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.

New Overlord II Trailer Released

Overlord II

Click Here For Official Site!

As a huge fan of the original game in this franchise, I can’t wait to hop back into my evil shoes and send my minions out to die horrible deaths in my name.  Codemasters decided to release of few more details on their game today, along with a new gameplay trailer. Let’s take a look, eh?

In Overlord II the Minions return stronger, smarter, deadlier (and funnier) and are ready to fight in epic battles that will see them squaring up to the Legions of a new enemy– the Glorious Empire. Their horde mentality is as wild and outrageous as ever and their loyalty to their Overlord has not changed– they’ll do anything and everything that’s commanded of them (and then a bit more) to aid their masters’ quest to destroy or dominate the land.

During the Overlord’s onslaught, the savage pack will gleefully destroy the towns of the Empire and decide the fate of their denizens. Given the right instruction, they’ll even gather voluptuous mistresses for the Overlord and infiltrate the very heart of the Glorious Empire’s army badly (but passably) disguised as diminutive soldiers.

Delivering a whole new level of Minion control, players can equip the Overlord’s devoted brown, green and red Minions with mounts, unique and deadly creatures ready to raise hell. Forming the Minion Cavalry division, brown Minions can ride and control packs of vicious wolves (“Aw, lovelies wolfies”). On wolf-back, the Minions can be swept into attacks and knock enemies off their feet through sheer force and then bite and gore opponents in lupine finishing moves.

Red Minions ride fire salamanders, which become living flamethrowers that shoot fireballs as a primary attack. Green Minions can mount giant spiders, enabling them to climb walls to get to places where no other Minion can get. Meanwhile, the blue Minions, the more ethereal and Zen-like of the tribes, wouldn’t be seen dead on a creature’s back; but they will keep their eyes on their Minion pals and, should they take a tumble or get injured, they’ll dash to the rescue and make use of their unique healing powers.

“The Minions are the stars of the show and we’ve brought them back with bigger personalities and with more abilities than before,” said Lennart Sas, Creative Director, Triumph Studios.“Hilariously supercharged, the Minions can tear down scenery and destroy buildings, ride mounts and operate powerful siege weapons in massive battles with the Empire. They became hugely popular from the first game, so we’re upping their profile, abilities and unique characteristics.”

Spider mounts? Fire breathing salamanders? Wenches? Is there anything this game doesn’t have? Oh yeah, the ability to SHOW us any of that…except the spiders. Oh well, the trailer still looks spot on. They seem to be keeping the formula that worked last time, only upping the graphic content and number of minions you’re allowed to have at once. See?

Still no word on whether they fix players’ biggest gripe; the lack of a map system. Nothing is worse than being all dressed up in intimidating plate armor with a horde of minions and then wandering around in a big circle for twenty minutes.

Overlord II is slated for a Xbox 360, PS3 and PC release on June 26th. For the MASTER!

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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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Team Fortress 2: Amusing Map Mods

So I’m browsing the internet this morning and Kotaku had an awesome link to Techblog.com and their Mario Kart themed TF:2 map. Which is pretty sweet. Either check it out at the link, or below.

But that got me thinking two things. One: I haven’t updated the blog today. Two: It’s Saturday, I’m lazy and hungry.  So I put on my thigh high yellow galoshes and dredged through the internet, risking life and limb (or at least sanity) to bring YOU a collection of cool TF:2 map mods.

Behold!

Ever wonder how Mario must have felt in the original Donkey Kong? What with barrels flying at his head and small fire demons jumping out of oil barrels to kill him? Wonder to no more, my friends.

Continuing the Nintendo theme, here we have a Bomberman map. Not for the claustrophobic, I assure you. The walls man, the walls are closing in on me!!

For those of you that need your World of Warcraft fix but your 3 vs. 3 team is taking a break to eat or clean the house or do homework, hop on this mod. Maybe you’ll actually win since you won’t be against a paladin, paladin, druid group.

And these are just the one I found entertaining or well done. The list goes on; albeit with a disproportionately Nintendo slant. There’s a Pokemon map and a Pac-Man map. Then there’s the pirate map, the “Prison Break” map, and a Halo map. Honestly I could keep ranting indefinately; typing in TF:2 custom maps into Youtube gives you a deluge of videos both awesome and crap.

