Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trends - Sales are down, but some things are looking UP!

NPD has posted sales data for the month of June, and everybody is reporting on it. Kotaku had this interesting article about what the latest report says about the current generation of consoles and what we might expect things to look like this coming Fall/Holiday season.

I for one am thrilled to see EA get two games into the top 10 on Wii, and to see Motion Plus being so widely adapted!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ACCESORIZE: Nyko Kama Wireless Nunchuck

I know this has been out for a bit, but I just scored a Nyko Kama wireless nunchuck myself, and wanted to share with you all my impressions...

First off, this is the original design, which Nyko got in trouble with Nintendo over due to its extreme similarity to the official Nunchuck. The wretched, vomit-inducing redesign is now available in stores and on the web, and I've included a picture of it below for comparison.

This is one well crafted and high quality piece of gear, and any Wii fanatic owes it to themselves to pick one up as soon as possible. The nunchuck itself runs on two AAA batteries and claims a life of 30 hours, which I find quite believeable considering the Wii Remote does the same. Connection is easy, with a simple dongle to plug into the bottom of the Wii Remote, a power button on the Kama and a sync button on both. I got setup and working in no time, and the Kama is a dream to play with.

Extravagant? A bit, but I got my Kama for $25 (Wal-Mart), rather than the $35 price tag most other retailers ask. Playing titles like Wii Fit (boxing, anyone?) or The Force Unleashed with this baby is awesome, as there is no cord threatening to choke me with my every move!

Recommendation: BUY, as long as you can get out and find the original style...

Devoted Fan/Boyfriend makes Portal Gun

All I can say is 'Wow'... I've never come even close to reaching this level of dedication, either to my wife OR a video game! Original article here.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Yeah, it's been three months. Yes, I am a horrible blogger! No, I WON'T QUIT! I have more games and more stuff to post about than ever, and now that my workplace has lifted the filter restrictions on our internet, I can write posts on my lunch break (wink-wink). So I will continue giving it the old college try!

More to come...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Treasure Trove: Mad Gear

I've already mentioned the awfulness that was e-for-all 2008, but there were a couple of redeeming experiences there. One was a tiny partial-booth tucked away in the back far-right corner of the hall, Mad Gear.

Mad Gear is a privately-owned import and vintage games seller, kinda like Play Asia, but smaller. I had the pleasure of chatting with the shop's owner, ???, who was able to provide me with plenty of good recommendations based on my gaming preferences.

There were plenty of great things to look at, try out and purchase at Mad Gear's booth, including mint-in-the-box Famicom, Super Famicom, Sega Master System, Saturn, Game Gear, PC Engine and various other games. I made two purchases before leaving the booth, but believe me, had my wallet not been so light, I would have walked away with much, much more.

My two purchases included Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie for Super Famicom and a rare NES Metroid soundtrack mini-disc, released as a promo for the Gameboy Advance NES Classics series in Japan. Both are in outstanding condition, and I plan on making future purchases from Mad Gear with great confidence. Be sure to check them out!

E-for-all, or n-for-none?

Despite warnings all over the industry that it would be a joke, last year's e-for-all gaming event was a pretty decent event. The first of its kind, e-for-all is an open-to-the-public gaming expo, not unlike E3 (which is an industry-only event) or Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), except smaller. I attended last year's event at the Los Angeles Convention Center with some skepticism, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found there.

This year, e-for-all is back, and I went again, meeting up with my brother and one friend. What did we encounter? A whole lot of nothing.

We entered the L.A. Convention Center South Hall at 10:36 am, concerned that we were running late and might end up waiting in some long lines both at the doors and the booths inside. We couldn't have been more wrong. As we approached the outside entrance, it felt like a ghost town. No lines, no crowds of avid gamers eager to see what's next for the industry, no outdoor booths featuring energy drinks and new gaming peripherals. Nothing.

We passed Staples Center on the way there, and a modest line had formed outside its doors, formed mostly by middle-aged women waiting for something or other; the line was longer than any we saw inside e-for-all. I joked at the time that there must be Laker Girl tryouts going on inside, and given the demographic of the people in line, that would have been more entertaining than almost all of the exhibits we saw in the South Hall that day.

Last year, as we hesitantly entered the South Hall, we didn't know what to expect, and were overwhelmed on entering by the massive booth put up by Nintendo. EA had a good sized booth, as did Activision, THQ, Ubisoft and Namco. There were smaller booths featuring a host of other developers and publishers, various merchandise booths, tournaments, contests and other fun stuff. E3 it wasn't, but it was definitely fun.

This past week, upon passing through the doors, we encountered an atmosphere equivalent to some convalescent homes. I nearly expected an orderly or nurse to approach and whisper, 'Shhhhhh'. Underwhelming was the order of the day.

The odd thing is, I had been reading up on e-for-all during the months leading up to it, and hardly expected this. While Nintendo had recently revealed they would not be attending, along with Activision and some others, I had read confirmation that Sony and Microsoft would both be present, as would EA, Ubisoft and several other major publishers.

