Calendar Man – Week of 6/20

Wait a minute! How can I be doing a Calendar Man when I’m on vacation? Magic! Well, magic and future posting. Due to the fact that this column was written before the Sunday ads came out, the deals section is going to be limited. Sorry kids, but you’ll have to do some deal hunting of your own this week.

There’s actually a fair amount of stuff coming out this week with Dungeon Siege making its return, Shadows of the Damn making its debut and F.3.A.R. 3 making the despoiling of anagrams its life’s mission. Oh, and I think there’s a Zelda remake or something out for the 3DS. If you listen closely, you can hear angels singing. Angels and people who have done nothing with their 3DS except gaze longingly at the 3D Pokedex.

Enough yammering. I’ve a beach to get to. Hit it!

New Releases
By the time you read this, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D will already be out, even earlier so for our European friends. I’m torn. I don’t like the idea of supporting remakes but everything I’ve read says it’s awesome. I don’t know. It’s not like the game is going anywhere. I think I have time to decide.

After the horrors of Daggerdale, I may have to give Dungeon Siege 3 a try. The achievements look annoying but early reviews are positive and I haven’t read anything about story crippling bugs, something you usually find in Obsidian games. This is right up my co-op alley, Earth Defense Force is fast approaching so this one may have to wait.

The garage of Cars 2 games come out this week, ushering in a new era of anthropomorphic vehicles. One has to wonder how the Cars got this way. Did they achieve sentience, rise up and kill off the humans, yet still keep human society intact or did they develop in a universe parallel to our own, completely devoid of human contact? These questions, and many others, keep me up at night.

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising is a new MMO that allows you to have minions, minions culled from both humans and mythological beasts. I gotta think there’d be some simmering tension there between the humans and the minotaurs, what with all of the stomping about and bullfighting. Good luck planning those trust building exercises.

Ubisoft won’t be content until our nations children are blind and bleeding from useless eye sockets. Why else would they release Petz Fantasy 3D for the 3DS? Oh sure, it looks like it’s just a harmless unicorn simulator, but that’s only until little Sally’s face melts off from the 3D. For shame Ubisoft!

Petz Fantasy 3D is unique because you use both hands, each with it’s own stylus! As someone who has a problem keeping one hand in check, I don’t see this working out well for me.

ArmA 2: Reinforcements adds Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and private military contractors to the Arma Universe, something the product description page puts in quotes, lest you think that Amazon knows of an alternate universe that this game is capable of dropping new life forms into all willy-nilly.

F.E.A.R. 3 is finally out, and Alma is about to have her baby. I hear the game starts off with a montage of the previous two F.E.A.R. games, all done to Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach”. She has made up her mind, she’s keeping her baby. She’s going to keep her baby.

Shadows of the Damned looks like a very strange game. I hope the strangeness doesn’t take away from the game play and focus too much on boner guns and surreal monsters. I’ll wait for the Barnes opinion on this one

As I’m writing these based off of ad scans from before the ads come out, be sure to confirm with the store before you raise a ruckus over a pricing gaffe.

Toys R Us – Get either Madden or Super Monkey Ball 3D for 15 bucks with purchase of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. Get Wii Flingsmash for ten bucks with purchase of WiiPlay Motion. Save $25 bucks on purchase of any DS system, Cars 2 DS and a Cars themed DS carrying case.

Target – Get a $25 gift card with purchase of 3DS. Purchase Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and save 50% off of any other 3DS game. Buy any Cars 2 game and get a movie ticket (up to $8.50) to see Cars 2.

Best Buy – Get all of the following games for $39.99 each: LA Noire, Mortal Kombat, Brink, TW PGA Tour 12 and Halo Reach. Get Dragon Age II for $34.99. Fallout: New Vegas is $19.99. Get a free $25 gift card with purchase of Kinect. Get a free $10 gift card with purchase of Dungeon Siege 3. Get $25 off of any 3DS game with purchase of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. Get a free 30 day membership to World of Cars with purchase of Cars 2. Looks like it’s just console versions for that last one, so be sure to check when you’re in the store.

