Milo And Me…And Aragorn Makes Three

It has begun

It has already begun.

Okay, so yeah. Blog has had to take a backseat to things like “having found a job” and “wanting to stay employed” and “Gee, my house sure is dirty since I went back to work or my standard of living is just higher now”.

My apologies but things are probably going to be sporadic from here on out unless I develop a means of staying awake for twenty-seven hours a day. But anyways, onward to today’s blog. Milo, Me and LotR: Aragorn’s Quest.

First up we have Milo. But before I even get into why this is a bad idea, I feel like we should take a step back and look at the overall failure of the name “Natal”. Yes Microsoft, you have beaten Nintendo’s Wiimote and can now shuffle out your own brand of shovelware crap for consumers to shift through. You can also use it to exercise and blah, blah, blah. Which is pretty frickin’ sweet, I’ll give you that. And if for some reason, my readers have been living in a cave and missed the tech demo for this new technology, see below.

So again, pretty cool and one step closer to the promise of the PS9. But my beef is with calling it “Natal”. Did your marketing reps not take English in college? Or Biology for that matter? You do realize how that word is pronounced yes? If you wanted to call it “Natall” you either needed to to suck it up and put that extra “L” in there or shove a snazzy apostrophe mark over one of the letters or something. Because as it stand right now, when I think Microsoft, I think pre-term babies. And I seriously doubt that’s the image you wanted from your test groups. Just a thought.

But on the meat of this part of my post. MILO.

Holy shit Microsoft! WHY?! I mean, yeah it’s neat that he recognizes faces and movement and can draw a pretty picture and give it to you and then tell you what you drew and it’s all fun and games until he becomes self-aware and starts replicating and telling your toaster that maybe it doesn’t want to be a slave to the whims of toaster strudel cravings and before we know it, SkyNet is live, I, Robot is real and we’re all serving as batteries for the robot overlords. And I’ll have to blame you instead of Japan which is just. Plain. WRONG. So please, think of the children…also, I don’t want to remind the TV to do its homework. I have a hard enough time getting my own kids to do theirs. Although I can’t threaten to unplug them if they don’t…hmmm.

Speaking of kids (I know, a pretty weak segway), there have been rumblings on the internet. The kind of rumblings that speak of angry fanboys rising up as one to protest the rape of a beloved series. And what is the subject of their wrath? Lord of the Rings. EA has finally allowed their death grip on the franchise to expire and Warner Bros. was quick to snatch up the IP. And horror of horrors! They’re putting out a child friendly version of the game called Aragorn’s Quest. Pulling design elements from Mario and Zelda, the game is seriously lacking in blood and gore, which apparently is all fanboys care about. Oh, that and super-fantastic-uber-realistic face renderings. How DARE they make it cartoony!? Want to know what all the hub-bub is about? Here’s the trailer and handful of screenshots. Judge for yourself.

Shire In AutumnAragorn

Personally, I think the naysayers are just missing the times. Not every game coming out these days is aimed at the hardcore gamer and I think we’re having issues adjusting. Casual gamers are like the new baby and we’re all just jealous that that little squalling bundle of bones is getting all the attention when it can’t even GRENADE JUMP yet. But I think this is a great idea. My kids love magic and swords and all that jazz but blood and gore is a little too advanced for them at the ages of eight and four. And as a gamer parent, it’s a way for me to bond with them; to play along and explain the story without fear of emotional trauma or nightmares about Orks.

So with all the gripes, I hope Warner Bros. ignores the cacophony. With all the crap and total dregs of barrel being released for unsuspecting “new” gamers, a quality title would be a breath of fresh air.

Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest for the Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest for the Wii, PS2 and the DS is RP and slated for release in the Fall of 2009.

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Science Papa Gets Flack Over Blatant Rip-Off…

and I say, “Who cares?”

Chibi Einstein is creepy.

Chibi Einstein is creepy.

As some of you may recall, I spent an entire post ranting about the lack of quality mini-games for girls. And yes, I know that Science Papa is not aimed specifically at girl gamers, but with a name so eerily similar to the hit Cooking Mama, I’m sure a few of them will be picking this title up.

