Category - General

Stuff that has no place anywhere else.

Patchwork Heroes is worth a look

Despite the fact I’ve been good and have held off on buying a full price game since Mario Galaxy 2, I’ve somehow gotten myself buried in a bunch of games over the last few weeks. I’m at various points in several different titles, like Final Fantasy XIII, Shadow Complex, and Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker (I’d include Gears of War on the list, but I’m officially done with that game and series for like, ever).

So with all these high profile games waiting to be played, I find it odd that Patchwork Heroes for PSP, which I downloaded simply because it was on sale a week ago, is the one that managed to grab my attention the most. I’m not sure if it’s the combination of it being the perfect pick up and play game, or because it’s all I have time for between feeding and cleaning up new born babies (I’m almost frightened of trying to get into FF13), but it ended up being the one I’ve spent the most time with.

I’m not sure exactly how to peg Patchwork. The only game I can think of that comes close to playing similar to it is Taito’s classic Qix. If you haven’t played Qix, the object of the game is to fence off the playing field from the “invader” or whatever the heck it is. Eventually when you claim most of the play field, you win. Patchwork is similar in that the object is to claim the playing field, but in this case you’re sawing it off. While you’re not trying to trap an invader as in Qix, you’re still whittling down the playfield. So in it’s most basic form, the game is like a new age Qix, but that would be selling the game short.

Patchwork has plenty of new and unique ideas that allow it become it’s own beast. Obviously since the rules from Qix have been inverted it leaves the player with dozens of more options of how to go about things. What starts out as a simple concept of literally sawing ships in half, slowly turns into a thinking mans game as the ships themselves become large interlocked labyrinths while game introduces new enemies, and ideas during the course of 30 stages. Some of the later stages can get frustrating as the it requires the player to have completely mastered their Mojo meter, a power meter that fills up through either pick ups or destroyed enemies, that is required to cut through metal surfaces. There are plenty of deaths during the second half of the game, but figuring out the most direct route of cutting away massive areas of the ship is really fulfilling.

My only real complaint with the game is that towards the end the ships get so huge that I feel it’s a requirement to zoom out of the action to see everything. While you can zoom out of the action, it requires the player to hold down the L button in order to stay like that. Thanks to the placement of the PSP buttons, it became uncomfortable very quickly. Aside from that, the game is addicting right out of the gate, and the ever changing landscapes of the ships, different mission objects, plenty of things to collect, and optional challenge mode stages make for a complete package and a really well designed game. The fun art aesthetic doesn’t hurt the experience either. With all these features it seems like the game was originally intended for a UMD release, but who knows if that’s true, now I’m just talking out of my ass.

If you get a chance, at least check out the demo.

Wii Hates Lefties

While my love affair with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker continues to flourish, I had the chance to pick up another highly anticipated title of mine, Super Mario Galaxy 2. As I continue my slide further and further into the realm of the “casual gamer”, I’m finding that my consoles are collecting and ever growing coat of dust. Believe me, it’s not for a lack of wanting on my part. So when I had a few minutes to kill the other day, I stumbled into the Best Buy in Union Square (open 24 hours no less), and picked up a copy of SMG2.

Yesterday, after pulling my hair out trying to coax my rechargeable batteries into actually charging, I popped it in my Wii and gave it a spin. Like I said, it has been some time since I picked up a Wii remote. I plugged in the nunchuck and was smiling to myself as I played through the opening little cinema. However, I instantly noticed one of the biggest flaws with the remote and nunchuck set-up that has plagued me since I first played Zelda: Twilight Princess at the Wii’s launch, and that is which it is not friendly to left-handed people such as myself. Allow me to explain.

Historically speaking, a large majority of home consoles all have similar button layouts. Since at least the NES, all major platforms have a controller where the directional D-pad is situated to the left, and a varying set of secondary buttons to perform actions are to the right. Meaning, to move a character onscreen has always been done using my left thumb, and jumping and shooting is done with my right thumb. This has almost always been the case. Then the Wii comes along.

Most people are righties, meaning they use their right hand for almost all daily tasks like writing, picking things up, playing sports, and so forth. This means they already feel comfortable holding the remote in their right hand, and keeping the nunchuck in their left. Righties are already used to this as they still using the same exact thumbs to perform actions they have done in the past as described above: you still are controlling your guy with your left thumb, and hitting the Wii’s singular A button with your right thumb.

