Category: Gaming

Game Review – X-Men: Destiny

Game Review – X-Men: Destiny

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Quiet around here lately. Sorry. Real world has been busy. Trying to address that, but going through some upheaval over the short term. I think things will settle out fine in the new year, but it’s going to be a bit crazy until then for a lot of reasons. I do have several book reviews ready to go and I might be ready to announce a couple of small writing things soon, but neither of those is why I’m blogging today.

Today, I took a step forward in my long range quest to play through all of the video games I’ve bought and never finished. Not that I have a lot of gaming time, but lately I’ve been working mostly on “Mass Effect 2” and “Lego Indiana Jones”. But this afternoon, I finished a play through of “X-Men Destiny”.

Don’t look for a detailed review to follow, and you can already tell there aren’t a lot of (or any) screen shots following the text. This was a play for pure pleasure, just for fun, and I didn’t do any analysis as I went along.

The campaign was a little on the short side, but considering I paid less than ten bucks for the game, I think I got my length of time enjoyment out of it. Eight missions, each of which took a little time to play, and a couple of the boss fights were hard even playing on the easiest level.

Don’t look for anything super complex out of the story. It’s simple, easy to follow, and linear. We get a lot of familiar faces and some fairly recent big bads in the X-Men universe.

There is a little bit of decision making needed here and there, mainly siding with the X-Men or the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants at various moments in each mission. It makes very little difference to the game play and apparently only materially to the final cut scene. Oh, you do get to choose your powers and the path they grown on, and that’s a nice bonus. Costume, genes, and powers all customizable, and XP can be used to power up a lot of these.

But what you’re really getting out of this game is a bit of mutant wish fulfillment. I’m an X-Men fan from sometime in my early teen years, so I’ll give just about any game a try if it has them involved. Focus on them, and you’ll probably get a little of my money at some point.

The scenery and characters are well rendered for 2011, but the characters in conversation or standing at rest were odd, like they all have a constant, whole body nervous twitch. But since you’re in combat or on the move most of the time, it’s not really that distracting. Sound and soundtrack work well, adding to the environment without being distracting.

I was pretty impressed by the voice acting. While most things were pretty scripted, it didn’t feel that limited. Each cut scene got what it needed for writing and the actors delivered, meaning they actually acted, which was kind of cool.

While I’m glad I got it on super sale last Boxing Week, it was a fun game, and it wouldn’t have bothered me to pay a few bucks more for it.

But no, I probably won’t do another play through with either of the other available characters or at a higher difficulty level. I’ve got a lot of other games to play through. Still, I’m not ready to send it back to the recycled section of the games store yet.

Let’s call it a 6.5 out of 10.

Be well, everyone.

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Unfinished Stories

Unfinished Stories

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Recently, in a fit of cleaning up after the children in this family, I decided to put away and organize all of the video games for the various consoles we have to. To be clear, that currently includes a Nintendo 64, a Nintendo GameCube, a Wii, a Wii-U, an Xbox 360, and a PlayStation 3. Over the dozen or so years since we bought the GameCube, the N64 being a more recent addition, we’ve picked up quite a few games, some of them new, some of them used, and some of them gifts. We like games, and we play quite a bit. Well the kids play a lot more than I do.

But as I was going through things, and because my particular brands of mental dysfunction requires things to be alphabetical, as I sortedall of the games, I kept finding things that I haven’t actually finished. A lot of them one or more of the kids did manage to finish, or came close, but they have a lot more time than I do, and that’s normal.

For reference, the list of unfinished games, broken down by console, is as follows:

 

N64

007: Golden Eye

007: The World Is Not Enough

 

Gamecube

The Incredibles

Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Luigi’s Mansion

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

Scooby Doo: Night of 100 Frights

Lego Star Wars II

Super Mario Sunsion

 

Wii

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Super Mario Galaxy

 

Wii U

Super Mario Brothers U

Super Luigi U

Lego City Undercover

 

Playstation 3

Rage

Resistance 2

Uncharted 2

 

Xbox 360

Army of Two: The 40th Day

Bioshock

Deadspace

Final Fantasy XIII

Gears of War 3

Ghostbusters

Kingdom Fire: Circle of Doom

Lost Planet

Oblivion

Sacred 2

Skyrim

Star Trek

Turok

 

So for those of you who also like numbers, like me, that’s 32 games that I have not finished. Or, considering how my mind works, that’s 32 stories that I haven’t gotten to the end of. Because, make no mistake, every video game tells a story, even if it’s not a good one, even if it doesn’t make sense.

