Thursday, December 3, 2009

OmmWriter Beta for MacOS X

Sometimes you have a couple hundred words you wanna just get written down so you can munge 'em until they fit together. You need to clear the decks, shut out all the noise and place some text on the page, plain and simple. Try OmmWriter!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Super Mario Bros for Wii

Yep, it's awesome! It's all the classic gameplay that you spent days and days playing on SNES, with some sweet new powerups and an interesting twist or two. The music is true to the original's spirit, yet hi-fi. The graphics are old school, yet cleaner and smoother. And the turtles, they do a little dance step that's unbearably cute. Plus you get these little bonus mini-games that are really fun. Two thum-bahs up -- way-ah up!

Call in sick! (How's the glaucoma?) You're gonna want to dedicate some serious time to this one.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wolfenstein for PS3

I used to love playing Castle Wolfenstein on the Apple ][.  I liked how you were outnumbered, stealing ammo off the bad guys, and saving the day.  It was missing just one thing ... zombie nazis.  Well, these may not be exactly zombies, but they sure are supernatural nazis.  And they still make "aiiieeee" noises when you gun 'em down!

Once I'd popped the disc into the PS3, it didn't come out until I was done with the single-player campaign.  It's excellent!  There's a goofy story.  There are nazis using gateways to other dimensions.  There are weapon choices and upgrade choices that let you pick your fighting style.  A ton of detail makes it extra compelling.  I really enjoyed it!

Gottlieb's Pinball Hall of Fame for PSP (PSN)

I'm totally enjoying the Pinball Hall of Fame on my PSP Go.  You get to pick from a few of Gottlieb's most popular tables, and naturally you have to beat a challenge on the simple ones, to unlock the others.  But also each table comes with a snippet of the history of the machine.  My favorites so far are the Genie machine and the Black Hole machine ... but I keep trying my hand on the love tester (yep, the thing that tells you how hot a lover you are) just 'cause it's, well, weird to include a machine that you can't "win" on a gaming platform.  Well done!

Critter Crunch for PS3 (PSN)

The launch of Critter Crunch was less than impressive -- the trades should've been heralding "The next PopCap" or something like that. This is an action-puzzle game, where the rules are simple, the controls are dead simple, and everything is just cute as hell. Plus, the music is catchy, and the goofy noises things make as you catch 'em with your tongue and spit them into the waiting mouths of predators higher up on the food chain add a cutsey percussion to the whole thing.

Oh, and there's actually a part called the "Puking Tutorial" where they instruct you on regurgitating rainbows. Kris plays several-layers-deep strategically, while I mostly mash buttons, and we both love it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum for PS3

You see!? This is how you do a game based on a cartoon! The player  becomes the protagonist seamlessly, rather than just riding along on the hidden track of a jungle safari ride.  Plus, there's a real writer! Ryyyyyyye-tooooooor.  (Doesn't hurt that it's Paul Dini fer cryin' out loud.)  And who's playing the Joker? Mark Hamill.  Because he always does. It's an episode of Batman the Animated Series, it's just really complex, takes longer than the usual episode, and has a lot of side quests.

The fighting is great -- you're a badass, hand to hand.  But then your XP-based power-ups are things like the skill to drop down from a gargoyle and string up your opponents.  For kicks I did a level entirely by sneaking around the rafters and stringing the bad guys up when no one was looking.

Harley Quin went and turned into a sexy-schoolgirl cliché, but the rest of the characters have all the depth and intriguing-weirdness you expect, plus a little extra something that you can only really convey in an interactive medium where the player is discovering them as part of the story and game.

I haven't gotten all the way through yet, but when I do, I'm watching every last line of the credits.  There are gonna be names I'll recognize in future games.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rabbit Wants Cake for Mac/PC

What an interesting idea for game controls.  Try Rabbit Wants Cake.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Evidence of Everything Exploding for Mac/PC

What a totally weird browser game.  I love it!

Zombie Apocalypse for PS3 (PSN)

You are the last hope of mankind. Use the left stick to run around, and the right stick to shoot. Every once in a while, there's a human survivor, so run over and protect them until they can escape! Eliminate all the robots zombies to advance to the next level.

You start out with a machine gun and a chain saw -- and while the machine gun might be more effective, the chainsaw offers panache, especially when wielded over your head and plunged into your adversaries' chests! You'll collect exploding, zombie-attracting teddy bears, too -- they're like grenades but whey cuter.

