Monday, March 31, 2008

A Portal to a migraine

A couple of weeks ago I tried playing Portal by myself and got hopeless stuck in the 4th or 5th area. So I put the game away. It was just one of many games that I found myself currently stuck in. But since my brother dain helped me get unstuck in some of those other games I asked for his help getting unstuck in Portal this weekend. Apparently I didn't know what I was getting into.

We were both over to my parent's house and had a set up where we were both connected to our own TV but sitting side by side. We both put the game in and started a new game. The first couple of areas were easy but then I got to the stuck part. Since dain has been through this area before he helped me out. So we decided to tackle the next area . . . and the next area . . . and the next area. You can see where this is going.

We got hooked on the game. But I wasn't expecting to have to think so hard for some of those levels. I think at one point during the game my brain was screaming to be let out of my skull; it certainly was pounding hard enough. And with that amount of brain overload I tend to find the smallest things hysterically funny. Like the time dain got a chair stuck in a door way. He couldn't move the chair and he couldn't open the door. When I started giggling uncontrollably we knew it was time to stop.

If you have a sense of vertigo this isn't the game for you. I can't tell you how many times during a "floor fall/leap" that I wanted to turn and hurl whatever junk food I had just consumed to fuel my game play over the side of the chair. Who ever thought that falling through the floor would build up enough momentum so that you could actually reach a higher platform has got to be one twisted and demented individual. And if you haven't played the game you're probably thinking there's something wrong with my physic explanation. Trust me there isn't.

I will admit that it took me a while to bend the way my brain thinks in order to solve a problem. That fact that my brother was sitting right next to me and I could watch his attempt on his screen without any anxiety from me helped. In fact I don't think I could play this game any other way. A couple of weeks ago when I got stuck, I went out looking for the guide book so I'd have some help (along with pictures) of what I needed to do. But after playing the game I don't think there's any guide book out there that would have helped explain to me what I needed to do in some of those levels. I told dain that we can't play this game any other way. We either play it together (on separate screens, side by side) or we don't play it at all. I think he was in total agreement.

I can see why this game is so popular . . . and hard. The migraine it gave me while playing was proof enough. And what's with the 5 point achievements? With the amount of work that you have to put into some of them you would think they would be worth more. Yes, I know there's more than one game bundled into The Orange Box and that the developer was restricted to 1,000 points total between the games but throw us a bone here. Not being baked and served as the cake at your own "going away" party should at least be 20 points considering all that you have to do just to survive. But I'm sure there's a lot more game play involved before dain and I get to the end. If we don't die from a migraine or a stroke instead.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Xbox 360 has it's own blog

I found this cool site that will give your Xbox 360 it's own voice and blog based on what you're playing. I just set mine up yesterday and it takes a couple of days to get it rolling so my 360 doesn't have a voice yet. When it does I wonder what it will say about me. Will it get offended if I don't play for a couple of days? What about all the times I play but don't get any achievements? I'll have to keep an eye on it to make sure it's not saying mean things about me behind my back.

I think the Xbox gods are mad at me

So I told you that I was turning off my 360 for awhile and was going to get caught up playing Final Fantasy VII. I tried that for two days and I think the Xbox gods got mad at me.

I started playing my PS2 on Sunday night; by Monday my back hurt, but not to much. Just enough to make sitting on the floor playing video games uncomfortable. So I didn't play for too long. By Tuesday night when I got home from work my back was killing me. At that point I couldn't even sit on the floor at all. I could lay down propped up on one elbow but that doesn't stay very comfortable for long. And then there's the issue of getting off the floor with a bad back. I managed to play a little bit Tuesday, but not as much I would have liked.

Just after 3am Tuesday night I woke up with a sharp pain in my right wrist and hand. I've had pain off and on in that wrist for years. I'm sure it's carpel tunnel but I've never gone to a doctor to have it checked out. And it's never been nothing more than an achy feeling that goes away after a couple of days wearing a brace. That night . . . or I should say early morning . . . it was pain. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give it a 15. I couldn't move my wrist or my fingers. I figured I had 2 choices: 1) get up, get dressed and head to Urgent Care or the Emergency room to have it checked out, or 2) go back to bed and see how I feel in the morning. I chose #2.

My wrist still hurt and once I got to work I put a brace on. It still aches today and I don't think it will go away enough for me not to have to go see my doctor. If I did go I'm sure things will eventually lead to me having to have surgery on that wrist and then what will that do for my gaming?

