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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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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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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Atlus Holds “Steal Princess” Hostage

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Really, really long ago, there was an evil Demon King. He was evil. Really, really evil. And he did a lot of really, really evil things to a lot of people who didn’t deserve it.

But then the Hero appeared. (Applause!) He defeated the evil Demon King, and everything was good. Really, really good.

But now, centuries later, a new evil has appeared. It’s another demon, not quite as evil as the previous one, but still quite noticeably evil. And he wants to unlock the old Demon King’s power, so he can become even MORE evil.

Does anyone have the courage to stand up to this new evil? Unfortunately, no. However, a lone thief has been volunteered to rid the land of this demon and his minions.

She’s a little reluctant and a little lazy, but she’s ALLLLLL Hero!

No, I didn’t write that. o_O

The above is the official plotline of the new Atlus game for the Nintendo DS. Steal Princess somehow slipped under my radar. I knew it existed and that it was supposed to be quirky and fun (two things that instantly draw me to DS titles) but then I got distracted by my attention span of a fruit fly. But no more!

Steal Princess is a 3-D puzzle platformer with a twist. Instead of the usual save the princess mechanic, you’re playing as a reluctant female thief (or Steal Princess…get it? Ha ha.) who is tasked with saving the kingdom’s prince. Yay feminism? The game has over 150 levels of play, an array of items to collect and utilize and enemies based on the elements to kill. Unlike Pokemon though, where each type is damaged by its opposite, in Steal Princess the creatures can only be hurt by the SAME type. So say you have a flame kobold. Water won’t hurt it but fire will.

But the really cool thing about Steal Princess is the mapmaker. If 150 levels isn’t enough for you, make your own.  As you progress through the game, you will gain access to everything you’ve seen. Use it to create an unlimited number of combinations and then challenge your friends through the DS Wi-Fi capabilities. Or take it to the next level and create something so epic that you become famous throughout the DS world.

Originally slated to be coming out April 21st, the game has unfortunately been pushed back to May 19th. But Atlus has sweetened the news by promising a mini-poster with beautiful art inspired by the game for anyone that pre-ordered Steal Princess or picks it up at launch. And some of the marketing artwork is stunning. This isn’t the mini-poster but the artwork will probably be similar to this style.

steal_princess_touzoku_oujo_ds_17848

But why are they delaying the game you ask? Well, it’s not buggy or anything. An Atlus spokesperson tried to shed some light:

Releasing a few weeks later gives us more time to familiarize gamers with this creative, original title,” stated Tim Pivnicny, VP of Sales and Marketing at Atlus. “Because Steal Princess will be available through fewer sales channels and in smaller quantities than other Atlus releases, finding the optimal launch conditions is critical to ensuring that this daring new release avoids getting lost in an already busy April.

So spread the word people, lest they decide to hold this game hostage to their marketing ploy indefinitely.

Steal Princess has been rated “E10” for Everyone 10 and older with Language, Mild Fantasy Violence, and Suggestive Themes by the ESRB.

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Square Enix Has Gone Country…

…or at least that’s what the first half of their new game trailer had ME believing.

(Sorry about the poor quality but other than their Website, Square hasn’t released the trailer officially as far as I could tell)

Of course, about halfway through the trailer for Final Fantasy: The Crystal Bearers (CB), the music and footage reverts back to standard Square. Honestly I’m not sure what to make of this video.

The original Final Fantasy: The Crystal Chronicles (CC) was released on the Nintendo Gamecube. An experiment in repetition and forcing you to make friends with people that owned GBA’s, the game was nevertheless unique.

In the story, the entire (unnamed) world is covered in deadly miasma. Even touching it can kill you. Luckily for the inhabitants there are crystals powered by myrrh that protect them and their cities. Unluckily, the myrrh runs out every year. So caravans, apparently comprised of adults except for your heartless town that sends out kids, traverse the landscape with a chalice (that also conveniently keeps the deadly miasma at bay) looking for enough myrrh for another year. Less Final Fantasy and more Gauntlet, the game was a hack n slash dungeon that sent you out over and over and over until your eyes bled. Up until that point though, it was fun.

