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...


Monday, October 18, 2010

Game Dev Story

Developer: Kairosoft
Publisher: Kairosoft
Release Date: Sept. 10, 2010
System: iPhone/iPod Touch
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site (Japanese)

In a nutshell: A good game about making good games.

0:00 This game came out of nowhere to become the talk of practically every game journalist I know over the weekend, so I felt I had to see what it was about. It seems primed to indulge my interest in the behind-the-scenes of game development, too, so my expectations are pretty high.

0:01 Charmingly old school synth music plays over the title screen. It looks like a pixelated monkey is swinging from the G in the brightly colored title. New Game.

0:02 The default name for my company is Sunny Studios. Boooring. I got with "! Soft," which is pronounced "Exclamation Point Soft," thank you very much!

0:04 "Hello. I'll be your secretary here at ! Soft." First up we need some employees. A few taps through Menu -> Staff -> Hire. Word of mouth is cheap, magazine and online ads less so. I'm kind of shocked that online ads cost more than magazine ads in this game. I'd like to believe that's true, but it seems unlikely.

0:05 Shortly, three candidates for the job appear: Ann Deroid, Gilly Bates and Biggs Porkins. Cute. They all have numerical rankings in Program, Scenario, Graphics and Sound, as well as various power levels, contract fees and salaries. What do I do? What do I need? How do I choose? Whine whine whine.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Kirby's Epic Yarn

Developers: HAL, Good-Feel
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2010
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: They somehow made Kirby even cuter? Madness!

0:00 I’ve been a Kirby fan since the original Game Boy Dream Land up through the excellent Kirby Super Star on the SNES. I’m intrigued by the super-cute, stringy art style I’ve seen in this one, but I’m not convinced it will spice up what is essentially pretty simple, kid-focused gameplay.

0:01 After a good 15 seconds creating a save file, the title screen appears with Yarn Kirby plopping down as a trapezoidal weight, then reforming into his normal pink puffy self. Very light piano music in the background. One Player.

0:02 “Welcome to Dream Land, a kingdom famous for peace and quiet. It’s the perfect little land, if you like that sort of thing.” An evil sorcerer is turning people in to yarn. Kirby runs in to him and sucks up the red tomato he’s holding before he can introduce himself. A white sock on the sorcerer's belt sucks Kirby up and transforms him into a hollow, yarn version of himself. Quote of the moment: “This grass feels funny... it feels like pants.”

0:03 Kirby saves a yarn boy being chased by a yarn monster by transforming into a yarn car and driving away. Man, I am really going to be tired of the word “yarn” by the end of this hour.

0:05 The yarn boy has run off, leaving me all alone to traipse around outside of Patch Castle. My feet turn in to springs when I jump, and tapping the jump button again in midair turns me in to a gently floating parachute. Tapping the 1 button sends out a starry yarn whip with a snap. The animation is absolutely wonderful. So full of life.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I

Developers: Sonic Team, Dimps
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2010
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii, iPhone/iPod Touch
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Still Sonic after all these years...

0:00 The only 3D Sonic game I enjoyed even a little bit was the extremely underrated Sonic 3D Blast, so I'm more than happy the series is finally returning to its 2D roots after 15 years.

0:01 The music on the preview screen is annoyingly repetitive, and not even in a catchy, old-school way.

0:02 Oh man they reprised the old school "Seeegaaaaaa" introductory chant. I half expect the classic Sonic title theme to follow, but instead it's the same annoying preview screen music. Bleh.

0:03 We dive right into Splash Hill Zone, Act 1: "The Adventure Begins." I'll catch ya when I'm done.

0:06 Yup, that's some old-school Sonic all right, right down to the loops and the springboards and the constant tension between running as fast as possible and searching the massive levels for hidden paths and items. The biggest difference, right off, is the mid-air homing attack that lets me zoom right to nearby enemies. I'm used to it from the 3D games, but it just feels odd here. Even if there's nothing to home in on, I can use it to change directions in mid-air, which is probably the closest Sonic will ever get to a double jump. I’ll take it.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Developers: Level-5, Square Enix
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: July 11, 2010
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E10+

In a nutshell: Not all fallen angels are bad guys

0:00 I've never actually touched a Dragon Quest game, save for a brief, frustrating stint with the original Dragon Warrior on the NES. An hour probably won't be nearly enough to get a true feel for this epic game, but will it be enough to make me want to play more?