I hooked my Xbox 360 back up because if I was going to game it was going to have to be something with a quick and easy in and out process and something simplistic in the game play. I have a lot of Arcade games that fit that bill. I didn't have a recurrence of the pain last night so maybe I've appeased the Xbox gods enough to let me heal and get back to gaming. But I find it too much of a coincidence that the days I start playing my PS2 again is the days my body is in pain. Maybe I'm just out of practice for PS2 gaming, but for now I think I'll still try to get some Xbox gaming in every day just in case the Xbox gods are watching.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cheaters get their due

Oh, did you hear? Microsoft if cracking down on gamer score cheaters on Xbox Live. You know, those people that, through nefarious means, have inflated their gamer scores by swapping game saves or as Microsoft put it "using external devices". I'm not exactly sure what those "external devices" are but I'm all for it. Of course Microsoft is being very tight lipped about all the things they look for before they wipe out someone's gamer score and mark their profile as a cheater. I guess that's a good thing because then if people knew they would just find ways to get around those things. But they are saying it's a computer program that looks at your profile and you have to meet 100% of the criteria before your account is whacked.

I'm glad they're doing it but what's to stop those players that have been caught (and some already have been) from just starting a new account and doing it all over again. Of course that account would get wiped out too. Maybe by then those cheaters will have figured out it's not worth it. As much as I want to see my gamer score go higher I want to earn every point I get. For those that don't, I guess they're finally getting what they're due.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The NEW New Year Resolutions

Okay, with it being this far into the year can these really be called New Year Resolutions? Anyhoo! These are the next batch of Resolutions or goals or whatever you want to call them, that I hope to accomplish this year, or this quarter, this month, or whenever. Feel free to offer support or attempts to discourage me, whatever your personality dictates.

1. Finish Final Fantasy VII
2. Finish Lego Star Wars II
3. Finish Lego Star Wars: The Complete Sage
4. Finish BioShock
5. Break 10,000 point barrier with my gamer score

#1-4 should be easily doable (except for the undefeated flight missions in Lego Star Wars II). #5 on the other hand could take some doing. If I get close (and desperate) maybe I'll have to resort to Avatar: The Burning Earth. Here's hoping I don't have to. Cheers!

Ah, the good old days

If you don't see me on my Xbox over the next couple of days don't panic. I'm still here. I'm just reliving some of the old days and playing on my PS2. Something I haven't done in a long time.

You see I've really been in an RPG kind of mood lately. I've got several RPGs for the Xbox but for most of them I'm having a hard time reading the font on the screen. I don't know what it is about RPGs on the Xbox but it seems the developers are using the smallest font possible for the stats and menus. I don't know how many times I had a character die in Lost Odyssey or Blue Dragon all because I couldn't read their HP stats to know they were in trouble. But as much as I loved those games my frustration level was much higher. Now, I can appreciate the developers not wanting to fill up the screen with text (except during the dreams in Lost Odyssey) but at least make it readable on a standard TV . . . and by people with bad eyes.

Instead of letting my frustration overwhelm my desire to play an RPG I decided Sunday night to reconnect my PS2 and get back into playing Final Fantasy VII. That is the one official New Year's Resolution that I haven't achieved yet this year. It had been so long since I played that game I wondered if I would remember even how to play.

The first thing I had to get use to was the controller. Something that previously seemed like an extension of my own hands felt awkward and clumsy when I first picked it up. It felt small and insubstantial compared to the Xbox 360 controller. It took awhile to get use to but old habits never seem to go away.

Another thing I noticed was that my PS2 makes more noise than my Xbox 360 does. And it takes longer to boot up. But on the other hand I didn't have to log in to start playing the game.

Once I got into the game it didn't take me long to figure out what to do and where I was in the story. And compared to the font sizes in the 360 games the font size in Final Fantasy VII was HUGE! I could read it even without my contacts or glasses. That's such a nice thing for my tired eyes. I could play for hours without having to strain just to see what's on the TV. There was no danger of my characters dying because I couldn't see their hit points (Cait Sith did die at one point but that's because the enemy did a suicide drop on Cait to end the battle so it's totally not my fault--and yes I play with Cait Sith in my part . . . sometimes).

It's nice to get back to the good old days of playing video games. I don't know how long this will last but maybe I can really book it through FF7 and try another couple of games before the urge to go back to my 360 overtakes me. Who knows, but with these feelings of nostalgia I might even go back to my N64 or Super Nintendo or give in to the longings to play Pikmin on my Game Cube. Ah, those were the good old days.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A very prosperous weekend

It was a very prosperous weekend for me and my gamer score. And it all started innocently enough.

