Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Super Paper Mario

At long last, another Wii game came out. It's the first one I'd say was genuinely good, too, although it's still lacking something. Anyway, check out Super Paper Mario if you feel like it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Probably worth mentioning

I no longer have any problem with the X-Plorer. It's not surprising that I got used to it. Pretty much every complaint I had about Guitar Hero II has faded away at this point, and all that remains is serious hard rocking.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Puzzle Quest

Puzzle Quest is puzzling indeed.

It's probably a lot more fun two-player.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Guitar Hero downloadable content

No review this week, so I'm still high on the Guitar Hero horse. Major Nelson reports that downloadable content is available now. At first glance, it seems like a rip. There are three separate packs of three songs, which cost 500 MS points each. That's 1500 points for nine songs, or nearly $20. No thanks. I'd really like "Ace of Spades," "Bark at the Moon," and "Frankenstein," but their selections also include some of my least favorite tracks from the original. This is disappointing. Fortunately, I've got plenty of enjoyment ahead as I attempt to complete the game on hard mode. Current status: failure.

Update: I've been thinking about this for a bit, and I think there were two other things they could have done to justify the price. One would be to release brand-new songs. That would be worth a premium. The other would be to let you choose any three songs from the first Guitar Hero, sort of a custom "best of" pack. Still might be a bit pricy, but that would sting less.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Guitar Hero II (360) quick impressions

I put off getting Guitar Hero II for the PS2 because my controller had broken (it turns out that spilling beer on it is bad). Didn't make sense to pay for an all-new guitar and game when I could wait a few extra months to get it on the 360 instead. I think it was the right call, but it's not all wine and roses for the next-gen version. A few quick impressions follow.

The Good:

Achievements -- Well, duh. It's not as though achievements are even optional. But they add something to most games, especially when the developer has a sense of humor as Harmonix does. One of the achievements: decline to play an encore.

Hardware -- Less time saving and loading games means more time rocking. The performance boost is noticeable. So too are the HD graphics, but as I've always felt about this series, the graphics only matter when you're not the one playing.

The Motherfucking Trooper -- The song selection really does seem weaker in the sequel, but the addition of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" to the 360 version is practically worth the purchase all by itself. This has been one of my top-five most wanted songs for Guitar Hero, and now I've got it.

The Future
-- There's no downloadable content yet, but there will be plenty of new songs -- not to mention the entire tracklist from the original Guitar Hero. Score!

The Bad:

The Gibson Explorer -- The new guitar is a big problem, and it's probably going to assuage much of the dismay that PS2 owners might feel about the game's port to the 360. First of all, it plugs into the USB port on the back of the console. I can get to mine more easily than a lot of people probably can (I've got the system lying flat on my desk), but even so it's a pain to have to run a cable around my desk like this. This has got to be much more annoying to people with full-blown home entertainment setups. Why isn't it wireless?

Even worse, the asymmetrical contours of the Explorer are much less comfortable than those of the SG. There's a sharp protrusion right where my forearm naturally rests when I put my hand on the strum bar, so I can't lay my arm flat to play. So far I'm using a combination of three less than ideal solutions: 1) I can tilt the guitar upward and come at it from a different angle, but this causes the star power meter to go off when I don't want it to; 2) I can loop my arm around the protrusion at a right angle, which basically works but puts more stress on the arm than the more natural position; 3) I can angle it so that the top of the guitar faces a little bit upward rather than straight ahead. The third option is the one that seems to work best.

No doubt I'll be getting used to this, but what a horrible sensation the first time I strapped on the Explorer. Furthermore, didn't anybody else have this problem when they were designing the peripheral? Am I an exception? Or were they just married to the idea of using the Explorer? I think almost any other design would have been more comfortable. It's a huge, huge drawback.

Online Multiplayer -- Doesn't exist. Lame. On the other hand, I'm not even sure how you get offline multiplayer to work. It doesn't say anything about it in the instruction manual, and I only saw one USB port on the back of the console. It is a puzzlement.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Hey, check out this review of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. I'm finding myself lately a little distressed by how blithely games can deal with controversial subject matter. Here, and in Crackdown, that doesn't really detract from the quality of the gameplay, but there are big questions raised and then dodged. If the industry is really to grow up, they're going to have to stop turning a blind eye to what they're creating.

Monday, April 02, 2007

In which I tout my powers of perception

Apropros of the official announcement for Rock Band (more info at Kotaku), I wanted to look back at a post I made in June of last year, in which I said this: seems reasonable to assume that within a few years it will be possible to assemble an entire GH-style band, with a couple of guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer.

Well, that's not so impressive in itself. Why? Because this is the most freakin' obvious thing they could have done. Really, was there any other direction to go? Instead, I want to talk about what came next.

I'll up the ante even further: once that's done, I bet we'll see clubs hosting competitions in which groups of gamers get in front of a crowd and rock virtually. At the very least, people would participate just for the chance to get onstage under the auspices of some truly bitchin' band names.

This is an opportunity I hope nobody blows. Can you imagine hordes of Rock Band players descending on legendary clubs like the Middle East, which have hosted some of the greatest actual bands in history? We're reaching the next level here, which is why I want to throw out yet another prediction:

Harmonix will create a song editor that will allow Rock Band players to write and share their own songs.

I think that's the next step. We're going to have people writing and releasing songs made entirely on virtual instruments. And I'll bet you that some of the songs will be good.