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December 2006

Looking Back At 2006

Delorean Before I share my list of predictions of things that will happen in the video game industry in 2007 I figured I should take a look back at last year's forecast and see just how well I predicted the future.  Feel free to read the entire list from one year ago, but if you're just looking for a recap and results, read on.

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Who's That Cunning Mind Behind The Shadowy Disguise?

Wario: Master of Disguise Ever since anti-hero Wario crossed over from platformer adventures to microgaming mayhem most people have forgotten about his classic 2D roots.  His last traditional outing, Wario World, was good fun but way too short.  Now Nintendo is bringing him back for a more conventional thieving spree, but this time using the touchscreen on the Nintendo DS.  Wario: Master of Disguise equips Wario with seven amazing disguises that each have a special power required for looting treasure.  When properly attired Wario can fly with bat wings, swim with a pirate gimmick, breathe fire as a large lizard, sling paint as an artist, and so on.

The game is coming to North America in March 2007, but the Japanese release is much sooner, meaning that Nintendo has launched the game's Japanese website, and it's just packed full of new videos and details.   I'm getting a little Kirby Canvas Curse vibe from Master of Disguise due to the stylus play, so I'm especially looking forward to this one, as the world needs more quality 2D platformers. 

Elebits Review At AMN

Elebits I've finished my work with Konami's Elebits for the Wii which means that my review of the game is now available over at AMN.  I found it to be an enjoyable concept even if it did have a few rough spots.  Special thanks to PTB reader Rollin for sending over one of his custom Elebits levels (even if it is seemingly impossible to complete) so I could try out the WiiConnect24 features in the game.

Each level begins in the dark (after all, the Elebits are missing and the power is out). As more Elebits are captured, however, lights begin to turn back on and appliances begin to function again. For example, a dishwasher may need 3000 watts to function. Once those watts are collected, players can turn it on which in turn causes a bunch of Elebits to fall out after running a thirty second cleaning cycle. There are numerous appliances and gadgets that can be turned on, such as computers, coffeemakers, DVD players, automatic cleaning robots, and even the toilet.

I haven't created a custom level that I'm happy with yet, but there's definitely some potential in Edit Mode to come up with some amazing environments.  Once I have something worth sharing I'll let you all know.

PS3 So Cool That It Freezes

Sony PlayStation 3Remember how I once said that the Sony PlayStation line of products had become so cool that given another generation of the development the consoles will implode in a puff of awesomeness?  It looks like we're taking another step closer to that moment.  Nick Brutal at Destructoid had a few words with a Sony representative about the nasty freezing habit that demo kiosk PlayStation 3s have developed, and get this: these things lock up on purpose.

"So dude over there," I said pointing to the busy clerk, "says he keeps the kiosk off because it keeps freezing up."

"Nope. No it doesn't."

"Well, actually, yeah. It does. I've seen it happen myself."

"No. It doesn't. We did that on purpose," he said. "You make the entire console lock up on purpose because ... why?" "We do that so that people won't play it all day long," he explained. "Specifically during Motorstorm, we made it freeze up a lot."

I'm totally confused at this point, completely stunned at what I'm being told because it's the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. I let him rattle on for a while, trying to convince me (and probably himself) that yes, Sony went out of their way to have their consoles lock up so that the masses will not spend hours upon hours basking in all its glory.

So, let's recap.  First of all, the PS3 was so fantastic that you could not preorder it.  Then it became so amazing that developers could not create or display games for the system.  Now the console has reached such a level of brilliance that you cannot even play it while killing time at Best Buy.  I'm telling you, the puff of awesomeness is coming sooner than we think.

But seriously, it's not uncommon for demo kiosks to reset after a little while so one person doesn't hog the demo all day, but whose bright idea was it to make the PS3 outright lock up after a few minutes?  I've played plenty of demos that time out and show a message explaining that my time was up.  Maybe it's just me, but I believe that time-limited demos should explain that time has elapsed rather than just freeze to the point of requiring a reset courtesy of the nearest salesclerk.  If I didn't know about this situation I'd just assume that the PS3 glitched out during play and walk away with the impression that the console is faulty or defective since it locks so often seemingly without explanation. 

Weekly Poll: December Loot '06

Poll121706 I know that Smash Bros. has a massive fan base, but I was expecting more of a showing for Super Mario Galaxy.  While there are a bunch of game franchises that I love to play, it was the Super Mario series that lured me into the world of Nintendo, and sometimes I think it's the Super Mario series that keeps me anchored there above all others.  After all, I didn't even get a GameCube until Super Mario Sunshine had a firm release date.  Don't get me wrong; I'm definitely looking forward to getting my hands on Smash Bros. Brawl.  It's just that I'm more excited about Super Mario Galaxy.

Now with the holidays winding down all of the presents have been opened, the relatives are gone, and the wheat has been eaten.  As we reflect on this special time of year, let us consider an important annual question: did you get all of the gaming gear that you wanted as gifts?  New consoles?  New games?  Novelty Legend of Zelda underwear?  Cast your vote and brag about your new loot. 