I noticed my brother had the achievement for downloading the winning skins for the game Kameo. I've been trying to get this for awhile, but stupid me I thought it was the winning game pics instead of skins. Now I've got a lot of Kameo game pics on my 360. Oh well. What I didn't realise is that it worth 0 points. Yep. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. I hate it when games do that. Even 5 points would make it worth it.

After my brother helped me figure that out I asked for his help in Tomb Raider: Legend where I was stuck. I knew he had gotten past this point because I've watched him play the game several times. That little bit of help lead to me getting 2 achievements in the game. It also gave me something much more priceless. Apparently when my brother played through the first level he missed quite a few of those bronze/silver rewards. Since he was there helping me I got the chance to pick them up where he missed them on his play through. The look on his face as I pick up one after another of those rewards was priceless.

After finishing Tomb Raider I put in Bioshock because my friend Zenra keeps telling me there's an easier way to take down the Big Daddies instead of fighting them. He said it would require a chat session while I played so when he jumped on I put the game in. He helped me walk through and get all those pesky items to mix the Lazarus formula to save the forest (this was another game I was stuck in). In the course of that run through I picked up 3 more achievements. And I was so involved in the story I hadn't even noticed when one of them popped up. And I live for the bleep.

I'm sure I might have picked up another achievement or two but I can't remember. It was a very productive day for me. And not just on the achievement front. I was able to get unstuck in 3 different games. The other game that I was stuck in was Lost Odyssey. I hate it when I get stuck in a game and can't figure out what I need to do to get past that point. Or even worse is when I know what I need to do but I just can't seem to pull it off, but keep dying instead. I'm still stuck in Portal, but I'll save that game for another time.

All in all I think it was a very productive day. I don't expect to have that happen every weekend when I can devote a lot more time to playing video games than I can during the week. But it's nice when it does happen. And I am starting to think that breaking the 10,000 point gamer score barrier is actually possible this year. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Poll - Have you taken a day off of work to play video games?

There's a new poll up. You have until the end of the month to vote. This time it's: Have you ever taken time off of work to play video games? I'm not talking "I just took the day off, now what am I going to do" type of a day. I want to know if you specifically asked for a day off of work so you could specifically stay home and play a video game. Or, I guess you could take the day off and spend it at the arcade. I know someone who took a couple of days off of work last week so he could play Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 . . . unfortunately the game wasn't out yet (so much for not verifying the release date) so he had to come up with something else to do during that time. If you have, leave a comment if it was a day off for a new game the day it was released or just because you'd rather play games all day than sit in a stuffy cubicle all day. Okay, that's pretty obvious isn't it?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Poll Results - Are you getting R6:V2?

Okay, here are the poll results:

Are you getting Rainbow 6: Vegas 2?

Yes = 4
No = 2
I'm not sure = 1

My vote was "I'm not sure". I did that fairly early on in the voting. The closer it got to the release the more I was leaning to "yes". I even tried to pick it up yesterday. I didn't pre-order it which caused me to go to 3 different stores trying to find a copy. I couldn't. I finally gave up and went home.

I'm not too terribly heartbroken that I didn't pick up a copy. I have plenty of other games to play anyway. I looked through my friends list last night and only a couple of them had the game show up on their recently played games list. I'm sure there will be more that have the game today.

One reason why I didn't pre-order it is because I'm mad at Game Stop. Their policy (at least at the stores in my neighborhood) is that if a game is announced with a release date of March 18th that means that is the day the game ships. It's not available to be sold until the 19th. Needless to say none of the three stores I went to yesterday were a Game Stop. They all had the game for sale but they were currently sold out. For me a "release date" should be the day you can actually buy the game. That's what other retail outlets think. But not Game Stop. I think if there's a game I really have to have the day of release I'll pre-order it from Best Buy or somewhere else. Otherwise I'll just wander in and see if they have any on the shelf.

I'm not sure I'll be able to pick up a copy of the game tonight either. I have a brief break after work before I have to be at a work dinner function. I'm hoping to see if I can't pop in to a Game Stop or other store and pick it up on the way over there. If not I might do it on the way home. But most likely I'll just go home and crash. I'd like to play the game but I could wait another day or two if I had to before I sat with a controller in hand and the game in the console.