So who’s responsible for lifting the patented Cooking Mama formula and using it for ill-gotten education? Activision! And WHY is it a blatant rip-off you ask? It takes the formula of “recipes” and tasks kids (or, presumably, adults) with creating a finished product. All while Chibi-Einstein looks over your shoulder to make sure little Jimmy isn’t about to explode the lab. Or, as the press release put it…

…using fundamentals from a wide variety of sciences as a basis for fun skill-based experiments, Science Papa will turn living rooms into virtual laboratories that will fuel kids’ curiosity.

“With Science Papa, we’re taking real-world elements of science and giving players the chance to interact with them in safe and creative ways,” said David Oxford, Activision Publishing.“While the focus here is clearly family fun, the game can stimulate interest and discussion about science.”

In Science Papa, the player is the newest member of Science Papa’s research team, looking to become the greatest scientist in the world. It won’t be easy, however, as players must prove their scientific worth against a crazy cast of rival scientists in intense competitions. Science Papa features over 30 different experiments for players, and by utilizing motion controls or Nintendo DS stylus, players will pour and mix chemicals, pound objects into dust, monitor Bunsen burners, fix and use lab equipment and more. Players can also invite their friends into the lab, and compete against each other in split screen science competitions to see who can finish an experiment first, and with the most precision.

To give you a better visual, I found a couple of screen captures over at Gamespy.com.

Live Slimer! Live!

Live Slimer! Live!

Thanks to Gamespy for these screenshots!

Thanks to Gamespy for these screenshots!

So yeah, I can see the similarities, but realistically it’s not that big of a shocker. Either it’s a slow news month or game journalism is picking up tabloid headlines through osmosis. Damn you Wal-Mart check out lines!!!

Lots of games borrow properties from titles that came before. Hell, every platformer worth its salt borrowed from Super Mario Bros., then Sonic (before he met his tragic fall into Gaming Hell) and so forth. And if my kids are suddenly being tricked into learning like I was when I played The Oregon Trail on my Apple II in third grade, then I for one am not going to give Activision any crap for it.

Science Papa is coming to the Wii and Nintendo DS this July.

PETA Finally Discovers Games…fuck.

...you know, except for that new steakhouse I just opened.

...you know, except for that new steakhouse I just opened.

PETA has never been my favorite group of people. While I do believe that animals should be treated humanely, I draw the line at picketing KFC. I like chicken and for fucks sake, they’re chickens.

But now PETA has decided that killing more animals per year than anyone else, promoting celebrity spokespeople that seem unclear on what their shilling for and harassing rich women in heirloom fur coats is not enough. Clearly, the real threat…is video games. Yes PETA, video games are killing the defenseless animals. They’re also responsible for any child born after 1980 being a degenerate and every mass shooting in the last two decades. All right, I know that sounded snippy, but come on. Let’s look at the how they’re “utilizing this medium to promote their cause.”

Yes. Seriously.

Yes. Seriously.

Back in November of last year, conveniently in time for Thanksgiving, PETA introduced this gem in all its copyright infringement glory; taking players through the “horror” and “graphic-ness” of gutting, cleaning and generally preparing a turkey. In the end, win or lose, the player is treated to a video montage of the cruelty inflicted on commercially raised turkey. I’m not sure who this was aimed at? Is PETA trying to scar kids early in the hopes that their trauma will lead to a vegan lifestyle instead of a phobia of turkeys? Are they aiming for the hard to capture demographic of “Microwaving-kittens-is-fun-but-Dad-said-he-kill-me-if-I-did-it-again”? All this really did, as far as I can tell, is prove that PETA has no regard for brand name property and also doesn’t understand the type of people that play Cooking Mama. On a side note: Cooking Mama also has PLENTY of vegetarian dishes so it seems even more ridiculous. It’d be different if Cooking Mama was hooking electrodes up to cow testicles as a way of tenderizing…but she wasn’t. Side note of side note: I’d totally play that game.

Kill that seal! It's rare and drops epics!

Kill that seal! It's rare and drops epics!

