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.

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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Block & Roll: LEGO Rock Band Confirmed

TTgames, makers of the LEGO video game franchise are teaming up with Harmonix and Warner Brothers to bring together a meeting of two cash cow meccas. That’s right kids. Now you too can play Rock Band without having your parents’ look on in chagrin as you sing the lyrics to “Dani California”. Designed as family friendly, LEGO Rock Band is set for a 2009 release across all current gen platforms save the PSP. Look for little Lego Rockers on your Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and Nintendo DS before Christmas this year.

Some more information from the press release:

The unique family-friendly music experience is currently in development by TT Games in partnership with Harmonix, and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The game, which will allow families, tweens and teens to experience a wild journey to rock stardom where they can“Build a Band and Rock the Universe”, will be available for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system and Wii™ home videogame console. LEGO Rock Band for Nintendo DS™ will be co-developed by TT Games and Harmonix in partnership with Backbone Entertainment, a Foundation 9 Entertainment studio. All versions are scheduled for 2009.

LEGO Rock Band combines the multiplayer music experience of Rock Band® with the fun, customization and humour of the LEGO videogame franchise packed with brilliant chart-topping songs and classic favourites suitable for younger audiences, including:

Blur:“Song 2”

Carl Douglas:“Kung Fu Fighting”

Europe:“The Final Countdown”

Good Charlotte:“Boys and Girls”

Pink:“So What”

Players will become rockers as they embark on a journey to stardom that the whole family can enjoy as they work their way through local venues, stadiums and fantasy locations on Earth and beyond, that mimic the imaginative settings that the LEGO world offers. Also continuing the LEGO“build-and-play” gaming experience, players will be able to create their own LEGO Rock Band style as they customize their minifigure avatars, band and entourage, including roadies, managers and crew. LEGO Rock Band supports Rock Band instruments, as well as other music game controllers.

“LEGO Rock Band combines two compelling properties and creates an experience that family members of all ages will enjoy playing together as a group,” said Tom Stone, Managing Director, TT Games.“Harmonix and MTV Games are the world experts in music gameplay, and we’re genuinely thrilled to bring the unique and humour-filled LEGO experience to their Rock Band universe.”


Upsides as far as I see them:

LEGO universe – hilarious and self-deprecating.

Accessibility – Thankfully the higher ups realized that while charging an arm and a leg for The Beatles is one thing, people with small kids might not have as much disposable income. So making the game compatible with already existing software was awesome.

Music – Hell YES, Kung Fu Fighting!

Customization – As if the custom options of the original product weren’t enough, LEGO is upping the ante by letting you customize damn near everything in the game.

Downsides as far as I see them:

Internet Whining – The purist, the cynic and the childless will all be whining that this is a blatant attempt to cash in on a hot property and nothing more. Gamers with kids (or parents) will not care.

Backwards Compatibility – So far there has been no word on whether songs from Rock Band and Rock Band 2 will be playable on this new version. While that might not necessarily mean anything, it might mean the upper brass aren’t as smart as I just gave them credit for.

So as far as I’m concerned the positive (so far) outweighs the negative by a mile. But that’s just one blogger’s opinion. Feel free to leave your own, differing or like-minded, in the comments section.

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Extreme Fever! A Peggle Review

Epic win!

Epic win!

In this day and age, where the line in the sand has been drawn, gamers are either hardcore or their not. Either you blow people up with rocket launchers or you look for hidden pictures. You either spend three days zerg rushing the enemy combatant or spend three days perfecting your chocolate empire with mini-games. Well, PopCap Games is here to tear down that wall with their blockbuster hit. Peggle doesn’t care if you like shooters or sims; it just wants to make the world a better place through digitized Plinko.

The idea behind Peggle is ridiculously simple. In each level, you shoot silver balls reminiscent of pinballs from the top of the screen. The ball in turn bounces off of the many blue, orange, green and purple pegs below; each peg lighting up and giving you points as your ball pings off of it. The bottom of each stage is pit for the ball to fall into but if you time your shot right, you may hit the bucket that roams side to side at a steady pace. If you manage this, the game will give you an extra ball; the equivalent of an extra life. Each level gives you a set number of balls and the goal is to clear the board of all the orange pegs. The strategy is involved in finding the quickest way to clear the more plentiful blue pegs to get to the orange ones. All before you run out of balls. In later stages the pegs become animated, rotating or moving on and off the screen, making this simple task more and more challenging.