Again, the deals section is shortened as I don’t have access to everything, but hopefully it’s enough. Enjoy your week! I’m off to the beach.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #76

No High Scores
Image: Filomena Scalise /

With E3 freshly behind us, we used this week’s Jumping the Shark to talk about E3 the show. What we liked about this year’s show. What we think is changing about it, for better or worse. Why you know more about what’s going on there if you just stay home. Etc. In the what we’re playing segment, Bill dispenses with Hunted, Brandon finds Greent Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters to be surprisingly enjoyable, Danielle digs out Costume Quest and Saints Row 2 from her back catalog, and I lament that my “early” copy of Dungeon Siege 3 refuses to install (due to a Steam activation issue)…

Direct Download
iTunes Link
RSS Feed
Past Episodes
(More E3 thoughts, and the embedded feed included after the break.)

For the first time in what feels like months I did a multi-track edit for this show, so if you notice an improvement in overall audio quality and polish, well, there you go. I truly would like to get back to editing this way more often, it always was the default, but when it comes down to it, it takes much more time and I seem to have precious little of that of late.

With regards to E3, the issue I keep coming back to is one of taking questions. It used to be you got a personal demo (hands on or otherwise) for most of the games you saw (assuming a press appointment, of course) and you could really interact with whomever was giving it, be that a developer or PR rep. This year the majority of stuff I saw was in the form of what I think of as the “herd demo,” where they bring in a mass of people, give them a narrated hands-off demo, and move ‘em on out in order to repeat it for the next throng.

I’m sure publishers and developers find this an efficient model, but it’s terrible for press coverage as you typically get either no opportunity at all to ask questions or you might be lucky enough to answer a question or two while they set up the next group. This does not lead to better coverage of E3, since the only thing that really can distinguish one site’s coverage form another’s is asking different questions that get reps off the script. Even when you can ask a question or two, half the time the answer is, “We’re not talking about that yet.” The bigger sites, particularly ones with a video team in tow, tend to get more opportunities to get people on the record, but when you’re there for a smaller site with a notepad and pen in your hand, it’s pretty clear the bigger publishers there want you to move on to the next thing.

Making press coverage all the more futile, we’re seeing more and more of these demos recorded and posted online for everyone to digest. That’s great for you guys in the sense that you do get to see what we see, but at that point, do we even need to be there? Are we anything more then stenographers desperately trying to find some kind of angle, some niggling detail in the background that everybody else somehow missed? Sadly, the answer is, “no.” It doesn’t stop me from having a fabulous time, because I go for the company and not the job, but it’s still unfortunate that the biggest players in this business have so little interest in anything but the safest of finely honed presentations.

AEG announces Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan

My press man over at AEG sent an item today announcing a game called Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan. Now, unless you’re talking Sho Kosugi, the word ninja for me has as much appeal as “zombie” or “pirate”. Which is to say, absolutely none. Don’t get me wrong, one of my childhood heroes (and Halloween costume ’86) was Storm Shadow, I got busted for having throwing stars at school, and I once fell out of a tree trying to use climbing claws. I do love ninjas, but they’re one of those things that people get dead wrong. Generally when they go for that damned nerd humour route whereby something dark and violent is juxtaposed with something innocent and/or cute.

Anyway it’s designed by Frederic Moyersoen, who’s done some great games in the past including this great stealth/hidden movement title called Nuns on the Run. This is one to watch- I like the cool, serious ninja theme and it’s tied into the popular Legend of the Five Rings setting. Releasing at Gencon, but widely available in October. Press and description follows.

Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan is a new board game coming from Alderac Entertainment Group. Designed by veteran game designer Fréderic Moyersoen, Ninja features fast play, hidden movement, limited information, bluff and guile. It is sure to challenge players and bring hours of enjoyment.

Ninja marks a major excursion of the vaunted Legend of the Five Rings property into a board game format. L5R, as it is called by its fans, has become a staple of hobby gaming over its 16 years, thanks in large part to its loyal and devoted fans. It has won numerous awards for both its collectible card game and its role-playing games versions, and the property has also spawned novels and a miniatures game. Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan brings the depth and detail of L5R’s fantasy samurai world to board gamers in a fast-playing exciting, and accessible manner.

The game centers around one very dangerous night at a castle in the provinces of the Lion Clan. Honorable Lion samurai stand vigilant watch around the castle, protecting it from harm. The Scorpion Clan sends one well trained ninja to infiltrate the castle for nefarious purposes… it may be to assassinate an imperial guest under the Lion’s protection, or poison the well, or steal the daimyo’s war plans for the coming season. Whatever the goal, the ninja has vowed to accomplish it, or die trying. Worse yet for the Lion Clan, the ninja has an accomplice: a traitor among the ranks of the Lion samurai whose true loyalty lies with the Scorpion.

