iOS or gag me

A year ago I bought Shiren the Wanderer for the DS from the cart in Best Buy where all the discount carts are corralled. I’ve realized something while playing it. My iPhone can blow me.

I’ve been hearing about how handhelds are dying, but this simple DS game is leagues more enjoyable than the recent iOS games I’ve played. Even 100 Rogues, which is similar to Shiren, and saw me log plenty of time, doesn’t quite hold up to the same degree.

Momentum can make people predict incredible things. Free-To-Play was supposed to be the business model of the future, then with one bad quarterly earnings report everyone says that Zynga is dead. The truth is obviously in the middle.

A day with an enjoyable DS game and I’ve found myself again using my phone as a phone.

Insert Credit Podcast worth listening to? B+

Even though I have significantly less time than usual, I’ve been listening to more videogame… chat shows?  I don’t know what to call them.  But basically people talking about all things vg related, sometimes being funny, sometimes being serious.

Insert Credit ( has a pretty decent podcast.  At least the one I listened to was pretty funny (episode 2).  The first half of episode three was a little bit of a downer, but it could pick up.  Reading enough of the earlier articles I had a face for the names on the podcast (it’s old, but read the 2011 E3 coverage, they seem like some guys I would want to hang out with).  But I was really surprised when I actually put a voice to the faces.  They did not belong as expected…

Anyway, Tim Rogers, whose voice and manner of speech was the most unexpected by far (l had assumed he was one of the others until someone addressed him in the third episode), made a game awhile back.  It’s called Zigguart, and I basically suck at it.  Not to say it isn’t good, it seems to be.  It’s probably worth talking about sometime.


The independent game store

It’s weird where I usually find independent used game stores. Usually they’re on the decrepit main drag of a small town. The best one I’ve been to being in Green Bay when I was stuck there for a summer.

There’s only one that I know of in any metro area I’ve lived, and it’s at a half deserted upscale mall in Minneapolis. I usually pick up some obscure super Nintendo game while there (last time it was Flashpoint), but this time I found myself digging through the loosie disks that at the counter. Because I was buying some normal priced games, the girl working there offered the discs to me for a dollar.

With nothing to lose I picked up anything that even sparked the slightest interest. I bought Onimusha, Rise of the Dragon on Sega CD (even though I’ve never owned a Sega CD), and a PS2 disc called Namco Trans | Mission (V 1.3). Is it a racing game, a rave inspired tech demo, or just a collect of Namco has-beens?  A quick google search probably could have told me, but its not often that I have a chance at a total mystery.

Game Difficulty – A Rant

I noticed recently that there has been a lot of talk about difficulty in games. Good, perfect, I think that’s a topic that needs to be addressed.  The problem is that in most cases people reference the success of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls as proof, but somehow end up missing the point.  The most obvious example came from here, an interview from Cliff Bleszinski, the design director for the new Gears of War game.

The article basically talks about how games have become too easy, and to counter this change the new Gears of War game will be more difficult… unless you play it on casual.  While it’s probably true games have become too easy, how is this setup for the new Gears game any different than what currently exists?  You can crank the difficulty up to impossible on most games that exist today, but that doesn’t make them better.  As my experience with Max Payne can contest, it usually makes them a drag.

Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls were successful because they were built around their difficulty.  There’s no difficulty slider when you first start playing, it’s just tough as nails, but it’s designed that way and as a result can be fair, which limits frustration.  Any game can be difficult.  A successfully difficult games leaves you feeling responsible when you die, and therefore keeps you in a constant state of suspense.  The opposite form of difficulty is rote memorization.

The diagnosis is correct, it’s just the treatment that seems wrong.

The return

So with a few hours to spare before my return window ran out, I was able to return Dragon’s Dogma.  I actually considered turning around and giving the game another chance, but decided if I was to ever do that it would be when it’s at least half the price. 

So as not to be a total jerk, I agreed to pick out new games instead of cash back.  It always amazes me how much you can get for fifty dollars if you’re not being too picky.  I ended up with 4 titles:  Darksiders (a game I’ve never had the desire to play, but felt a strong obligation after the store clerk acted out the assorted death blows from the first level), Killzone 2, Bioshock, and Deus Ex Human Revolution.  I felt pretty good about the decision on the walk home.

Dragon’s Dogma Review (or why I’m returning my first game)

Title:  Dragon’s Dogma
Company: Capcom
System: PS3
Cost: $55

I’ve never actually returned a game before.  Usually when the shop keeper describes the 7 day window to return a used game it glosses over me because I know I’ll hardly take the time to go back and claim $15.  But after six days I’ve decided to return Dragon’s Dogma.  Why you ask?  Well a long list of reasons, but at least partly because it was the rare game that I bought at release price and so it seems like a waste to let it sit on the shelf.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve played enough of the game to give an unbiased review.  I haven’t, but that’s because I have a small feeling of revulsion whenever I start it up.  First the bad, everything is voiced.  Why is this bad?  Because the dialogue and the voice acting are unmitigated disasters.  They will suck you out of the story at every turn.  The graphics aren’t rough, but that’s also the problem.  They’re shinny and artificial, like an iOS game.   And you realize not only are the graphics ugly, they completely run against the tone of the story.  And finally the grind.  There’s a story here, but it’s lost behind relentless asinine quests that also constantly pull you from the story.

But I would be lying if I said there are things here that I really enjoy.  The pawn system is flawed, but it’s not the huge determent that people make it out to be.  It can be enjoyable playing ring-leader to a party of powered up morons.  But the things I really respect are the details.  For missing the mark so far on the big things, it follows through with intricate care on the small things.  The way you design your character matters, the way you assemble your party matters.  The amount of items you carry and what they are also matters.  And the biggest strength is the combat.  While the graphics aren’t pretty, at least during combat everything is amazingly fluid.  The moves your perform, the animations, it all works well.  It’s simple yet strategic, and taking down the large beasts is really the only reason to play Dragon’s Dogma.  In combat, the game accomplishes everything that it set out to be.

Dragon’s Dogma is not your average game, but it deserves an average rating at best.  That being said, Dragon’s Dogma 2 could be something special.

Score:  2 stars
Memory:  The horrible J-Rock song at the main menu screen (sort of endearing, because it encapsulates everything that’s wrong with the game)

So, why did I buy a Capcom game?

I purchased Dragon’s Dogma yesterday.  I was going to review Max Payne, but my go-to guy at the video game store recommended I play around with the online modes first.  Fair enough, it certainly is a well made game.

I was strangely excited about Dragon’s Dogma.  It seemed beautiful when I saw it before.  My first impression are that it’s anything but beautiful.  It could be the fact that I accidentally made a main character who towers over everyone.  The game does one thing right though- it actually has the stature and sex of your character effect their abilities. It seems to take these types of often ignored details very seriously.

I just finished…

I just finished Max Payne 3, the credits and the Health song are playing as we speak.  I realized about half way through that I was playing the game all wrong.  I set the difficulty to hard.  All that did was make it a grind.  I only realized once I replayed levels on normal how fun the actual game can be.  It wasn’t a game made for picking your way slowly across each set piece, hiding every second and using cover.  But that’s how I had to play it.  And its clear now, the enjoyment of this game wasn’t made to come from the challenge.