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June 2009

Kombo Breaker - Episode 33: This One's For You, Guybrush Threepwood!

Kombo BreakerAs promised, this week's Kombo Breaker sees us talking about the upcoming Tales of Monkey Island from Telltale Games for Nintendo WiiWare and PC.  We sat down with Writer and Designer Mike Stemmle and PR Ninja Emily Morganti to discuss why Monkey Island and hero Guybrush Threepwood are coming back after all this time, how the tone of the series adapts to the new episodic format, whether or not you'll have to play the nonexistent Episode Six to finish the story, and other such interesting things.  Surely you can spare fifty-three minutes to become acquainted with Monkey Island lore.  Download this week's episode directly from Kombo or subscribe via iTunes

Time To Settle Michael Jackson / Sonic 3 Theory Once And For All

Sonic the Hedgehog 3Do you remember when I said that we need answers and stories about our favorite video games confirmed and recorded before the people involved with them are no longer around?  Well, now that Michael Jackson has passed away, there is one less person to settle the burning rumor that he composed some of the music for Sonic the Hedgehog 3.  A piece of gaming development history may well be lost now because someone didn't take the time to write down what may have been seen by some as inconsequential details.  Now, if Jackson was involved with the game, he certainly didn't work on it in a vacuum, so there's still a chance for us to learn a piece of the story from the others that may have been involved.  With his passing, I think the time has come to settle the rumor once and for all and hear the real story, if any, behind his work on the soundtrack.  I'll leave you with what I said previously on the subject which, from my perspective, seems more relevant today than it did when I originally said it.

Gaming as an art form and source of entertainment is so young compared to other forms of media, so I think we're at a unique point in time where it's still possible to capture most of the little stories behind our favorite games before the people who were involved with them grow old and pass on. Think of how little we know from the dawn of cinema because people thought the little details were not worth preserving. Now, Michael Jackson's link to Sonic 3 may seem unimportant now, but in fifty years or so it could be one of the great unanswered questions of the early gaming era. We need to get these answers and stories recorded for posterity before it's too late. 

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Review At Kombo

Ghostbusters: The Video Game After years of waiting and watching, it was finally time to explore the world of Ghostbusters: The Video Game last week, and I jumped into the river of slime with excitement and anticipation.  Unfortunately, something went horribly wrong.  While reviewing the Sony PlayStation 3 version of the game, I ran into several showstopping technical glitches and problems that held up my progress.  The worst of the lot is that sometimes the game forgets my saved progress, insisting that I start the game over from scratch.  Other times it loses part of my progress, zeroing out collected items and scanned enemies.  But on the other hand, when the game behaved properly, it was as much fun as I'd hopedRead my review over at Kombo in which I mix glowing praise with disappointed gloom.

It's difficult for me to assign a single score to the PS3 version of Ghostbusters: The Video Game. When the game handles save data properly, it's an enthralling addition to the Ghostbusters mythos that provides plenty of fantastic gameplay as well as hilarious performances from a talented cast. On the other hand, I cannot overlook its collection of frustrating technical issues. So, in the end, here is my recommendation: devoted fans of the franchise must not miss this game, so while it is possible to play the PS3 version through to the finish if you have the patience (goodness knows I did), if the Xbox 360 or PC versions are available to you (which, from what I understand, are not hideously broken), you would likely be better off with one of those. Short of a patch to fix the technical problems, I just can't stamp a gold seal on this one, and that really is a shame. The level of care that went into the story and gameplay raises the bar on what a movie-based video game can be when the developers actually care about the source material. I only wish that the same level of care had gone into testing the PS3 version for bugs.

Some of the Terminal Reality development team looked into my technical problems and were unable to reproduce them with their testing kit, so it seems that I'm stuck with a slightly crippled game.  The working theory seems to be that there's something about my model of PS3 that Ghostbusters doesn't like or that I have a bad disc.  For the record, I reviewed the game on a 160 GB North American model of PS3 that was purchased in November 2008 and is currently running the 2.76 firmware.  Have you had similar issues with Ghostbusters?  I want to hear from you.  Maybe we can put together the clues and give Terminal Reality enough information so that they can get a first-hand look at what some of us out there are enduring in the battle against Gozer.