0:01 In an anime cut scene, a boy runs into a cavern, towards a fire-breathing dragon . A woman casts a spell. Slimes bounce on a rocky plain. Pan over a town where a boy plays with a dog. A party talks in a tavern. A woman dances. They clink glasses. A blue spirit rises up. A castle in the clouds. An eagle flies over a field. Zoom up to the starry sky and show the title! Yup, it's a Japanese RPG opening, all right. The animation reminds me of Dragon Ball Z, which is understandable, since it's by the same animator.

0:03 The character creator makes it remarkably easy to make a character that looks exactly like Super Saiyan Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z, which I do. My newly created character gets a halo and angel wings and he flies off. Then... loading? In a DS game?

0:04 "Hello? Is anybody there? If you're there, say something. Show yourself. Thus do the voices of mortals plead, ever hopeful of our existence. For how long have we watched over their realm?" Here we go with the heavy-handed religious allegory...

0:05 Pan over a idyllic little farm village, rendered in blocky, heavily-outlined 3D. Neighbors wave to each other, a horse whinnies, a man fishes in a gentle stream. Two angels watch. One of them is my Vegeta. The other, Aquila, one is impressed with how I've watched over the village, Angel Falls.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Sid Meier's Pirates! (Wii)

Developer: Firaxis
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
System: Wii (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Ay diddle dee dee, a pirate’s life for Wii.

0:00 I put a decent amount of time into the updated PC version of this one already, so my main interest today is how this classic title transfers over to the Wii’s control scheme.

0:01 Nice short trumpet fanfare on the preview screen. Also, the game is saving already? I haven’t done anything yet...

0:03 “It began with a celebration. Indebted for many years to Marquis Montelban a families honor would soon be restored.” But the Marquis and his men come in to seize their property and sell them in to bondage. The boy runs off, refusing to be a slave. Ten years later, he continues his quest for revenge. The familiar opening looks a little grainy and rough on my HDTV.

0:05 I like the default name Incognito so much I decide to keep it. I choose the middle difficulty, Adventurer, because it features more dangerous sea battles and more treacherous villains. I decide to choose gunnery as my skill, since I always had problems aiming in the sea battles of the PC version. Let’s start in the default year of 1660.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wii Party

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Oct. 3, 2010
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Everything's better with Mii-pets?

0:00 I'm a bigger fan than most of the Mario Party series, and I've been led to understand this is the spiritual successor to that, with customizable Miis in place of Mario characters. So I'm pretty excited.

0:01 As usual when I play party games for lunch, I am playing today in the sub-optimal single-player mode. I feel like I've played enough of these party games to know which mini-games will be fun with a group, even if that group isn't here right now...

0:03 A bunch of highly animated Miis float by in translucent bubbles on the title screen. Also, an airliner, a die and a dog float by, for some reason. The music here will be familiar to anyone who's played Wii Sports, Wii Fit, etc.

0:04 The host looks like a cross between the host from Buzz, Kyle's brother Ike from South park, who's dressed like a more flamboyant Professor Layton and talks like Beaker from the Muppets. REFERENCES! Oh, he's “Party Phil!"

0:05 Party Phil introduces the three main game types: Party Games, Pair Games and House Party games, the last of which “use your living room as part of the fun." I smell a lawsuit over a broken coffee table...


Monday, October 4, 2010

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Boy meets girl, boy and girl escapes from slave ship, girl controls boy through telepathic headband, boy dies if girls dies...

0:00 I've been excited about this one ever since I heard the creators talk about crafting the story at the Develop conference. Early buzz from some journalist pals didn't hurt either.

0:01 An extremely basic title screen features some scrolling barcodes in the background. I press start and it zooms out to show a woman staring at that screen, her face reflected on the blank left side. Her eyes dart back and forth realistically. I like how she flicks the screen to change between options screens too.

