Tag - Xbox 360

5 Biggest Gaming Letdowns of ’10 from ‘Whenever

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Unlike the previous list in which I went over my five favorite games from 2010 that did not come out in 2010, this list is made up of anything I have played from this year. Regardless of this rule, only one game that I’ve played from 2010 made the list anyway, so whatever. Anyway, the following five games are in no particular order and they vary in quality. Some of them are outright awful, while others just managed to let me down mostly due to expectations. Some picks will probably make you angry, while others you might agree with. That said, let us begin our journey!

Tomena Sanner – WiiWare – Originally released 2010

You’ve probably never even heard of Tomena Sanner, and that’s actually an okay thing. Being billed as a “One Button” game, Sanner takes players through a wacky world of whatever the developers could think of. I was drawn to Sanner because I’m a fan of quirky Japanese titles and the price point of 500 Wii Points wasn’t too shabby. After reading a handful of reviews that actually liked it, I decided to give it the ‘ol download. It took me an hour to finish the “game” and I immediately wanted my Wii points back so I could spend them on a much better NES game. Sanner sure does have a wacky sense of humor, but this on rails “one button does it all” game lacks any real thrill. You might laugh, sure, but there’s not much depth here and barely anything to keep the player coming back for more. It lacks the addictiveness of the simpler, much cheaper (or free) Canabalt and Robot Unicorn Attack, or the sheer ingenuity of one button gaming captured in the free One Button Bob from early this year. I suppose it isn’t so much that Sanner is a terrible game because it’s okay at what it does, just that there’s much better alternatives out there and for a fraction of the price (or in this case, zero price).

Shadow Complex – Xbox Live Arcade – Originally released 2009

I’m a huge fan of Metroidvania games, so when I first heard about Shadow Complex upon its anouncement, I knew I had to have it. Factor in the rave reviews when it was released and that made it even more clear that this was the 2D HD Metroid game I was waiting for. However, the game came out when my Xbox was dead, so when I finally got around to downloading Shadow Complex this year I was rather let down. Shadow Complex has the right intentions. It’s aping one of the greatest games ever created, but it does so in the most boring way possible. It looks about as generic as any other HD game with sterile, muted colors and boring environments. The lead character that might as well be Nathan Drake is an uninspired as they come, and his corn ball Master Chief meets Samus costume that he eventually earns is a joke. All of this would be fine if the core game held up well enough, but the awful control holds it back from taking advantage of what is actually a well thought out world map. The jumping mechanic is about as off as you’d expect in a 2.5D game, and the pseudo 3D twin stick shooting is a disaster. I eventually just gave up shooting and spent the entire game running up to guys and watching the same canned animation of the dude punching guards in the face. It’s a bummer, because the game offers plenty to do and would be an incredible value if it were actually any real fun. I ended up taking the quickest route through the game and never played it again. As an aside, the bitter gamer in me sort of hates the fact this game has probably outsold the games that inspired it (Symphony of the Night included) and it just sort of bums me out that people just want to play generic looking stuff like this. Anyway, it’s heart is in the right place, it just needs better art direction and tighter, more simplified control. Some music could help spruce things up too. Oh, and forget the lame story next time too.

Crash Bandicoot – Playstation – Originally Released 1996

I only played the original Crash game briefly back when it came out. I never really cared for the character and as a result never played any Crash Bandicoot games ever. After playing Uncharted 2, I had this crazy thought that maybe Naughtydog was this amazing company all along and that’s when I decided to go back and play Crash Bandicoot. I was surprised to see that Crash had much more in common with classic platformers of the 16-bit generation than a real Super Mario 64 contender that it was made out to be when it came out. I was also surprised to find out just how damn brutal and punishing the game was too, especially since I expected to blow through it in an afternoon. I wouldn’t mind the challenge if dying was my fault, but generally you’re falling down holes thanks to a terrible camera angle, or getting hit by an enemy thanks to both awful hit detection and (once again) poor camera placement. It lacks the momentum based platforming of 2D greats like Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, and even contemporaries like Super Meat Boy, and considering the amount of evil jumps laced through every single stage, it just kills the entire flow of the game. It’s one of the most frustrating and poorly designed games I’ve ever played in my entire life. It amazes me that Crash Bandicoot went on to have a rather good career, though thankfully time has not been on his side and his latest games are pretty much ignored by the masses. It’s hard to believe that Naughtydog went on to create Uncharted, I imagine no one from the Crash days is involved, either that or that just learned a lot since then. If that’s the case, good on them.