The intruders move in secret, marking their positions on a small copy of the game board. They can move freely, but the faster they move, the easier they are to detect. Moats, walls, and most especially sentries all serve to hamper their movement. And if a guard stumbles across their position, the alarm will be raised!

The guards must listen for intruders, search the area, and rouse additional guards when they think there’s trouble.

All this is handled through the Alarm Level. As incidents occur, the Alarm Level rises, allowing the guard player to take more actions each turn. Over time, the Alarm Level gradually diminishes… until a new incident raises suspicions once more. All this is handled through card play, but deductive reasoning and intuition will also be required to find the intruders before they can complete their missions and escape.

Although time and numbers weigh in the guards’ favor, the intruders have tricks aplenty. Climbing ropes, shuriken, drugged sake, and other tricks will distract the guards… or eliminate them completely. But of course, each such action may raise the Alert Level, as well as give the guard player a clue to your location.

The guards have their own secrets, of course. The intruders don’t know the precise location of their mission targets, and while searching for them, they may stumble upon a nightingale floor that gives a telltale squeak, or even a hidden guard ready to slay any foe!

The game is designed for 2–4 players, and plays in less than an hour. With three players, one player handles the guards, one the traitor, and one the ninja (the intruders don’t have to cooperate, either). With 4 players, the guards are split into two teams, which has its own benefits and challenges.

Talking Smuggle Truck

Since we decided a while ago that it was ok to pimp our writing from other outlets here on No high Scores (we all came from the mothership, after all), I’m going to go right ahead and point you towards a feature I wrote for Kill Screen, which went live yesterday. For the piece, I interviewed the maker of Smuggle Truck – the iOS/PC game about driving illegal immigrants across border landscapes in a wacky, wobbly-physics world.

I think the biggest misconception when the game was revealed was that this was basically an offensive, racist pile of crap from a bunch of people who aren’t qualified to talk about the subject, but in reality, the game was made as a satire, based on a real-life experience that we couldn’t talk too much about, for fear that ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) could get upset…

I was very personally interested in this story from the get-go, for a variety of reasons. First, because I love satire – good satire that says something on one level and provides a ridiculous, hilarious picture on the surface. Second, because it’s just a damned good story – what Alex and friends went through is interesting, and the way they chose to deal with it is unconventional, creative, and thoroughly awesome. Finally, because I’m actually going to be making games of this nature not too long from now (games with a social message, that is) for my day job – and I want to see how it’s done (and done well).

Eventually, the Owlchemy guys even had to censor their own game, by creating “Snuggle Truck” – a version wherein the immigrant characters are replaced by cuddly stuffed animals. Again, I would have loved to dig even more deeply into that, but hey, they (very understandably) want to keep releasing games on Apple devices. I think they said everything they needed to with the switch of a letter and a sickeningly cute art change.

Bill Needs Vacation; (hopefully) Cheats Death

Today will be a very slow NHS day for me as tomorrow I catch a flight with Mama Abner and Daughter Abner to Salt Lake City. Upon landing we get a rental car and drive 4 hours to Jackson Hole where upon I will get into a large balloon and glide over the Grand Tetons for about an hour. For a guy who is a little fearful of heights…I’m a tick nervous.

Now I see this as a very different type of fear than, say, Todd’s irrational fear of spiders — especially digital spiders. You see, height fear makes sense to me because if you FALL…

Anyway, we have a plan to horseback ride, white water raft and hopefully avoid being eaten by a bear. We aren’t camping, we’re staying in a time share, which really I almost consider cheating — as I do love to go camping.

The point is that I will be gone all week, so there will be no Sunday Time Waster this week or next week (boo!) and you will be left in the capable hands of Todd, Mike, and Danielle starting Monday.

Just those three because Brandon’s leaving for Hilton Head.

See you all in a week.

Beta Test Ultima IV for the iPad

No High Scores

I make no bones about the fact that I consider Ultima IV one of the finest games of its time. But while I’m glad EA is making it available for free (via the recently launched, the chances of me burning off precious desktop PC gaming hours playing it are pretty slim. An iPad version, though? Now we’re talking. And that’s just what the xu4 project team is seeking beta testers for. If you’re interested (no jailbreaking required), check out the details at Ultima Aiera. (They’ve also got a separate page with more screenshots and a rather difficult to see video.) All in all, this looks promising!