0:04 I start a New Journey on Normal difficulty and wait through a decently long loading screen. Chapter 1: The Escape. "Welcome to slave ship 90 en route to Pyramid," says a computerized voice. The camera focuses on a muscle-bound, tribal-tattooed guy trapped inside a large metal egg. He doesn't look happy about it, either. He watches as the girl from the Title Screen breaks out of her own egg and taps some nearby computer screens, triggering large explosions on the other end of the hallway. The guy in the egg screams for help, but only receives a jarring explosion that knocks his egg to the ground and lets him carefully climb out.

0:05 In control, I run towards the open end of the grate-floored hallway. A guy fires at me, then an egg explodes off wall and takes him out. Convenient!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

101-in-1 Sports Megamix

Developer: Nordcurrent
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: Sept. 1, 2010
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official web site

In a nutshell: Quantity over quality.

0:00 The idea of packing 101 sports mini-games onto a single DS cart just strikes me as inherently ridiculous. My equally ridiculous mission: To play and write about all 101 in an hour... or die trying. Aaaand, go!

0:01 Wasted precious seconds creating a file and skipping a dated-looking intro movie. Volleyball makes me turn the DS sideways to move my player left and right using the stylus. Ridiculously simple and already boring. NEXT!

0:02 In Bowling I fling the ball from the bottom touch screen to pins at the top of the top screen. The ball rolls like it’s going through molasses, hitting the pins and knocking them straight down with almost no pin action. NEXT!

0:03 Boxing’s direct overhead perspective reminds me of the old Atari 2600 Boxing game. Move with the d-pad, tap the touchscreen buttons to punch. Kind of interesting, but no time to delve deeper! NEXT!

0:04 For some reason, when my character hits the ball in Tennis, it goes directly out of bounds to the right every time. I don’t have time or interest to figure out why. NEXT!

0:05 Surprisingly, Horse Riding uses button controls rather than the touch screen. I hold right on the d-pad to run, then tap B to jump over hurdles with a ridiculously floaty jump. These horses are jumping the equivalent of ten feet in the air easily. NEXT!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Little King's Story

Developers: Cing, Town Factory
Publisher: Xseed Games
Release Date: July 21, 2009
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Farmville + Pikmin + an extra helping of cute.

0:00 I remember hearing surprisingly good things about this one when it hit last year, and it just now finally came up on my Netflix queue. High hopes abound as a trumpet fanfare and little shadow puppets dance around the preview screen.

0:01 A tinny a capella choir sings over the title screen. A velvet curtain pulls back to reveal two small puppets on popsicle sticks dancing about. "I am more noble than you, and he is more noble than me? The rich are more noble than the poor and those who work hard are more noble than the lazy? Than who is most noble of them all." Heady stuff...

0:02 The camera pans out to reveal a boy playing with the puppets. He follows a family of rats out into the forest, where he finds a magical crown. "They say the boy became a magnificent king, and all people and animals, one and all, they all became his loyal followers. and somehow, in some such way, the boy was no longer lonely." The art style and the voice-over narration are incredibly endearing. I just want to melt..

0:04 "Pomp and Circumstance" plays over options screen for some reason. I turn the difficulty up to Hard because I assume the game is tuned for little kids.

0:05 I choose a "random" file name and get the title "King Xerxes." As I start a new game I'm treated to some soaring music over shots of nature rendered in dreamy pastels. "This is our kingdom, the kingdom of Alpoko. Let's go inside your castle. It's a little slapdash, but isn't it grand nonetheless?" This is all through subtitles of the game's Simlish-style language, unfortunately. The title appears for the third time in five minutes...


Friday, September 24, 2010

Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City

Developers: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: Sept. 21, 2010
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Who knew a cartographer's life was so complicated?

0:00 I vaguely remember playing Etrian Odyssey II for lunch a while back, but I can't find it in my archives. I guess I just remember my friend Bruce going on and on about how awesome the game was.

0:01 "Hie thee to the ocean city, to the Yggdrasil labyrinth... what awaits is time's end; death's demise; a tempestuous dream. A stormy adventure begins." Despite the game's use of "hie thee," the swelling, elegaic music is really getting to me.

