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April 2010

Red Faction Movie, TV Series In The Works

Red Faction Usually when a video game becomes a television series, it's an animated adaptation geared towards children.  Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Pokémon, and Street Fighter all made the leap, for example.  Could there be a market for adult-centric television programming based on games aimed at adults?  SyFy and THQ are aiming to find out as the two companies at working on a TV Movie based on Red Faction which, if successful, would lead to a proper series.  It's all part of a synergistic move to bring the former Sci-Fi Channel into a more active video gaming role.  Broadcasting & Cable has the details.

Syfy has just closed a deal to bring Red Faction to television via a two-hour movie, which will also serve as a back-door pilot. In addition, the next iteration of the Red Faction video-game series will be produced in conjunction with Syfy Games.

"It is the kind of content that fits our genre," Alan Seiffert, senior VP of Syfy Ventures, told B&C. "It is a great fit for a big Syfy Saturday movie, and if it really works, it is a great back-door pilot."

It's an interesting venture and I'd like to see it succeed if only to show that games for adult audiences can be more than just games.  Who knows?  Weekly adventures based around Grand Theft Auto on Spike and Burnout Paradise: The Series on Speed could very well follow.  Meanwhile, THQ's de Blob is getting the traditional animated treatment under a new SyFy Kids banner, while SyFy property Ghost Hunters is becoming a THQ-developed Nintendo DS, Apple iPad, and iPhone title.  I'm not a Ghost Hunters fan, but if that initiative helps SyFy programming become worthwhile video games, then perhaps we'll see Warehouse 13 and Eureka games before all is said and done.  Say, do you think they'll develop the games over the course of a single week in eastern Europe somewhere like they do SyFy Original Movies?

(via TV Tattle)

Power Button - Episode 8: The Great Art Debate

Power ButtonThe great debate as to whether or not video games are legitimate works of art rages on thanks to noted film critic Roger Ebert's whacking of the hive, so Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I set out to settle the issue once and for all.  Are video games art?  Joey argues in the affirmative, Brad declares they are not, and I hold the line with my own criteria for what makes a game artistic.  Titles such as EarthBound, Flower, Mega Man 2, Katamary Damacy, and Super Metroid are invoked as the conversation moves ahead.  What's the final verdict?  You'll have to listen to find out.  It's thirty-six minutes of insightful back-and-forth.    Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via and you can even follow on Twitter at @PressTheButtons or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 8: The Great Art Debate

Zii Sports Makes A Comeback On The Simpsons

Funtendozii Remember a few months ago when The Simpsons took a playful poke at the Nintendo Wii with the "Funtendo Zii"?  Well, the Springfield version of everyone's favorite motion-controlled gaming wonder turned up again on the show as part of last night's new episode, "The Squirt and the Whale".  When Homer decides to buy a windmill to generate the family's power needs, he takes their house off the grid and relies purely on wind to keep their home lit.  This works until a day without wind plunges the house into darkness.  Homer declares that from now on, "the Simpsons will live intermittently!", leading to the occasional power blackout.  Here's a montage of power outages, one of which involves Bart and Lisa enjoying a round of tennis in Zii Sports. Take note of what's happening on the Zii Sports game itself when the remote fight breaks out.

Weekly Poll: Works Of Artistic Merit

Weekly Poll for 4-19-2010Say what you want about Marvel vs Capcom 3 (and I'm certainly looking forward to it), but I'm actually more excited about Bionic Commando Rearmed 2.  Fighting games don't have a long shelf life with me this generation because the multiplayer community seems to move on to the next big thing all the time.  The Marvel vs Capcom 2 re-release that came out last year was in heavy rotation for less than two weeks in my online social circle before everyone jumped ship.  Street Fighter IV fell out of favor far too soon for some reason.  Meanwhile, I still replay Bionic Commando Rearmed two years later.  I don't need a thriving multiplayer community to continue to enjoy it.

Moving on, I've managed to steer clear of it until now, but this week on Power Button we dive into the great debate of whether or not video games are art.  Tune into this week's episode to hear Joey Davidson, Brad Hilderbrand, and I tear into the topic, but right now I want to ask you if you believe that video games are art.  Yes, no, or maybe so?  Let's hear your thoughts. 

