Archive for May, 2010

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“It’s-a me, Mario!”

May 25, 2010

We had a nice long weekend up here with the celebration of Victoria Day. Earlier tonight, I went over to my brother’s place to check out this new game he said his roommate just bought for his Wii. The game turned out to be Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Galaxy 2: Jump! Twist! Put on that bee costume! Here we goooooo!

Now, I’m no stranger to the Wii. My husband and I own one ourselves (though I mainly use it for Wii Fit games and Wii Sports Resort) and I’ve played a bit of Galaxy 1. The point is, I know my way around a Wii remote and nunchuk, but even then I found Super Mario Galaxy 2 extremely challenging! Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun in those few hours I spent with the game. I can’t recall the last time I’ve yelled “WHAT THE CRAP!”, “Wow, really?!” or “NOooOOoooOOoo!” so many times at a television screen…but in a good way (come on, I can’t be the only one who does that).

It is amazing to see how far video games have come. Every year, something is guaranteed to blow me away with its technological advancements and I’ve come to appreciate and even expect that. Still, something tugged at my heart while experiencing SMG2’s visuals and astonishing “physics”. Entertaining as it was, for some reason it also made me miss my Nintendo 64. After all, that was where our favorite Italian plumber made his 3D debut, even though he’s been around since the early 80’s and I still remember the old Game Boy games. I grew up with Mario and his Goomba stomping adventures pretty much, but around the time the N64 came out was when I started really getting into video games and stopped seeing them as just a fad.

Mario 64: Good times

Back then, Super Mario 64 presented its own brand of challenges, but it was intuitive and straightforward. Nothing compared to this running-upside-down, waving-my-arms-around-like-a-mad-woman kinda thing. Fun as hell, but like I said, some of the later stages of SMG2 are pretty difficult. I doubt my preteen self would have had the patience or coordination to handle it, but with technology moving forward, we can only expect games to become increasingly complex and have higher proficiency requirements. This isn’t a bad thing though, and I don’t want to make this post sound like I’m an old geezer lamenting for the good old days, but I am amazed sometimes when I think about how even the “kiddie” games like Mario are so much more complicated now than they were just a mere decade ago.

Aside from getting pissed off at myself for making many dumb mistakes (like stupidly stomp-jumping to my death when I actually meant to leap to another platform) there’s not much else to complain about. Galaxy 2 delivers a great gaming experience, and got my heart rate going tonight…again, in a good way!

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For The Love Of Denobulans

May 24, 2010

About a month ago, I set out to watch all the episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, and found that I really enjoyed the first couple of seasons. Every episode was a new story of exploration, diplomacy or combat, and I also liked seeing how things first got started, like how humankind first developed the warp engine. Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle of the third season, I started losing interest. I think in their attempts to dramatize the show, the producers went a little too far and took the series in a drastically different direction.

Also, the three main characters — Captain Archer, Trip and T’Pol — started wearing on me, and I found myself wishing there were more stories about the others, like my favorite character Dr. Phlox.

Even though I have mixed feelings about Enterprise, the good doctor has inspired me to look into having my own Denobulan in Star Trek Online. That’s how I came upon Star Trek Online: The Fans’ Site and their many Alien Creator tutorials. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Before this, I had no interest whatsoever in re-creating any of the existing Star Trek alien races in the game, but I have to say, their Denobulan that was added last week looks quite nice. Besides, I’m getting a little tired of my current Chief Medical Officer. Putting a reptilian with a head injury in charge of my crew’s health probably wasn’t a very good idea in the first place anyway.

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The Bestest Loading Screen Ever

May 23, 2010

Loading screens are a real pain in the butt, especially when they seem to chug along at a snail’s pace. But at least in Age of Conan, you get to look at some nice artwork. I am obsessed with this particular piece:

First of all, it’s a gorgeous piece of work and whoever painted it has got some real talent, but that’s not the only reason I like it. Every time it pops up, it makes me wonder just what the hell is going on. Okay, at first glance, a drunken brawl seems to be taking place. But then you’ve got these long, slim legs dancing on the table, and a guy sitting across from me pimping it up with a couple of wenches. They don’t seem to care all that much about the chaos happening around them, or notice that a hulking patron behind them is about to hurl a man at their heads.

