Battle Slots!

I am a sucker for these puzzle-RPG mashup games and Battle Slots fits that genre perfectly. You battle! With slots! Plus, I like it because once, when I was in Atlantic City, I fought off an orc invasion with a Dolphin Treasure, multiline slot machine. Thragnar the Magnificent was all like “ARRGGHHH!!” and was all like, five wild suns bitch! Cha-ching!

Battle Slots is set to release this year although no release date is given.

Goodbye Old Friend

No High Scores

On Sunday the 3DS will be released and my time with my DSi will come to a close. Oh sure, I’ll still have it, but unless the tales of poor DS game performance on the 3DS are right on the money, my DSi will go to my kids, same as my DS did. It seems silly to be melancholy over a console, but so much of my gaming life has been wrapped up in this little machine these past years, I can’t help it…

Oddly enough, when the DS was first announced, way back in 2004, I honestly didn’t see the point of it. I’d had a Nintendo handheld since the GameBoy Color and absolutely loved my GBA SP, but a big honkin’ handheld with two screens? Come on. Who needs two screens? Who needs a touch screen? Buttons are fine!

And so I passed it up, thinking it was all just a silly gimmick. Sure, I’d see it in the GameStop and play around with it from time to time, and I absolutely hated the Metroid Prime Hunters demo, no doubt because I was an idiot as I ended buying the game. As a result I didn’t have the desire to buy one until Nintendogs. Yes, Nintendogs.

I have two dogs and they’re both pretty dang old, old back then too and the ability to play with spry, young puppies tugged at my heartstrings. I love my dogs, but sometimes I miss when they were young, excitable puppies, no doubt because I was a bit of a young, excitable pup back then too. Here though was a game that let me play with puppies, dress them up in outlandish outfits and best of all, I didn’t have to clean up poop, pay exorbitant vet fees or arrange for a petsitter every time we wanted to travel. Talk about a win-win. And so, in August of 2005, when Nintendogs launched, I bought my first DS.

I forget how clunky the original DS was with its strange bevels and odd coloring. It was so much bigger and weighed so much more than my GBA SP yet didn’t have the sexy sleekness of my PSP. Like, remember how the original DS had that thumb-stylus thing you could use? I miss that thing. For reference here’s an excerpt from a piece I wrote about the DS back when I first got it, when I was young and in love:

They’re both pretty much the same size, which means you need cargo pants to carry them around in, or those crazy-big hip-hop jeans that all the kids seem to like. They are handheld in that they can be held in your hands, but so can a watermelon and I wouldn’t want to carry that damn thing around all day. Having some sort of case is essential for both, if only to carry the unit and the games. For the PSP it’s a goddamn imperative because that screen attracts scratches like monkeys attract things that like monkeys.

At the time I got my DS, I had a PSP as well and the drought of PSP games made the DS a no-brainer. That’s a trend that would continue for some time as the DS quickly eclipsed the PSP both in my heart and in my free time. Eventually I would trade in my PSP for my Xbox 360 if memory serves me correctly while I kept my DS until the DS Lite was released.

Through the years with my DS, I had all manner of awesome gaming and personal experiences with it. I remember sitting up at two in the morning, in a hotel room in Yaroslavl, Russia, jet lagged and exhausted yet unable to sleep as I waited with my wife to adopt our daughter the next day. At 2 AM there’s not much on TV, even less when you don’t understand Russian and you can only read so much before even that gets boring. To pass the time I played my DS, specifically Trauma Center: Under the Knife. By the end of my time with that game, I hated it, in part because of the difficulty of the final surgery, in part because it represented sleepless nights in a foreign place, both tired and scared of what was to come.

The DS led to the DS Lite and eventually the DSi and over the course of time, the console grew to become my favorite console ever. I would leave home with it in my work bag, play it at lunch, bring it home and then play it while watching TV. Sometimes, as with Puzzle Quest, I played it in bed. I’m sure my wife hates the damn thing, but I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I loved being blown away by games like The World Ends With You and Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes. I loved that I wrote my first GameShark review (Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom) for a DS game and wrote more reviews for the platform than any other. What had started out as a purchase made to interact with make believe puppies became a source of revenue, a source of amusement and a constant companion.

Sure, I have had great gaming experiences on other platforms. I still remember playing Icewind Dale with a party made from my take on the fantasy version of the characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I remember fondly the Friday nights of system link Halo in my basement. More recent forays into co-op and achievement hunting with Petey and Hodge have made my 360 so important in my house I got another one to keep in a different room, but as my time with the DS went on, it became my favorite console, a title it holds to this day. In fact, early on in the life of Jumping the Shark, I remember saying the DS was my favorite console and Todd saying he didn’t consider handhelds consoles and I remember being surprised. How can you not consider this, one of the greatest gaming machines of all time a console? What it lacked in size or processing power, it made up for in heart.

