Previous month:
May 2010
Next month:
July 2010

June 2010

What Happened To Saints Row 3?

Saints Row After a few months of teasing and dropping hints that Saints Row 3 would be revealed at E3 this year, THQ decided to keep the next chapter in the series under wraps for a while longer.  So what happened? did some digging and discovered that the company is planning a massive transmedia synergistic blowout for the Saints Row franchise, and apparently holding the game back until the Spike TV Awards in December is part of that plan.

Speaking at an E3 analyst meeting last night, THQ core games VP, Danny Bilson revealed that the company's set to show Saints Row 3 for the firs time at the Spike TV awards in December.  He said: "I'm not going to show it to you today. This is the only room we're talking about Saints Row 3. We're not showing it on the floor because the rollout starts in December on Saints Row 3.  We've spent an extra year rebuilding the technology for this game. It is absolutely gorgeous and still completely insane."

Bilson went on to reveal "the most robust transmedia play on any game ever done," including plans to release a
Saints Row movie.  "We're also going to have a collectible card game, we're going to have books, we're going to have mechandise - we're going to build this thing out into the biggest transmedia blowout ever seen," he said at the meeting.  "Most of these deals are already in place. I believe we're going to announce this at the Spike awards in December.

I hope that attempting to become a major franchise spanning a variety of media doesn't kill the soul of Saints Row.  I know that it's just a silly Grand Theft Auto competitor that goes way over the top in comical ways, but I had more fun playing Saints Row 2 than I did GTA IV, and the latter was supposed to be the better game.  Moreover, I— wait a minute!  They're planning a Saints Row collectible card game?  I can't wait to see what the sewage-spewing truck card does during play.

Premium Hulu Plus Service Headed To PS3, Xbox 360, iPad

Hulu PlusIf you've been clamoring for the day you can pay $10 to Hulu each month in order to access the back catalog of many of the most popular television shows on the service, then your wait is almost over as Hulu Plus has been announced for (among other things) the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Apple's trio of iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.  PS3 access is coming soon, while X360 owners will have to wait until next year.  It's not a bad deal if you don't already subscribe to some sort of non-cable-TV programming service (alright, Netflix, time to step it up), but do you know what would really sweeten the offering for console owners?  Roll that $10 subscription fee (or at least part of it) into the benefits offered by subscribing to Sony PlayStation Plus or Microsoft Xbox Live.  Surely both Sony and Microsoft could work a deal that brought Hulu Plus into their respective folds while still making money for everyone involved and adding value to the services in question.  Think it over, Powers That Be.

On a more personal note, allow me to gripe that the new Samsung Internet-connected HDTV that I just bought in March could theoretically join the Hulu Plus fun as well if not for the fact that Samsung decided no longer to support 2009 models of televisions when it comes to adding new services.  What's the point of online updatable firmware if they quit releasing new firmware so soon?

Who Are These Obscure Mushroom People?

Obscuremariocharacters You know your Mario and your Luigi, sure, and you even know lesser Mushroom Kingdom characters like Pokey and Chargin' Chuck, but can you tell a Wanda from a Foreman Spike from a Tatanga?  The latest imagery over at The Bow on Birdo (previously mentioned here a few weeks ago) is a collage of obscure characters from Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. and its related franchises such as Donkey Kong and Wario Land.  Can you identify all of the seldom-seen individuals depicted?  I'll start you off with a little help: the monochromatic pirate gal in the lower left is none other than Captain Syrup herself.  That pinkish Donkey Kong Jr. is not actually Donkey Kong Jr.  The two mermaids are not the same character.  Princess Peach is not appearing here as a princess.  There's something special about that red Snifit that makes him stand out from the other Snifits.  The chicken is Wario's pet.  The king character is so obscure that he doesn't even appear in the game in which he's meant to be.  Is that enough for you?  Good luck on IDing the rest!  You'll find the answers at Back of the Cereal Box.

Parents Television Council Wants M-Rated Games Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Baby MarioOverprotective and overreactive advocacy group Parents Television Council is at it again when it comes to children being exposed to the horrors of M-rated video games via osmosis, as this time the organization wants retailers such as Best Buy to stock M-rated video games on tall shelves out of eyeshot of children.  The Consumerist has the news.

Advocacy group Parents Television Council says it's a Joe Camel move to place video games intended for adults right alongside the Marios and Sonics of the world, and the group scolded Best Buy for the practice at a shareholder's meeting last week.

“Mr. Chairman, you understand this game is rated mature and we appreciate all that Best Buy is doing to impose and enforce an age-restricted buying policy. However, I urge you to place these types of games on higher shelves and out of sight and reach of your younger customers,” said PTC Minnesota Chapter Director Phyllis Plum at the meeting, according to a PTC press release.