My favorite part is that for a moment after a zombie grabs you, you can shake the controller to throw them off you again. This is a discombobulating mode shift, and oddly fun. It's my new flavorite laundry-time game! Braaaaaaains!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Battlefield 1943 for PS3 (PSN)

I can't stop playing this one!  You switch off being a japanese or american soldier trying to gain control of all the flag points (five) on small pacific islands.  There are only a handful of maps, and a handful of strategies, and it's all so very simple, and that's exactly what makes it fun.  You can run around shooting, or get in a tank, or a jeep, or even airplanes ... and for extra fun you can jump out of your airplane and parachute onto the other teams' positions.

This is my new laundry game.  It's easy to just pop in and enjoy a few minutes of mayhem between loads of laundry.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cogs for PC (Steam)

I saw the developer of Cogs playing it, at E3; it looked moderately tricky even for him. Basically you line up the pipes and gears to make the machine run and/or avert doom. There's a free demo ... try it!

Monday, June 1, 2009

inFamous for PS3

I'm enjoying inFAMOUS because it combines two of my favorite things. Like Mirror's Edge, you can run around on rooftops and listen to fox news tell you of a government consipracy. But you also have the open-world fun like Fallout 3, where you run around killing people while a visible morality index keeps track of whether the angel or the devil is suggesting your targets.

I guess it's Grand Theft Auto with electrically-charged superpowers, because when you get tired of the story line, you wander around discovering side-quests, and when you're tired of side quests, you hop back on the main storyline.

There are hours and hours of gameplay in here! And the comic-book styling of the HUD and the cutscenes and things are very pretty. Go get a copy!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Burn Zombie Burn! for PS3 (PSN)

Burn Zombie Burn is practically the definition of "casual game."

Clear rules: kill all the zombies before they eat you.

Simple controls: a top-down point of view, as you run around and shoot stuff.

True to theme: while the shotgun and uzi are the simplest to use, the chainsaw and cricket bat are far more rewarding.

A twist: zombies are afraid of the burning torch you can brandish ... but if they catch on fire they fearlessly sprint towards you ... BUT point values are increased while there are zombies buring.

It's perfect for killing time (and zombies) between loads of laundry. A couple rounds coincide nicely with the wash cycle. And the price is right -- one roll of quarters!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Portal for PS3

Portal is a first person platformer with a fun addition. Like other platformers, you get to run around trying to get from here to there. But it's the future now, and you've got a hand-held wormhole maker!

Can't jump up to the platform? Pull the trigger to open a wormhole next to you, then shoot to place its other end on the wall next to the platform. Step through and poof, you're there! Of course, the levels aren't suddenly a piece of cake, they get very sneaky.

It's a brainy sort of fun. You have to solve path-finding puzzles using more than just what's visible on the screen and more than just three dimensions. Oddly enough, it's pleasantly twisted when the mental map in your head is a klein bottle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Warhawk for PS3

Warhawk is perfect for a quick online frag session -- if it moves, shoot it! Instant action.

The tutorials teach you the basics: First you learn to run around shooting things. (Or knifing things, at close range.) Then you learn to drive around shooting things. Finally they show you how to fly around shooting things. The basics are simple, and you start out pitted online against other noobs, so you can learn before you're completely pwned.

Once you get the hang of it, you'll find that it's fun to specialize in certain tactics. I like picking planes out of the sky with a rocket launcher. Some folks are really good with a sniper rifle. The tanks are especially fun. And I like flying, as long as there aren't too many missile launchers around.

Now that it's a Greatest Hit, it's only twenty bucks. I recommend the downloadable version.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Killzone 2 for PS3

Holy crap this game is intense. The intro movie sets the stage spectacularly, then launches you right into the action. Even in easy mode it's intense -- you survive longer, but it doesn't ratchet down the intensity at all. My eyes are still bleeding.

Visually, it's smooth and detailed. Your bullets don't just leave scars on the column that the bad guy is hiding behind -- you blow off pieces of concrete, all the way down to the rebar. And that piece of corrugated steel *you're* hiding behind gets knocked out of place with every grenade they land near it. You can see rockets coming at you smoothly, not stuttering between frames. The clear graphics give you time to side-step!

Then there's the AI stuff, which is remarkable. Enemies work together, shouting things to each other. They split up to flank you and they sneak around behind you when you hide. And this adaptability means that if you're failing a level, you can try a different approach and get totally different results. Blazing down the middle while mashing buttons not doing it? Sweep around the side, draw enemies out one by one, or just see whatever works in that particular area.

In any currency (six movie tickets, eight hours of iTunes, three blu-rays...) this title was definitely worth full price.