So enjoy, generic internet

Like Herding Cats: Trying to Keep Tabs on April 1st Pranks

Ah, April 1st. The day when those of us that have a concept of things like “dates” and “pranks” take advantage of the gullible and the calendar challenged. But none of that for me today thanks. Instead I’ve decided to take a look at some of the video game prankery and shenanigans spreading throughout the internet today. And believe me, there was so much to shift through already that my brain hurts. Let’s get to it shall we?

First up, we’ve got this gem by IGN. They announced this morning that they had been given leaked information on the next GTA. Grand Theft Auto: Harbor City which was to take place in Australia. The link to the story can be found here. After the over the top Zelda movie trailer (below) from last year, this was subtle enough that some might be able to believe it. Well played IGN.

Next up we have gaming console giant Microsoft. Footage and a new commercial were shown this morning for the sure fire hit music game, Apline Legend. Taking the fun and popular genre of yodeling to the next level, players can sing or play the tri-horn. Want to yodel with friends? Apline Legend is a two player co-op; either local or over Xbox Live. See the trailer!

Hideo Kojima, the mastermind behind the Metal Gear series, is a regular on the video game prank circuit.  Last year he played with the hearts of MSG fanboys everywhere by ‘leaking’ exclusive footage of the then highly anticipated (but not yet released) MSG4. The video from last year is below.

This year, Kojima and his team continue to taunt MSG fans by releasing a CG trailer for the next entry in the Metal Gear franchise. Unfortunately this trailer is SO new I can’t even find the link on YouTube yet. So the link is here. I don’t want to spoil the awesome for you but go watch it. Seriously. Now. The blog will still be here.

Back? Okay good. I know I’d pay to play that game. But I digress. Back to the tomfoolery!

What April Fool’s would be complete without and entry from Blizzard’s flagship MMO, World of Warcraft? This year they’ve once again managed to make their prank obvious to those that remember the day and subtle enough that tomorrow you’ll have one poor sod of a friend who is giddy that THIS is going to be in the next patch. Honestly, you’d think after the wil’o’wisp as a playable race prank a few years back, people would start to piece the puzzle together.

Not everyone this year is trying to pull one over on gullible consumers though. Take the game news and review site GameSpot for example. There page today is riddled with April Fool’s Day articles but none but the most pathetic of us would take them for anything than what they really are. From the new Bioshock spin-off for the Wii, to the violent hostile takeover of Sega, to Umbrella asking for a government handout, GameSpot is doing its best to have a more tongue-in-cheek satire than full blown “GOTCHA!” Some are more clever than others but they’re definitely worth checking out for a chuckle.

These are just the ones I found at 9 am CST this morning. I’m sure that by now there are dozens more floating around, clogging up the interwebs tubez. If you see one that you loved, or hated, that isn’t displayed here please feel free to leave a link to it in the comments!

Also, I know that this day isn’t for everyone. Some people just don’t like to participate in the active deception of others. These are usually the same people that believe everything they read about Bat Boy. But still, do you love April Fool’s Day or hate it?

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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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Indiana Jones Game Reappears

Hey, remember when Lucas Arts announced they were in the process of making a new Indiana Jones game for the next generation consoles? No? Well that’s probably because it was all over the internet. In 2006. The game was supposed to be developed using the Euphoria engine (same as used in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed) and bring realism in killing Nazi’s to a whole new level. Originally it was slated for release on the Xbox 360 and PS3. Here, watch a clever promotional video for it…

So, it looked kind of cool. Very rough graphically but hey, it was 2006 and in alpha so I’ll cut it some slack. And then things went quiet. Too quiet. Then rumors started bubbling up that the game had been canceled, the team dispersed and the our dreams of playing as a non-Lego form of Indy dashed.

But wait! There is hope. Recently Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings has been buzzing around the video game blogosphere. There was even a neat teaser trailer for it…here.

Hold it! On the Wii? And Playstation TWO, not three? And the DS and PSP? No 360 love? Or gameplay shown in the trailer? What the hell is going on here? Time to dig around.

Okay, so there are screenshots available at the official website and two videos, neither of which feature gameplay. That doesn’t bode well. Game info is also available though no explanation for the change in direction of the game is given.

This news is baffling. Even though Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was almost universally panned by critics, it did gross over $700 million worldwide. You’d think LucasArts would want part of that pie. Of course, insiders are denouncing the rumors that the 360 and PS3 version have been canned but usually when a game goes to ground for this long, its chance of reaching consumers is nil.

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