However the new game, scheduled for the Wii, doesn’t appear to have much in common with its predecessor. Where CC relied entirely on multiplayer (playing single player was one of the more excruciating Gamecube experiences), other than a showing two people riding on Chocobos for a split second, nothing in the CB trailer looks like multiplayer.

Not much to go on in the press release either. According to Square Enix:

The upcoming FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: THE CRYSTAL BEARERS provides a fresh take on the FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES series as it combines the storytelling depth, expansive world and graphical quality of FINAL FANTASY with motion-driven, real-time action gameplay.

No release date, no whiff of multiplayer, no indication that you’ll be forced you use your DS or DSi as a means to play the game. Hopefully Square will start filtering down more information about the two former and be smart and not require the latter. If any of you have more information (or a direct link to higher quality trailer), please let me know.

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House of the Dead: Overkill

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For me, the House of the Dead series has always been judged by its own set of standards. Being a rail shooter of dubious plot and even worse character development, it would be unfair in my mind to compare it to juggernauts Resident Evil or Silent Hill. But coupling zombies that fall from the sky in droves with arcade guns and a few friends always made up for the lack of depth.

So when we put Overkill into the Wii last night, my expectations were exceedingly low. After all, it was a rail shooter on the Wii. Now I love my Wii, but M-rated games just aren’t its scene. Choosing the two player campaign, I played Agent G (the staple character in this series) and my husband picked up Detective Washington, a new character to the lexicon. The following is the intro that greeted us. WARNING: Extremely adult language.

Holy shit! This game’s opening line is “Wassup motherfucker.” And it just gets better from there. House of the Dead: Overkill embraces its “M” rating better than any game I can remember playing on a Nintendo system. Or any other system really. Fuck is said in one form or another so many times that House of the Dead: Overkill was recently given the Guinness Book of World Records award for most profanities used in a video game. To be specific, 189 or almost one F-bomb per minute.

Split into mini-movies instead of chapters (like Left 4 Dead) Overkill takes you through classic horror movie areas such as the plantation house, the carnival and the hospital. Along the way, it subverts or lampoons pretty much everything in the genre from creepy Asian ghost girls to the thing from Total Recall to Left 4 Dead’s helicopter rescue. Complementing this the whole time is the kitschy 70’s soundtrack and poor audio, the intentionally profane and poorly written dialogue and of course, tons and tons of zombies. Excuse me, mutants. (There is an ongoing debate between the two characters as to which these are.) Overkill’s style was very reminiscent of the recent “Grindhouse” movie by Quentin Tarantino.

All the bells and whistles are there, but of course the gameplay is essential. Overkill is your standard rail shooter here. Unload your clip into the bad guys, shoot off screen to reload, repeat. There is also the staple House of the Dead “Save the civilian by killing the things attacking her”. On top of these, the developers threw in a few extras to beef things up. Throughout each chapter there are golden brains to collect, and little green swirlies to shoot. If you manage to hit them, the game goes into “bullet time” making it easier to shoot the zombies…er, mutants. And even as a rail shooter, you are constantly looking behind you for enemies and ducking to avoid explosions and boss mutants.

That’s not to say the game doesn’t have its drawbacks. The pistol is still the preferred weapon of choice in the game since the shotgun is both slow and occassionally erratic. And don’t get me started on the sub-machine gun. If I unload an entire clip into a mutants head, it should bloody well die! Because it is a rail shooter, seeing the health pack/golden brain/green swirly in time can be difficult. I suggest utilizing a third “player”, usually a non-gaming friend that likes to watch, to keep an eye out for these things for you. We also encountered one glitch, where upon killing the boss of the level his minions continued to beat on us (albeit without doing damage) for about fifteen seconds. Standard for the House of the Dead series, the game is very short but beating it unlocks Director’s Cut mode which is bascally the Hard mode and several different minigames. There is also incentive to go back and earn more money to get new weapons and upgrade current ones.

Any of these negatives are glossed over and forgotten though by the campy and extremely amusing cut scenes, dialogue and even the hilarious lyrics to the soundtrack. This official prequel to the original House of the Dead not only exceeded my expectations with flying colors, but I feel reinvigorated the rail shooter genre. If you’ve been waiting for the Wii to grow up and speak your language, they couldn’t have given you a  more perfect game.

House of the Dead: Overkill is rated M for Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language and Sexual Themes

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