So I have decided, probably stretching over several years, I’m going to try to finish all (some?) of those stories. I’m going to pick one from each brand, Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation, and cycle through. I will, where possible, and where interest exists on the part of my children, select two player games as much as I can, at least we can. Really, that’s what one of life, our games that I can play with my kids. Taking turns will do in a pinch, but it’s not the same.

My first selections cover all three platforms.

For Nintendo, I’vepicked Super Mario Sunshine. This, yes, is a solo game. I will try to play in moments when I’m working odd hours, or as part of a social situation. I feel like I got about two thirds the way through the game when we first got it (as opposed to when it was new). It was fun, and cute, and had a low level of cartoony violence that I enjoy. The objective being to stop the bad guys from polluting the hell out of everything, and cleanup Delfino Island. Your target is to gather 100 Shine Sprites during your cleanup efforts, and there are a variety of traditional and new creatures to be dealt with while you’re at it.

On the PlayStation, I’vepicked something a little more intense. Notice the list, that we don’t have an awful lot of PlayStation games that I haven’t finished. Really, that’s because we don’t have an awful lot of PlayStation games. While we were still buying into the Xbox live membership for online play, which we have decided is not really worth the hundred dollars a year for the family membership to the amount actually been using last two years, most game purchases were for the Xbox. Even as we all acknowledged that the PlayStation, in addition to being a Blu-ray player, was a technologically superior system, we also recognized that more stuff was being done for Xbox, and some exclusive, particularly our favorite series of games, Halo.

But I’m getting sidetracked.

For the PlayStation, the first game I intend to run through his Rage. Last year when the girls were following weekend, my son and I went to a used videogames store and brought home half a dozen games to play over the weekend. We never actually got to this post asteroid impact blasting your way through the wasteland first person shooter. I’d like to remedy that.

For the Xbox, with the assistance of my youngest daughter, I have selected the Lego Batman. She tends to like the Lego games. In fact, Lego City Undercover is more or less the reason we got the Wii-U. But we have a number of the Lego titles: Star Wars II, Indiana Jones, Batman, City undercover, and a couple of the Lego Harry Potters. These are split between Xbox and Nintendo.

Did I mention that it is my intention to not buy any videogames for myself until I have worked my way through large part of this list. Must

But Lance, you crazy idiot, think about all of the awesome games that are coming out over the next year, even the ones you haven’t heard of yet!

Yeah well, the problem is that we as a culture typically allow ourselves to get distracted by shiny, new things all the time and forget about the slightly less shiny, slightly less new things. I don’t really that. I mean, I like shiny, new things, but I keep being distracted by something shiny and new and have it take me away from something I’m already enjoying. In the realm of video games, that’s long been the case. As evidenced by my list.

Thing is, there are certainly a dozen games breaking now, recently out, or coming out shortly I really want to play.

But I felt that way about each of the games the list, to some degree, when I first brought them home. I’ve robbed myself of the pay off and satisfaction of finishing each of those stories.

There will always be more games, more stories, more everything that I want to enjoy than I possibly have time or energy for. That’s part of the nature of living in the early 21st.But recognizing that nature doesn’t mean that I can’t be true to myself my own feelings.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an island full of innocent people to save from the evil polluting bad guys.

Yes, this is going to take a while.

Happy gaming, and be well, everyone.