Speaking of which, I love that look beardo’s giving me. I generally dislike scruffy-ness, and judging by the state of his matted hair I’m going to guess he hasn’t bathed in days — yet he still manages to look magnificently delicious. It’s gotta be the abs. But then, I’m also going to assume as the viewer I’m male here because that’s definitely a man-hand grasping that cup in the foreground…which begs the question, why is  it ME he’s undressing with those eyes when he’s surrounded by two scantily-clad women and a pair of sexy legs?

The REAL reason I love this image though, is the bar-stool-wielding woman on the left, whose enthusiasm I find both brassy and delightful. She is EXACTLY the kind of person I want my AoC character to be — a WWE wench.

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On iPhone Games And Apps

May 22, 2010

So, a while ago, I got myself an iPod Touch. I love the thing. I mean, it’s so small and thin and smooth, every time I hold it in my hand I get this weird urge to skip it across a lake. Anyway, the reason why I didn’t go with an iPhone was because I was perfectly happy with my Blackberry, and in any case, what I really needed first and foremost was a device that would serve as a dedicated music player. Anything more would just be gravy.

But that said, I’d be a fool if I didn’t take advantage of the many apps available. So far I’ve only downloaded a handful — mostly news apps but also a few social ones like Facebook so I can quickly scan the headlines or see what my friends are up to. What I’ve shied away from so far, believe it or not, are the games. I don’t know, somehow I’d convinced myself that trying to tap out a high score on a tiny screen just wouldn’t be my thing.

However, a couple days ago, both Biobreak and Scarybooster posted articles talking about iPhone games. Now normally, like Syp I’d rather just read a book (on the Kindle app!) if I ever found myself out somewhere waiting around with nothing else to do. But reading those articles got me thinking that maybe I should give iPhone games a try. I could download a few just to mess around with them, it couldn’t hurt. So, I went ahead and grabbed a bunch that looked interesting off the top 25  list in the free category.

Anyway, I played around with all the games, found that not surprisingly, some were more entertaining than others. I had fun, but in the end I just couldn’t get into any of them.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by years of gaming on computers and high-definition TVs. Or it could be the fact that the quality of free games is generally lower than that of the ones you have to pay for. Or maybe there’s just something wrong with me. I don’t know. After all, everyone else around me seems to like ’em. Even the simplest of games get a lot of love. My best friend is constantly obsessed over a high score for this iPhone game or that, my brother’s roommate apparently has a Doodle Jump addiction, and my husband could probably spend hours playing Paper Toss if I left him alone long enough with my iPod Touch.

For now, I’ll probably stick with my books. But I haven’t given up yet. I don’t doubt there’s probably an iPhone game out there just waiting to hook me, I probably just need to get schooled on what’s hot and what’s not. Scary seems to enjoy Angry Birds, and I imagine that’s gotta be a #1 game for a reason. Hey, for $0.99, maybe I’ll give that one a shot for my first paid game! I will also welcome any other suggestions — and not just games either, I’d love recommendations on cool apps just in general. Like I said, for the moment I’ve only experimented with a handful.

And speaking of cool apps — getting back into World of Warcraft led me to download the Mobile Armory. Damn, what a nifty MMO app, especially with this Remote Auction House thing that’s now in beta. I’m now pondering the mobile authenticator, even though I already have a regular one.

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Cue The Imperial March

May 21, 2010

Friday Star Wars: The Old Republic update — third issue of Blood of the Empire is  out.

Feeling Hoth Hoth Hoth

But of course, the really big news of the week is that yesterday, Hoth was confirmed as another planet. I had a feeling they weren’t done with those, and now I guess the people who were demanding an ice planet can finally be happy (well…I guess all except for those who were calling for Ilum).

Anyway, Hoth is great. But ever since I heard the news, I wondered how Bioware was going to justify its relevance in this time period, and I guess the term “starship graveyard” has a nice way of making me forget my doubts. And I’m just gonna go ahead and ask the question that’s on everybody’s mind: Can I has Tauntaun mount, please?

The Hoth announcement is also Bioware’s way of celebrating the fact that on this day 30 years ago, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back opened in movie theaters.

"From toys, to fashion, to punk rock, its influence is everywhere." -- Sean Dahlberg

I curse the fact I was born a little too late for it, but I’ve often thought about what it must have been like to see that movie on the big screen back in 1980 and I envy anyone who did. I mean, it changed Star Wars 4ever! And because, if there’s ever a geekier, more self-indulgent and unscientific use for a time machine, I’d really like to hear it. Seriously, I would, you know…just in case.