And maybe that’s why I loved it so much, because it was never as pretty or as powerful or as sexy as the consoles around it yet it performed admirably and consistently. It was fun to be around and a joy to experience even if it wasn’t the best or the brightest. For someone like me, who has never been the best, nor the brightest at anything, it was hard not to fall in love with such a plucky little thing, and be happy for its success as it steamrolled everything else around it.

It’s silly to invest emotion into these material things as to the people that make them, they’re more representative of numbers on a balance sheet than they are human experiences and had the DS flopped, for all that I loved it, Nintendo would have done away with it and tried again. However it didn’t flop, it succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations and that success allowed it to stay around and give me more wonderful gaming experiences as the years went on.

So yeah, I’m sad to see it go and sure, I could skip the 3DS and stick with my DSi if I wanted to. I still have Radiant Historia to finish and 999 to finish and so much of Pokemon White to experience, not to mention whatever DS games are still to come as the system winds down, but eventually it will come to an end. The 3DS is here and soon the DS won’t be. My kids will have my old ones and I’ll have my 3DS with all of its cool, new technology, and a copy of Nintendogs, to bring it full circle. Still though, I’ll miss my DS and the times I had with it. It was a good machine and it served me well and so much of my life has been wrapped up in it these past years that it’s like a little piece of me is moving on too.

So farewell DS. Farewell and thank you. I’ll always remember what we had together.

I have been, and always shall be, your friend.

New Trailer for The First Templar

A lot of hit and miss in that trailer. I do like that it’s co-op, though. I played a very early build of this and it had a ways to go so hopefully the additional development time helped.

PR ahead:

Kalypso Media USA, Inc. is pleased to release a new trailer for The First Templar, their upcoming third-person cooperative action game. The trailer showcases some of the game’s furious combat and diverse environments. The First Templar is set for a May 10 release in North America on the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC, and features drop-in cooperative play, a historically inspired game world and a mix of puzzle and combat-based gameplay. For more information about The First Templar, please visit www.kalypsomedia.com.

Follow the path of two heroes on their search for the Holy Grail. The young French Templar Celian teams up with the noble lady and proclaimed heretic Marie to unveil a conspiracy within the Order of the Knights Templar. The heroes face opponents at every turn including the Saracen, King Philip of France and the Holy Inquisition. The First Templar offers a captivating campaign that can be enjoyed alone or cooperatively with a friend. When playing solo, the player can switch freely between the two characters, leaving the control of the second hero to the game’s AI. At any time, a second player may join in and take control of the second hero.

Gothic 4 Legal PR Weirdness

I receive a lot of press releases. Some of them I post, most of them I read (skim) and some are just plain weird and I feel compelled to share them with you.

This is one of those times. This is the press release from Dreamcatcher and JoWood, in its entirety:

DreamCatcher Games and JoWooD announce the delay of the add-on “ArcaniA – Fall of Setarrif.” The legal background of the official add-on to “ArcaniA – Gothic 4” is unclear and diverse legal positions with the BVT fund that financed the main game are present.

“It’s uncertain whether the game can be released onto the market in its current form”, explains Stefan Berger, Business Development Manager JoWooD, “Of course this must be investigated and settled before the release – unfortunately”.

Due to this fact JoWooD officially announces, that the release of the Add-On has been set on hold and will be delayed indefinitely for now.

**

So there’s that.

Hey Look! Space Marines!

I have to admit, this is pretty funny considering the David Cage article.

What’s important, though, is that Space Marine looks sweet. Give me a chainsword, point me to the Orks and the Chaos Marines and let me have at it. Done and done.

The news here is that the game will in fact include Chaos and not just the greenskins.

PR ahead and man it’s going to pain me to edit this one but that’s me — I’m a pro.

THQ today announced that the single-player campaign for its upcoming 3rd Person Action/Shooter, Warhammer® 40,000®: Space Marine®, will not only feature the brutal and feral Orks, but also the dark and sinister forces of Chaos.

(In all seriousness I question how much hyperbole is really there. Chaos is pretty damn dark and sinister. I need a ruling on this one.)