PS3 Gets Even Slimmer

Slimmer PS3 How are all of you who bought the new slimmer Sony PlayStation 3 enjoying your consoles?  Like 'em?  That's great.  They're obsolete now.  OK, that's being harsh, but the fact remains that the PS3 has been slightly redesigned again, as the architecture in the case has become even smaller.  The new design is slightly cheaper to produce and consumes less power when in use.  PlayStation University has the news.

Sony said that the PlayStation 3 Slim would result in the company finding profit on the system. Despite a $100 price drop, the console’s slim repackaging would not only let the hardware break even, but also eventually result in profit for every console sold. Sony may have finally achieved that, as we can now confirm that the platform holder has reduced the PS3’s RSX GPU to 45nm from its previous 65nm chip design.

The advantages of such a reduction in chip size are numerous. A 45 nano-meter chip results in reduced power usage, it’s less likely to overheat and will require less cooling. Though the Yellow Light of Death is not as common on PS3 Slims, the RSX’s new chip size will also reduce such risks, making the new model more reliable. It joins the current 45nm Cell processor.

I'm glad to see that hardware development for the PS3 platform continues and that the design "under the hood" becomes more efficient over time.  I can't wait to see just how small and efficient the chips will become as the years go by.  We may yet see a $129.99 PS3 near the end of its life cycle.

Are You Ready For Atari National Pac-Man Day?

Atari National Pac-Man Day

Imagine for a moment that it's April 3, 1982.  You're in line at the lovely-in-an-'80s-way Countryside Mall with cash clutched in your fist that you're all set to spend on a brand new just-released copy of the latest sure-to-be-a-megahit, Pac-Man for the Atari Video Computer System (aka, the Atari 2600).  A nation is poised to celebrate.  There's also prizes to win and contests to enter on this grandest of days: Atari National Pac-Man Day.  Moreover, there are "events of all descriptions" planned, and you'll even get to meet Pac-Man himself somehow!  Yes, all of this pomp and circumstance is certainly worth it for the 2600 version of the popular contemporary arcade quarter-muncher.  Surely this will be most glorious day of the year up until December's big holiday: Atari National E.T. Day.  "Only Atari makes a Pac-Man home video game and it can only be played on an Atari Video Computer System," says the advertisement from the March 29, 1982 edition of the St. Petersburg Times.  In hindsight, it almost reads like a threat.

(via Reddit)

Mini-Review: Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - Episode 1: "The Penal Zone"

General Skun'ka'peHot off the heels of reviewing Season 2 of Sam & Max for the Nintendo Wii, I'm jumping into Season 3 of the continuing adventures of the Freelance Police with Episode 1 of Season 3 for the Sony PlayStation 3 (also available for PC, Mac, and Apple iPad, all available through digital distribution) available via the PlayStation Network.  The first installment of The Devil's Playhouse — "The Penal Zone" — begins in media res with Sam and Max aboard the flagship of evil space gorilla General Skun'ka'pe.  Our heroes must use Max's amazing new psychic powers to thwart the general and send him back to that interdimensional prison known as The Penal Zone.  They won't be working alone, however, as various acquaintances the duo have met during past seasons such as Stinky, Grandpa Stinky, Harry Moleman, and the ghostly apparition of Doctor Momma Bosco will all pitch in and lend a hand in their own special ways.  Humor and puzzle-solving come together in this amusingly captivating point-and-click (well, on the PS3 it's more tilt-the-control-stick-and-click) adventure.

Continue reading "Mini-Review: Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - Episode 1: "The Penal Zone"" »

How To Make Just Cause 2 Better? Just Add Dinosaurs!

Just Cause 2 - Now With Dinosaurs! There's a lot of upcoming add-on downloadable content for Just Cause 2 on the way from Square-Enix and Avalanche Studios, but do you know what isn't on the DLC list?  Dinosaurs!  Andrew Reiner of Game Informer has come up with a way to make the too-much-fun action/sandbox game for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC even more enjoyable.  Just add dinosaurs.