This is where the problem comes in. Since one of the primary functions of the remote is as a pointer, I naturally feel inclined to use my left hand. I can quickly and accurately point to the TV with my left hand. When all I have to do is use the remote by itself, this is just fine, however the moment the nunchuck is involved my brain starts to stall. Since I am conditioned to control my in-game character with my left thumb, I want to hold the nunchuck with my left hand. However, that now means I have to hold the remote in my right hand which feels clumsy and awkward. The speed and accuracy just isn’t there with my right hand. So, I use my left hand to hold the remote, and the nunchuck in my right…which I’m sure is the reverse of what everyone else does.

What then starts to happen is that I have to actually THINK to make my proper hand press the button to make Mario jump. Put on top of that is I am now using the opposite hand that I am used to (that’s my right hand, folks) to make Mario actually run around. It kind of sucks, and I have to acclimate myself to it every time I play a Wii game where some time has passed. It struck me again yesterday as I sat down to SMG2 that I still haven’t figured this out yet since I played Zelda:TP a few years ago. I actually flipped back and forth for a while trying each one out for a while, and the one I settled on is holding the remote in my left, and the nunchuck in my right.

Bottom line is, I’m screwed. I’m either sacrificing speed and control over Mario, or im giving up accuracy with the pointer which there are plenty of times its used throughout the game. Not only do I have trouble holding a pair of scissors and using most computer mice, but now even playing a Wii game is a chore for my poor, addled brain. Sucks being a lefty.

“Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker” Thoughts

As big a Metal Gear fan as I am, I have to admit I was not at all interested when Konami first announced Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for the PSP. There were a few reasons for this. After playing MGS4 I felt very satisfied and complete with what Kojima and company created. Despite the winding plot line, I felt like I had a really good handle on everything that happened through the course of the series, and I didn’t need to know anything else. I have also heard from numerous sources that previous MGS games on the PSP have been less than stellar. Then, there is the matter that I personally don’t own a PSP. It’s just another mouth to feed in my dwindling video game family, so please do not read any bias into this, ok? Ok!

That being said, I was hardly keeping up with MGS:PW as it progressed. In fact, I was outright ignoring it. However, when it was finally released a few weeks ago, I started reading reviews giving the game praise, and suddenly I started caring about my old friends again. After splitting it with Phil and borrowing his PSP (hey, he gets to keep it!), and spending around 30 plus hours into it, I can firmly agree that its one of the best in series. There’s a lot to love about it.

At first, I found myself wrestling with the stripped down controls that are a necessary evil to port it to a hand held. I actually considered myself quite good at sneaking bad guys on the home console versions, so it took me some time to acclimate myself to the new button layout. One of the biggest adjustments I had to tackle was the placement of the Equipment and Weapons selections. This has traditionally been mapped to the shoulder buttons, however in Peace Walker (PW from now on) these are now relegated to the D-pad directional buttons. Re-locating almost over ten years of muscle memory from my index fingers to my left thumb took some getting used to. The shoulder buttons in PW are used for aiming and shooting much like MGS4 and the Resident Evil series, and that works just dandy actually. My other gripe, which actually never went away really, is getting used to the PSP’s analog nub. Its a horrid little beast and I find it not to be very responsive.

Once I wrapped my head around the controls, I started to find myself getting pulled into the game more and more. PW focuses more on game play and less on story telling, however there are a few lengthy cut scenes, done in a comic book fashion, that explain just what’s going. Of course, many of my old friends have reprise their roles, most importantly David Hayter as Naked Snake, A.K.A. Big Boss. I don’t know why, but I can listen to these guys ramble on and on all day about quetzals and A.I. Weapons. The story is no where near as convoluted as previous entries of the series, and that’s mainly because we know everything already. This is just filling in some holes of the back story that has very little impact on the events that come later in the series’ time line. The focus here is on Big Boss’s character and how Outer Heaven came to be in the first place.

As I was playing, I found that PW is closer in spirit to MGS3 than any of the others. We are presented with smaller, bite sized missions that suit a hand held, and the game’s maps offer a variety of ways one can sneak an enemy soldier. There is less of an emphasis on blending into the environment with the camo index, but instead you are given ample tree trunks and corners to hide behind. Still, I found myself laying in the grass while a soldier walked by on more than one occasion which for me is very satisfying when I CQC him to the ground.