Those inner tube circles don't stay put.

Those inner tube circles don't stay put.

The other major gameplay element is to build up your score. For each peg hit by a single ball, a multiplier is added. Blue pegs are worth the least, followed by the orange ones, with the elusive purple peg being worth the most. If the player manages to reach a certain threshold of points with one ball, the game will reward your Peggle skills with a free ball. Once you’ve managed to clear all the orange pegs, the camera zooms in on the ball and goes into slow motion while Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from Symphony No. 9 plays in the background. The bottom of the screen, once a cavernous mouth stealing your balls, becomes five separate buckets for you ball to fall into; giving you an extra point boost anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000.

Of course that’s only the basic premise. Once the player has that down, the game adds on a layer of depth and that’s where the mind numbing addiction comes into play. The first time you play Peggle, the game will be in Adventure mode. Set up into groups of stages, each themed chapter has its own avatar. These Peggle Masters, ranging from a jack o lantern to a gopher to a sunflower, will be visible from the top of the screen. The stages for each avatar’s chapter set up the pegs into shapes that accurately depict the current theme or background; such as flowers, a river bank or car.

Vroom Vroom!

Vroom Vroom!

Each avatar also has a special ability. Special abilities are designed to make hitting the pegs easier. Using your ball to hit one of the two green pegs in each stage will trigger the special. For example, the jack o lantern’s ability is called “Spooky Ball”. Triggering this effect causes the ball to return to the top of the screen once it hits the bottom instead of disappearing. The flower will cause twenty-five percent of all orange pegs on the board to light up and so on…

Challenge Mode

Challenge Mode

After completing the 55 modes in Adventure, the rest of the game opens up. The player is now free to go back and play any level with any avatar; not just the ones affiliated with it. Dual mode allows players to go head to head against a friend or computer player and Challenge mode offers 75 new puzzles with varying tasks to complete.

On the version for the Xbox 360 there are the added bragging rights of trying to get the highest score for any individual level which will then be put on Live for the entire world to see your mad Peggle skills.

This is usually the paragraph where I go into detail about the game’s flaws, but I really can’t think of anything to put. Peggle has sold over 10 million downloads on PC and has been in the top ten XBLA games since its launch last week.  It’s spawned versions on the iPhone and DS and already has a sequel. Not bad for a little game from the company that brought us Bejeweled.

So whether your idea of gaming is Halo 3 or Solitaire, do yourself a favor and give Peggle a chance to win you over. Download the trial for free at PopCap games or XBLA on Xbox Live.

Peggle is available for the Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo DS and the iPhone. It is rated E for Everyone.


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Konami Wants Us To “Flick & Rub” Them

From the company that brought you Saw: The Game, Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid 4 and the Silent Hill series (along with Elebits and DDR) comes a new IP for the Nintendo DS.

WireWay

According to a press release yesterday…(BOLD added for hilarity)

Delivering a whole new type of gameplay to the DS, WireWay is an interactive action puzzle game that introduces a lovable, yet troublesome alien who has been dropped off by his ship and travels the planet jumping through wacky adventures. The player must take full advantage of DS’ unique touch-screen and online capabilities to flick, rub, and draw as he helps the alien navigate through 60 interactive, pulse-pounding levels. Additionally, the game features wireless gameplay, the ability to create stages, and much more.

In WireWay players utilize the touch-screen capabilities as they avoid dangerous obstacles – including falling rocks, eerie skulls, and spiky floors — while they flick the alien with the wire using the stylus, rub the screen to create wind, and draw wires to assist the alien. As they break walls, open new paths, and collect stars to power up, players have as much time as they need to avoid the enemies and help the alien find his way home.

Additionally, gamers can challenge up to four players wirelessly for an intense multiplayer race using the local wireless feature.

Now call me immature, but doesn’t anyone screen this stuff before it’s sent to press? Surely there are less…titillating word choices than “Flick & Rub the Alien”

While there are no trailers or gameplay video yet (the game isn’t scheduled until the Fall of 2009) clicking on the WireWay link above, or here for you lazy shits, will take you to Konami’s website where you will be inundated with more screenshots than you can flick OR rub. Without more information, I will be cautiously optimistic about this new puzzle game.

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WTF Product:Company To End Nintendo Blowjobs

Thanks to 1up.com for this awesome picture.