Fantasia – Genesis – Originally released 1991

There are a handful of somewhat cherished Disney games on the Genesis, highlighted by Castle of Illusion and its successor World of Illusion and sorta spin off title Quackshot. Having played through Sega’s very capable if not a bit aged Disney platformers just a year ago, I happened across a copy of Fantasia for a whole dollar at this years MAGFest. I can honestly say that I think I played this game for less than 3 minutes before being completely disgusted by it and immediately turning it off, returning it to the shelf in which it’ll never be played again. The title screen was the dead give away that this was not going to be on par with the others as it was developed by Infogrames and not internally by Sega. It’s one of those awful 16-bit platformers with semi-okay graphics and animation but completely unplayable. The difference in quality between a game like this and Castle of Illusion is actually pretty amazing. An absolutely awful game, no wonder it has been forgotten by time.

Gears of War – Xbox 360 – Originally released 2006

I almost bought an Xbox 360 to play Gears of War, but that Christmas I had a hard time explaining to my then new wife that I needed another console after dropping close to 400 dollars on a brand new Wii and games that November. So I sucked it up and never muttered a word about it again. As time passed I eventually found myself owning a 360 anyway, but never ended up getting Gears until this past summer.

Let me start by saying that I can appreciate what Gears was in that it was probably the first game to really have that true next gen look. Most 360 titles up to that point basically looked like higher resolution Xbox and PS2 games, but Gears showed us the future of video game graphics. On top of that, I suppose Gears can also be credited for bringing co-op back to the forefront of a game experience. It could probably also be credited for its refined cover based mechanics that have obviously inspired the rest of this gen, but lets be honest here, cover based game design has been around since the sort of terrible Winback on the N64. In that way I can see why Gears was important when it released. It was a bold game at the time and its ideas have, for better or worse, affected this entire generation. That said, Gears is a boring, already out of date game which has given me zero incentive to stick with it let alone play more games in the series.

I was sort of digging Gears at first, the control is mostly solid and shooting guys was fun for a bit, but from my experience with Gears, what you see in the first hour is what you see for the rest of the game. The game never makes you learn much more than stop and pop, and it never adds anything new to turn the experience on its ear and demand more from the player. It does one thing semi-right and it sticks to that for what I’m going to assume is close to 8 hours. I wouldn’t know because I became so frustrated playing Gears on single player that I stopped completely.

Your buddies are the biggest dip shits in the universe. I made it to the sequence where stepping onto dark spots will send in a bunch of hungry bats that eat everyone alive within seconds and the only way through is by blowing up propane tanks to light the way. It’s not a bad idea, but the fact that I continued to be punished for the dumb choices my partner made infuriated me to no end. My partner, Dom I believe, must have died 10 times on this sequence alone (this isn’t counting all the other times he died). The poorly placed check point meant that each time he died I needed to go through a wave of enemies again (another part where he would become an idiot and storm the bad guys, falling and most likely dying) and then hope to the lord above that Dom would be able to control himself once we made it through them. The worthless commands assigned to the D-Pad didn’t help matters either. Your comrades are going to do whatever the hell they want to do regardless of what you ask of them. Why even have them in there? It completely breaks the single player experience. Between doing the same thing over and over again and having Game Overs left and right thanks to my idiot pal, I grew tired of the game and turned it off. I remember the night I made the decision to never play it again.

And that is the most I’ll ever play of the Gears of War series for the rest of my life. I’ll give it the credit it deserves, but time clearly hasn’t been kind to this game.

So what have you played this year that was a let down?

Vexis Review or How I felt like an Idiot

Vexis Xbox Indie Games

Vexis Xbox Indie Games

I told myself I wasn’t going to review the recently released Xbox Indie Game, Vexis, until I actually finished it. Well, I can’t seem to finish it because the last stage has pretty much succeeded in making me feel incompetent. The thing is, I know the answer is staring me right in the face yet I just can’t figure the thing out for the life of me. I know where things should be but not exactly sure how to get them there. I’ve spent probably close to 2 hours on several different occasions trying to figure out this final puzzle. It’s true, I’m stumped.

Vexis is a clever little puzzle game that starts out simple enough, but by the time players make it to the end they’ll have their brain and reflexes properly stretched and probed. The object of the game is easy enough with the main goal to get a white block into a stationary black block. The players job is to guide the white block around by using the bumpers (or triggers) to rotate the stage and let gravity do the rest. It’s very similar to the hacking mini game in Bionic Commando Rearmed, only minus the 3D element. The game is split up into three “worlds” of 8 stages a piece, and each world offers a different mechanic that radically changes the way to approach the puzzles.