The only other games coming out on the horizon that I have my eye on are Too Human, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Gears of War 2 and Final Fantasy XIII (hopefully they'll release that game before I die). Other than that I think I'm good for awhile whether or not I get Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 any time soon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

One among many

So there's something I realized last night while playing Gears of War that I don't know how to feel about. On the one hand it's a good thing and I'm excited about it. On the other it doesn't make me feel special anymore. And a girl always likes to feel special.

What is it?

Girl gamers.

When I first started playing online I seemed to be the only girl playing in a room. Which is why I would never say anything over the mic. After awhile I started playing with a great group of guys that didn't mind that I was a girl. And playing with their friends led me to more great people who also didn't mind playing with a girl. When one or two of them turned out to be a girl as well, I was excited. Finally, someone else that I can relate to.

As time has gone by my group of friends has expanded and more girls have entered my friends list. There was still a lot more of my male friends on the list than women. I always thought that I was a little bit special with my guy friends because there wasn't a lot of girls on their friends lists either. But now things are changing.

Based on the game play over the last couple of weeks it's hard for me to imagine that there isn't a lot of girls playing video games. Somehow this larger number of girls playing games seemed disportionate to what everyone else in the industry is saying about girls playing video games. But last night it hit me.

I love playing video games with the core group of guys I play with almost every night. Why? Because they don't mind that I'm a girl. To them I'm just another gamer. So why am I not surprised that this group of guys, who so openly accepted me, would atrack and have other girl gamers as friends? I shouldn't be, but I am a little bit surprised at the larger number of girl gamers that these guys play with compared to other gamers. You would think that girl gamers are coming out of the woodwork whenever these guys play.

As a girl, when you play online you're constantly bombarded by sexual harassment and innuendos by male gamers. They're usually Jr or Sr High school students and sometimes in college (although there's been older jerks and younger good guys) and they think "they're all that" and more. So as a girl when you find those diamonds in the rough that don't mind you being a girl or playing better (or worse) than them, you naturally want to play with them. So the fact that those individuals that I call "my group of guys" has a lot of female friends they play games with doesn't surprise me.

It might make me feel a little less special knowing I'm just one of the guys . . . or should that be one of the girls . . . on their lists. It's also comforting and exciting to play with these gentlemen and meet all the other girls they play with. I might be one among many and sometimes that's not so bad.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What am I?

Just because I'm a girl and play video games with your husband/boyfriend/son/brother/significant other doesn't mean I'm a home wrecker . . . or a marriage counselor. Just thought you should know.

Out with the old, in with the new

So I took GRAW back last night and used it as a trade in to get The Orange Box and Eternal Sonata. That $3 really went far don't you think? I'm still going to give Lost Planet and Enchanted Arms another shot but I need to decide before the end of the weekend. Game Stop is having a special that you get an extra $10 trade in credit when you bring in 2 games.

There are a few other games I would like to get but I'm trying to be more selective in order to save money. And the more games I get the less time I have to play them. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense. But think about it. If you had only 10 hours to play games in a week and you owned only 10 games you could very well play each game for an hour every week. You might not get very far in all of them but at least you'd get to play them all. But if you had 10 hours to play each week but you owned 100 games some of those games aren't going to get played very much . . . if at all. And since there are always new games coming out those 10 games become 100 rather quickly. At least in my case.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Second chances

So I found the case for GRAW and I have initial plans to take it back today and get something else. But while looking for that case I also found the cases for Enchanted Arms and Lost Planet. Those are two other games where I haven't gotten very far (if anywhere) in them so I might want to give them a second look to see if it will be worth it to keep them.

I've started Enchanted Arms several times but I've just never been in the mood to sit through all that dialogue and crap at the beginning of the game before you get into it. My brother dain borrowed it and at least go to the battle tutorial before he quit. Maybe someday I'll set aside an hour or two and see if I can get the game started and get involved in it.

With Lost Planet I've only put the disk in my machine just to see if it would load up. Every time I get the desire to play the game someone tells me how hard it is and how screwy the controls are. Those are not encouraging words if someone is deciding to play the game. This is another game that might require a couple hours of commitment before I make a decision on whether to keep it or not.

Another game that is currently getting a second chance (more like a first since I haven't played it before) is Tomb Raider: Legend. I've watched my brother play this game many times and I have one of the previous Tomb Raider games for the PlayStation. This last Monday I finally figured out I should probably put the game in and see what's it's like for myself. I got stuck in the first level but not enough to discourage me and make me want to never see the game again. But just enough to make me want to put in something less aggravating.

