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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Oh, that crazy Stalin!

In reality, Stalin was a brutal man that slaughtered his own people. Nearly indiscriminately, save for the hoops in his mind that the populace had to jump through in order to remain among the living. But that Stalin is boring. So Mezmer games, along with BWF, Dreamlore and N-Game bring you a much happier (and over the top) version of history. Stalin vs. Martians!

Marketing the game as a real-time strategy for “actual people”, Stalin vs. Martians (by the way, the surreality of typing that doesn’t get any less surreal with repetition) is both masterfully trashy and absolutely over-the-top. Fun and accessible, it takes a simple arcade-like approach to the genre of real-time strategy. According to the official website:

— No city-building and technology trees. You can buy reinforcements and offmap special abilities. But no “build the barracks > buy the troops > upgrade the town hall”. The only resources you can find on the map are power-ups. They look like they should: like shiny rotating coins with bright colors.

Power-ups are left after the enemy unit dies. You can collect them. There are five types of coins:
– Money. You can buy reinforcements if you have sufficient funds.
– Armor upgrade. Armor upgrade!
– Attack power improvement. You can kill the bastards more easily.
– Speed up. Your units will move faster. Upgraded infantry can even run with a speed of a tank. Or a member of Kenya Olympic team.
– Meds. The pills make you feel better, even if you are, err, a howitzer. Heals your HP.

— So here’s the picture. Dead martians leave power-ups. Our unit can collect it and either bring us some money to buy reinforcements, or ugrade its stats. You can upgrade your guys several times, so it’s possible to make you tank run 150% faster. There is a limit for upgrades, for the games balance sake, but even 150% turns everything into a complete pandemonium. That’s fun.

As we already mentioned somewhere on this website, you can buy not only the new units, but offmap abilities. Like traditional air raids. And superabilities. You can’t even imagine them. Trust us – they will impress you.

Most of the units can use extra skills. The usually have only one, but you don’t need more. We try to keep everything simple. If you want to play a wargame, there’s plenty of them in the market.

One more thing. The martians leave spots on the map, plagued by the extraterrestial slimelike substance. That goo improves the enemy units’ stats the way power-ups improve ours. We need to clean the land out of this shit.

This means the learning curve for Stalin vs. Martians should be on par with most plebeian genres. Unlike other RTS’ses that force the player to have minor in Advanced Economics and Warfare in order to properly enjoy the experience.

We're being invaded by Toy Story squeaky toys...

We're being invaded by Toy Story squeaky toys...

...and Pikmin! Oh the humanity!

...and Pikmin! Oh the humanity!

And for those of you getting up in arms about turning a mad man from history into a world-saving hero, the creators’ have some words for you as well:

-We can talk for hours about Stalin and all the controversies that surround him. We’re Russians and we possibly know the subject better than you. But all this talk doesn’t make any sense, you know, at all. Accept Stalin vs. Martians as a montypythonesque humor or get out.

Basically, the game is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek, B movie grade fun fest. Not to be taken seriously. I mean, the intense “plot” as it stands is, “Year 1942. Summer. The martians suddenly land somewhere in Siberia and attack the glorious people of Holy Mother Russia. It is a hard time for USSR as you might know from the history books if you ever attended school. The situation is really fucked up, so comrade Stalin takes the anti-ET military operation under his personal control. The operation is a top secret and virtually nobody knows about the fact of extraterrestial intervention.”

Besides, if you do well and play your cards right, you get to play as mecha Stalin. And who doesn’t want that?

Stalin mad. Stalin SMASH!

Stalin mad. Stalin SMASH!

Both the website and the press release were vague on whether or not the game will be for sale at local retailers (it can’t hurt to ask if for no other reason than to watch the saleperson’s face contort). But as of April 29th, you will be able to download it from Steam, Direct2Drive, GamersGate, and Impulse.

For a preview of what you’re getting yourself into, check out the official gameplay video; complete with Russian techno music!