Video Game Life Cycle Comic Is Truer Than You Think

The Life Cycle of a Video Game A comic over at GameSpy about the life cycle of a video game is getting a lot of attention online today, and while it's definitely presented with its tongue in its cheek, the scenario it lays out is much closer to the truth than you'd initially think.  Follow a game from birth to death as the initial idea is conceived, guns are added to it, and it ships to your local GameStop where a child purchases it and promptly loses the box, manual, and all accompanying paperwork on the way home.  That's gotta be my biggest pet peeve when it comes to buying used games.  Why would anyone throw away or abuse the box and manual?  Take care of your property that will someday be my property!

(via Kombo)

Proving The Existence Of Vigo The Carpathian

Ghostbusters II We've all seen Vigo The Carpathian's painting in the firehouse of Ghostbusters: The Video Game by now, so I'd like to take a moment and put to rest a common complaint that I've seen on the Internet over the past week.  As you'll recall, at the end of Ghostbusters II the team defeated Vigo, resulting in his sinister portaint being replaced with a much more upbeat image of the Ghostbusters and baby Oscar.  Now some people are wondering why Vigo's restored portrait is on display in the new game when it was apparently destroyed two years earlier.

Now, I'm not scriptwriters Dan Aykroyd or Harold Ramis, but as I've done previously for this sort of issue, I'd like to offer a simple theory to end this discussion: why should the painting destroyed by the Ghostbusters at the end of the second film be the only painting of Vigo in existence?  Perhaps the Carpathian warlock simply relocated to a second painting, a painting that the Ghostbusters found and have stored in their headquarters for safe keeping prior to the events of the video game.  It amuses me how people can suspend their disbelief to accept the presence of a massive man made of marshmallow rampaging through Times Square, but the presence of a simple painting is one step beyond the line.  I love overthinking my favorite fiction as much as any other fan, but sometimes we just have to accept certain facts.  Vigo must have commissioned more than one portrait of himself.  Q.E.D.

Marvel vs Capcom 2 Scores Retail "Collector Edition"

Marvel vs Capcom 2Sony PlayStation 3 owners who enjoy special collector-type editions of video games will surely jump for a retail box of Marvel vs Capcom 2 goodies.  While the game itself remains a downloadable re-release for the PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, Joystiq has word of a special PS3 edition to be sold at GameStop that includes a voucher code and a collection of other small random goodies for a mere $5 premium.

According to the product listing, the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 Retail Pack will release on August 13 for $19.99 ($5 more than the cost of the game) and include a redemption code (obviously), a DVD case, a disc containing exclusive wallpapers and other media, an 8-page manual, one month of free access to Marvel Digital Comics, and 2,000 Capcom Unity points, which are used on the Capcom site to participate in auctions.

More extra fluff?  Sure.  Fairly priced fluff that'll generate a few minutes of interest?  You bet.  It's tempting, but nothing beats the convenience of just buying the game itself via PSN and being done with it.  No visit to GameStop, no hassles with vouchers.  But on the other hand, there's fairly priced fluff to be had.  Decisions, decisions...  Of course, the true winner here is GameStop, as they get another product to sell in stores that would otherwise not be available from them.

Army Of Two Wants You

Army of Two: The 40th Day Are you feeling creative?  Maybe a little destructive?  Here's your chance to create a new weapon for the upcoming Army of Two: The 40th Day for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft xbox 360 and, if your idea is popular enough, see it appear in the game.  Here's part of the official contest announcement: 

Today, EA Montreal announced the return of the weapon design contest for ARMY OF TWO: THE 40th DAY. From June 23, 2009 to July 12 2009, participants can submit their ultimate weapon at the game's official website ( for a chance to have it included in a future EA Game.  To enter the contest, gamers will need to submit an image of their weapon and a brief 200-word description. Please click on the game's official website to view the contest rules ( Once gamers submit their designs, the images will be posted to the site for the community to vote on. Starting on July 20, 2009 the top weapons will be reviewed by the development team who will then pick the two best designs.