Maybe this need to par down on my games comes from the guilt of owning games I haven't played or the fact that I don't have any more room in my game binder for the latest games I bought. The fact that Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey are both 4 disks each doesn't help. Not to mention all those Final Fantasy multi-disk games. Oh well. The straps are starting to rip so I'm going to have to buy a new case soon anyway. But it wouldn't hurt to clean out the dead games in order to have more money for new ones. Right?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New blog feature - recently earned achievements

I've decided to add a feature to my blog. It's going to be a list of the last couple of achievements I've earned in games (if applicable). That way you not only know WHAT I've been playing but HOW I've been playing it. Of course, you might not care either way. Whatever.

My opinion - GRAW

Every now and then I'm going to pick a game and give my opinion of it. Why? Because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want. So there.

Any hoo! The game I picked this time is Ton Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter otherwise known as GRAW. This game came out in March of 2006 but I didn't get it until later. When I did get it it was because a bunch of my friends were playing it and they suggested it to me. Without playing a demo I took them up on it. Now I don't think I should have.

I owned it for a long time before I ever put it into my system to play. There were just other games that I was more interested in that more of friends were playing instead. When I did put it in I had a hard time reading and following the instructions in the tutorial level. I couldn't understand what they were asking me to do or where they wanted me to go. And then I got the grenade toss.

That was where I quit. I just couldn't toss the smoke grenade in the right spot in order to run across the open road without dying. No matter how many times I tried I just couldn't do it the way the computer wanted me to and that meant that I couldn't progress in the training. It really frustrated me. I stopped playing. A couple of weeks later I came back to the game and tried again. The second time through the controls were a little easier to understand, but not much. But then I got the grenade part. I had the same problem again.

This time I stopped playing for months. If I was getting frustrated just trying to make it through the training mission what was the actual game play going to be for me? Once GRAW 2 came out I figured I should at least try it one more time. Still the same problem. It wasn't worth it for me any more. But I kept the game.

I always thought I'd come back and play GRAW. I never have. And my experience playing Call of Duty 4 has taught me that there are some games I just won't be very good at. And if that is the case, why play them? I'm still playing Call of Duty 4 because I still have fun with my friends despite how poorly I play. But will I ever go back to playing GRAW? I don't think so.

So I decided to trade it in . . . as soon as I can find the case for it. I don't see the point in keeping a game that I have no desire to play (even if my friends want me to play). I'd rather spend the money on a game that interests me and doesn't frustrate me completely on the training level. Maybe The Orange Box perhaps. Or Eternal Sonata. I already have a hard enough time finding the time to play the games that I have and love that I don't think I'll ever want to put GRAW in and give it another go.

This doesn't mean I think it's a terrible game. It just means that I couldn't get through the training level. I feel stupid for that too, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it any more. If a game doesn't interest me it's going back. And maybe I'll start downloading demos to try them out first. And if you're on my friend's list and have been waiting for me to learn how to play GRAW so we could play together we'll have to find another game to meet in. May I suggest Boogie Bunnies?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Year Resolutions completed

Okay when I said this back in January I either had a low expectation of myself or I tapped into some awesome motivation to work on these New Year Resolutions:

My New Year's (Gaming) Resolutions:
1. Finish Final Fantasy VII.
2. Reach rank #55 & complete one level of Prestige in Call of Duty 4.
3. Raise my gamer score to 5,500 or more.

Well, I've already achieved 2 out of the 3 resolutions so now what do I do?

I reached the rank of #55, went through one level of Prestige and I'm on level 12 of my second level of Prestige. And I think scoring points is easier so I might blow through another level of Prestige or two this year as well (all depending on time spent playing other games of course). Sometime towards the end of last week I achieved 5,501 as a gamerscore. I have since added a few points to that total so I can cross that resolution off of the list.

The only resolution I haven't completed yet was finishing Final Fantasy VII. I haven't even connected my PS2 up this year so I've still got a ways to go on that one. Maybe I'll take this week and see if the PS2 still runs.

