Monday, September 15, 2014

Party Game Sundays: "Cold Stone Creamery: Scoop It Up"

The last time I wrote something for Party Game Sundays I regaled you all with tales of the decent Hope Depot game. This time I am coming at you with another hot licensed property, but this time it's the sweet ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery. That's right, we played Cold Stone Creamery: Scoop It Up."

When I heard that there was a Cold Stone game I actually thought it was going to be pretty good. However, upon booting up the game I knew that was no longer going to be the case. I guess it's not bad, but it certainly is lackluster. To start off it's only a 2-player game. You can choose either the career mode, or the versus mode. 

We chose versus mode, and were thrown right into the mini-game action. That's not even a clever segue. There were absolutely no controls given, or introductions. It was just a loading screen and then the game was going. In each one we had to figure out what to do. Absolutely none of them were complex and all involved simple movements. Shaking the Wii-remote put sprinkles on some ice cream, chopping fruit, and twirling the Wii-remote to mix stuff together. There were only about seven games and they all took like 30 seconds tops. We played versus a few times, and it probably only took about five minutes...

Mixing the batter is much less fun than she's making it out to be.

As a party game it wasn't the worst. It was just some manic fun, but there was next to no content. In order to get a more fully realized picture we decided to play some two player in career mode. It was essentially 2-player Diner Dash. Customers would walk by the store very slowly with their specific ice cream orders over their heads. We would then have to scoop the ice cream into the proper cone and put the correct toppings on. Whenever anything would run out we'd have to play the mini-games from the versus mode. It was all quite boring.

I don't really know what to say about this one. The game costs like $10 on Amazon now, but even that price might be too high for a game that's a ripoff of Diner Dash with around ten mini-games in it. It's not a bad game, it just isn't a very good one!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Game Time - August 2014

I played a whole lot of the Inazuma Eleven series over the past two months. In fact, I beat all four games in the series that have been released in English so far. So far I've probably played for a grand total of 300 hours, and I still have so much more left to do. So yeah, I played through all of Inazuma Eleven 3: Bomb Blast, and Inazuma Eleven GO: Shadow this month.

Other than that I played through a majority of Xillia 2, and I keep changing my opinion of it. One minute I feel like it's a decent game, and the next everything about it really upsets me. Hopefully by the time I beat it I'll have a solid opinion.

Since the Inazuma Eleven games are long, and Xillia 2 is a million hour long RPG I didn't play a whole lot of other stuff this month, but I did manage to play a little bit of the InFamous: Second Son DLC. I like it so far, but I don't know how much longer I'll feel that way... It's got some interesting design choices.

InFamous First Light

I thought that Fetch was an amazing character in InFamous: Second Son. She was pretty much the only character besides Delsin that had solid development. She had gotten into some trouble with drugs, but was recovering. Plus, her neon powers were amazing. So it's only natural that I'd purchase the DLC where you play as Fetch and learn more about her backstory. Somehow I feel like I got swindled out of $15...

Yes, First Light has you playing as Fetch. It takes place months before Second Son when Fetch was first brought to Curdun Cay, the conduit prison. She's being trained to control her powers and in the process of doing so she's forced to tell the story of what happened to her brother. You get to play those sequences, and those are the best part. You get to run around Seattle as Fetch, who unsurprisingly has the same Neon powers that Delsin stole from her. The story is what I like, not so much the playing part...

At least it has a sick logo?

When doing missions in Seattle you can do side missions, just like in Second Son, except that they're all super lame. In order for Fetch to get skill points you have to collect neon gas. You can just run around and collect it, or you have to chase it during race events. You can also do some sweet neon graffiti. It's not exactly the most stellar content, especially when it's been taken almost directly from the main game. Delsin couldn't run races, but who would want to do that anyways, because it's lame. Running around Seattle is lame, but the story missions almost make up for it.