Space Marine puts players into the role of one of humanity’s elite soldiers, as they battle to protect an Imperial Forge World from a millions-strong Ork invasion. But this isn’t all that faces Captain Titus of the Ultramarines. The addition of Chaos forces adds more variety to the Space Marine single-player campaign by complementing the animalistic and horde-like Orks with a much more powerful and strategic enemy. While Titus can dispatch dozens of Orks alone, the Chaos Space Marines are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with him, especially with the support of Renegade Militia, Tainted Psykers and Bloodletter Daemons, among other units.

Set in the rich Warhammer 40,000 universe created by Games Workshop®, Space Marine is scheduled to be released worldwide for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC in August 2011.

**

If this game ends up sucking I will be mad all through Christmas. Bank that.

Stronghold 3 Delayed Until "Summer"

I loved the original Stronghold. A game with castle building, resource management, bare bones combat and the ability to douse enemies in oil, it was quite the PC strategy hit back in 2001. The games in this series have gotten progressively worse over the years so I’m clearly in the “show me” camp when it comes to Stronghold 3. It does look pretty though.

So maybe this delay isn’t a bad thing — at least that’s the angle Southpeak is taking.

“The release window has been pushed back to include a host of great new features that will ensure Stronghold 3 truly is the king of the castle.”

I’d like more specifics as to what’s being “included” and not the usual PR lingo (king of the castle, come on people…)

“We want to make sure fans get the game they want and deserve,” said Stronghold 3’s designer Simon Bradbury. “Although some may be disappointed the game isn’t coming out as soon as they expected, we’re sure they won’t be disappointed with the new elements we’re adding to the franchise, to make this the best Stronghold yet.”

So the delay is likely because the game isn’t good enough yet — and they all know it. This isn’t necessary a bad thing as delays like this can sometimes greatly benefit a game or it can simply prolong the inevitable.

We’ll find out this summer, as I truly do hope this one turns out well.

Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime Available Now

I still have a soft spot for Ghostbusters.

It’s a weakness, I know.

PR ahead…

Atari announced today the release of the first ever Ghostbusters digital title, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime. In conjunction with Sony Pictures Consumer Products, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is now available on Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®Network, and Windows PC Download at Steam and Atari.com.

Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is a four player, ghost busting adventure that will take players on a brand new gaming experience. Players will suit up with their proton packs and assume the role of a rookie hired by the Ghostbusters to save New York City from a disaster of ghoulish proportions in either single player, or cooperative (online or local).

The action-packed gameplay progresses as players explore a series of haunted environments that must be cleared of any ectoplasmic threats. The gripping adventure rages on as players encounter bosses that require a concentrated effort to defeat using a medley of highly destructive weapons including the Proton Stream, Plasma Inductor, and the Fermion Shock. The rookie Ghostbusters will face the dangers of the eerie world alone or with a ghost busting team of friends both locally or online through the game’s multiplayer capability.

Developed by Behavior Studios, Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime carries a suggested retail price of $9.99. For more information, please log onto www.atari.com or www.atari.com/gbsanctumofslime/

David Cage Speaks for Everyone

Wow. Give a guy an award and he goes all “This is how it’s done!” on everyone.

If you don’t know who David Cage is, it’s ok. He founded Quantic Dream, the company which developed the game Heavy Rain, a wildly original thriller about a missing child. A game filled with great ideas and lackluster execution. It sold a lot of copies and apparently gives David Cage the stones to tell everyone else to get on the story train.

In a story posted at The Guardian, Cage starts off reasonable enough.

“…games always explore the same things. They’re about being powerful, being the good guys against the bad guys – that’s a very tiny part of what can be done. There are so many other stories to tell, so many other emotions to trigger – this is a fantastic new medium, we can do much more than we currently do with it.”

I wouldn’t say “always” but the point is a fair one. We certainly do overuse genres, settings, mechanics, etc. It’s a play it safe industry we live in but I do wish we saw a bit more outside the box development from large studios. Of course the reason we see this is because publishers are in the business of making money and risky designs are just that — risks. Still, good point, thanks Mr. Cage, congrats on the BAFTA story award and we’ll see you next year.

Oh, you’re not done talking. Ok…

“In Europe, we are not as easy to satisfy; being given a gun to hold is not necessarily enough in a game. But it’s not just in Europe, I hear many developers in the US saying the same thing – ‘look, I’m 40, I’m fed up of writing games where you shoot at everyone. It was fun when I was twenty but now I want to do something else. I don’t watch the same movies as I did when I was 20, I don’t listen to the same music, but I’m still making the same games!’ Developers are fed up – they want to talk about their families, politics, whatever – why not in a game? Why not?! There is no reason.”