So now that I've already accomplished most of my resolutions what do I do? Should I set more? Maybe ones that I actually have to work towards and are a stretch? How about breaking that 10,000 point barrier with my gamerscore? Or finishing some disk games and maybe a couple of Arcade games? Or how about buying a PS3 and a DS Lite? I think I need to give this some thought before I make anything too official. But here are some of the contenders for "Mid-Year Resolutions" (since the year is no longer new):

1. gamerscore 10,000 or higher
2. finish BioShock/Lost Odyssey/Mass Effect/Legend of Legaia/Dark Cloud/Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits/Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade/Pikmin/or any number of games
3. finish Lego Star Wars II (those undefeated vehicle missions are going to be the death of me)
3. finish Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (almost there anyway so why not)
4. all achievements Texas Hold 'Em
5. all achievements in Catan (but only if my internet connection behaves itself)
6. get ANY achievement in Rayman Raving Rabbids
7. all achievements in Uno/Root Beer Tapper/any other Arcade game
8. finish Gears of War on Hard

Any suggestions? And if you say "all of them" you better hope there isn't any good games coming out this year that are going to take up my time (excluding Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 and Gears of War 2 of course).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New Poll - Are you getting Rainbow 6: Vegas 2?

There's a new poll up. Are you buying Rainbow 6: Vegas 2? Me? I'm undecided at this point.

A lot of my friends are having a hard time believing me when I tell them the shooter genre of video games isn't my first choice. I prefer RPGs. You see they met me while playing Star Wars Battlefront, I joined them in Gears of War and Rainbow 6: Vegas and we've all moved on to Call of Duty 4. So you can understand the confusion.

The thing is I started playing Battlefront not because it was a shooter but because it was a Star Wars game. The fact that it was a shooter with good game play kept me coming back over and over again. When Gears of War came out I was drooling over it and upset that i didn't have a 360 at the time. I corrected that problem and got to enjoy a visually stunning game. I wasn't planing on getting Vegas but when all of my friends jumped over there from Gears I really didn't have anyone to play with. I eventually got that game and had fun. And when Call of Duty 4 came out it was the same thing all over again but much worse.

It's not that I have anything against a shooter game. They're great for relieving stress and tension. But when I play games with blood, guts, and violence I'm more of the run and gun type or the hack and slash type. I don't want to have to go and find the enemy . . . I want to burst into wherever they are and start cutting them to bits. If Vegas 2 is going to be anything like the first one we might have a problem.

But if I don't get the game I won't have anyone to play with for quite some time. All my friends are salivating over this upcoming game. So much so that I hope they don't get their hopes up too high. I would hate to see all these last months of getting themselves worked up come crashing down due to a poorly devised overhaul of the game.

With the price of $60 a game that's a big chunk of change for something I might not enjoy as much as my friends. But if buying that game is the only way for me to hang out with my friends that I'll have to decide if it's worth it to buy at release or wait awhile until the price comes down. Unfortunately with this caliber of game I don't think the price is going to come down anytime soon.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Boogie Bunnies is brilliant

In an attempt to clean up my Arcade games on my 360 I decided to play the demo of Boogie Bunnies that I downloaded awhile ago. I'm glad I did.

The game play is not that much different than what you've seen before if you've played Bust-A-Move or Bubble Pop (or is it Bubble Burst). You have brightly colored shapes in a grad and you launch a colored shape to get three of the same connected to make them disappear. Every now and then the grid moves closer to you and more lines are added to at the top. In Bust-A-Move you fire from a fixed pointer in the center at the bottom of the grid. You can bounce the ball off the walls to get it into a space your fixed position might not allow. But Boogie Bunnies is a little bit different.

Instead of being stuck at a fixed position on the bottom of the screen you can move side to side to pick the best column to launch your bunny at. It's kind of like Space Invaders in that sense. But Boogie Bunnies adds a twist to the mix. You can also rotate around the grid and launch your bunny from the side. Yes, that's it. If you don't have any good placement for that blue bunny at the bottom but you just wish you could attach him (or is it a her?) to that second row from the top, now you can. Just swing your bunny over to the edge of the grid and things will rotate slightly so you can glide up and down the outer edges of the grid. This is a great way to set up combos and save yourself if you're running out of room at the bottom.

And while you play just listen to those cute little bunnies. They say "Hi" and laugh and you can't help but be touched by the tremble in their little voices when they start to say "Uh" as they get close to the bottom of the screen. If any of them fall into the crack of the ice (on the Arctic level) their sad voices should make you feel guilty for not saving them. And those bunnies sure do love to dance.

I knew I was hooked on playing this game, after only one session, when I was in the shower this morning wondering if I was going to have enough time to get in one more game before I went to work. I remember doing that with SSX Tricky many times. And being late to work many times too. Yes, I did get in a game this morning and picked up a couple of achievements too. And no, I wasn't late to work . . . this time. I'm sure they'll be other morning when I itch to get in one more game before I have to do something else.