What really throws me off about this DLC is that when Fetch isn't telling her story you have to play through battle arenas in Curdun Cay. Enemies will show up, and sometimes you'll need to run over a hostage in order to rescue them. These types of battle arenas are generally bad filler content in games, so the fact that they're one of the main pieces of content in this DLC is more than a little upsetting.

Fetch can make some awesome neon graffiti.

I can see this being an amazing DLC for people who don't own Second Son, because it's standalone. If I hadn't done all of this same stuff as Delsin for around 12 hours earlier this year I might think First Light was an amazing purchase for just $15. However, since I did play Second Son when it first came out this just seems like a quickly thrown together cash grab I was tricked into getting because Fetch was a solid character in the main game. I'm interested in seeing her story through, but I can guarantee I won't be doing all the optional missions, and I'll fight in the battle arenas as little as possible.

Tales of Xillia 2

I had a lot of problems with the first Tales of Xillia, which you can read all about here. A lot of the problems I had with the first game are still present in Xillia 2. The story doesn't make a whole lot of sense, the areas are wide open (They're literally the same areas), and you're always told exactly where to go. On the other hand the characters are all marginally better, and the battle system is still super fun.

To me Xillia 2 feels like it's either cut content from the original game, or a very large story expansion. It has a brand new main character named Ludger Kresnik. For some inexplicable reason he can't talk. I'm a fan of silent protagonists in games, but in this case it's very out of place. All the other characters talk a whole lot. It wouldn't be as weird if characters didn't speak directly to him in ways that warrant a response. Apparently there's a story reason he doesn't talk, but I have seen no evidence of that and I'm around 40 hours in.

Ludger can't talk, but he can sure shoot pistols.

Other than Ludger's weird silence the story characters are all pretty good. One of the new characters the game introduces is a little girl named Elle. Normally children characters in games are obnoxious, but something about Elle makes her very endearing. She is lost and was separated from her father, but is constantly trying to fulfill a promise to him. It helps that she carries around Ludger's super obese cat Rollo, who I am absolutely in love with.

What bothers me about Xillia 2 the most is that the writing in it is super inconsistent. The game had a strong beginning, but a few hours in everything fell apart. It was almost like a completely different set of writers were put on the game for a few hundred pages of the script. At some point the characters start throwing out all kinds of terms as if you should know them when in reality you don't know what the hell is going on at all. Within the past few hours it has gotten better, but I still feel like there's something missing. It doesn't help that the game has serious pacing issues. It's separated into chapters and at the beginning and end of each you're given a ton of sidequests to do. People like me will do them all, which takes around two to three hours. So you're taking breaks from the main story for hours at a time when you don't even know what's going on in the first place.

All hail our lord and savior, Rollo.

Just like with the first game this makes it sound like I totally hate Xillia 2, when I don't. The battle system is super fun and action oriented, but everything surrounding that needs a lot of work. The fact that Ludger can switch between dual blades, a sledgehammer, and dual pistols is cool, but it doesn't change anything drastically. All of the exploration and sense of discovery is gone, which is something I really hope they fix in the next Tales game. It will help that they're not going to be reusing all the same assets again...

Inazuma Eleven 3/GO

I played and beat the first two Inazuma Eleven games in July. I then continued to play Inazuma Eleven 2 until all of my players were level 99, which took around 85 hours. For some reason I then decided to import a 3DS from England in order to play Inazuma Eleven 3, and Inazuma Eleven GO. Inazuma Eleven 3 continues the story of the first two games and acts as a finale to the trilogy. It's mostly the same as the previous two, but layers a few new mechanics on top of everything. Players get tired more quickly and the amount of TP players have for special moves was greatly decreased. It also added the ability to chain shots together, which was very handy in a lot of situations.

