Friday, October 29, 2010

DJ Hero 2

Developer: FreeStyleGames
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Oct. 19, 2010
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A smooth remix.

0:00 I liked the original enough to buy it when it went on sale for $40 recently, but not before that. I’ve been told this sequel is much better, but I find that hard to believe -- what can they possibly add?

0:01 This being a PS3 game, of course there’s a version 1.01 update to download already. At least my firmware is somehow up to date. The 6MB file downloads and installs rather quickly.

0:02 Headphones bounce on a white floor. The headphone wire flies through a white expanse, creating colorful abstract art as it does. It plugs in to the DJ Hero 2 logo. Nice, simple and quick... I’m a fan.

0:03 A remix of "Crank That Souljah Boy" plays over the menu as the game logs in to the DJ Hero 2 server. I am not a fan. The game asks if I’ve played DJ Hero before, and also if I’d like to hear about new features in the sequel. How considerate!

0:04 The tutorial starts by telling me to spin the record to rewind the music, which I already knew how to do. I thought I told you I played DJ Hero already...


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rock Band 3

Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: EA
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2010
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: The piano, man.

0:00 Been looking forward to trying this one since I received the game from Harmonix a week ago, but I held out because I didn’t have a keyboard controller. Now that they’re available in stores, I’m looking forward to expanding on the ten minutes or so I spent with the keyboard at Gamescom this summer.

0:01 The game just came out yesterday and already there’s a title update available? Whatever, it downloads and installs incredibly quickly.

0:03 Looking out a hotel window. Close ups of an amp, a guitar case, a lone uncovered light bulb. The Doors’ “Break on Through” plays with its heavy keyboard part. Quick jump cuts of the band playing close-up and guys running through alleys and across the tops of buildings to get to the impromptu rooftop concert. Well shot, but a bit confusing.

0:04 I skip the calibration and the band customization because I want to get to rocking! Play Now, Quick Play, Choose Songs and we’re ready to rock! The new menu seems quite a bit more streamlined.

0:05 “25 or 6 to 4” is right there at the top of the list, and how can I resist a song with such a tight beat and such incomprehensible lyrics. I’ll start on Medium difficulty and play the five-key normal mode rather than the 25-key pro mode, for now.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Ball

Developer: Toltec Studios
Publisher: Toltec Studios
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2010
System: PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Weighted Companion Sphere

0:00 I know practically nothing about this game, but the press materials that came with this beta compared it to Portal, so my expectations are quite high.

0:02 I’m not including the time it took to download this massive game from Steam, but I am including the two minutes or so it took to “perform first time setup” when I launch the game.

0:03 A few minutes spent tinkering with the settings: increasing the resolution and learning the default controls. The title screen features a shiny metal ball on a platform, with a few glowing circular sections on its face. Flies buzz around inside a cave filled with large gears, as figures shamble in the background. Atmospheric!

0:04 I start the Campaign and get to read a bit about the premise. “Separated form your friend you find yourself trapped in a cavern.” The rest of the text introduction spoils some surprises, actually, so I’m not even going to retype it here.

0:05 “Pico Del Medio, Mexico, 1940.” Zoom on a mountain peak and a dig site against an orange sky. Then cut to a view up from down the bottom of a 50 foot shaft. “Hey, are you all right?” calls a guy from the surface. “That was quite a fall you took. Listen, the crane broke down, we have to fly in a replacement and that will take some time. Go on and explore the area. We will meet up with you later.” The voice acting is borderline atrocious.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Super Meat Boy

Developer: Team Meat
Publisher: Team Meat
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2010
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC, Mac, Wii
ESRB Rating: Teen
Official Web site

In a nutshell: There’s meat juice EVERYWHERE!

0:00 I’ve been looking forward to this self-described “tough as nails platformer” (according to the XBLA download description) for what seems like years, ever since I played the Newgrounds-hosted original Meat Boy to death. I expect great things.

0:01 “This is Meat Boy." He’s a square blob of meat with stubby arms and legs and a face. "This is bandage girl. (She loves meat boy and Meat Boy loves her). This is Dr. Fetus.” He’s a small fetus in a thick robot. “No one loves Dr. Fetus. And that's why Dr. Fetus hates you. But most of all, Dr. Fetus hates Meat Boy. So he beat Meat Boy up and kidnapped Bandage Girl. ...So go save her, hero." It’s all told via plain text and cute old-timey black-and-white animation. Short and sweet... just like an intro. story should be.

0:02 The hard guitar background loop on the title screen reminds me of a 16-bit game. The first level is “CH1: The Forest.” The world map Meat Boy is standing on has a grimacing face on it. It’s.. disturbing.

0:03 A short cut scene apes the opening to Street Fighter II by showing Dr. Fetus punching Bandage Girl before panning up to show the title.The first level is titled “Hello World.” Ha... programmer humor.

0:04 The first level is over in literally seconds as I wall jump up to Bandage Girl, sitting all alone on a wide ledge. As I reach her, Dr. Fetus warps in, punches her, and takes her away again. I wasted a bit of time trying to decipher the animated pictograms explaining the controls. Not that I needed them... they’re immediately familiar from the Newgrounds game. Everything looks so much better on my big HD screen, though.

0:05 Level 2 teaches me what I already know about wall jumps, and about how to run by holding the X button. I love the sticky-yet-slidey physics when Meat Boy hugs the wall just before doing his super-floaty jump away. As in N+, climbing a single wall using the wall jump is pretty easy.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Def Jam Rapstar

Developers: 4mm Games, Terminal Reality, Def Jam Interactive
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Rap rap, a ribbity rap rap, a rip rop ribbity do!

0:00 I’m not a big fan of rap... pretty much the opposite in fact. I am a big fan of rhythm and music games, though, so I’m looking forward to seeing if this one handles rapping better than Rock Band 2.

0:01 Lot of logos, then a city skyline. Videos of a bunch of rappers I vaguely recognize are projected many stories high on to the sides of the buildings. I recognize very few of the songs they’re spitting, but LL Cool J and Daft Punk stand out. Maybe this won’t be so bad...

0:02 Audio calibration time. I have to turn up the volume and point the microphone at the TV. Turns out I have a 117ms delay. Good to know!

0:04 I turn up the microphone volume so I can hear myself through the TV and hop into Career mode, where I can “rise through the ranks and become a DEF JAM RAPSTAR!” Really, game? You needed to turn on the caps lock there?

0:05 Seven songs are available to start, but I have to click through with the A button to hear a preview on the menu screen. Lame. The only one I know even vaguely is Salt n Pepa’s “Push It.” I’d better leave it on Easy...