Every year, thousands of baby seals are mercilessly crushed to death by heartless Canadians…according to PETA. In fact, seals are a plague and if only they looked like cicadas instead of fluffy balls of sad puppy eyes, no one would care. But they don’t, so we do. In order to combat this atrocity PETA set up a WoW account and was going to have Horde players killing baby seals. The idea was to get people to “stop” them and thus bring attention to their cause. On a single server. Sadly, PETA again failed to understand their audience and instead of “Stop Clubbing Baby Seals” the event degenerated into flame wars and fights. After all, why the HORDE? Wouldn’t the Alliance be just as likely to kill cute and cuddly creatures? Why is the Horde always the villain? Taurens are a very earth-friendly race and not evil at all and blah, blah, blah…you get the point.

Oh my GOD! Nazi dog...run!

Oh my GOD! Nazi dog...run!

Even history isn’t safe from PETA. This was recently reinforced by their disdain for the way dogs were portrayed in Call of Duty:World at War. Apparently, gunning down rabbid dogs who had been trained specifically to kill people is wrong. Nevermind that it endangers human life;  humans are far less important that the poor, snarling puppies. Never mind that it actually happened. PETA is going 1984 on this shit. If we act like it never happened….it never happened. Wait, is PETA holocaust deniers too? Anyway, in order to show CoD:WoW devs how to properly care for animals, they were all sent a complimentary copy of Nintendogs…that they promptly gave to their daughters and went back to making zombie nazis.

Oh, the humanity!!

Oh, the humanity!!

PETA and the circus have never gotten along. But I think it says something about the state of a game when I don’t even know of its existence until PETA starts to protest it. Such is the case with Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus: The Game. Yes. Seriously. And because the circus, by law, abuses any animal in its possession (particularly those uppity elephants. Who do those bitches think they are; all painting and counting and having a complex society?) the GAME is under attack by PETA. They aren’t even trying with this one. They aren’t angry about the game, but the fact that a gaming company would dare to go into business with something as innately evil as a circus. Really, PETA? Really?

And I’m sure there’s more. While only mildly game related, there is the recent debacle over Google using goats to cut their grass. Apparently feeding animals and saving the environment AT THE SAME TIME just isn’t good enough for some people.

Imagine: A Rant

Every now and then, when my daughter (who is four) is happily shooting mutants with her older brother or using Princess Peach to smack down Kirby and the Ice Climbers (because Peach is wearing a pink dress and therefore that makes her the best character ever…duh) I sometimes wonder if maybe she shouldn’t be. After all, is knowing how to use a lightsaber or sneaking through a museum in a potted plant really what I want my daughter to learning at this age? Then I look at the alternative and the answer is, “Dear God in Heaven, yes!”

Because games for girls, to my knowledge, mostly consist of vapid pieces of throw-away garbage. It’s not entirely the game developers fault. After all, they’ve been catering to this new and frightening girl market for only a handful of years and probably just figured they’d stick with what was safe. And then there are the non-gamer parents that don’t want little Suzey to learn how to properly defend herself when the inevitable zombie hordes rise to kill us all. But really guys, it’s getting out of hand. I like fru-fru girly stuff as much as the next chick but when even I feel ready to tap out rather than be subjected to another cutesy mini-game collection of “appropriate” girl activities, something has gone amiss.

Think I’m being overly dramatic? Blowing things out of proportion? Well think again. Have you seen this? Ubisoft, I love you…really. You’ve given me Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, Beyond Good and Evil and Resident Evil 4, among many others. But for the love of GOD, please stop putting out THIS!

Yes, little girls might want to be all these things (and any of the other dozen Imagine games you’ve put out in the last year and a half like a puppy mill on crack), but playing ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ is not an all encompassing past-time. Not to mention I don’t see an Imagine: Astronaut or Biologist or Firefighter or Police Officer. Which could just be because they wouldn’t make good minigames…but if you can make an entire game that revolves around dressing up dogs, surely you can make putting out fire fun. Hell, the arcades already did it.

And you got to use pretend hoses and everything! Surely it wouldn’t be so hard to render a girl’s face and splash some pink into an occupation that doesn’t scream “female stereotype”. Or, if you’re hellbent on continuing this crusade, along with encouraging the undulating masses of cheap knock-offs that spill off the local GameStop and Best Buy shelves, at least be an equal opportunity sexist. Start a boy’s line of Imagine games. Imagine: Plumber, Construction Worker, and Lawyer.

So until developer’s realize that girls don’t necessarily need to be coddled due to their sex, I’ll let my daughter play Metroid when she feels the needs to be a girl. After all, a chick with a gun and full body armor doesn’t need a prince.