My favorite part about 3 though is that it's about an international soccer tournament, so you get to see the game's representation of countries other than Japan. The British team is super fancy, the American team stays in a junkyard, and the Italian team all sound like they're trying to impersonate Mario. It's an amazingly harmless view of the world's countries that only comes off as slightly offensive. It helps that since it's pretty much an anime version of soccer, so it takes itself very seriously. There's no chance they were trying to make subtle jokes or anything.

In Inazuma Eleven 3 the story team is the best!

From Inazuma Eleven 3 I moved right on to Inazuma Eleven GO, which focuses on a mostly different set of characters. Ten years passed after the original trilogy, so now all the characters I thought were cool from the first game have grown up and are around my age (24). What's cool is that they are actually an integral part of the story, because they have to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of players. What sucks is that I'm not really a fan of most of the new characters. The main character in particular I find to be insufferable. His name is Arion Sherwind, and he's super upbeat like Mark was. Unlike Mark however, Arion is super emotional. He truly believes that soccer as a sport has feelings, so he's always worried about making soccer sad. Yeah, that's a real thing.

There are a few characters I like though like Viktor Blade, who inexplicably has a Russian accent. In fact all of the characters talk with accents. These kids all live in Japan, so why does each one have a different accent? Maybe they were like that in the original Japanese, but even then it still wouldn't make sense. It also helps to make the voice acting extra awful, when it wasn't even that great in the first place.

I really wasn't feeling the players in Inazuma Eleven GO...

Inazuma Eleven GO changes the series completely, because it was the first game made specifically for the 3DS. Instead of being sprites everything is completely in 3D. It makes everything look awesome, but there are far less special moves for your players to learn. I've heard that Inazuma Eleven GO 2 has a whole lot more special moves, so I hope the lack in this game is because of the hardware switch. Due to the shift to 3D the actual soccer matches feel and play a lot differently as well. You can no longer pass to anyone, because the ball won't pass right through opposing players. You have to hold the stylus down in order to kick it over their heads. They also added a mechanic that gives certain players access to fighting spirits. They are literally spirits that the players summon in order to become much stronger.

When you have a fighting spirit summoned on a player it's almost impossible for them to lose the ball, and their shots are far stronger than they normally would be. The downside is that the players can only have the spirit summoned for a certain amount of time, and while the spirit is summoned they become tired much more quickly. It adds a new dimension to the game, because you not only have to worry about the stats and elements of an opposing player. You now also have to worry about the stats and element of the fighting spirit that player has as well. When you go against the computer the AI isn't the best, so you can usually steamroll them with whatever you have. However, I think that once I can play a human being the fighting spirits will be much less effective.

Fighting spirits are a cool new addition to Inazuma Eleven GO.

I have now beaten all of these Inazuma Eleven games, but I am still leveling up my teams in both 3 and GO. You'll probably hear me talk about the games a lot more in one form or another, because I still think about the series far too much for my own good.

The Storm Begins

It's a good thing I beat all the Inazuma Eleven games, because the fall game storm is upon us. From September up until around March there is a nonstop stream of games coming out that I don't know I'll be able to keep up with.

I still haven't beaten Xillia 2 and Dangonronpa 2 for the Vita will be arriving at my house tomorrow. Then a week after that I'll have Destiny. The trend continues from there when a new game comes out weekly, and sometimes two games come out a week. It's going to be an action packed fall and I'm very excited for it.

I'd keep going on, but I really have to get on Xillia 2 or it's never going to get finished. See you all next time!


Monday, September 1, 2014

Hot Podcast Action

I've been thinking about doing a podcast for a long time, but have held myself back for multiple reasons. The main one is that I recorded three episodes of a podcast in college with some of my friends, which wasn't exactly what I would call brilliant. It is no longer on Itunes, but I keep it on my computer as a constant reminder of how not to make a podcast.

The second reason is that I didn't know how I wanted to do it. You can go to any video game website and hear them rehash the weekly news. So I came up with the idea to talk about a different video game related topic, or specific video games each episode. That kind of specific and in-depth conversation would be interesting to me, so I hope it'll be interesting to other people as well.