The first 8 stages are simple enough and do a fine job of getting the player introduced to how the game works. That said, the later half of these stages, while more complex, can usually be solved just by spinning the stage around. Do it enough times and chances are your block is going to find the goal. Thankfully the game gets spiced up once you hit the second world. Here the game introduces a new mechanic that manages to change the pacing of the game. In these stages there are several blocks that fade in and out, so on top of figuring out the puzzle there’s also a more action oriented and twitchy take on solving the levels. It feels rather good not only figuring out how to get to the goal, but also getting through the stages at the exact timing required to do it. Smart design choices give players a few moments to breath in these faster paced, more reflexive stages. The final 8 stages are where things really get out of control. Coming down from the quicker paced stages, these levels truly require the player to use their noggin. The new hook introduced here are timed blocks that always want to move downward once their timer reaches zero. Towards the end of the world players are tasked with keeping tabs on multiple timed blocks along with their own white block. It gets rather complicated, but succeeding always feels great. The key to these stages is to map out a game plan before rotating the holy hell out of the puzzle because chances are blocks will end up in places they shouldn’t be and it’s a nightmare getting them back to where you want them. I found myself sort of wanting a reset puzzle button because of this, but the game does offer the option to quit and restart the puzzle from the stage select screen, something I did often towards the end.

Vexis Stage Select Xbox

Vexis is presented in a very simple and stylized manner. It has an edge of quality to it missing in many of the XBox Live Indie games I’ve played, several of which you can tell were put together by talented coders that lack an artistic eye. The one music track, while decent enough at first, slowly began to grate on my nerves by the end of the game. It would have been nice had each world had its own track to go along with the pacing (faster music for World 2, maybe something a little more cerebral for the final set of stages) but the main track works well enough for what it is.

As for the longevity of the title, depending on how quickly someone figures out some of the more difficult stages there is about an hour and a half to two hours of game time here. There appears to be a ranking system in place once finishing the game, but since I can’t complete the final stage I’m unsure of how that exactly works or where I’d even stand. That said, if the player is really into it, they could most likely try to improve their overall ranking by getting through the stages in less time with the least amount of turns possible. It appears to be a slight bit of incentive to keep playing for those that really enjoyed the game and want just a little bit more out of it.

For 80 Microsoft points, the game is easy to recommend to anyone looking for a brief, yet challenging puzzle game.

Purchase Vexis from the Xbox shop!

VEXIS Coming to Xbox Live Indie Games

A friend of mine, Brian, is about to launch not only his first game ever, but his first Xbox Live Indie Games title. The game is VEXIS, and from the trailer above it’s a puzzle game of the rotating and sliding variety. I know Brian has an affinity for puzzle games, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the sorts of puzzles he’s come up with for this game. This is the same guy that totally rocked Tetris during our NES Marathon for Charity last year, so you know he understands his puzzle games.

I’m not totally clear on a release date (he’s hoping and thinking this week) or the pricing, but last I heard he was going to charge two or three dollars. I know he’s worked really hard on it, so check it out when it hits. I’ll update this post once I get the info on that stuff. For now, check out the trailer!

I answered the call… of duty.

Modern Warfare 2

If you hang around the message boards you’ll know that I kind of sorta hate first person shooter games these days. Well, it isn’t so much that I hate them, I’m just tired of them. I haven’t sat down with a FPS since Half Life Episode 2 because I’m just tired of the genre as a whole. I have never in my life touched a Call of Duty game. I always intended to try one of them out, but the yearly release schedule always put me off.

Then there is the fact that I hate the whole “bro” attitude around games like Call of Duty and Halo. I feel like I hate the gamer stigma attached to those types of games so much that it actually turns me off from playing them period. Is that wrong of me? Maybe I’m some sort of gaming snob, I don’t know. Then again, this is the guy who has been playing a shit ton of old Gameboy Advance games on a GBA Micro for the last four months and have been in my glory, so, yeah.

Anyway I had a small bet made on the smorgas board with long time member Dante369. It blows his mind that I have no interest in these games (especially Modern Warfare) and it blows my mind that he has no interest in Metroid games (especially since I know he’s made it through a personal let down of mine, Shadow Complex). We made a bet that if I played a Modern Warfare game, that he would in turn play a Metroid game.

Later that night I borrowed Modern Warfare 2 off of my nephew. I’ll admit that I went into the game sort of wanting to hate it, but I came out genuinely surprised and found that I really enjoyed the game. Being that this is the first Call of Duty I ever played things like the different mechanics and spectacle of a scripted events are new to me. It took me a while to adjust to playing a FPS again, but once I got a hang of things I found myself getting around better.

I do believe Modern Warfare 2’s single player has some glaring flaws though. As much as I like how some of the scripted events play out, I find they take away much of my freedom as a player. The game is always telling the player where to go, who to follow and how to do it. Imagine playing a Mario game but you always have some computer player running in front of you telling you exactly how to jump. Rarely did I ever feel like I was the one coming up with tactics of my own to make it through the battlefield. Worse, sometimes I would find myself fighting bad guys for about 10 minutes until I realized the waves of enemies would never stop and I simply needed to press forward to move on. Other times fighting until everyone was dead would work, but I could never really tell what the game wanted from me during those moments. Fight or run? It’s always up in the air.