If keeping the M-rated games mixed in with other games in the traditional alphabetical order of shelving is an inconvenience to you, Ms. Plum, then I will counter that placing the M-rated games on a separate set of shelves is an inconvenience to me.  As someone who plays games rated E all the way up to M, I don't appreciate the prospect of scouring several sets of organized shelving while I browse for the latest Super Mario and Grand Theft Autotitles.  Perhaps I'm oversimplifying things, but it seems to me that all of these supposed issues created by the PTC and groups like them could be solved by a combination of checking ID during the purchasing process when the customer appears underage and telling precious little pumpkin "No" when he or she picks up an M-game and screams "Buy me this!"

Conversely, if we have to have separate shelving, let's put all of the children's licensed shovelware junk on the absolute bottom shelf where the little ones can easily find it (and also get it out of my way).

Fox McCloud Versus Biff Tannen (Also: Clark Griswold Meets Mario Kart)

Fox McCloud versus Biff TannenMashing together two productions that fit together much better than you'd expect has become one of the more well-known Internet forms of art, so why not take a moment on this lazy Monday to review two of the more recent creations that the online world has to offer?  First up, the classic 1955 skateboard chase scene from Back to the Future in which Marty McFly outruns Hill Valley bully Biff Tannen is combined with voice clips and music from Nintendo's Star Fox 64 to humorous effect while keeping the original context of the film intact.  Then, Chevy Chase as Clark W. Griswold, Jr. in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation gets a taste of Mario Kart in the famous scene in which he slides down a snowy hilltop with the aid of a new cereal varnish he's developed at the office.

Weekly Poll: The Perils Of PlayStation Plus

Weekly Poll for 6-22-2010 Consensus is that Nintendo won E3 2010, and as I said last week, it's not surprising considering that the company not only unveiled the 3DS, but also franchise favorites like Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and other promising titles.

Looking ahead, Sony is about to launch its PlayStation Plus premium online service.  I haven't mentioned here before, but in summary, this is the $50/year service for the PlayStation Network that adds perks such as automatic updates, free downloadable games, discounted downloadable content, free Qore, and other such things to one's PlayStation 3 experience.  It launches this week, so my question to you is: are you interested in PlayStation Plus?  Will you spend $50 to try it out?  Or is this just another shameless cash-grab?  Let's hear your thoughts.

GameStop From An Alternate Universe

Star Fox 2 During my web travels I came across a charming, sentimental short story written by Tim Pratt called Impossible Dreams.  Without giving too much away, the premise involves a man who discovers a video rental shop (called Impossible Dreams Video) from an alternate universe that is somehow crossing over to his own for a brief window each evening, and inside that store are movies that were scrapped or unmade in his world but filmed and released in the other.  For instance, the little shop carries Raiders of the Lost Ark starring Tom Selleck and the original uncut version of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons.  Here's a taste (but you really should read the entire story):

Pete didn’t need any more encouragement than that. Last night he’d developed a theory, and everything he saw now supported it. He thought this store belonged to some parallel universe, a world much like his own, but with subtle changes, like different names for the major credit cards. But even small differences could lead to huge divergences when it came to movies. Every film depended on so many variables—a director’s capricious enthusiasm, a studio’s faith in a script, a big star’s availability, which starlet a producer happened to be sleeping with—any of those factors could irrevocably alter the course of a film, and Hollywood history was littered with the corpses of films that almost got made. Here, in this world, some of them were made, and Pete would go without sleeping for a week, if necessary, to see as many as possible.

The shelves yielded miracle after miracle. Here was The Death of Superman, directed by Tim Burton, starring Nicolas Cage; in Pete’s universe, Burton and Cage had both dropped the project early on. Here was Total Recall, but directed and written by David Cronenberg, not Paul Verhoeven. Here was The Terminator, but starring O.J. Simpson rather than Arnold Schwarzenegger—though Schwarzenegger was still in the film, as Kyle Reese. Here was Raiders of the Lost Ark, but starring Tom Selleck instead of Harrison Ford—and there was no sign of any later Indiana Jones films, which was sad. Pete’s hands were already full of DVDs, and he juggled them awkwardly while pulling more movies from the shelves. Here was Casablanca starring George Raft instead of Bogart, and maybe it had one of the alternate endings, too! Here a John Wayne World War II movie he’d never heard of, but the box copy said it was about the ground invasion of the Japanese islands, and called it a “riveting historical drama.” A quick scan of the shelves revealed no sign of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, and those two things together suggested that in this world, the atomic bomb was never dropped on Japan. The implications of that were potentially vast . . . but Pete dismissed broader speculations from his mind as another film caught his eye. In this world, Kubrick had lived long enough to complete Artificial Intelligence on his own, and Pete had to see that, without Steven Spielberg’s sentimental touch turning the movie into Pinocchio.

