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May 2010

What The BEEP Is That? #10 At Kombo

What The BEEP Is That?Another week brings another installment of "What The BEEP Is That?" over at Kombo.  This week's theme: Power-up sounds! Few can forget the iconic tones of Mario snagging a Super Mushroom, Link pulling the Master Sword free, or Samus Aran picking up a Missile Expansion. That's why those sound effects aren't a part of this week's challenge. Instead we've put together eight clips of characters powering-up that may be floating around inside your long-forgotten memories. Can you put the pieces together and come up with the answers? If only there were a way to give your brain a temporary ability boost.  The prize this time around is Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype for the Sony PlayStation 3, so if you can identify some or all of the sound effects, why not enter for a chance to win?  Let my helpful clues guide you, plus there's a semi-hidden link to a tenuously relevant clip of NewsRadio for reasons that amuse me.

Insomniac Games Announces New PS3, X360 Game

Insomniac GamesEveryone over in Microsoft Xbox 360 land who has been peering over the fence at all of the fun happening in the world of the Sony PlayStation 3 thanks to Insomniac Games and its Ratchet & Clank and Resistance franchises have a little sunshine headed their way as Insomniac has announced a new franchise title that is in the works for both consoles.  Here's a bit of the reveal from Insomniac's Ted Price:

Lately, many of you have been asking, “what’s next?” Today, we’re excited to announce that we have created a brand new universe and franchise for you to experience in the coming years. As we develop it, one of our goals is to provide an awesome experience for as many players as possible. With that in mind, we’re working with EA Partners to bring this title to both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

You may be wondering why we’re announcing this game now, and how it relates to our existing projects. We’ve been developing games on an annual pace during the last 16 years. One thing that has become apparent to us though is that in order to live up to our own high standards of quality, we want to give ourselves more development time to iterate and polish our games. All future Insomniac titles will benefit from longer development cycles, which will directly benefit you, our fans.

We know many of you are extremely loyal to the PlayStation family, and especially to Resistance and Ratchet & Clank. We are too. Our relationship with Sony Computer Entertainment is still very strong, and continues as we develop additional projects exclusively for PlayStation 3 - projects that will take full advantage of our additional development time.

We've heard little stirrings that the company was interested in multiplatform releases for a while now, but I didn't expect that we'd hear anything definitive until E3 next month.  With E3 on the way and this announcement now behind us, do you think we'll hear anything about a title or see a screenshot or two?  Sadly, Kotaku says that it's not happening.  Whatever they're working on, I'm interested (even if it takes more than a year to develop). Giving new options to owners of both of this generation's powerhouse consoles makes all of us winners in the end.

Rock Band 3 Teases Piano/Keyboard Support

Rock Band 3 teaser Guitars and drums.  It's always been about guitars and drums.  Well, some of us don't play those instruments, so if you've been sitting on the sidelines of the music game revolution like I have in the hopes that someone would add piano-based gameplay to the likes of Rock Band or Guitar Hero, then there may be brighter days ahead.  Kotaku has a teaser image taken from a recent Rock Band demo that apparently shows the instrument line-up for the upcoming Rock Band 3, and joining the usual assortment of musicmakers is an icon of piano keys.  Could it be?

Take a look up there at all those little icons. We've got bass, drums, guitar, vocals - the three mics suggesting the harmonies from Beatles: Rock Band are carrying over - and finally, on the right, a keyboard.

Sure, not every song has one. Not every band has a pianist or keyboardist, either. But some do, and it looks like we'll now be able to rock out to those songs as nature intended.

With piano support on the way, I may finally buy into this genre (well, the piano and voice parts, anyway).  I expect both Billy Joel and Elton John versions of Rock Band 3 before the upcoming fiscal year is over.  Get on it, Electronic Arts and Harmonix.  I'll find a place in my home to store a piano controller somehow.

"The Ten Best Super Mario Levels" At Kombo

Super Mario 64 Mario has traversed a lot of ground over the years, but for all of the places he's been, which are the best?  Over at Kombo, I team up with fellow resident Mario expert Lucas DeWoody to examine and analyze what we believe are the ten best Super Mario levels of all time.  We cover a wide range of the famous plumber's career, spanning from the original Super Mario Bros. all the way to the just-released Super Mario Galaxy 2.  Some of our choices are even a little obscure while others will most likely surprise you.

