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.

Bioshock 2 Multiplayer Unveiled

Mr. B, Mr. B....Big Sister doesn't want you playing with me.

Mr. B, Mr. B....Big Sister doesn't want you playing with me.

Apparently 2K heard that yesterday was my birthday…because they finally leaked out details of the closely guarded Bioshock 2 multiplayer component. Just for me! Aren’t you all grateful to me now? 😛

There had been speculation that players would be set upon each other as Big Daddies or Big Daddies vs. players or even a compliment to the single player story where the second player would take over control of the Little Sister (Super Mario Galaxy style). The reality is that none of those theories were true. Luckily for us, the truth is far more badass. At least if you’re as obsessed with learning as much about any fake society as I am.  Side note: I’d be perfectly content with an entire game that just let me explore the history and lore of any fantasy universe, completely sans action. Yes. I’m that sad.

In multiplayer mode, players will be transported back in time; to the very beginning of the end for Rapture. According to 2K:

…assume the role of a Plasmid test subject for Sinclair Solutions, a premier provider of Plasmids and Tonics in the underwater city of Rapture that was first explored in the original BioShock. Players will need to use all the elements of the BioShock toolset to survive as the full depth of the BioShock experience is refined and transformed into a unique multiplayer experience that can only be found in Rapture.

Key features:

• Evolution of the genetically enhanced shooter– Earn experience points during gameplay to earn access to new Weapons, Plasmids and Tonics that can be used to create hundreds of different combinations, allowing players to develop a unique character that caters to their playing style.

• Extend the Rapture fiction– Players will step into the shoes of Rapture citizens and learn more about the fall of Rapture as they progress through the experience.

• See Rapture before the fall– Experience Rapture before it was reclaimed by the ocean and engage in combat over iconic environments in locations such as Kashmir Restaurant and Mercury Suites, all of which have been reworked from the ground up to deliver a fast-paced multiplayer experience.

• FPS veterans add their touch to the multiplayer experience– Digital Extremes brings more than 10 years of first person shooter experience including development of award-winning entries in the Unreal® and Unreal Tournament® franchise.

I get to play as a crazy, Adam addict? Fighting other crazy Adam addicts for space and supplies? In a fully functioning, non decrepit Rapture?! From the guys that did the Unreal Tournament franchise?! Glee!!

Best.

Birthday

Ever.


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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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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