Thanks to 1up.com for this awesome picture.

Hey, remember how to fix any non-working NES? Barring the Wii and the Gamecube anyway. So any cartridge based NES. Yeah, you blow in it. Now, IGN has a hilarious blog entry about the “types” of blowers out there, and you can find numerous debates about whether getting human spit on the contact points is the equivalent of dropping your game in acid, but the point is…IT WORKS. And it’s free.

But no more! Save yourself the embarrassment of inevitable “blowjob” jokes by purchasing this handy new third party product. (Because third party products are not subject to randomly destroying your system or anything)

There are no words.

There are no words.

It’s the world’s first automated cleaner (assuming you don’t have a functional mouth). It boasts the following impressive features:

The new BLAZE battery powered cleaner ensures that your console and games stay in perfect condition using its unique automated, mechanized action . This 2 part automated device works on both the DS Lite, where it can clean both the DS and GBA game slots as well as game cards, and the DSi where it can clean your game slot and also game cards. How it works is easy; simply plug the device into the appropriate slot, press the “on” button and allow the static free microfibers to clean the internal connectors, thus ensuring years of trouble free gaming. This device is perfect for anyone who likes to take care of their game consoles and game library and ensure their items stay in tip top condition.

Hey kids, don’t forget to pre-order now. This baby isn’t available until May but by then all the cool kids will have snatched them up. Since wasting batteries is totally rad, or something.

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Minion Impossible: Overlord To Set Minions Loose On DS

Cute but evil. Things even out.

Cute but evil. Things even out.

The original Overlord game, released in 2007, was one of the most amusing games I’ve ever played. In a genre filled with do-gooders and hero types, Overlord let us release our inner megalomaniac and rewarded us for it. And while it certainly suffered from its share of problems (most notably the lack of a bloody map!), the stinging wit of the dialogue and plot helped smooth over the bumps. Of course, when Rhianna Pratchett (daughter of renown author Terry Pratchett) is writing the script, satire and dry wit are to be expected.

And while Overlord 2 is in the works for 360 and PS3,  a different story is being penned for Overlord: Dark Legend on the Wii. Nintendo DS owners will also get a chance to explore this hilarious world with the release of Overlord Minions, which is set to run parallel to the Wii plot.

Quite frankly, I’m tickled that the minions are getting their own game. They were a joy in the first game, with their dog like loyalty and borderline combination of cunning and stupidity. A press release by developer Codemasters earlier today gave a glimpse of what gamers have to look forward to:

In Overlord Minions the player assumes the role of the great Overlord and commands his crack commando team remotely. In this 100% touch screen controlled game, the Nintendo DS Stylus is truly mightier than the sword as players use the stylus as an extension of the Overlord’s evil will, commanding and combining the Elite Minion team through devilish puzzles and a huge range of warped enemies to prevent Silas, the head of a new Cult, from resurrecting an almighty Dragon and threatening the Overlord’s totalitarianism.

The Minion Special Farces Team

• Giblet: A brown minion and the main fighter, brave, willing, and a little dumb.

• Blaze: A pyromaniac red minion who throws fireballs as a powerful range attack.

• Stench: A sneaky green minion whose obnoxious‘fart dart’ gases are not only flammable, but can overpower enemies with their sheer toxicity.

• Zap: A blue minion and the mystic shaman of the unit. He channels magic through this body and can heal the other minions, should they be injured.

Whether they’re going into battle, combining to perform increasingly powerful attacks or solving puzzles, the Minion quartet’s on-going banter and playful-yet-ferociously-violent nature perfectly compliments the unfolding carnage of Overlord Minions.
Prepare to battle a huge range of new enemies from infected sheep, goats, spiders, paladins, infected dwarves, mutated trolls, scorpions, winged elves and many more as Overlord Minions launches this June.

Now, if the gameplay sounds familiar its probably because on not-so-close inspection, the mechanics are almost identical to the Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. This becomes even more obvious when you watch the actual gameplay trailer.

Upon inner reflection, I decided that this is not a bad thing. LoZ:PH was a great game and imitation is the best form of flattery. You are welcome to form your own opinion however. And while Link is the epitome of the lone, silent hero (even when he accepts help, it’s only from clones of himself), the minions are a loosely cohesive unit that never shut the hell up.

With all three games set to release this summer, I know I’m looking forward to saving the world from other peoples tyranny. After all, mine is the best tyranny there is.


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