Currently, Stalin vs. Martians is RP by the ERSB. I presume because they are mesmerized by the concept of such a heresy actually making it to “Gold” status.


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Avast Ye! Age of Pirates 2 Release Date Announced

Avast! Booty! Scurvy! And other piratey words!

Avast! Booty! Scurvy! And other piratey words!

Yarrr, me mateys. Pirates might be losing steam to the upstart zombies, but never fear. Playlogic is here. (Good God, did I just make an Underdog inference? Yes, yes I did….) In a press release out of New York today, Age of Pirates 2 is set to sail on May12, 2009 for the PC market. According to their spokesman:

“This sequel to the popular Age of Pirates franchise reinvents itself with a larger playing field and exciting new content from a new combat system and trading options to numerous quests and character classes,” said Rogier Smit, executive vice president of Playlogic.“The game’s free-roaming options expand the storyline and challenge players with endless hours of adventure.”

Players courageous enough to delve into the dangerous world of Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships will discover treasure and adventure as they choose to go it alone and become the most feared pirate on the seven seas, or prove their loyalty and take the coin of one of four different navies; French, English, Spanish or Dutch. As players navigate their own route through the seas of the Caribbean they can explore strange new countries and undiscovered civilizations, plunder merchant ships and even raid fortified ports and cities– interacting with nearly every character and/or building along the way.

Game features include:

• Ship-to-ship combat and toe-to-toe clashes

• 3 diverse characters and 3 classes: Merchant, Corsair and Adventurer

• 4 main campaigns

• 40+ quests and 40+ quest generators allowing for an infinite amount of quests

• New combat system for faster fights

• 3 weapon classes: light, medium and heavy

• Advanced trading system

• Real-life historical characters such as Jamaican governors Colonel Thomas Lynch and Thomas Modyford

Almost everything can be adjusted to players’ wishes, making customization and resource management a key element to gameplay. Let this serve as a warning; in Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships the dead do not sleep easy, and both myth and reality frequently intertwine.

The original Age of Pirates: Carribean Tales, released by Akella is 2006, had a bumpy go. It’s timing coincided with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean, and the game became confused with the Disney property. Playing as one of two characters (the obligatory male and female avatars), players were charged with gallivanting through an open world RPG and becoming the most piratey of all pirates. But neither of those people were Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightly, so many people took a pass for the licensed property. More’s the pity. Gameplay was enjoyable, but the project was overly ambitious for the time, leaving even high end computers struggling to compensate. According to Gamespot’s review:  A countless number of rough edges and some major bugs sap just about all the potential for entertainment from this overambitious, underdeveloped game.

However patch 1.5 when combined with a player created Supermod smoothed out the glitches and slow downs for those heavily infested in the game.

In the interim years, and with a change of developer, hopefully Age of Pirates 2 can sidestep the pitfalls of its predecessor. So far, the trailer and screens look very promising. But I suppose we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to know for sure.

Above is the official trailer for Age of Pirates 2 and below is a gallery of in-game screenshots. Enjoy!

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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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Odd Japanese Game Commercials

Today’s post was inspired by the good folks over at GamesRadar.com. They ran an article that answered the question, “Why did Resident Evil get a name change for the American release?” and while the answer is available, the real star of the article is the original Biohazard commercial released in Japan.

Somehow that upbeat pop music makes getting your jugular ripped out seem A-OK (insert thumbs up sign here). But it got me thinking, what other video game commercials are we missing out on? Surely the Japanese have others that are so bad they come out the other side as awesome.

Our first contender is Dr. Mario for the original GameBoy. Because nothing says “video games” like synchronized swimming in multi-colored rabbit costumes. While singing.

Next up, we’re reminded why we don’t fuck with Japanese business men. Oh, and buy Metal Gear Solid 3; it’ll give you the ability to sneak up on half naked chicks bathing in the river?