Witcher 2 to Get Easier

No High Scores

According to yesterday’s story at Eurogamer, CD Projekt’s Senior Producer on Witcher 2, Tomasz Gop, has said they’re looking at easing up on the difficulty curve for the 360 version of the game (with some of those tweaks also being made available on PC). I’m good with that. On Normal the game is certainly playable, but it can be a real bear, even punitive at times, especially where some of the boss battles are concerned. A few weeks ago, on Jumping the Shark, I even noted that I’d like to see a difficulty mode put in between Normal and Easy because Easy is simple to the point of mindlessness. So what did Gop have to say?

“Definitely we are thinking about the easy mode. It should be easy.”

Guys, I applaud the thought, but if you made Easy mode any less difficult my cat could play the game and she’s been dead for three years.

Ken Levine Talks Bioshock Infinite

Ken Levine talks about the factions in Bioshock Infinite and you get a brief glimpse of the demo we saw at E3, sans the crazy roller coaster stuff.

Below is another Levine clip from earlier last week about the skylines…aka the crazy rollercoaster stuff we saw at E3. Both vids are worth a watch if for no other reason than to see a guy who has a very clear vision for the type of game he wants to make. Want to know why Irrational Games and Levine’s games in particular work as well as they do? These videos provide some insight.

Don't Shoot the Food – Green Lantern Pie Edition

No High Scores

I’ve been playing a lot of Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters for review purposes lately. It’s not a bad game. It takes wholesale from God of War and waters it down to be more kid friendly, but it’s competent at what it’s trying to do. As movie games go, it’s much better than what we usually get. As action games go, it’s pretty much middle of the road. Hey, look, I just saved you the hassle of reading my review.

Any way, playing GL got me thinking about green foods for this week’s column and as the only green things I could come up with were vegetables and Green Eggs and Ham, all seemed lost until I remembered Grasshopper Pie. Yes, I know, another pie. What can I say? I love pies and I love baking pies and Grasshopper Pie is not only very easy but it’s easily one of my favorites. It’s somewhat on the expensive side if you don’t already have creme de menthe or creme de cacoa, like I didn’t the first time I made it, but, the plus side is that once you have the liquor, you can make a whole bunch of pies, or a whole bunch of drinks, or a whole bunch of both. You don’t need to buy the green colored creme de menthe, as it comes in clear as well, but where’s the fun in that? Not only is that not very grasshopper-y, but it’s not very Green Lantern-y either.

Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

1. 1 large store bought graham cracker crust or home made graham cracker crust – I buy them from the store. I ain’t got time for all of this baking when there’s delicious, minty drinks to be consuming.
2. About a quart of vanilla ice cream
3. 1/4 cup whole milk
4. 5 cups mini marshmallows
5. 3 TBL creme de menthe
6. 2 TBL creme de cacoa
7. 1 1/4 cup cold heavy or whipping cream
8. 1/4 confectioners’ sugar

Cooking steps
1. Once you get your hands on a crust, refrigerate it until you need it.
2. Put the ice cream in the fridge for about 15 minutes to soften it up. Once the ice cream is soft, spoon it into the crust and press it in evenly. Be careful not to crack the crust. If you do, it’s not a total deal breaker, but presentation is everything! Smooth out the ice cream and then put the whole thing back in the freezer until the filling is done.
3. Find a metal bowl to use for making the whipped cream and place it, along with your beaters in the fridge or freezer.
4. Combine the milk and marshmallows in a large saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring frequently until the marshmallows are fully melted. Once everything is melted, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
5. Once the marshmallow mixture is cooled, stir in the creme de menthe and creme de cacao.
6. Using your chilled bowl and beaters, whip the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat well. You want the whipped cream to be stiff, but not taste like a mouthful of sand.
7. Fold the marshmallow-liquor mixture into the whipped cream and mix until fully incorporated. Have a taste. Go ahead, it’s ok. Minty, right? Well, don’t worry, it will mellow out over time.
8. Smooth your cream-marshmallow-liquor concoction over the top of the pie and freeze for at least three hours. I know waiting is tough, but this pie tastes much better the next day when the mint has had a chance to mellow out a bit. Plus, because it’s kept in the freezer, you don’t have to worry about anything getting soggy.

So there you have it, easy, minty, green, delicious. Hard to argue with such a mix.

I’m going to be on vacation next week, so you’ll be on your own in the kitchen for a week. Try not to burn the place down while I’m gone.

Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Annihilation Trailer