As linear as it is though, the ride is still a good time. Despite skipping the first game I did find myself enjoying the story for what it was. Running through burning versions of Virginia and DC was actually pretty scary, more unsettling than that silly airport scene that came before. When I made it to DC I actually died as I stood there just marveling at the atmosphere. A true reminder of how good we have it in America despite what some people think. Could you imagine if that really happened on American soil? Worse part is that it is a reality for other countries. When you see something like that in familiar places that you know, things suddenly hit close to home. For a game to give me some slight sort of perspective, well, it has to count for something, right?

So in the end I really liked Modern Warfare 2. Did I love it enough to where I’m pumped for Black Ops and the future whoring of Call of Duty? No, not really, but I do like it enough that I’m willing to visit the original game at some point in the future. And for the record, I refuse to play online. I know I’ll get smoked and I already know I’ll hate everyone playing against me.

I wish at this point Dante could say the same for Metroid, but it looks like he’s having some trouble with Zero Mission for now.

Turtle Beach Ear Force X1 Headset (Xbox 360 and PC)

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LOL… teh thumbsticks are there for a reason n00b!

Problem: Lately my HDTV has been ‘spoken for’ at night, preventing me from enjoying some Xbox Live action.
Solution: An unused VGA port on my Acer 22″ LCD monitor.

Problem: The Living room is 6 feet away from my desk, so I can’t use the speaker volume. Likewise I don’t need the soundtrack from ‘Hope Floats’ mixed in w/ my killing sprees.
Solution: The Ear Force X1 Headset from the good people at Turtle Beach.

The first thing I noticed about these guys when I pried them out of 6 layers of plastic was that they’re really put together well. They’re very light weight, but at the same time they don’t feel flimsy or cheap (at $60 they’d better not feel cheap). If you’re afraid of wires I’m going to stop you right here and direct you to the exit door… these babies are all wired up. Turtle Beach did a good job with it though and they really don’t get in the way. Here’s how it works:

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The Headset has a long ass wire (good for people that sit far away from their TV’s) with 3 connections at the end. An 1/8th inch Stereo, 1/8th inch Mic and 1 USB. The USB powers the headset, so you’ll need to plug it into your 360 or PC or whatever. There is also an RCA adapter that connects the 1/8th inch Stereo jack to the Red & White audio cables from the 360. About a foot and a half down the cable from headset is a small junction box. The headset also comes with a jack that connects this junction box to your 360 controller, just like the standard issue Xbox Live headset. This is where the crazy magic comes into play. This little junction box mixes the game volume with the XBL voice chat right there in the headphones. As someone who has to be conscious about balancing online gameplay with keeping the loud volume to myself, this is a wonderful thing.

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So I tried some test runs both online and off with my new headset and here’s what I found. First of all, the game sound is incredible. True, it’s coming over the old-fashioned RCA analog jack, but I really didn’t miss the digital sound at all. For the first time ever in console gaming I felt the same advantage that I enjoy on the PC side of hearing my opponents approaching long before they ever know I’m there. For the most part the voice chat was crisp and clear, however there were a few people who had such an amplified bass end that I could barely make out what they were saying. Because this was only with 1 or 2 people out of 15, I have to assume it was something with their personal settings causing this. Another great feature is that you can adjust the game volume and the voice volume independently of each other right there on the junction box. This was especially appreciated when we’d dump out to the lobby after a match and the game music would be blaring over everything else. From a design standpoint there is only one thing I wish they’d done differently. On the official XBL head set, you can mute your mic right there on the connector by your thumb. On the X1, this switch is on that junction box I mentioned. It’s a minor gripe, but for consistencies sake, I wish they had just kept it the same way.

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The headset is extremely well padded both on the headphones themselves and the part that rests on the top pf your head. I played for a few hours and never felt any discomfort whatsoever. I’ve been through a lot of gaming headsets over the years and I can attest that many of them make me want to rip them off my head after 45 minutes of playing.

Bottom line, if you’re in a situation like me where you need to play without disturbing people around you then these are a great option for the price. They also make the X2 which is the wireless version, but they’ll set you back about $50 more than these will. I’ve also read mixed reviews about them on various gaming sites. Keep in mind that these will also work great for PC gaming, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t work for Wii or PS3 as well (aside from the voice chat thing).

My Score (out of 5)

Hardware Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Comfort: 5/5
Value: 5/5 (considering the multiple uses for a $60 pair of headphones)
Overall: 5/5

So there you go, my first scored review and I give it a 5/5… I’m a big softie.