This game reminded me a lot of Pikmin for the Game Cube. It's also another game I tried to play before work, but was more difficult to squeeze in. I bought Pikmin because I thought the cover looked cute. That's all. I had no idea of the game play or what type of game it was. I'm really glad I made that leap for Pikmin and that's the same leap I made with Boogie Bunnies. I liked the little snap shot image I saw in all the advertisements. Didn't know anything about the game so I downloaded the demo first. I'm glad I played it because it put a smile to my face. You should pick it up too. If not you just might hear a little tremble in my voice when I say "uh".

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Achievements unearned . . . Star Wars style

Okay I said I had a few achievements that I really haven't earned. And it's true. The latest one I got came from joining my brother in one of his games.

He had earned and unlocked the Gopher achievement in Star Wars: The Complete Saga. You know, the one for maxing out the stud counter. 4,000,000,000 to be precise. I hadn't collected enough studs yet to earn it myself. I was just over 2 billion studs short. I knew I would get it eventually so I wasn't worried. I joined his game so we could help him work on the blue barrels. As soon as I joined I heard that bleep and sure enough the message came up that I had now earned the achievement. Eh? For what? Joining his game?

I don't think he was very happy that he did all the work and I get some credit for it. And to be honest I wasn't happy either. There was no fulfillment with finally meeting all the qualifications for that achievement and THEN hearing the bleep. And since my brother dain and I are in a gamer score battle who can blame him. I plan on playing the game and meeting those qualifications for that achievement so I can get it legitimately. And I'll make sure he knows too.

But that's not the only achievement in The Complete Saga that has me scratching my head. It's all those "crossover" ones I'm thinking about. You know, kill Anakin with Dooku or destroy Darth Maul with Qui-Gon and all the other ones. At first I thought this meant I had to play through the level and battle someone in those "boss battles". So I'm jumping through the lava on Mustafar to get to Anakin, or circling around the center of the second Death Star to get to the Emporer only to find out that it doesn't matter. You don't have to play the level and then beat the guy. You can strike them down in the cantina. Well, that's not hard, especially if you have someone to play with or a second controller.

So where's the real work in getting those types of achievements? If you can rack up 100+ points in a matter of minutes with the help of a friends where the challenge or bragging rights? I like achievements, but aren't they suppose to be for something you . . . well . . . achieved? At least with the Bar Room Brawl achievement you had to plan things out to make sure you had a steady flow of victims to get the body count up there.

I don't like these silly easy achievements. But I'm not saying all achievements need to be incredibly hard like the "Mile High Club" in Call of Duty 4. Couldn't we compromise a little? I don't know how many times I tired to finish the Could City level still wearing a helmet only to find out online that I just have to make it to the first hat dispenser, put one on and then quit the game. Now is that something as a gamer you can be proud about?

When games for the Xbox 360 first came out achievements were required but developers didn't know what to do about them. Now the 360 has been out for over 2 years and developers are seeing what having achievements in games is doing for gamers. Just look at me and see how obsessed I am with my gamer score. So why can't they make better achievements for games. Ones that are challenging but not impossible. Fun but not tedious. Is that too much to ask for?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Do you swap gender?

Game Informer online has an interesting article about a study a university did about gamers swapping gender when they play online. It got me thinking.

I think the first time I noticed a gender difference (or choice) was playing Gauntlet in the arcades. It was nice to have a female Valkyrie since everything up until that point was male only characters. I've noticed in shooter games the character is almost always male. But in fantasy games you start to get a lot more choices for female characters. Unfortunately those characters tend to be range attack or magic users.

I remember playing RPG games at home and wondering why all the female characters tend to be the magic users. Their strength and defence numbers were low but their magic and spirit numbers were high. It bothers me a little bit but I just figured if I had to play as a male I would. When given the choice (and an equal balance between the genders) I usually pick female.

I don't mind running around in Rainbow 6: Vegas as a girl even if a lot of my friends gave me grief for that. And when I created a character for Mass Effect I made her female. But then I know of a couple of guys that made their characters in games (even 3D Mini Golf) female so that as they played they would have something "nice" to look at. It's nice to see a female character's stats not adjusted because of their gender. And nice to see guys playing as females even if it's just to ogle them.

I've also learned not to judge a person's real gender by the character I see on the screen. Guys can be girls; girls can be guys. What I do find interesting is after seeing what type of character someone picks and then learning what type of person they really are in real life. Does that gruff, grizzly, hardcore gaming dude run around as a Priestess in a dress? OR does that quiet, soft-spoken female maxes out her warrior, but with matching armor?

