeze Studios, take full advantage of the shaking rattling controller. It is unnerving. The actual game is kinda realistic with a Grand Theft Auto vibe. You enter an Italian, obviously mob-related, restaurant, sit down and somebody tries to whack you. You’re hurt and must make your way out, someone carrying you as you shoot anyone following, again with full on shaking controller. This was actually kinda fun.

So I vote maybe on the first one, and a hesitant yes on the second. All things considered, I think I will pass on the comic, and the video games… even if the creator (apparently Marc Silvestri, among others) does like Journey.

Malibu Grand Prix and the Mystery of Dig Dug

One of the games I have downloaded from the PlayStation Store has been Namco Museum Essentials. Yeah, they’re old arcade games. I figured they would be way more my speed. One of the games included was Dig Dug.

I used to play Dig Dug all the time, probably for the first time at Maibu Grand Prix in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. The big draw was the miniature Indy car raceway in the back, but inside, it was a huge arcade, back in the day when videogames were played in such places. Now it’s just at home on the computer or video console. Us old people did it differently.

Malibu’s been gone for a long time now. They tore it all down and there’s now a medical complex there. Before that, it was closed and abandoned for years. Rumor has it that when they went to demolish it, a body was found on the grounds. Weird. There are still some Mailbu complexes open, in California and Texas, but for the most part, the arcade is a dead thing in our time.

I discovered Malibu in high school. A friend’s mother used to work in the offices nearby and he would pick her up after work every day, and take his brothers and his friends with to play at Malibu while we waited ’til the working whistle blew as they say. Malibu was where I first played a lot of great games, stuff like Star Castle, which I used to be able to play for hours on only a quarter – that was my game, as well as Centipede (though I preferred Millipede), Warlords, Popeye, Galaxian, Qix (another favorite I was very good at), Astro Fighter, Time Pilot, Pac-Man, Zaxxon, and another old favorite, Sinistar – and of course, Dig Dug. Hmmm… I guess I’m really dating myself with that list, huh?

Anyway, as I was playing Dig Dug, and getting my ol’ skillz back after navigating the PS3 controller, I started to wonder about the game. I mean, what the hell is it, really? It’s a guy named Dig Dug, who dresses like an astronaut and digs through the ground… and when he encounters weird creatures and dragons he shoots a hose at them, and inflates them until they explode. That sound about right? Wow. You can not tell me there were not drugs involved in the creation of this game.

After a bit of research (always a dangerous thing to do when you don’t know what you’ll find), I discovered Dig Dug’s real name was Hori Taizo, and he was the father of the guy in the Mr. Driller videogame (never heard of it) and the ex-husband of the heroine from Baraduke (that one either). The creatures are Pookas and Fygars respectively. Collectively they represent a weird incestuous hierarchy in Japanese videogaming. They are everywhere, in dozens of games.

I still got no explanation of what the game actually means. Sometimes a little knowledge, or a lack thereof, is a bad thing. At least it’s fun, and at least I can play it without embarrassing myself…

The Infamous Demo

When we first got the PS3, a remarkable thing happened. The entire PlayStation Network was hacked and personal information and passwords were stolen by Mario knows who to do Mario knows what. Nothing bad has happened yet, but Sony encouraged us all to change our passwords and hope for the best.

Oh yeah, as an incentive to get folks to trust them again, they also had what they called their “Welcome Back” program where they would outright give you two free games from The PlayStation Store for each account. The Bride and I looked at each other and said “Hells yeah,” cuz that’s a total of four free games for our inconvenience. That might be fair – as long as no one who stole our info ever uses it.

The problem of course is that there was a 30 day expiration on those free games, and neither I nor my non-technically challenged wife could navigate the terrors of The PlayStation Store/Network/Home to make this thing work no matter how hard we tried. It’s a damn shame, because I was kinda looking forward to two of the free games offered – Little Big Planet and Infamous.

Now we’ve talked about the second Little Big Planet here before, but Infamous was a game whose interest caught me elsewhere. I co-host a weekly vidcast about comics, The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast, and a few months back, one comic book grabbed my attention. It was Infamous from DC Comics, and it was, you guessed it, “Based on the Best-Selling PlayStation Videogame.”

What got me the most was that there was a story here. This wasn’t like the mini-comics that came with the old Atari 2600 games like Star Raiders and EarthQuest that really had nothing to do with the game at all. Infamous had a compelling story and characters, and from everything I had read, this carried over directly from the PS3 game. I really wanted to try.

Dejected at not finding my free games in exchange for being hacked, I was exploring the rest of the Store/Home/Network and found that there were demos that could be downloaded – among them, Infamous. So I went clicky-clicky. I was a bit surprised to find it would take well over two hundred minutes to download, but I let it go overnight and decided to play it the next day.

Unlike a lot of things on the PlayStation, the downloaded game was actually easy to find, and when I clicked it on the intro started, looking very much like a comic book, not the comic book, mind you, but a comic book just the same. Nice art, and animation and flash working together to tell a narrative close to what I already knew. Then it was time to play, and then it got hard.