Today I actually went ahead and recorded the first episode of the Game Time With Manny podcast. This past weekend my friends and I went to a fighting game tournament in Philadelphia, PA. Fighting game tournaments aren't something a whole lot of people have context for, so I thought it would be cool to talk about the experience for a bit.

I have embedded the podcast below for your listening pleasure. This is the first episode, so any criticism, comments, or suggestions would be extremely welcome. Also yes, I realize the audio quality is kind of bunk. My mic sounded fine, but Willy and Noukeo's weren't exactly the hottest. Next time I'll try to find new mics and mess around with the settings a bit more. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Party Game Sundays: Our House:Party!

When I heard that Landers had purchased a game that was Home Depot themed I didn't believe him. Then I actually saw the game, and immediately thought that it would be horrible. Landers on the other hand had faith that it would be enjoyable. Somehow he was actually right and in a crazy turn of events Our House Party was a pretty fun game. Also, in case you were wondering it totally does play the song Our House by Crosby,Stills, and Nash during the intro...

The goal of the game is to make your house as dope as possible. Obviously you do that by playing mini-games. In the beginning you need to choose one of twelve home improvement projects to work on. Once that's decided the game throws you right into a Home Depot! In the store you can purchase tools in exchange for screws, which are the games currency. Each tool is a power-up for specific mini-games. I didn't find any of them helpful, so I tended to run my cart around the store and use it to block all the other players from buying things. It worked sometimes.

There's a game where all you do is smash things!

After the shopping portion the game moves you into a series of mini-games. Each home improvement project is made up of 2 to 5 themed mini-games. At the end of each project your rank determines how well it comes out. So if you come in first place when improving your lawn it looks amazing and is worth a butt-load of money, but if you come in fourth it looks like someone took a flamethrower to it. At the end of the game whichever player's house is worth the most money wins, or at least that's what I assume happens. When we were three projects away from finishing the game hard locked the Wii. It locked up so badly that we had to unplug the console, because it wouldn't turn off... It took us a long time to get to that point, so we decided not to go through it all again.

We didn't want to go through it again, but that doesn't mean that Our House Party isn't a fun game. The mini-games are actually pretty varied and control well. They were eventually repeating, but they were far enough apart that it didn't matter. I got to mow lawns, dig holes, and even tile floors! I still don't know how I should feel about enjoying a mini-game that had me tiling floors. Hell, even digging holes was fun. We had to dig our own hole, while shoveling the dirt into a different hole. What was cool was that every mini-game was conducive to sabotaging your opponents. This meant that we rarely focused on completing the tasks the game handed us, but instead messed with each other the entire time.

The mini-games are all about screwing with your opponents.

What I really don't understand is why Home Depot decided they needed their own video game. Nothing about this game made me think about Home Depot, except for the part where you needed to shop for tools inside of one. Some of the loading screens were flyers too, but that's really it. Kids are certainly the target audience for this and they don't tend to want to shop for tools. Kids also don't care about improving their homes for the most part. I know I've said it multiple times now, but the most puzzling part of the whole thing is that the game is actually well put together. Sure, the load times are a bit long, but it plays well and actually has a wide variety of activities. I wouldn't mind playing it again, once I get over the hard locking incident.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Party Game Sundays: Raving Rabbids TV Party

Somehow I missed all the Raving Rabbid games. I know that they began as a Rayman thing, but quickly spun out into their own wacky shenanigans. That was about all I knew about the Rabbids prior to this game, was that they were crazy. After playing I can safely say that my knowledge checks out. The Rabbids are totally crazy.

When we know that a party game is good we tend to hype it up to ourselves. This is mainly due to the fact that we play a bunch of garbage on Party Game Sundays. This led to me being a bit dissapointed by Raving Rabbids TV Party. It's a great selection of mini-games and most of them work well. None of them blew my mind or anything though, even the overall premise wasn't super funny.