Poll Results - Wrong to play Avatar for the points?

Okay here's the results for the last poll.

Is it wrong to play Avatar: The Burning Earth for the easy achievement points?

Yes = 1 vote
No = 3 votes

I wonder who voted yes. Probably my brother dain. Anyhoo! I have to say I'm really torn about this one. On one had, if I could up my gamer score by 1,000 points in 10 minutes or so that would be great. On the other hand, I like playing games for the experience. Throwing the achievements in adds to that, but would I continue to play the game if I've already earned all the achievements especially if that was all I was playing it for? And on the other hand, I do wonder a little bit about what people would think if they saw this game on my list. (Achievement whore!) I get enough grief sometimes from people that I don't need to add that to the mix. On the other hand, I don't really care who sees what in my profile because I play games to have fun. And on the other hand, would I have fun if I just played a game for the points? Ugh! I'm starting to feel like the Hindu Goddess Lakshnu.

I might put in a game every now and then to play specifically to get an achievement (only because I'm close to getting it anyway) but I haven't yet bought/borrowed/rented a game to play solely for the points I could get out of it. I play games for the experience. That's why I've started Legend of Dragoon and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance over again even after I've finished the game. Do I expect to unlock an achievement I didn't get the first time? No. I just liked the game play and the story. Besides, those games don't have achievements.

Right now I'm really getting into playing BioShock. But not too long ago I photocopied the pages in the guide where all the journals are listed so that I could cross them off my list and make sure I got all of them. But I soon found myself picking up journals but not bothering to check the list for ones I might have missed. Every now and then I go to the menu and check off the ones I've got but I'm not making any real effect to make sure I get them all this time through. Why? Because right now the story matters more to me than picking up journals. Yes, I know there's an achievement for getting them all but I'm concentrating more on what I need to do in the story and how I'm going to defeat the next Big Daddy that comes along.

With the exception of one or two achievements (I'll talk about those in another post) I've earned every gamer point I've gotten. Some were easier than others. And some came close to me chucking my controller through the TV screen. But I remember a lot of them. The joys of finally hearing that melodic beep and seeing that oblong blip on a corner of the screen is euphoric. It means something. Would a quick 10 minutes of work for 1,000 points mean the same? Probably not.

That doesn't mean I'm knocking any of my friends for playing this game and getting the points. Some day I might change my mind and play it myself. But for right now I want to earn what I get. If it takes me a couple of weeks, months or years to get all the achievements for a game I'm okay with that. Just think of all the memories I'll have for those 1,000 points. Avatar: The Burning Earth might be worth 1,000 points now, but memories from my other games will last me a lifetime.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Playing for points before time runs out

So when I put in Call of Duty 4 yesterday I finally decided to play the single player campaign and pick up some achievements. I'm glad I did because those 90 points pushed my gamerscore higher than my brother's . . . by 11 points. Whoo Hoo!!!

But that's not why I did it (despite what he thinks). In about two weeks Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 is coming out and all my friends will be playing that game instead of Call of Duty 4. I'd like to be able to get to level 2 prestige by then but it'll be close. And then I realized that I've own the game for almost 4 months and haven't even looked at the single player side of it. So I gave it a shot.

And some of the problems I have in the multiplayer games are the same in the single player game. I can't see things or people. I don't know where fire is coming from. And I can't figure out where to go. I don't know how many times I ran too far ahead from my squadmates, or stayed to far behind, and didn't know what to do or where to go. And getting through the tv news room was a disaster. I think it took me 6 or 7 times. And I even set the difficulty at the "I'm a noob and never played a shooter before" setting. Once I got to the Bog area I quit. I'd had enough. And my eyes were killing me.

There's just something about this game that makes it very difficult for me to see things. I don't know how many times I've watched a Kill Cam and I couldn't even see where I was even with the little red "You" circle pointing at my head. Does everyone play on high def 52" tvs?

Despite all the headaches trying to see and figure out what's going on I liked it. But with my friends moving on to R6:V2 (I'm still undecided if it's a launch pickup for me) and myself getting immersed in the story of BioShock and Lost Odyssey I'm not sure how much of this game I'll play in the future. Eventually I'm sure I'll play it to finish getting the achievement points but only because I hate to leave things unfinished. So until time runs out and all my friends and I have all moved on I'll at least give it a try for more points.