This next video just proves that no matter how awesome Earthbound is (which is infinity +2), watching live action children create a nuclear explosion with their powers brings into question the RPG staple of “only kids can save the world”.

I saved my favorite for last. Legend of Zelda: The Musical!!!1

For some unknown reason, now I want to watch the Thriller video. o_O

P.S. The Thriller music video would’ve made a far better Michael Jackson game choice than what was actually produced. What was SEGA thinking?! Perhaps this was a sign of what was to come. Sonic should have got out while he had the chance.

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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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Dysentary Is Still Fun!

Awww, memories.

Ahhh, memories.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted that I had discovered that mobile gaming had emerged from the ages of ‘Snake’ and into a surprisingly fun experience while I was busy ‘paying bills’. Having wet my feet with the several demos that came pre-programmed on my phone, I set about the task of downloading The Oregon Trail. Why? Because who doesn’t have fond memories of subliminally learning while having fun? No one, that’s who.

Once downloaded from GameLoft, I loaded the game up and instantly noticed several slight changes. First of all, the graphics have been upgraded. Some would say that this detracts from the nostalgic feel of the game, but they were still cute and pixelated so it didn’t bother me any.

After I named my group leader, my wife and three kids (all of whom you actually get to SEE) I entered the store  to load up my wagon. In the version for my phone, which isn’t quite as cool as the iPhone, I only had basic options of my career (farmer, carpenter or banker) and the game automatically generated my supplies and money based on that. No more hovering in the store debating on whether or not to buy another yoke or three sets of clothes. Streamlined is the word. For a visual example, check out the video trailer by GameLoft.

Okay, so I’ve got my family, my supplies and I’ve picked which month I’m leaving in. Let’s get moving!

Once on the trail, several more changes to the original game became obvious. For one thing, my party is visible. Gone are the classic oxen and wagon meandering over tan dirt and a black sky. My wagon and oxen are still there, but the family walks outside the wagon (just like they would have in real life). The background actually consists of moving scenery and even changing weather patterns. If someone gets sick or injured (and they will), their shoulders slump and a little skull and crossbones appears over their heads. At the bottom of the screen are your movement and rest buttons. The upper left hand corner contains the health of your wagon, party and how much food you have left. The upper right tells you how much money you have left, the date and how many miles to the next stop.

Also, to make the game have a higher replay value (I assume), GameLoft added in several new and entertaining tasks. Other than the staple minigame of moving in diagonal lines and shooting game and avoiding river rocks with your caulked wagon, there is now sluicing for gold, fishing for food or as a challenge to win supplies, berry picking, and a game that gives you the chance to fix that damn axle that breaks every two days.

The Oregon Trail now includes a small questing element as well. In each town there will be at least two people; an obnoxious child that brags his family can beat yours to the next stop and a wealthy man. If you take the braggart up on his offer to race and beat him, you win money which can be used to buy the ever increasingly expensive supplies or medicine for your sick. The wealthy man always wants you to take a package to the next wealthy man in the next town. You can either deliver the package or steal it. Inside my ill gained package was an engagement ring and letter. I felt guilty but dammit that ring was worth $60! Of course, you can also be on the receiving end of random encounters where bandits steal your supplies or, bizarrely, a bear attacks from nowhere and mauls one of your party members.

Over all, I had a great time playing this remake. It had a handy save game feature which was nice since most of my play time was in snippets while waiting on kids, food, or what have you. But that’s not to say it wasn’t without it’s drawbacks. I don’t know if I just make smarter life choices now that I’m not in third grade, but the game felt almost too easy. Never once did we all drown from a poor river crossing choice. No one ever died either, since resting for two days seemed to have the same effect as medicine; whether they had dysentary or a broken arm. And where’s the fun in not being able to write ‘Pepperoni and Cheese’ on my tombstone?

If you enjoyed The Oregon Trail as a kid, aren’t a hard nose purist, and have seven bucks and twenty minutes to spare, you could do a lot worse than stake a virtual claim on the west coast.

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