I also couldn’t help comparing this to MGS4 as I played. MGS4 had its work cut out for it in terms of what it needed to deliver to wrap up our story. It needed to keep things on rails a bit in order to get Solid Snake to the point he needed to reach. Could MGS4 have sacrificed much of the cut scenes and gotten the same outcome? I would say yes. I enjoyed that MGS4 gave us a feature set, and then at times switched up the game play a bit to make us use those features in different ways. PW gives us a feature set, and once you master it, you basically employ it over and over again through out the game. MGS4 gave us massive set pieces and boss fights that delivered, where PW gives us a playground to run around in. They are two very different games which had very different goals for the player.

While I beat PW a few nights ago, I’m finding that the game just keeps on giving. This is where PW definitely out shines MGS4. The replay value is incredible. As you move along the game, you open up more and more side missions. Complete these and you get more GMP points to help make Outter Heaven grow, which in turn gives you more items and weapon and upgrades to your current inventory. As your army grows, you can send them out into the world in the Outer Ops section where they wage battle in semi mini-game fashion. This is all about stat building, and you use tanks and helicopters here that you can capture during the main missions. Its a fun little addition that isn’t too deep, but just satisfying enough as a side quest.

Much like Snake creeping through the Cloud Jungle, Metal Gear has once again caught me by surprise and CQC’ed the crap out of me. Just when I thought I was done with the MGS series as it was, I’m totally hooked again. I still have a ton of extra ops to play through as well as an on going, bonus chapter. Anyone with a PSP should definitely pick this one up. It is much more truer to the spirit of the MGS series than previous entries on the PSP. Sorry, Phil. Looks like you might have to wait a little longer before you get your hands on this copy of Peace Walker!

Theater Releases for July 1st

Airbender

The Last Airbender – Aang (Noah Ringer) is a young successor to a long line of Avatars who learns that he possesses the power to engage the Fire Nation and hopefully end their century-long war against Water, Earth, and Air nations. Prince Zuko (Dev Patel) is the son of a Fire Lord looking to capture Aang. Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Village).

Eclipse

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – Bella (Kristen Stewart) is torn between a marriage proposal from Edward (Robert Pattinson) and a declaration of love from Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Meanwhile the Cullen vampires and Quileute werewolves must team up in order to protect Bella from an army of more powerful vampires. Based on the third book in the Stephenie Meyer series.

In limited release is Love Ranch which has the return of Joe Pesci to acting along with Helen Mirren as owners of the first legal brothel in Reno, Nevada.

DVD and Blu-Ray Releases for June 15th

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The Book of Eli – Its post-apocalyptic United States and Denzel Washington plays a loner fighting his way across the country in order to protect a sacred book that apparently holds the secret to saving humankind. Also starring Mila Kunis and Gary Oldman. Directed by The Hughes Brothers (From Hell).

Youth In Revolt – Michael Cera plays Nick Twisp, an awkward teen who desperately wants to start up a relationship with a new girl in the neighborhood, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). But Sheeni only likes the bad boys so Nick creates an alternate personality who does all the opposite things Nick would do and tries to win Sheeni over.

When In Rome – Kristen Bell plays a young New Yorker who is unlucky with love. While in Rome, she steals some coins from a popular fountain of love and causes the owners of those coins to fall in love with her. Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, and Danny Devito play the dudes.

Also on DVD and Blu-Ray: Mystery Train and Unthinkable.
On DVD Only: Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country, Family Guy Volume 8, American Dad Volume 5, MacGyver: The TV Movies, Everwood Season 3, Johnny Bravo Season 1, The Secret Life of the American Teenager Volume 4 and UFC 112: Invincible.
On Blu-Ray Only: Showgirls, Flash Gordon and Darkman.

Music Monday – Eminence Symphony Orchestra “No Matter the Cost”

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If you tuned in for the pre-show during this month’s Shamoozal Radio Podcast you were treated to some of this. Eminence Symphony Orchestra is well known for their renditions of music from games, anime and other soundtracks. I own their 2 disc “Echoes of War” album which features tracks from Blizzard Entertainment games. This track is from the original Starcraft’s Terran campaign and is full of win. Please enjoy.

Sorry for missing the past couple weeks, been busy.

http://www.eminenceonline.com/