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GoG Gives Middle Finger To DRM

Good Old Games (or GoG) is a website that I stumbled upon today while reading through press releases. Apparently it went live back in October of last year; offering older PC titles for as little as $5.99 with unlimited downloads once you purchase the game. Really, it’s just a big fuck you to games like Spore. Which is awesome.

All users have to do is sign up for a beta account which they access to buy and download games. Creating an account also gets customers’ access to game support, forums where they can rate, review and discuss games, and read the free digital manual included with every game.

And boy, have they got games! From Farcry to Stronghold, Ghost Recon to Fallout there’s a nostalgia game for everyone. Hell, I’m going to download Fallout just for the chance to play it (since ebay and amazon certainly aren’t selling it for $6). GoG’s latest acquisition and the one that led me to discover this great service, is Postal.That’s right, one of the most controversial games of the last few decades is available for non-DRM download. Oh the humanity!

Now all the violence and blood can be yours again!

Now all the violence and blood can be yours again!

According to their spokespeople:

…has shocked the world by signing a deal with Running With Scissors, the developer behind the legendary POSTAL series. The agreement brings the following games to the GOG site: POSTAL Classic and Uncut, including the Special Delivery pack, and POSTAL 2 with expansions. Both games are compatible with Windows Vista and XP and loaded with free bonus stuff. Of course you’ll have to be 18 years-old to buy the games, because violence and profanity are not appropriate for growing minds, mmkay?

POSTAL and its sequels have won over gamers around the world and even spawned an Uwe Boll movie masterpiece, thanks to irreverent, butt-splitting social satire, streams of pee and some inspired weaponry. As Postal Dude, the player’s primary goal is to stay alive and get the hell out of Paradise. That objective, needless to say, is easier said than done. Along the way you’ll meet a fantastic gallery of characters guaranteed to keep you chuckling even as you’re laying the business end of a shovel across their heads. If this all sounds appealing to you… well, you probably need some serious help. But instead of bouncing around a padded room, kick back and go POSTAL. Your government-provided caregivers will no doubt approve.

“Running With Scissors is a group of funny and crazy people, and maybe that’s why everything’s gone so smoothly with the deal,” said Adam Oldakowski, Managing Director of GOG.com.“We know that the series is controversial, but GOG.com is all about bringing back old games that were critical, commercial or cult hits, and POSTAL is at least one of those!

“I’m sure lots of our mature users remember the games but maybe weren’t allowed to play them because of age restrictions or otherwise missed out on the POSTAL experience. So now they have a great chance to make up for that!”

Fire and firearms. What problem CAN'T they solve?

Fire and firearms. What problem CAN'T they solve?

Other than this classic, the number of games offered on their site is immense. I’m far too lazy to count, but if the number of times I hit the “next” button is any indication, GoG already has a collection of well over a hundred games to pick from. So if you’ve got nothing better going on (and if you’re reading this on the Saturday night I posted it….let’s be honest, you don’t) shake a leg over to their About Us and give them a look. The most you have to lose is $6 and several hours of your life to fun and entertainment.

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What the “Flock!” Capcom?

Well, Flock me!

Well, Flock me!

Have you heard about “Flock!” ?  If yes, please skip down to where Capcom deceived me in my stupor this morning. If no, please check out the following explanation and video.

Flock is your basic herding game. I know, the herding animals genre is so overdone, but stay with me. In Flock, you play from a third-person top down view. As aliens, the clearest way to understand life on this planet is to use your spaceship (a la 1950’s B-movie fame) to rack up points by scaring the crap out of domesticated livestock and get them onto the mothership. Only through this process can you truly grasp the horrors of rural Earth living.

However, the tricksy humans have put up “fences” and “obstacles” to keep their herds right where they should be; grazing on hormone injected grass and getting obscenely obese. Mmmm, genetically engineered cows. So you must use the physics based gameplay ( ie: your laser beam PEW PEW) to pick up objects and crash through the obstacles. And of course, you have a time limit. The mothership doesn’t pay overtime bitches; punch out is at 5pm SHARP!

So call me girly or a heretic or whatnot (please save your pitch forks until the end of the article) but based on these gameplay trailers…

AND

…I was as estatic as possible at 8 am to see this giant headline this morning.