A diagram of how the controller worked came up on the screen, no, two screens. Wow, maybe I am just a technology caveman, or just easily perplexed, but that’s a whole lotta buttons and functions. Again, I am flummoxed by the controller. I’m going to have to take a picture and print it out to use as a cheat sheet so I can play. Or I can do what I always do, just push all the buttons and move all the levers and hope for the best.

When it comes to playing, I am eased up a bit by the way everything is pretty much spelled out as far as what you have to do, with missions, and onscreen directions. It still doesn’t make it easy. And the controller shaking in my hand is an interesting sensation. There is a learning curve involved, and knowing the basic plot of the game helps. One annoying factor is that when you leave the mission area, you start over.

All in all, I’m still learning, and still trying to play, but this has great graphics and is fun for those who know how to turn on the PS3, and those who don’t. I might just buy the whole version of this one.

Russian to Dawn: Grand Theft Auto IV

The reputed granddaddy of this new generation of videogames could be said to be the Grand Theft Auto series of games. These offered not only an entire world (or if you like, Liberty City and its surroundings) to explore, and technically, no plan or mission, if you really don’t want one. It’s similar to Little BIG Planet in that way I suppose.

I popped the disc in, after asking The Bride several times how to turn the PS3 on, and watching intently as she did it to make sure I had it down. Trust me the new technology does not like me. The story plays out through the introduction and the sweeping credits sequence. Two Russian ne’er-do-wells, Nico and Roman, the cousins Bellic, come to the States in search of the American dream, and in Liberty City, that means a career in the mob it seems.

The instruction booklet is another big one, but it is not without its charm. It is set up like a tour guide, and even has advertisements and places you have to see in the city. Niiice. My only complaint, much the same as with most PS3 games, is that it seems I have to read and study for an hour before I can even play the game. Don’t mind me, I’m just a grumpy old man.

The controller for the PS3 still confounds me. I try to drive but fail miserably. Those who know me personally know that I failed my driver’s test several times because I was terrible at parallel parking. I am worse at driving in this game. The game begins at night, and after a while of trying, I merely waited for dawn before attempting to drive again. The daylight really helped, especially when I hit stuff – the headlights are the first to go.

While waiting in the car, I had the chance to just listen to the radio, albeit Russian dance music, but it was intriguing how much music was available for a videogame where the player sits still for many minutes. When I figured out that I could actually change the channel on the car radio, my mind was really blown, and opened up to how much music there really was. And it’s not just the music, the conversation between Nico and Roman is entertaining as well.

After much much practice (see, I been playing so long I even start to sound like Cousins Bellic) I was finally able to get the car to go a little ways, and then finding interesting, most of them against my will, ways to crash the car. I suppose more practice in order. I go practice more now…

Jumping Around with My Tongue Hanging Out

One of the things that has bothered me since getting the PS3 is the serious lack of games for more than one player. After watching The Bride become mindlessly addicted to Portal and listening to that machine voice taunt her about cake repeatedly for four to five hours at a time, I became even more bothered by this fact.

My friend Crystal, trying lighten the tension of the Portal-divided household, mentioned that Little BIG Planet 2 was a game we could all play. I jumped up and immediately said (as loudly as I could over more electronic cake teasing), “Let’s play that!”

I’m really not sure what the point of the game is. You get to play a creepy little crochet/canvas doll that looks like it escaped from a Jan Svankmajer movie and then you run around. Yeah, at first glance, that’s about it. There’s also the peculiar factor of dressing up your canvas doll. Then you run around these various worlds and play various games within the game, like racing mice or shooting cakes for instance. You are accompanied on these treks by bad disco music most of the time.

Little BIG Planet 2 should have all the charm of other no-rules-just-play games like the Grand Theft Auto games, and it does to a point, but it feels more like an acid trip than anything else. Trying to hold on to what sanity I had left, I made the most bizarre outfit for myself, and stuck my tongue out as far as it would go – mostly so I could differentiate myself from The Bride and Crystal.

In a group, you have to have first multiple controllers, and second you have to catch up with each other. No stragglers, or you’ll die when the others leave you behind. You kinda all have to either be at the same skill level, or have a pro like Crystal telling you what you need to know and do. But then again, that’s what all PS3 games need apparently. Perhaps there’s a PS3 mentoring program?

So I spent an afternoon and a night of running around with my tongue hanging out. What it means, I still don’t know. What I accomplished, I still don’t know. If I can get them to eject this disc though, I want to shoot something, preferably zombies – because isn’t that what videogames are all about anyway?

Marvel, Big and Little

My first game purchase for the PlayStation 3 was via Amazon, and the choice was made because of what a big comic geek I am. I bought Marvel Ultimate Alliance at a pretty fair price. And I was thrilled when it arrived in the mail. I was going to get to play some superhero action on this here PS3 thing.

I first learned here something that will continue to haunt me for the rest of my PS3 experience. It’s complicated, and the controllers are nuts with buttons and choices. It came with a sizable instruction book, but I ignored it, as I wanted to play. I popped in the disc and was mesmerized by the graphics. Yar’s Revenge, this was not.