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The Joys of Geocaching

The Joys of Geocaching

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If you’ve never heard of Geocaching, you’re not alone. And that’s okay. It’s a fairly recently development, coming about not too long after the advent of reasonably affordable handheld GPS devices. And reasonably affordable gets more so every year, depending on the bells and whistles you want. Of course, these days you can go out with a smart phone. As long as you have data access, you have a working GPS device, and there are apps for every platform.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I haven’t actually told you what Geocaching is it. And while it would probably be easier just to steal some copy from the Groundspeak website, where’s the fun in that?

To my mind, Geocaching is a real life treasure hunt. It’s about finding things no one else knows are there, a secret shared with only a few. And all you need are a set of coordinates, and something to write with. The coordinates will be fairly precise latitude and longitude. And in its simplest form, that’s all you need to get to a cache. Well, that and a GPS capable device to direct you there.

That’s it. Well, aside from a willingness to go play outside.

Groundspeed refers to the search for a cache as hide and seek or a real world adventure game. For us, and by us I mean myself and my 11-year-old daughter, team NinjaRock, it’s certainly about the thrill of the hunt, and sometimes that includes figuring out a puzzle or doing a little research, but more importantly, it’s about finding something that most people don’t even know is there.

And it really is that simple.

Bring back the joy of hide and seek as a child, or a secret treasure hunt. The joy of the hunt, the discovery the secret. Both of these things can speak to anyone on a very fundamental level. And your smart phone has GPS. Of course, you have to be willing to actually leave the house and venture into the great outdoors, and that’s something our modern society appears to be slowly losing. We like the fact that there is an outside, and all those plants and things in there making oxygen and soil and a livable world for us, but we really don’t want to go out and experience it directly. Far better to watch it on TV, where you don’t have to do more than look at it. No other senses required, no other activity, just sit in your comfortable chair and watch the screen.

But you miss so much doing that.

Geocaching is not an expensive. Oh, like everything else, you can spend a tonne of money, but you don’t need to. Geocaching.com will get you started, so you need an Internet connection, a GPS device, and a pair of shoes. I recommend some sunscreen and insect repellent.

But even more, I recommend that if you have children try taking at least one of them with you. Some caches have things in them to trade and kids love to find stuff, and they love to hang out with their parents, at least until they become teenagers. And if you get them when they’re young, they might even enjoy it once in a while as teenagers.

I’ve made the recommendation before but you should play with your kids. Consider Geocaching a game. A game of hide and seek, a game of treasure hunt, a game of exploration. Go out and find something you didn’t know was there.

Oh, and on a personal geocaching note: today is the second anniversary of the first time we went caching. We’re going out for a little caching adventure to celebrate. You can find us on geocaching.com as NinjaRock. We’re not piling up the finds really quickly, at a mere 253, but we’ve hidden two of our own caches as well.

Happy caching!

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Video Game Companies Need to Get Smarter If They Want My Money

Video Game Companies Need to Get Smarter If They Want My Money

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Backing that up a bit, I appear to be raising several gamer kids, although of distinctly different types.

At some point, we’ve all been Halo fans, and fans of first person shooters in general. Those days are mostly over, I think. We’ve decided we’re not going to bother with the XBox One at this point for a variety of reasons, but the 360 still has a solid place in our entertainment unit. So does the PS3. The Wii (although that’s mostly for Gamecube games, and the Gamecube itself has migrated to my son’s room with an older 360). And the recently acquired Nintendo 64. There are a variety of handheld devices in the house, too. DS and 3DS mostly, but there’s also a game boy and a PSP hanging around, as well as the game potential on several iPods. I won’t rule out a new console in the future, either.

Personally, I’m fairly eclectic in my gaming (surprise!), though that usually means I don’t get really good at any one game. But it’s more about the fun, or with bigger games, the story telling. I’m not competitive, so I don’t need to be better than anyone else at something. I just need to be good enough to watch the story unfold in a reasonable time frame.

But, like I said, the offspring are all different.