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/Gawk – Far To The East Edition

May 20, 2010

My photo travelogue through the savage world of Age of Conan continues! With the Rise of the Godslayer expansion live, for the first time in this screenshot series I’ll be posting images taken from beyond the Silk Road!

Yeah, I seem to have this obsession with posing my characters in fields of tall grass.

Welcome to the Gateway to Khitai. My Khitan character was dumped here right after she finished her destiny quests on the island of Tortage, but she’s not home yet. Technically still within Hyrkania, this region is one of the five new zones added with the expansion, and is a level 20-40 area. My first impression was, “Wow, this place is bloody huge!” But perhaps it was only an illusion, caused by the abundance of wide-open space. After all, I would say there are several playfields in-game right now that I would consider enormous…except they feel much smaller when I’m constantly running into the side of a mountain or falling off a cliff. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be having those problems here.

Sprawling land as far as the eye can see. Not going to find too many places to fall to my death here.

Funcom said they drew heavily from the cultures of ancient China and Korea when visualizing Khitai and developing its myths, creatures, and locations. I can definitely see and feel it.

Hmm, not entirely sure what Xiaohuli is up to here. Maybe some morning taichi?

I believe that the kappa is a legendary creature found in Japanese folklore, however. Speaking of the kappa, I have to admit I’m slowly starting to get used to mine. He’s still ugly as sin, but tee hee, I do kinda like the fact he changes color each time I bring him out.

"What do you think, boy? Relative of yours?"

From the first moment the Great Wall appears on the horizon, you know there’s fun and adventure to be had! Beyond it is Khitai proper. Peering over the wall, you can catch a glimpse of the pagoda in the Northern Grasslands Province.

Xiaohuli's going to have to stay on this side for now, where the mobs aren't going to one-shot her.

Once again, I am impressed by the work they’ve done for the musical score. Pleasant shivers ran down my spine as I stood before the Gateway, listening to the melancholy sounds of the erhu as the imperial banners of Khitai fluttered behind me. The only downside:  no more Helene Bøksle. Nonetheless, you can be sure I’ll be picking up the Rise of the Godslayer soundtrack.

The Khitan armor I've collected looks pretty good so far...except my belt looks more like a hula hoop.

And finally, I was right — the exclusive puma pet that comes with the retail box is simply adorable! Sadly, this one pictured here belongs to my husband, because I got the digital version of RotGs instead.

Damn you, EB Games, damn you and your crappy stock and lack of pre-order options!

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I Pray I’ll Never Find Myself Stranded And Alone In The Misty Woods Of Maine

May 19, 2010

*Blows dust off Xbox360*

Oh, what have we here?

I’ve been spending a lot of time playing MMOs lately. Aside from using my Xbox360 to stream the occasional episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, the poor console has been pretty much neglected. Well, that’s going to change this week. A few days ago, I found out I still had some credit left over at the game store, so I took a trip down there yesterday to see what I could pick up.

Guess I chose a hell of a day to do that. Being a new game release day, the place was swarming with people looking to get the week’s big titles — Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, the new Prince of Persia game and ooh, Shrek Forever After.

In the end, it came down to RDR or Alan Wake. After much consideration, I chose the latter because:

  • It’s described as an “intense psychological thriller”. Oh oh oh, I love those.
  • It’s supposedly inspired by shows like Twin Peaks and the X-Files, as well as the works of Stephen King. I love those, too.
  • The game plays out episodically. Like 24 or Lost, each chapter will reveal more clues to the overall mystery.
  • It focuses on story.
  • It’s an Xbox360 exclusive.
  • Chances are my brother will end up buying RDR, so ha, I’ll just mooch off him later.

Anyway, half an hour into Alan Wake and I was already kind of creeped out. The problem is, while I love the action survival horror genre, I’m way too gutless for the stuff. This is going to sound really pathetic, but I don’t think I can play this game at night.

It was already pretty dark when I got home, so I had to turn the game off before I could get even more drawn in. I didn’t get to play very much as a result, but I’m liking what I’ve seen so far. Already, the story is reminding me a little bit of Secret Window (the movie version with Johnny Depp, that is. Haven’t read the King novel yet) and I’m loving the pervading themes of “dark” and “light”. Definitely looking forward to playing more later today, ’cause you know, I can only continue that long journey into the darkness in the warm, comforting light of the afternoon.

P.S. The game actually takes place in Washington state. But of course, one can’t help but visualize the fictional setting of Derry, Maine when it comes to anything Stephen King inspired.