Super Mario 64: Tall, Tall Mountain

Nintendo was just getting its feet wet in the world of 3D level design in this classic that launched the Nintendo 64, but there's a spark of what was to come in a massive mountain accessed from the upper floors of Princess Peach's castle. Tall, Tall Mountain has to be one of the largest levels in the game in terms of sheer height. Climbing the mountain can be daunting on the very first try, but exploring what the place has to offer reveals plenty do to. There's a secret slide to find (and descend), a crafty monkey that'll swipe Mario's hat if given the chance, a cannon that leads to a lonely mushroom, red coins scattered on tiny platforms to collect, and much more. There's even a great oversight in the N64 version that allows one to collect the secret slide star without actually visiting the secret slide (shame they fixed it in the Nintendo DS remake by putting a grate over the spot in question).

Since this is a Top Ten list we had to leave a few stray choices on the cutting room floor, but honorable mentions go out to the Comet Observatory from Super Mario Galaxy, World 5-2 from Super Mario Bros. 2, World 7-A from New Super Mario Bros., and Cookie Mountain from Super Mario World.

Weekly Poll: Return To Flight

Weekly Poll for 5-17-2010Feelings are nearly mixed on interest in a new Sony PlayStation Portable, although more people couldn't care less about a new system.  As for me, I'm ready for a new generation of PSP because my current PSP-1000 system is wearing out and if I'm going to buy a new machine, I'd much rather buy something entirely new.  I mainly use my PSP for light web browsing (mostly text-only pages thanks to its outdated browser) and streaming Netflix via the PlayStation 3's Remote Play abilities, but I'm open to new games as titles are announced that match my interests.

Speaking of shiny new things, Nintendo's Super Mario Galaxy 2 is now with us in North America.  I'm a week ahead of you all thanks to reviewing the game for Kombo, so as someone who is seemingly approaching the end of what it has to offer (108 stars collected as of this moment), I'm curious if the game has met your expectations.  Has it earned the big "2" on its box?  Or do you believe it's more of an expansion pack for its predecessor?  Let's hear your thougths.  We cover this topic on this week's upcoming episode of Power Button, so stay tuned for that as well.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review At Kombo

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Back in 2007 I realized that Nintendo was quietly remaking the spirit of the original 2D Super Mario adventures in glorious 3D, and that since the original Super Mario Galaxy connected spiritually to Super Mario Bros. 3, I couldn't wait to see what happened when Nintendo decided to parallel Super Mario World.  Well, guess what?  Super Mario Galaxy 2 is that Super Mario World parallel.  Read my full review of the game over at Kombo to find out why (there's some exclusive video to see, too).

Like the upgrade from SMB3 to World, moving between Galaxies allowed Nintendo's creative development team to refine elements that were a little rough around the edges and introduce new material that complements the original title. Mario's suite of power-ups from the previous Galaxy are back for another appearance, although some of the excessively frustrating items such as the Spring Shroom are used sparingly. Luigi is no longer just a non-playable guest star during Mario's quest, as now the brothers can switch off in several levels to put the man in green into the spotlight. The most significant revision has to be the omission of a Comet Observatory-like hub world. An old fashioned map screen takes its place, and while exploring the hub environment is missed, relying on a map screen to move from place to place allows Mario to get back into the action so much quicker than before. This actually speeds up the pace of the game. For those who still want to wander around a friendly overworld-type setting, there's always Starship Mario, the spaceship shaped into the form of Mario's head (one of the characters refers to it as a "faceship"). While the starship doesn't lead anywhere unto itself, it gradually becomes populated by characters and items that Mario discovers around the universe as he pursues Bowser (and the abducted Princess Peach, naturally) through space. The Mailtoad is back to deliver letters, and this time around he's joined by a Banktoad that stores Star Bits in an account shared by all three of Galaxy 2's save files. Bits kept in the account even earn a little interest over time. The comets from Galaxy are back, although now their various forms (daredevil, speedy, etc.) are melded into a single Prankster Comet that brings different alterations to stages. The difficulty of these challenges has been toned down from Galaxyand are now merely difficult instead of maddeningly frustrating (this means a remarkable absence of Bouldergeist daredevil runs).