Oldest appears to have migrated away from first person shooters of his “youth” to online battle arenas as his primary gaming entertainment. Not exclusively. He has a couple of handheld devices, so he’s never without games, though seems to prefer some of the classic Nintendo varieties. He’s ranked somewhere in the Platinum levels on League of Legends at this point, but plays several others, too. These are mostly too complicated for me to have time for the learning curve at this stage of life, but I like Smite as it gives you the ability to automate certain things to streamline play. We keep saying we should check out War Thunder, but haven’t managed to yet.

Youngest Daughter is a Minecraft fanatic. I admit to having been bitten by this bug (as evidenced by a previous post) and intend to allow myself an account of my own for my fast approaching birthday. She likes the Pokémon type games, too, and has a fairly extensive and eclectic collection of DS games. But Minecraft is her current love and gets the vast majority of her gaming time at the moment. Often hours per day. As many as three people in our house have played Minecraft together at the same time.

Oldest Daughter, on the other hand, is the RPG fan. She does some action-adventure games, too (like having just finished off the entire Assassin’s Creed series), but RPGs tend to hold her interest longer. For solo play, she keeps coming back to Skyrim lately, but we’ve played a couple of multiplayer games together in the last little while: War in the North, and Dungeon Siege III. Two very different games in the same general genre, but both a lot of fun. I think we probably enjoyed War in the North more, as we played through it at every difficulty level building our characters up to game maximum, but our interest did eventually die out.

And that’s the problem right now. We haven’t found another one we can play together. Most of the really good games on the shelf get passed by as single player games. We want something that allows for the two of us to play together, as in at the same time. A lot of game developers seem slow to wake up to the idea that gaming can be social, that it almost has to be and not just in an online, can’t see the other players’ faces, smack talk kind of way. (Which I personally find to be a complete turn off.)

Gaming can be family time.

For me, that’s always what it’s about. Can I play with one or more of my kids? If the answer is no, it’s probably going to stay on the shelf at the store. Now, I recognize that I’m not part of the target market of young men with more money than sense that the video game industry seem to survive on by fleecing on a regular basis. But the thing is, I should be. I have the potential to spend more money on entertaining my family.

And there are five of us.

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The Perils of Minecraft

The Perils of Minecraft

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Dig, farm, make, build, create.

Minecraft is hard to describe in only a few words. It takes place in a randomly generated, blocky, heavily pixilated world where just about everything is made out of cubes.

Okay, that’s oversimplified, but it starts to find the flavour of the game.

It’s a mostly creative endeavor, and can be either cooperative or competitive (with a heavy emphasis on the first one, which is why I like it). It’s also rather addictive if you have the right mindset for the game.

Harvest resources (mining, digging, farming, chopping, fishing, etc, etc, etc) and use them to create your own home, castle, shop, world, whatever. It’s a fun, varied, and entertaining time sink.

And it’s somehow become a huge part of my youngest daughter’s life. She spends hours a day playing Minecraft on various servers and various game types, creative. She has friends she only sees on Minecraft. They meet up, play together, and go their separate ways to meet up again later. When not playing, she’s watching videos of other people playing. Screenshots of her play make it to Facebook. She’s thrilled to run into Minecraft, Gamer, and Youtube “celebrities” and makes sure she gets screenshots of their Minecraft characters (called skins).

So the only thing you can do in this situation as a parent is dive in.

I don’t have my own Minecraft account (although I’m considering it), but all three of my kids do. To play with my youngest, I borrow one of the others when not in use. We dig, we build, we farm. She tries to get me to play Hunger Games. I remind her that I don’t really like to kill other people. Even in Minecraft. But, we dig, build, and farm. Mostly dig and build. Actually, we dig so we can build, mainly, though it’s fun to just explore sometimes, too. Or go on expeditions to far off biomes and see what there is to see or harvest or what other people have built.

Playing with your kid, it’s best to have both computers in the same room if you can manage it. Then it becomes kind of like a social experience because you can talk to each other outside of the in-game chat. Of course, webcams can manage this for you, but where’s the fun in that?

Be careful, though. It’s addictive. You can sit down to play for an hour, look up and it’s past time to make dinner. Oh, and don’t take on an Enderman unless you really mean it.

Time to go dig!

Be well, everyone.

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