Apparently, I was in error. No Microsoft, no Sony, and the handful of major developer's booths we found were primarily host to games that have already been out for months, if not years. Sure, Ubisoft had a whopping four kiosks dedicated to Far Cry 2, and four more for Tom Clancy's Endwar, but aside from the Gears of War 2 booth, there was very little to whet anyone's gaming appetite for the upcoming holiday season.

Yes, there were highlights; I tried out Shaun White Snowboarding on the Wii at the largest booth in the hall (Target), and Mushroom Men was playable at a little lounge dedicated to indy game development. But other than these and the tiny little booth in the far back corner selling quality vintage and import games (props to you, Mad-Gear!), we found very little of interest.

Will e-for-all return next year? I'm doubtful, but if it does, there will need to be a cavalcade of awesomeness to lure me there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Legos and The Dark Knight? I'm THERE!

Ever since Lego Star Wars was released a few years ago, the runaway success of combining ABS plastic building bricks and popular character franchises to create fun yet challenging pick-up-and-play video games has been undeniable. Lego Star Wars II: The Classic Trilogy, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones have all sold hundreds of thousands of copies across multiple platforms, and each release has had many gamers, old and young, salivating for more.

I'm happy to report that Lego Batman is no exception. And if you know me, that means a lot.

As something of a Batman aficionado, I pride myself on the modest collection of Bat-stuff that I own, from Pez dispensers to limited edition figurines. But one of my favorite areas of my tribute to the Dark Knight is my Batman Lego sets, which started appearing on store shelves last year. These are some of the coolest Lego sets around in my view, and they include a variety of awesome vehicles and excellent minifigures.

Naturally, when Lego Batman: The Videogame was announced, I was delighted. I already spent countless hours playing through both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, along with both of my sons, but as a Batman fanatic, nothing could compare to playing my all-time favorite character in Lego form.

UPS: Developer Traveller's Tales (TT) has stuck to the tried-and-true formula that made the previous Lego titles successful. Run around in an enclosed (but not tiny) 3D environment as your favorite Lego character, beat up on badguys, break stuff made of bricks and build various items and vehicles to solve puzzles and eliminate obstacles. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Additionally, TT has improved on some gameplay elements from previous titles as well. In Indiana Jones, your character lacked a Lightsaber, which left them open to attacks from projectile weapons, and without any effective blocking combat could get pretty frustrating at times. In Lego Batman, while still not armed with a laser-sword, Batman and Robin both wield Batarangs, which can be locked onto up to five targets on screen and then released. These can stun or eliminate enemies, as well as destroy some objects, often helping solve puzzles. Thus, you can enter an area populated by gun-wielding enemies, lock-on and buy yourself some precious time to close the gap between you and them.

Also new to the series are the 'Tech-suits'; Batman and Robin are well known in comics for the use of gadgets and technology to aid in their crusade against crime, and Lego Batman keeps this tradition alive with Tech-suits. At key points in each level, you will find glowing areas on the ground, indicating that you can build a Tech-suit station there. Once built, the station will allow Batman or Robin (depending on the emblem the station displays) to swap their current outfit for another. These enable special abilities such as Magnetic Boots (walk on metal surfaces), Hazard Suit (immunity to fire and toxins) and Glide Cape (my favorite), which allows Batman to glide across gaps or down to lower areas. Better still, while Batman or Robin wears a Tech-suit, they still retain all the other abilities they previously had, including their batarangs, grapple guns and combat skills.

Batman and Robin can 'grapple' enemies when they are close; pressing the 'Z' button (on Wii) causes them to grab the nearest enemy and hold him up by the collar. Pressing 'B' after this will result in a slam to the ground or punch to the head. Another awesome improvement is that enemies go flying in all directions when they are hit or kicked. It's purely cosmetic, but so much fun to watch!

Various other improvements include better collision detection, shorter load times and minor graphic tweaks.

Lego Batman is also the first Lego Franchised game that has you playing as a villain in half of its levels. There are fifteen Batman and Robin levels, and fifteen villain levels, for a total of 30 (not counting bonuses). To put this into perspective, both of the original Lego Star Wars games and Lego Indiana Jones included only 18 levels (again, not counting bonus levels).

DOWNS: A couple of the same issues that plague the previous Lego games are present in Lego Batman. Sometimes the environmental models don't show depth very well, so it can be easy to jump from a platform and miss the next one entirely. Goals or solutions to puzzles can be obscure at times, which can lead to frustration, especially for younger players. These are minor gripes, but nuisances nonetheless.

BUY, BUY, BUY! Okay, I'll settle down, but seriously, if you liked the other Lego titles at all, pick this one up. If you've got kids and you are looking for a fun way to play along with them, Lego Batman is the solution. If you're a freak, like me, you'd better not still be reading, but on your way to buy Lego Batman today.