Sure, rabbits in a wrestling ring. That sounds about right.

The Rabbids somehow got control of a TV studio and they're producing all kinds of weird programming. All of this programming is what you're playing in mini-game form. The TV analogy goes a level deeper, in that when a player is behind in a game they can activate an ad break. Whichever player does what the ad asks for first they'll get a boost to help them in the min-game. It's an interesting concept, but it really doesn't add anything to the overall experience. You're still playing a bunch of mini-games with weird loony rabbits.

I personally like rhythm mini-games and this game was chock full of them, perhaps a little too many of them. One had you dancing to licensed music by putting the Wii-mote out into certain hot dance positions. This is fun the first time, but when you see the game keep coming up in the list to choose from it gets a bit tiring. They have the same mini-game named different things for different musical tracks. The same thing goes for the other musical mini-game, which was essentially a crappy version of Guitar Hero. You just had to hit the button when an icon crossed the right area of the screen. It's impressive that Ubisoft got a whole bunch of licensed music, but it's less impressive that they didn't come up with more games to use that music in. Playing the exact same mini-games twelve or so times is dumb.

Yes, I did bust out some hot dance moves.

I specifically bring up the rhythm based games, because that's what I remember the most clearly. There were a ton more games however, and quite a bit of variation in those. One that didn't work so hot had you drawing lines and shapes with the wii-more in order to break through asteroids. It didn't work super well for me. Most of the time I would need to draw a straight line and the game wouldn't even be able to recognize it...

There were a lot of games that were compatible with the Wii balance board, but sadly we didn't have one. Without the balance board the games amounted to using the Wii-mote to steer some sort of vehicle. One of them had us snowboarding down a mountain weaving in-between flags. One of the weirder games had us dressing up the Rabbids to meet certain requirements. They didn't necessarily make sense, so it was kind of hard to determine how I was supposed to make a Hillbilly with a sense of style.


Overall the game was well put together and I think that if I was younger I would have liked the game a whole lot more. It has a manic feel to it, and the mini-games controlled in a manner that didn't make me want to smash everything. It was a cool game, so we might end up playing other games in the series at some point.


Party Game Sundays: King of Clubs

I promised that I'd eventually get around to writing about a god awful game, and today is that day. I have not been this distraught while playing a video game in a long time. I'm going to preface this by saying that Landers was advised that he could not return the game after he broke the shrink wrap. He purchased the miniature golf themed game King of Clubs at Gamestop for the incredible sum of $3. The employee on staff took it upon themselves to let him know that once the seal was broken he would no longer be able to get his $3 back. Much to my dismay the seal was broken, and I was forced to play King of Clubs.

This game has been in Landers' pile of games for many months now. Every Sunday when asked to choose a game I tried to put off King of Clubs. See, I don't find good golf games enjoyable, so playing an awful miniature golf game wasn't exactly on the top of my to do list. In an unsurprising turn of events the game upset me greatly.

If you ever see this cover, avoid it!

To start off there's a cinematic of these weirdos dressed in themed costumes. For some reason they're in a TV studio and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The characters all have golf themed names like King Putt, which might be the best part of the game. I guess the costumes are themed along with each of the golf courses, but I don't know for sure since you need to unlock courses by playing the game. Hopefully I never have to find out what the other course themes are, but I can tell you that the first is prehistoric. There's a whole bunch of lava and dinosaurs.

Prior to starting the course you need to pick a character and buy equipment. I opted out of buying equipment, because I didn't care. However, you do have the option to buy various types of balls and clubs. For some reason you can also buy sound packs, which come into play while your opponents are playing. If you mash the B button sounds will play in an attempt to distract them. The catch is that it's not distracting at all... Luckily the distraction doesn't matter, because of the controls.

Look at the beautiful graphics!