In my time, I've found Just Cause 2 is all about the gameplay. I haven't been able to immerse myself into the fiction or the world. Frankly, the story is terrible, the characters come across like cartoons, and the factions appear to be there just to make my goals more difficult. As I'm playing, I often find myself thinking about what this game would be like with the Jurassic Park license. A healthy infestation of dinosaurs would certainly make things interesting.

Let the idea simmer in your head for a moment, then check out the conceptual screenshot mock-ups created by artist Jeff Akervik that combine the adventures of agent Rico Rodriguez with giant bitey lizards.  There's almost too much awesome in these images to contain, and if this were an actual game or add-on DLC, I would buy it immediately.  You hear that, Avalanche?  Dinosaurs.  Think about it.

Sam & Max: Beyond Time And Space Review At Kombo

Sam and Max: Beyond Time and SpaceThe freelance police are back!  Or, rather, the freelance police's adventures from 2007-08 that formed Season 2 of their ongoing exploits have made it to the Nintendo Wii in compilation disc form, as Atari has picked up the retail publishing rights to the Telltale Games downloadable series of Sam & Max titles.  Five exciting episodes that take our heroes beyond time and space are now available as — fittingly enough — Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space, and my review of Atari's efforts is now available over at Kombo.  There's even some exclusive video that sums up the Wii experience.

The action may sound dry and repetitive considering that it's based around dialog and character interaction, but what makes Sam & Max worth exploring are the jokes, gags, and other layers of humor embedded in most everything the characters say, do, and see. Much of the humor also comes from the performances of the actors behind Sam and Max. David Nowlin and William Kasten bring lots of energy to their respective roles with Nowlin keeping Sam grounded in reality as the straight man and Kasten providing plenty of manic energy as Max. For instance, the aforementioned Maimtron speaks entirely in quotes from 1980s pop music. He threatens to "tear your playhouse down" ("I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down", Paul Carrack) when he starts to attack, and when Sam demands to know Maimtron's serial number in order to report him to the authorities, the answer is, of course, 8675309 ("867-5309/Jenny", Tommy Two-Tone).

This was a difficult title to score because I was essentially reviewing two halves of the same whole.  On the one hand, the actual Sam & Max episodes are highly enjoyable and a must-play for point-and-click adventure fans.  On the other hand, the Wii port isn't up to technical snuff thanks to some video, audio, and pointer skipping issues and can turn the title into more frustration than fun.  How do I come up with a composite score in a situation like this?  In the end I split the difference and marked it as "Good", but with the caveat that it may well be best played on another platform.  It's a darn shame, too.  The Wii remote was practically made for this genre.

Ghostbusters Concept Art Teases Unused Game Levels

It's a river of slime!

Those of us who finished Ghostbusters: The Video Game last year may think we've seen it all, but there's more to the story of Gozer's return than the game had to offer.  A series of concept artwork pieces created by Stuart Ng shows environments that didn't make it into the game's multiplayer mode. has most of the pieces, while a few others are waiting at sci-fi blog io9 and Ng's own DeviantArt site.  Some such as the Ivo Shandor exhibit at the museum should be familiar, but my favorite has to be a take on the Van Horne Pneumatic Transit Station filled to the brim with pink psychoreactive "mood slime" as seen under the streets of New York City in Ghostbusters 2.  Says Ng:

"I had a lot of fun coming up with this one. Well, at least coming up with ideas of how the rest of the area looked like. In the movie, you mostly only see what's seen at the end of the train platform at the far end of the concept. I did a lot of research as to what the pneumatic subway could have looked like and what it's history was. Turns out, the station never actually existed, and was simply fiction in the movie. What was actually seen in the movie was based on an actual location, and that's what I drew a lot of inspiration and research from." 

I can't imagine how well a multiplayer environment that involved trudging through deep slime would have worked which may have something to do with why the idea went unused. Other unused concepts includes multiplayer levels from the Spider Witch's layer, the library stacks, and the architect's office.  Definitely have a look at them.