Category Archives: crystal

An Ayn Rand Nightmare

I have talked about the concept of games before as simple entertainments. I wanted to play things like Grand Theft Auto and/or The Incredible Hulk because I wanted to blow off some steam and smash stuff. The game should be a simple fun getaway from everyday life. Fantasy.

Sometimes, some of these games take fantasy a bit too far, and a bit too seriously. In books, comics, television, and film, there are such things, so why not in videogames too? BioShock is one of those games. You will become immersed in a completely new world of wonder and horror that honestly I’m not sure why you would want to go there. It’s frightening, it’s disturbing, and worse than that, it lectures you.

The story of this game is that you are a plane crash survivor trapped in the underwater city of Rapture in an alternate 1960s world and you’re hunted by mutants and steampunk robots. Yeah, absorb all that. Turn out the lights and add even more horror to the mix, along with lots of questions and morality issues, and you’ve got BioShock, the love child of Ayn Rand and Clive Barker.

BioShock is a first person shooter, where inexplicably you don’t even start with anything to shoot with. You begin in the water, probably having just survived the plane crash, and you are surrounded by fire. It’s very pretty. Amazing special effect, but good luck moving on from there unless you know what you’re doing. .

Now I know there’s more to this game, as I’ve seen Crystal play it, but I can’t get past the fire myself. It’s dark and it’s scary, and so full of moral ambiguity as you explore this city built on the principles of the Objectivist movement. Oh yeah, and there’s enough child endangerment to make Batman look like a good father.

I wish I understood how to play, and that said, I wish I understood why people want to play. Low marks from me, at least so far, for BioShock.

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So Who’s This Zelda Chick Anyway?

Nothing hits home with the admission that I am a non-gamer more than when I am confronted with stuff I don’t know, and worse yet, stuff I know I should know. Like Zelda.

The Dark Crystal recently invited me to a big orchestra event where they would be playing the music from the Legend of Zelda videogames. The inference in the invitation is first, that this was a big thing, and second, that everyone knows who Zelda is. I do not, and I felt stupid.

Even my buddy Ray had recently given me a hard time because I admitted not knowing who Zelda was. Apparently he was further incensed because it was a game even I could play. Ray was ashamed of me. I was crushed. Who was this Zelda chick, and why was she ruining my life?

I did what everyone does in this situation, I visited Google, and then Google for dummies (that’s me apparently in this case), Wikipedia. Turns out she’s not just anyone named Zelda, bitch is legend, as in The Legend of Zelda. I knew she was a Nintendo product, but I had no idea she was the star of some sixteen different games on at least a dozen different game systems. Zelda gets around.

Now here are the facts. Zelda was named after the famous Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the even more famous F. Scott. Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto thought it was a pleasant sounding name for a princess. The game itself is based on the designer’s own experiences as a boy where he explored the hills, lakes, forests, and caves around his home.

As inferred by Crystal’s invitation to a concert, the music of The Legend of Zelda is also quite famous and distinctive. Koji Kondo, a legend in music and audio for Nintendo composed the soundtracks for much of the game series, including musical clues and cues throughout. His work can also be found in the Mario and Starfox games.

The story of the game is fairly simple, or at least I’ll dumb it down quite a bit here. You play the hero Link, and you have to quest for stuff in the land of Hyrule to rescue the princess, Zelda. Like I said, I streamlined this baby. It gets more complicated the more you get into it. Link is sorta a cross between Peter Pan and the elf from Gauntlet in appearance, and has been parodied on Cartoon Network’s “Drawn Together.” Hyrule is your typical fantasy land, and Zelda, is usually the damsel in distress, only there to be saved or served. Later versions of course are playable, and more independent.

Well now that I have a little foreknowledge, and won’t be made to feel as stupid as before, maybe I’ll play one of these games in the future…

Trapped Like a Cat in a Box

Blade Kitten was one of the first free demos I downloaded from the PlayStation Store. Cool name, cool anime look, and it seemed like it would be fun. Somehow, I just never got around to trying it out. Once I did, I was very happy I downloaded it… until I got trapped.

First of all, Blade Kitten is something very different in the videogame world. It’s not based on an anime, or a comic book, or even an animated movie or TV series – it’s based on a webcomic. I was pleased and surprised too. The webcomic (and the game), coincidentally by game designer Steve Stamatiadis, follows the anime adventures of Kit Ballard, and half-cat, half-human bounty hunter, as she pursues her prey, troublemaker Terra-Li on the artificial planet called Hollow Wish.