If this pattern holds, next up should be the 3D take on Yoshi's Island.  One can almost see the beginnings of that here in Galaxy 2, come to think of it.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to the theme from the Throwback Galaxy some more.

Mario's Musical Nostalgia Tour

Mario carries a Bob-omb There are a lot of elements in Nintendo's new Super Mario Galaxy 2 that originated in previous Super Mario games (and I'm not just talking about series mainstays like Fire Flowers and Yoshi).  Long-lost enemies, music, and even entire levels make a comeback out in the coldness of space.  My review of the game over at Kombo will explore some of these elements when it's published later today, but for this morning I can't resist sharing this piece of the Galaxy 2 soundtrack.  Fans of Super Mario 64 will surely remember this little composition, but now it sounds better than ever thanks to a little modern musical makeover.  See you in World 6!

A Little Super Mario Music, If You Please

GoombaI've spent the week exploring the universe in Nintendo's new Super Mario Galaxy 2, and since the embargo on content and discussion lifts tomorrow, I think it's time to get you all into the Mario mood with a little musical moment.  Courtesy of TheOSTation on YouTube, here's the "Orchestra Version"  of the iconic Super Mario Bros. overworld theme.  Taken from an album released in Japan on vinyl, it mostly just adds a drum beat and orchestra hits to the familiar 8-bit melody, but it's catchy and will probably stick around in your mind for a while.  Check it out as you suit up for your next mission to space.

The Great Heavy Rain Wager

JASON!!! I've gone on before about how I play video games in order to smile, so whenever a game known for its depressing qualities comes around, I tend to give it a pass.  Such was the fate of Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain for the Sony PlayStation 3, as I enjoyed the gameplay concepts seen in the demo, but really wasn't up for the experience outlined in this moment from Not Always Right:

Me: “Hi, welcome to [store]! Anything I can do for you?”

(Customer puts a copy of a video game on the counter.)

Customer: “I’m returning this game; it’s not for me.”

Me: “What didn’t you like about it?”

Customer: “It was the stupidest game ever! I walked around a house for 10 minutes, went to the mall, then my kid died and the credits rolled and it was over!”

Me: “Uh…those were the opening credits.”

I can't escape the interactive drama, as I found out that a few of my Kombo colleagues were placing bets on whether or not I'd like the game if I were to play it (since artsy games such as Flower and flOw aren't my thing), and so with money at stake I felt it was my duty to borrow a copy of Heavy Rain and see what it had to offer.  So far I walked around a house for 10 minutes, went to the mall, then my kid died.  I had to shut it off after that before the depression consumed me, but I'm not giving up on it.   I'm told that it lightens up after such a bleak beginning, but I can't help but wonder why Quantic Dream would choose to open their genre-breaking game with such overwhelming sadness.  How is this supposed to hook audiences on an unconventional form of gaming?

Power Button - Episode 10: EA's Online Pass Breaks Hearts; PSP2 Is Due To Start

Power ButtonWhenever intriguing news threatens to pass us by, we reach out and catch it before it gets away.  This week on Power Button Joey Davidson, Brad Hilderbrand, and I hash out the latest "Project Ten Dollar" initiative from Electronic Arts: the Online Pass. Is it fair to charge an additional $10 for multiplayer access when buying a used EA Sports game? After that we tackle the recurring rumors that Sony is prepping an E3 announcement for the next generation of Sony PlayStation Portable. We review whether or not the market demands a PSP2 and then run down our own personal wishlists for the hypothetical handheld. This is actually the second Episode 10 that we recorded, as what was intended to be last week's show was lost when someone stole Joey's laptop. I hope you're enjoying our lost episode, thief. Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes (and we're working on fixing the issue where iTunes only offers the latest episode), 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 10: EA's Online Pass Breaks Hearts; PSP2 Is Due To Start