What the instruction manual doesn’t tell you is what the story actually is. This is a sore point for someone like me with a writer’s brain. It’s all about which buttons to push, etc. It doesn’t matter, I like the pretty colors, and hope that the introduction will give me something. It does. Nick Fury, the real one, not the Ultimate version or Samuel J. Jackson, shows up and apparently, we, the four player characters have to find him on the SHIELD Helicarrier which is under attack by what look like Ultrons.

The funny thing is, while Fury is not Ultimate, the player characters are – Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Thor. Interesting. You get to pick one, and the others are dragged along, until they die, or you switch out to one of them. It’s a lot of smash and guess until then. Wolverine and Thor seem the easiest to play, but in over an hour of play, I was never able to either clear the Helicarrier or find Fury. I will need help with this one. And I found the whole concept of collecting coins, like in Mario Bros., completely hilarious.

When I was tired of Ultimate Alliance I tried Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet. Despite the subtitle which refers to the Jim Starlin Thanos vs. the Marvel Universe comics, this is actually a simpler kids version of the Marvel heroes – based on the hysterical cartoon for kids of all ages, and the strange (strange because I can’t imagine the Punisher or Wolverine ever smiling) action figure line. I thought this would be a better choice. It’s cartoony vs. realistic graphics, but it still looked great.

While it has the fun voices and the wink-wink humor of the cartoon, the controller continues to irritate me, and it’s just not as easy as my buddy Ray has claimed. I seem to remember him saying this took him, like twenty minutes to finish. I think I spent twenty minutes trying to decipher the instructions.

The best part for me was not playing, and letting the characters on screen hold conversations. Come on now, you can’t tell me it’s not funny when Iron Man says to the Hulk, “You’re very green, you know that?” or when Hulk counters with “This ship ugly!” For that alone, this game rocks. I didn’t get far, but at least with this one, I kinda understood what was going on.

First Contact, First Blood, Lego Batman

The night the PS3 came into our lives, we had folks over. Friends Ray, Jeff and Crystal were there for the installation and helped with all the technical stuff. They also went to the store to pick up accessories, as well as a game or two and maybe a Blu-Ray to test out the system. They knew I wasn’t thrilled with the purchase, so stealthy steps were taken to soothe me.

First they, and The Bride, got a Blu-Ray, our first Blu-Ray, Megamind, a film that I actually liked. Those of you who know me, know that’s hard to find. We watched, I was amazed by the crisp, clean, clarity of the picture, and was somewhat soothed. This was close to what I wanted (a Blu-Ray player or a Roku), after all.

The second purchase was a game, one that preyed upon two of my favorite things – comics and Legos. It was Lego Batman The Videogame. We’ve talked about me and comics before, but Legos I have always been fascinated by. It was a toy I never had when I was a kid and was always so jealous when I saw the other kids with them, so as an adult, I became a collector of sorts. Nothing hardcore, like with comics, but I have a couple building sets, and of course all the Lego (and Lego knock-off) versions of my favorite superheroes. Sigh, it worked. Sure, what the hell, let’s play this.

I love the animated Lego commercials and OnDemand has something called The Lego Channel where you can see animated shorts featuring Lego versions of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and yes, Batman. These are just darn good fun. The introduction to this game is similar to that, and quite enjoyable. The game itself is also like that, but let’s face it, once you’re playing – you can only do cool things if you know how to do cool things.

Like the bits on the Lego Channel, there is no dialogue so that anyone from any culture can understand what’s going on. The problem is, with no English, it also makes it hard on nimrods like me to play it properly. Yes, I do know about the online instruction manuals on the PlayStation Network – and once I figure out how to navigate that, I’m sure that’s a useful suggestion. And I sure hope you like the Danny Elfman theme music from the Tim Burton Batman movies or you’ll have to play this one on mute.

The game itself is kinda hard once it starts. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Why? Controllers. I think this will be a recurring theme of this blog, I just can’t get my head around the controllers. I am quite honestly better acquainted with Atari joysticks, and maybe a little less so with NES controllers. To me, the PS3 controller is like giving an MP3 player to a caveman. I can push buttons, but I have little idea what they do. So I just push all the buttons and move the levers every which way and hope for the best.

I love the mime personalities of all the Bat-baddies, especially Clayface. It’s a hoot, until you’re actually in play. I was able to play a two-player game with The Bride that first night while Crystal was there to walk us through everything and tell us what buttons to push when. Hey, we actually got through the first level.

I have to admit though, I had more fun using my Batman to beat on The Bride’s Robin. Yeah, that’s pretty cool being able to fight other players. And when you ‘kill’ them (as much as there’s a kill in Lego Batman) they just fall apart into their component Lego pieces. That always breaks me up, pun intended. When I play by myself days later, I get nowhere near as far as I did that first night, but I loved busting up Robin, over and over and over again. Too much fun.

There is hope, of course, that I will eventually learn to play correctly. As soon as I figure out how to get this disc out of the damned machine…