I rushed into it blindly, with some tutorial help showing and telling what to do, but markedly, as usual, with zero instructions. I was actually doing well, taking names and kicking ass, and then I got cocky. I somehow made my way past a laser beam and into a box that I couldn’t get out of. So for an undetermined amount of time I mashed buttons, yelled at the screen, and listened to the catchy dance rock music until I gave up.

Maybe I’ll go back and try again, or play from the start and just avoid this part, but I think I will go back. I had fun. Or maybe I’ll have Crystal, or Jeff, or Ray get me past this part. Either way, this was a very good download. And if you want to know more about Blade Kitten in all its various forms, the official website is here.

The Better Bloodrayne

I don’t really know all that much about BloodRayne. What I know, other than two terrible movies, and one fantastic fan film starring Vera Vanguard, a review of which can be found here.

Recently I downloaded BloodRayne: Betrayal. I was thinking it would be cool. After all, what’s not cool about a hot chick killing Nazis and vampires, really, it sounds like the perfect game. The problem is, this game is really nothing like that at all. It’s not even as cool as previous BloodRayne games I’ve learned. Older versions of the game were actually similar to Tomb Raider in style, this one is a sidescroller (see, I’m learning the lingo), like Rolling Thunder or Bionic Commando. To me, the novice, this seems like a step backward in evolution. I definitely prefer Lara Croft to this weak 2D anime.

Like many games, I was unable to get very far. The game keeps it simple, half-human half-vampire BloodRayne is recruited by good vampires to fight bad vampires, but apparently not simple enough for me. This game would have been marked for deletion along with the others among The Rejected, had Crystal and Jeff not taken a liking to it.

Jeff, in his usual manner, got on the game and started kicking its ass. He was cruising across this side scroll whupping vampire butt left and right, though mostly right. The vampires good and bad were blowing up like Pookas and Fygars in Dig Dug. Have I mentioned how awesome Jeff is? Well, actually he might not be that great of a gamer, but he can sure make me look bad, not a hard feat.

As far as BloodRayne goes, I think I’m going to stick with Vera Vanguard. Like Jeff, she’s much cooler than this game.

Where’s the Bacon?


The Baconing. This game was another free download from the PlayStation Store that went unplayed for a while. Well, I did try to play it, but without reading the instructions, good controller skills, or that wonderful virtue, gaming experience – I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it.

Luckily, the Dark Crystal gave it a try on a recent visit, giving me some idea of what was what in the world of The Baconing. In this sequel to two previous games (DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue), you play as DeathSpank, an arrogant good guy (voiced by game and animation veteran Michael Dobson) who has unwittingly created an evil duplicate of himself, the AntiSpank, and must stop him to win the game.

The game has unique animation and plays similarly to a funny animal version of Diablo or Gauntlet with a Monty Pythonic sense of humor. That sense of humor is what makes the game for me – as a player or as a viewer. That last part is important as it negates the horror of the turn wait. That’s a good thing.

And although I did enjoy this, I do have one question – where’s the bacon?

Pain and Addiction

You might ask where I’ve been. It has been some time since I’ve written this blog. Well, November had something to do with it. I’m a writer, and November is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. You can read about it here, but that took up quite a bit of my extra time. I was also sick, and had a twisted ankle in there as well. I could easily make those excuses, but it wouldn’t be entirely true. The truth is I’ve found a PS3 game I really like. It’s called Pain.

I have the Dark Crystal to thank for this new addiction. Late one night she sent me this quick text: Go to the PlayStation Network and find the game called Pain. I’ll give you ten bucks for the download. You will love it! I did eventually, at first I was skeptical, and I didn’t quite trust the PlayStation Network after that wonderful hacking scandal. Once I had the game, and started playing I was sooo hooked.

Pain is kind of like Angry Birds, only instead of birds, you’re flinging people from a slingshot into at first a cityscape and then other worlds trying to break stuff for points. Besides the obvious buildings, cars, billboards, signs and the like, there are also explosives, tunnels, even mimes and monkeys as obstacles. The whole time your people are screaming in agony, making snarky remarks and getting tossed about like crazed ragdolls.