CAPCOM’S FLOCK! AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD ACROSS ALL PLATFORMS

Huzzah! I thought and rushed to my 360 to download the game. Twenty minutes and no game later, I’m thinking “WTF Xbox?” Did they crash the game? Forget to put it up? Hate me and don’t want me to enjoy aliens herding animals? No. For once, Xbox is not to blame. It was Capcom. The bloody liars. In their defense, maybe I should have actually, you know, READ the whole press release, which said:

…today launched their newest digital download, FLOCK!. The Windows PC version launches today April 7, the Xbox LIVE® Arcade version for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft launches tomorrow, April 8, and the PlayStation®Network version launches on Thursday, April 9.

Damn you! Apparently, Capcom is playing favorites and Xbox is the middle child. But then, at the bottom OF THE SAME PRESS RELEASE it says:

Rated E for Everyone, FLOCK! is now available to download for Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360, PlayStation®Network and Windows PC.

But what else should I expect from the same company that cockteases Resident Evil fans about run-and-shoot gameplay only to pull the rug out from under them at the last moment?

So now here I am, all ready to herd some sheep and I have to wait another damn twelve-plus hours?! In this day and age of instant gratification, that’s like…like…twelve weeks!

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Nintendo Tries Jedi Mind Trick

You -will- hate used games!

You -will- hate used games!

You know Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils-Aime, seems like a pretty okay guy. After all, what other higher up in any company would allow themselves to be put on a t-shirt? But every now and then  he says or does something that reminds me that no matter how cool video game executives may seem, they’re all tools.

Gossipgamers.com had an article today, that took a terrible nosedive into “Battle of the Sexes” but it started out with good intentions. Reggie gave an interview to VentureBeat (go Team Venture!…sorry) magazine and, bless him, made himself sound like an idiot. Here’s the bit that has people talking:

VB: Used games are coming up as a big issue again. Why?

RFA: More and more retailers are experimenting with the used game model. We don’t believe used games are in the best interest of the consumer. We have products that consumers want to hold onto. They want to play all of the levels of a Zelda game and unlock all of the levels. A game like Personal Trainer Cooking has a long life. We believe used games aren’t in the consumer’s best interest.

VB: Because?

RFA: Describe another form of entertainment that has a vibrant used goods market. Used books have never taken off. You don’t see businesses selling used music CDs or used DVDs. Why? The consumer likes having a brand-new experience and reliving it over and over again. If you create the right type of experience, that also happens in video games.

VB: Could this be rectified if the retailers share some of that used game revenue with the publishers?

RFA: That could make it more palatable. But we just think it’s a bad idea. The one retailer that has a substantial business in this has figured out a way that is effective for the consumer. That’s tough for other retailers experimenting with this, in part because their employees don’t have the expertise in this market.

The bits that are like this were added as emphasis by me. Now, I’m no economics major, but let me see if I can dissect those bits into laymen terms.

1. We don’t believe games are in the best interest of the consumer.

What Reggie really means to say here is that used games aren’t in the best interest of Nintendo. If you’re buying Zelda used for $34.99 instead of new for $49.99, that’s money out of their pocket. Reggie does try a nice guilt tactic, that sadly seems to work on fanboys of any system, which implies that selling your games back to buy other games or pay rent somehow makes you less of a gamer. Nice try, Fils-Aime but I see what you did there.

2. You don’t see business’s selling used music CD’s or DVD’s.

O rly? Maybe not from your posh Nintendo of America address. Or if you don’t have internet access in your spiffy corner office to shop on Ebay. Or Amazon.com. Hell, I live in a puny, middle of nowhere dot and I can think of three stores off the top of my head that sell used DVD’s and CD’s. And there’s no Jedi mind trick implied here; just plain ol’ denial.

3. That would make it more palatable.(Imagine him saying this in Emperor Palpatine’s voice)

Reggie, Reggie, Reggie. You had them in the palm of your hand and you ruined it with this simple sentence. By admitting that “certain retailers” *cough*GameStop*cough* cutting you a slice of the profit margins would make used games in the best interest of the consumer, you only prove that my interpretation of your first point is correct. When did executives become so transparent in their attempt to become Scrooge McDuck?

Interview FAIL.

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