After reading this I found myself imagining how the tale would be told if Impossible Dreams Video dealt in games over movies as a sort of GameStop from an alternate universe.  Aside from parallel shovelware (some things never change), what would be in that store?  Would it have the version of Mega Man X where the protagonist was an armored police officer?  Would Star Fox 2 be in the "Player's Choice" bin of bestselling discount titles?  How many used copies of EarthBound 2 (in English!) would be lining the shelves?  Would the top-selling Nintendo PlayStation 2 title be Insomniac's Girl With A Stick?  The what-ifs and never-wases are both fascinating and endless.  If you found yourself in such a store, what would you want to try?

Portal Gaming Challenge Ends In Failure

Portal It all started with Heavy Rain.  Or, rather, it all started with the fact that I wasn't rushing to play Heavy Rain.  My lack of interest in Quantic Dream's interactive drama title for the Sony PlayStation 3 led to a few of my Kombo co-workers wagering on whether or not I'd enjoy the game if I were to play it.  This led to my friend Keri Honea lending me a copy of the game, and then the challenge was on.  It took me about a month of on-again, off-again play, but I eventually finished the adventure and delivered my summation (more on that on a future episode of Power Button).  It seemed only fair to me, however, that I issue a challenge of my own back at Keri, and since she'd never played Valve Software's Portal, the choice was obvious.  She started on the Microsoft Xbox 360 version of Chell's quest, but as she notes on her new blog Gaming Succubus, GLaDOS got the better of her.

For the first 14 chambers, I loved it. I loved how it challenged me to think outside of typical space dimensions and solve crazy puzzles. I loved the hilarious depictions of warnings (as shown above). The computer taunting you the entire way is also quite humorous. I can’t decide if my favorite line from it was “If you die, you will be…missed,” or “At the end, we will celebrate with cake.” I 100% appreciate what the game is and why it has such a massive fan following. It’s creative, it’s humorous, and it forces you to be clever.

However, one technique of the game has utterly frustrated me to the point of possible no return. In Chamber 15 (Chapter 7), you have to master the art of double flinging, meaning while you’re falling through one portal, immediately blast another portal where you will land so that you will have enough momentum to launch you past obstacles. I was able to figure out the technique at the first instance, but I nearly threw my controller at the TV with the next one. I couldn’t get Chell to face the right direction while falling and blast a portal where she would actually land. Somehow I always landed to the left or above my landing portal. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I never play anything in first-person POV, so I have had a hard time getting used to not “seeing” my character, only seeing what’s in front of me, and general aiming. I had flashbacks to college where I couldn’t walk through a simple doorway in GoldenEye 64.

I always felt like I was getting close to mastering it, but after 15 tries and failures, it stopped being fun. And yes, I need games to be fun, whether they are fun with gameplay or fun with story. I need that to continue. And Portal sadly didn’t have it. I may try again another time, but with my huge stack of games glaring at me, it’s time to move on and not spend additional time with a game that right now is not fun for me.

She was so close to the end!  It's a shame that she's decided to move on, but perhaps she'll revisit it someday to see the shocking finale.  In the meantime, we've issued additional challenges to one another.  She's going to give Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Mario RPG for the Nintendo GameCube and Super NES respectively her attention next, while I'm going to make time for Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS and the original Kingdom Hearts for the Sony PlayStation 2.  The whole point of this exercise is to open ourselves up to new gaming horizons that we've otherwise overlooked, but who says the journey can't be a little fun, too?

E3 2010: Quantum Theory Hands-On Impressions At Kombo

Quantum Theory E3 2010 is behind us, but the last of my hands-on preview articles are just now wrapping up at Kombo.  Right now we have a look at Tecmo Koei's Quantum Theory for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 which, in all honesty, didn't really ring any bells for me.  Maybe I've had enough of big burly guys blasting their way through generic alienesque fodder for a while.  The art design is something special though.  Until now I've never truly seen an environment infected with black ooze that turns walls and floors into horrible scabs.  Read all about it over at Kombo.

Good News, Everyone! Celebrate Futurama's Return With The Lost Xbox/PS2 Episode

FuturamaThe beloved sci-fi animated series Futurama returns tonight in the United States at 10:00pm ET on Comedy Central with new episodes, but before jumping into the rebirth of the series, take a step back and check out the so-called lost episode that is comprised of the cinematics from the 2003 video game for the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2.  Written by the original writers and featuring performances from the talented cast, this adventure takes Fry, Leela, Bender, and the rest across time and space to undo Professor Farnsworth's decision to sell Planet Express to Mom.  The compiled scenes are featured as a special extra on the Beast With A Billion Backs DVD, but of course someone has placed it on YouTube in four parts.  Be sure to check out the DVD version as well, as it has commentary from the creators that provide some insight on adapting the series into the gaming realm.

Continue reading "Good News, Everyone! Celebrate Futurama's Return With The Lost Xbox/PS2 Episode" »