Besides different backgrounds to be flung into, there are also a variety of people who can be flung. You can be a rapper, a gamer girl, a cheerleader, a wrestler, a cowboy or girl, a ninja, a pirate, a cat, an old lady, even characters from other games, or ‘celebrities’ like Santa, Flava Flav, Elvira, George Takai, Elvis, Andy Dick, or David Hasselhoff. Yeah, even The Hoff.

Thank you, Crystal, for hipping me to this terrific game. And just for the record, I’ve never felt the need to collect that ten bucks, especially not for the hours and hours of fun I’ve gotten from this game.

Infamously Better

One of the reasons I have never been much of a gamer, and the PS3 with its aversion to multiple player games is a big culprit, because I dislike the ‘turn wait.’ That is to say, I don’t like waiting for my turn at a game when the other player is infinitely better at it than me. This reared its ugly head back in the Nintendo days when The Bride and I used to play Super Mario Bros., and her turn would last for hours. It was also the reason I preferred Dr. Mario as we could both play that at the same time.

The night I talked about a while ago when Jeff and Crystal came over and played the demos, they just didn’t whup my butt at Zombie Apocalypse and Nucleus, they also tried their hands at Watchmen and my favorite, Infamous. I was not disappointed by the long long looong turn wait.

In Watchmen, I had gotten past the wonderful Dave Gibbons motion comic animated art from the original Watchmen comics that form the introduction, but had barely moved anywhere in the prison break. I did find it annoying that whoever you picked to play – Rorschach or Nite Owl II – the other would just stand there doing nothing. Not realistic. Jeff and Crystal ripped through the prison break like they were the real characters.

Then they moved on to the Infamous demo. I had never gotten past zapping folks and cars with electrical powers, and riding to the first station atop the train. For those who don’t know, that’s really not far. Fun, but not far. That keen mutant skill, of both Jeff, and Crystal, derived from years of gaming experience, kicked in and soon they were sailing far ahead in the game and fighting bad guys that I had never even glimpsed in my hours (yes, hours) of playing this game.

The Bride who had watched me play the same two or three scenes from Infamous multiple times, was treated to almost an entirely new movie never seen before. The turn wait was starting to get to her as well, so then they moved on to Little BIG Planet 2. Three people can play that at once.

This turn wait was much longer. I went to bed. When I got up in the morning, I swore I was gonna practice. Years of experience can’t be that hard…

The Zombie Apocalypse and Why I Hate Jeff

One of the games hat I downloaded a demo of from the PlayStation Store was called Zombie Apocalypse. It seemed a natural based on my desire to “just shoot stuff.” I mean, come on, what’s better that shooting zombies? Shooting zombies is the basis for so many fun things – the Night of the Living Dead movies, the House of the Dead games, and even government disaster contingency plans. When I saw this one available as a demo, I went to downloadin’.

The characters provided as your controller-controlled protagonist are intriguing and would do better in a role-playing game than as videogame fodder, but still it adds some charm and flair to the game. Essentially, like most zombie scenarios, you’re left alive and zombies are attacking – you fight back. Every time I tried this one, the zombies descended on me quickly and I died almost immediately. Even if I had a gun, or a chainsaw, it didn’t matter – I became one of the walking dead rather quickly.

I had moved on to other games in the meantime. Jeff and Crystal came over one night and we gravitated to the game console and were looking for something to play. I wanted to show them the demos I had downloaded. First Crystal one-upped me in Nucleus, showing me new games and new levels I was unaware of. See what I mean about needing a PS3 mentor when you’re a beginner?

Next, I showed them Zombie Apocalypse, mostly because the title jumped out at them as much as it did me initially. Crystal first reaction to the player characters was pretty much the same as mine, she thought they would be great for the Call of Cthulhu tabletop rpg. She lasted a bit longer than my sixteen second record. She even managed to tear up some of the zombies with her chainsaw.

Then Jeff took the controller. He immediately began to mow through the zombies. After a bout a minute or two, Crystal and I began to object. Jeff shrugged it off as years of experience and having watched the two of us play first. As he continued to trash the dead and even perform new abilities like save innocents and offer bait to the zombies, I got angrier. I had been watching people play videogames on this thing for months and I’m still not any better at it.

I’m convinced Jeff is a mutant, and his mutant power is an unnatural ability to play videogames. I’m going to report him to the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, or better yet, tell the Sentinels where to find him… after he tells me all his gaming secrets…

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?

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…