The controls themselves are bullshit. You're forced to use a nunchuck, which I assumed would be used to position your golf swing. Instead what it does is control the camera in a completely useless fashion! You need to use the d-pad in order to position your shot. A colored line will sometimes appear coming off your club to show you the trajectory of your ball. I say sometimes, because the shot line would disappear at random. We would be playing and then all of a sudden none of us would be able to aim properly anymore with absolutely no indication as to why. 

When putting a power bar will appear, which is supposed to be controlled by swinging the Wii-remote like an actual golf club. That doesn't work, so I had to twist the Wii-remote in various ways to make my power increase. I can't tell you exactly how, because it was different almost every time. Once you do have the desired power you hold A and swing. Once again the swinging doesn't work as intended. Sometimes it was fine, other times I could flail the Wii-remote violently and have absolutely nothing happen.

Unsurprisingly it's hard to find pictures of this terrible game.

What really bothered me though was the complete lack of physics King of Clubs had on display. Say you hit a ball up a hill and it stops halfway. You'd expect it to roll back down, but not in this game! Instead it gets caught in the middle and goes nowhere. The lack of physics continues with just about every collision in the game. For some reason hitting walls and obstacles would vary between making the ball stop completely, or sending it off in a direction that makes no sense. 

I can't even make this post funny! It was just an awful golf game. It controlled poorly and made me want to cry a little bit. The course was only 9 holes, and we didn't even finish it! At some point the four of us playing just decided that we'd had enough and I shut the Wii off in despair. At least most of the games we play on Sundays are funny, but this was not one of them. I don't want to play King of Clubs ever again. Thinking about it makes me sad and angry. 

I leave you with this 4 star amazon review of the game.
"this i a fun game once you figure out the controles the instruction book does not explane the controles but once you figure them out this game is a blast"


Party Game Sundays: The Amazing Race

We've been sitting on The Amazing Race for months, because in order to properly play we needed four people. In case you've never seen the long running CBS reality show I'll explain it a bit for you. There are multiple teams of two, and their goal is to travel to various destinations around the globe. Each episode of the show is considered a "leg" of the race. So teams will travel to various places and compete in challenges. At the end of the leg the last team to arrive is eliminated. Sometimes it's more than one, but for the sake of this game it's only one at a time.

So, the game is kind of like that. You make a team of two and you compete in stupid mini-games, while ridiculous load times and stuttering happen. When we were playing I could hear the Wii reading the disc very loudly. It was even happening when nothing was really going on. There are short vignettes where the host of the show will have some terrible pre-recorded voice-over and they are literally two seconds long. The freaking console would kick into high gear reading the disc and then the frame-rate of the poorly rendered version of the host would drop drastically all in a two second period.

This looks just like Phil Keoghan!

With that being said the game itself was alright. We chose to play five legs, but only ended up doing four. At the beginning of each you choose a plane to take to your destination. Some will be faster, but cost more money. So generally we would pick the free plane in order to save funds for a faster ride later. This eventually came back to bite me and my teammate in the ass. The same thing would be done at the end of each leg to reach the final destination, except with buses and taxis.

In one of the legs my friend Justin and I were three hours ahead, which in terms of the show would mean exactly that. We would get to leave three hours before everyone else. That wasn't the case in the game. We ended up getting eliminated in the fourth leg, because we chose the free plane and got pretty far behind. We thought we'd be okay, because of our three hour lead in the previous leg. Turns out the previous times mean literally nothing, so we were eliminated. Not taking the previous legs time into account means that only your results in the final leg matter as long as you don't get eliminated prior to that.

Don't pick the free one. Trust me...

Needless to say I felt pretty cheated, but on top of that the game itself wasn't even really super great. The mini-games also had some hot frame dropping problems. I only remember two of the mini-games. One had us scrubbing plates clean to discover a specific symbol. The other had us counting down time so that we could push A when the timer was close to zero. We played the timer one a few times. There might have been one about water balloons too? I don't know we played three games that week.