Developers want to talk about their families — or is it that Cage wants to talk about his?

So, we Yanks are easy to please with drool cups tied around our collective necks and all one need do is slap a firearm in our hand and we’re good to go like Rooster Cogburn on a three day bender? And hell I’m 39 and still listen to The Beatles and they broke up by the time I was born! And when I was 20 it was 1992, and A Few Good Men came out and I’m telling you I’d watch that movie tonight if I had the DVD, which for some reason, I do not. (I would not, for the record, watch Wayne’s World ever again. Cage may have a point on that one.)

But we all know this is silly.

There are numerous games, great ones, that are made by both European and American developers that have nothing to do with shooting someone. There are myriad of creative gems in this industry. Enough of them? That’s certainly a debate worth having but to pigeonhole gamers and developers is just pointless blathering. Cage knows this. He has to, right? I think we all agree that we see too many recycled gameplay mechanics and we have certainly fought World War II in every way imaginable but the day people stop buying these games, I suppose they’ll stop making them.

Cage continues:

“It is the one I was dreaming of. I worked so hard on the story, and it’s the first I ever wrote that was based on something personal. It was not about space marines fighting aliens, it was about my relationship with my first son and how he changed my life – and also about how loving someone without expecting anything in return was something totally new.”

“There should be more people trying this,” he continued. “Don’t write about being a rookie soldier in WWII, because you don’t have a clue what that’s like. Talk about yourself, your life, your emotions, the people around you, what you like, what you hate – this is how the industry will make a huge step forwards. I’m fed up with space marines.”

It sounds like we need to see developers making games about personal stuff and if you don’t know what it’s like to be a pilot, warrior, samurai, alien, or soldier then you ought not to make the game. Escapism will always be — and should be — part of a game.

And I have to ask — does David Cage know what it’s like to be a serial killer? His game certainly delves into that a great deal. Does he know what it’s like to have to do a strip tease for a mobster, or what it’s like to fight off a homicidal, drill wielding maniac? Or what it’s like to be addicted to VR to the point where you have real life hallucinations? This is all in Heavy Rain, so I’m assuming Cage is an expert on the topics.

I don’t want to play a game about a developer’s family who hates that he works 90 hour weeks, gets crap pay, works in a cube all week and then gets fired after his game is released.

But Space Marines? Cage dare rag on the mighty Space Marines? He does realize, of course, who created the Space Marines?

Hint: It wasn’t an American.

Look, the idea behind a game like Heavy Rain is great. I’d love to see better storytelling in games (although we can also debate the quality of storytelling in Heavy Rain, BAFTA Award or not) — especially in role-playing games where I still feel the stories are boring, tired, and cliched to the point of exhaustion. You don’t need to have a modern day “This is Your Life” story design to do what Cage is talking about. You can certainly add these ideas to other genres — even ones with, gasp, aliens and space marines and rookie soldiers fighting in Africa against Rommel.

But can’t a fella just win an award and go home and celebrate without calling out the entire industry in which he works? Worry about your next game Dave.

Ok, who is up for shooting some zombies!

Dead Island Not Heavy Rain With Zombies

No High Scores

Remember that awesome Dead Island trailer? The one with piano music and the frantic zombie killing and the dead kid and all of that raw emotion? Yeah, well the game that trailer is representing is more like Borderlands than Heavy Rain. Yes! Borderlands! You know, the game with a boss that has three testicles? In an interview with CVG, Dead Island producer Sebastian Reichert said that being compared to Heavy Rain after the trailer dropped was “awful” and that their game is more like Borderlands in how it keeps players playing than a game like Heavy Rain. He also had an interesting comment about DVD menus having more gameplay than Heavy Rain. What a jokester! I think by now we can safely say that the Dead Island trailer has absolutely nothing in common with how the game is shaping up other than that it has zombies, takes place on a resort island and has the name “Dead Island” on it. Interesting marketing strategy, that.

Seen at CVG.

Android App For AR Cards

No High Scores

Come with me, dear reader on a terrifying journey of misplaced items. You buy your 3DS, get ready for some hot augmented reality action and horror of horrors, your cards are gone! All of them! Missing! What will you do now? How will you put Link hats on your puppies? How will you make a dragon sprout out of your kitchen table? HOW? Well, if you have an Android phone, you download the handy 3DS AR Card App and all is well again. Phew! Crisis averted! The app contains all of the AR cards that come with the 3DS meaning you’ll never be without them again. Unless you lose your phone at which point there’s no hope for you.