Micro Spy Remote

I now carry *two* multi-tools in my bag at all times. The Leatherman has been joined by Think Geek's Micro Spy Remote. You point the teeny little remote at any TV you want to control and hold down the mute button -- as soon as your target TV mutes, you let up on the button. Now the channel, volume, mute, input and power buttons are all tuned to control the TV you've hijacked.

Tired of watching soccer at your favorite pub? Switch it to Rock of Love Mystery Bus.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Zuma for PS3 (PSN)

I guess I'm a little late to the party, but I'd never played Zuma (from PopCap Games) on any other system. I love it! It's one of those action puzzlers, which I'd compare to Tetris, where you have to match up pieces that are coming at you, making them disappear, before they stack up and bury you.

You see, while I spent my wasted college leisure-time playing NetHack, kids these days play games with graphics and sound. So if you're a thirty something, you'll find Zuma to be plenty of fun, just like Tetris was, and you'll play it compulsively until your eyes bleed. But the *real* treat is to kick back with a beer and watch a twenty-something play it ... they totally go matrix-mode. And it's a trip to watch them actually apply strategy rather than just shooting madly until the game ends in disaster.

Hey, spectacular cut-scenes and multi-million dollar production budgets must look really impressive when you present them to the executives, but maybe with a couple extra supporting charts and graphs (and executives with some vision) you could get the management to greenlight more of these types of games. Please?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flower for PS3 (PSN)

Wow! Flower is a very pretty game ... it's like art that you can play. You see, you're the wind, so you breeze around fields, and then flowers open as you blow past them. But it's not all visual -- there's chilled-out music playing throughout, with the opening of each flower adding a percussive note of a chime, or guitar pluck, or harp strum. Plus, the sound folks added awesome ambient sound, so there's rustling grass, rain, thunder, water swishing, a subtle but pervasive aural environment rendered in very nice stereo everywhere you wander.

Mister and Miss Achieveypants will immediately notice that nothing's keeping score, there's no timer counting down, there doesn't seem to be a high score list. You just drift around, opening flowers and enjoying the sights and sounds. At least you progress through "levels" -- that might be on a quiz at the end.

This was ten bucks well spent, especially when compared to the cost of a massage or talk therapy or a tasty Barbera. Now, can I get a screensaver this attractive, too? Please?

Friday, January 30, 2009

ILFORD Inkjet Photo Paper

Oh ... mygod. Remember when you were in High School photography class and you had a really artsy looking print, like with contrast and texture and stuff, and you'd dip into your stash of ILFORD paper to make it look extra fancy?

Yeah, well they make inkjet paper now. No, really.

The image is totally smoother and cleaner than the crap you get from office supply stores. And the paper holds up when you abuse it by, say, spray-epoxy it onto your laptop. This stuff is totally top shelf!

Cuboid for PS3 (PSN)

Cuboid proves once again that the future is inexpensive, downloadable, casual games. It's a puzzle game, played on a track of one-by-one tiles. You have to topple a one-by-one-by-two playing piece around the board, and its oblong dimensions make it tricky, some directions progressing by one tile, others by two -- it's hard to explain, watch someone play.

It's totally addictive. Screw with your friends; invite them over and let them try it. If you partake on your own, without a buddy, be careful!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mirror's Edge for PS3

On the ground and inside the skyscrapers of the city, cameras watch every move you make. The only way to keep secrets is by sending private couriers who deliver your data without asking questions. It's a surveillance state, and dissent is not tolerated. This is also the basis of the beautiful "first person platformer" game Mirror's Edge, from EA.

You're a roof-running courier, jumping from rooftops to zip-lines to steel plates on cranes to small thermal exhaust ports ... the whole time avoiding the "blues" who keep shooting at you. I love that the training mode shows you how to grab one of their guns, and the very next thing it shows you is how to empty it of bullets and throw it away.

The visual style of this game is a total win ... grab the free demo and see what you think. It's definitely worth full price!

Fallout Three for PS3

I keep coming back and playing more of Fallout 3. The quests just keep enticing you to do *one more* little piece ... and the open world style of the game provides tons of side-quests that you can do when you're bored or frustrated with the main quest line. Next thing you know, hours have passed.

You can tell that a lot of imagination went into the game, it's engaging and visually very pretty. (Technically, it's glitchy, so make sure you save each time you level-up and keep three or four save files going back.) Even though I've had to roll back to a couple old save files here and there to recover from a bug, I'd recommend the game. It'll be perfect when the price gets down under $40.