Searching For Shampoo

A gift for Yoshi As another holiday season starts to wind down I find that I'm still not finished with my holiday gift shopping.  At this point it seems a little late to still be futzing around with gift shopping, but I'm only short one present.  My mother wanted a special kind of shampoo from an exclusive manufacturer, so off I went to the Internet to order the little bottle of pink stuff.  Imagine my frustration at finding that this particular shampoo is nowhere to be found.  I've searched a bunch of online stores that are supposed to carry the stuff and have come up empty.  Everybody is sold out, and now the holidays have come and gone and I still need a gift for my mother.

Somehow I can't help but think this is karma coming back around to poke at me.  As a child I relied on Nintendo Power's release calendar to know when to expect anticipated games in stores, and during the holidays I'd use that calendar to put together a wish list of most wanted games.  Since release lists were so unreliable back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I often sent my parents out on holiday shopping searches for games that weren't actually in stores yet (of course, at the time neither of us knew that the games weren't released).  I sent my parents out for Mega Man 3 in 1989, for instance.  They didn't have a chance in hell of finding it considering that it wasn't in stores until 1990.  Now fifteen years later here I am running in online circles after shampoo for my mother that seems to be completely unavailable.  I can't help but smirk at the parallels.

An Elebit Of This And An Elebit Of That

ElebitsUPDATE: I got what I needed.  Thanks!

Have any of you taken the Elebits plunge?  Do you have some spare time this weekend (there's nothing happening this weekend, right?)?  I'm in the process of reviewing Elebits for the Nintendo Wii and I'd like to try out the WiiConnect24 option in which players can send their own custom Elebits levels to one another so I can talk about the process in the review.  If you have the game (or suddenly acquire it this weekend for some reason) and want to lend a hand, post a comment or send me an e-mail and we'll get our Friend Codes and what-not synced up.  I'm aiming to have the review finished and submitted by Tuesday, so sooner is better than later on this one.

Secret Origins: Maniac Mansion and Gremlins 2

Maniac Mansion and Gremlins 2 Ever since the Nintendo Wii was released I've been flooded with games to play.  Reviewing games during a new console's launch window is hectic, as every week something new lands on my doorstep, plus let's not forget all of the games that I want to play for myself.  The little game cases are stacking up, some of which are still shrink-wrapped.  I've had Red Steel in my home for a month now and haven't had a chance to crack the seal! I picked up Psychonauts cheap for the Sony PlayStation 2 and haven't even thought about when I'll have the time to tear into it.  All of these games atop my television remind me of the time first time I was (from my young point of view) flooded with games to play and was faced with that eternal question: which game to play first?

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Wii Prototypes Baffle Everybody

Wii prototypes There's a picture going around of an alleged scan from an issue of Japan's Nikkei Business magazine that features a few prototype controllers for Nintendo's amazing Wii.  It's always interesting to see how ideas take shape, and in the Wii's case we can follow development from an oversize Wavebirdesque controller up to a twisty ratchet-like controller onwards to WHAT THE HELL IS THAT STAR THING?!

I cannot begin to imagine how that oversize discus with a star button is supposed to function.  Is it tossed?  Turned?  Rolled?  Is the single button the legendary "Win" button joked about so many times in the past?  We'll probably never learn the secret of the star button controller, putting it up there with such mythical explanations as the use of the three sea shells from Demolition Man.

(via Nintendo forums)

Don't Let Go!

Rabbids play Wii I don't understand how so many people are losing control of their Nintendo Wii remotes, but even with Nintendo's new stronger straps (offered to Wii owners for free) some people still aren't satisfied.  Whenever someone loses their common sense and injures themselves or damages their own property in an act of personal stupidity, a lawyer with promises of a class action lawsuit payoff is near.  And what do you know?  Here comes such a lawsuit now.

The Nintendo Wii game console includes a remote and a wrist strap for the remote. Owners of the Nintendo Wii reported that when they used the Nintendo remote and wrist strap, as instructed by the material that accompanied the Wii console, the wrist strap broke and caused the remote to leave the user's hand. The fun stops when the Wii remote smashes through the beautiful plasma television hanging on the wall, or when someone is injured by the flying remote. Nintendo's failure to include a remote that is free from defects is in breach of Nintendo's own product warranty, according to Robert Green of Green Welling.

The class action lawsuit seeks to enjoin Nintendo from continuing its unfair or deceptive business practices as it relates to the Nintendo Wii. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction that requires Nintendo to correct the defect in the Wii remote and to provide a refund to the purchaser or to replace the defective Wii remote with a Wii remote that functions as it is warranted and intended.

Nintendo already has a free strap replacement program going on, so where are the grounds for this lawsuit?  Nintendo is already fixing the problem.  This strikes me as yet another McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit (not that "Hot Coffee", but the lawsuit where a woman poured steaming java on her lap then sued because the hot coffee was "too hot").  Some people are just missing that little voice in their heads that warns them not to do stupid or careless things, such as trying to pitch a real honest-to-goodness fastball with a Wii remote.  The end result of this is probably going to involve adding even more warnings and disclaimers to the start of every Wii game. 

Incidentally, does anyone else see a grand opportunity for another Rayman Raving Rabbids promo clip from this?  "Bunnies Can't Hold Remotes" (but they can sue!).