Your creation has to fit the Army of Twoworld and be an original creation, so don't expect to re-use your losing laser-powered combustible pig blaster entry from the similar Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time weapon design contest.  Although, frankly, if there's one thing that I've always thought Army of Twoneeded, it's a laser-powered combustible pig blaster.

Escape From The Curse Of The Secret Of Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island Assumed dead and buried for some time now, the fondly remembered Monkey Island series is coming back courtesy of Telltale Games in the episodic Tales of Monkey Island and LucasArts in a modernized special edition of the original The Secret of Monkey Island.  Yes, pirate wannabe Guybrush Threepwood is back in a big way, although many modern gamers are unaware of his exploits and adventures (and in-jokes).  What is this "Monkey Island" thing and what makes it important?  Alistair Wallis over at GameSetWatch guides us through the series through his own childhood experiences, while Monkey Island maven Ron Gilbert takes us on a personal journey over at Grumpy Gamer.  Here's a bit from Alistair:

For a story driven game, it’s actually a relatively simple task to sum it up quickly: Somewhere in the Caribbean, Guybrush Threepwood wants to be a pirate. He works his way through a series of trials, falls in love with Governor Elaine Marley, only to have her kidnapped by the ghost pirate LeChuck, and then rescues her. It’s not so much the plot that really drives the game forward – it’s the scenarios, the characters, the little details, and most of all, the humour. Oh, the humour.

I'm not up to speed on my Monkey Island lore, so the past few days worth of research have been an interesting crash course for me.  We'll be talking with someone from Telltale Games about Tales of Monkey Island this week on Kombo Breaker, so if you have anything you'd like us to ask, feel free to let me know (by Wednesday afternoon; we do have deadlines, after all).

Weekly Poll: Summer Heat

Weekly Poll for 6-15-2009Five dollars is a popular maximum for what most of you are willing to pay for downloadable content, but I have to admit that my sliding scale tops out around ten dollars, and even then I can be persuaded to pay a little more.  The most expensive DLC I've ever purchased is Big Surf Island for Burnout Paradise, but typically I try to keep my after-game costs down.  So much DLC turns out to be a bust in the end.  I'm looking at you, frustrating challenge levels for Sonic Unleashed that didn't live up to my expectations.  Then there's paid DLC that should have been in the original game.  Hello to you, Street Fighter IV's extra character costumes.

Summer is upon us here in the northern hemisphere which means plenty of heat and lots of air conditioners turned up to overdrive.  As hot and humid as it gets in my corner of the world, I do my best to stay indoors during this time of year which means I tend to spend more of my spare time gaming.  How about you?  Do you play more games in the summer or less compared to the rest of the year?  Let's hear your thoughts.

GTA: Chinatown Wars Coming To PSP

Huang LeeRemember that Grand Theft Auto game that was created exclusively for the Nintendo DS?  And remember how the game didn't quite sell so well?  Never one to leave money on the table, Take-Two and Rockstar are aiming to recoup some of their development expenses by bringing Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars to the Sony PlayStation Portable in both disc-based UMD and downloadable formats.  Kotaku has the news.

"We're proud to extend this truly unique handheld Grand Theft Auto experience to PSP and offer a downloadable version of Chinatown Wars for PSPgo," said Sam Houser, Founder of Rockstar Games. "Rockstar Leeds has shown incredible talent in creating games that raise the bar in terms of depth and innovation on portables, and with Chinatown Wars we have a rich, fast-paced, and incredibly addictive entry into the series."

Obviously, all of the touchscreen gameplay has to go for the PSP version of the game, but if that material is removed, then what is it that makes the new version of Chinatown Wars stand out?  The touchscreen mechanics are part of that game's identity, but then perhaps that's part of the point here: rebranding a critically-successful but underselling game for a second chance in the marketplace.  Let's just hope that the touchscreen taps aren't replaced with mindless button-jamming.  I'd hope that Rockstar knows better than to do a lazy port, but cheaper things have happened.