0:02 I love how there's a "no wait" option for both message and battle speed. “Fast” is never fast enough for me. I turn on the auto-map, too, because I am lazy.

0:03 Our new game starts in "the regal ocean city Armoroad." It's said to have ruins below the waves, so the Senate invites some explorers. None were strong enough to master the maze. I am one such explorer. "Your hour is at hand." You hear that. MY HOUR! I have a weakness for second-person narratives.

0:04 I'm forced to start in the explorer's guild, where an ethnic-looking guy in a Lawrence of Arabia robe gives me a Guild Certificate,and a bunch of scripts. I name my character "LeetD00D" because I am eight years old.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ninety-Nine Nights II

Developers: Q Entertainment, Feelplus
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: June 29, 2010
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Press X to until everything is dead or you're bored, whichever comes first.

0:00 Can't say I'm really eager to try this one, given the generally negative reviews, but Konami sent it to me earlier this summer so it deserves at least an hour's fair attempt.

0:01 The title screen calls the game "N3II," as does the retail box. Ugh.

0:02 The options screen lets me change between UI Types A, B and C, but doesn't tell me what the difference between them is. Also, I can't seem to navigate the screen with the analog stick --- I need to use the d-pad for no apparent reason. These are small things, but they don't bode well.

0:03 I start a new game. A purplish lady's hand drops a purple gem into a shimmering armored chest. A large clawed hand reaches for the female hand. Fade to white and up to smoky battlefield. A guy with long flowing white hair kneels with a dead white-haired girl in his arms and screams. An old-fashioned map is engulfed in fire. Flaming meteors shoot down through an overcast sky. Armored goblin hordes are frozen mid-rush as the camera zooms by dramatically. A knight starts cutting through their ranks like a knife through blood-spurting butter. His helmet gets knocked off, showing long, flowing white hair, as he takes out a dozen or so goblins with a single energy slash, then stands for a dramatic pose. Then he slams his swords into the ground and summons some orange energy blades that explode to clear the area around him. What the hell is going on?


Monday, September 20, 2010

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

Developer: Treasure
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: June 27, 2010
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Bullet heaven.

0:00 I played this for literally five seconds or so at some E3 or another without really feeling it. I know the original Sin & Punishment is held up as some sort of paragon by hardcore shmup fans, so my expectations are kind of high.

0:01 I can hear the Wii disc drive going a bit nutso as the game loads on a black screen. Synth-heavy Japanese techno playing over the title screen reminds me a bit of Metroid Prime. The Wii Remote pointer I use to enter my file name is a lizard, for some reason.

0:02 I can use the Remote and Nunchuk, the Classic Controller, the Gamecube controller or the Wii Zapper. Personally I'd rather have one well-designed control option than three confusing ones...

0:05 After some options setting, I start a new single-player game on Normal difficulty. I go with female Kachi rather than male Isa, figuring I'll need her auto-lock ability to help me through what's supposed to be a very tough game.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Green Day: Rock Band

Developers: Harmonix, Demiurge Studios
Publisher: MTV Games
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii
Release Date: June 8, 2010
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Hitchin' a Ride on Rock Band's popularity

0:00 This game got shipped to my apartment just after I left for England for the summer, so I haven't tried it despite technically having it all summer. I'm expecting Rock Band with Green Day songs, which shouldn't be hard to fulfill.

0:01 I'm not counting the time it took to drag my Rock Band instruments out of storage and set them up. This is lucky for the game, because the process took longer than I expected. Also, I know this is the kind of game that's best played drunk with a group of friends, but I'm actually one of those weirdos that plays it sober and alone, to improve my fake musical skills.

0:02 The camera zooms down a red thoroughfare. Planes drop bombs and a goth girl pulls a grenade and throws it at some bird- and dog-headed monsters as "Welcome to Paradise' plays in the background. Um... huh?

0:03 "Longview" transitions into ‘Jesus of Suburbia" in the background as the game creates a song cache, save data, etc. I skip the calibration.

0:05 Looking around the options. This is the first time I've seen "super speed" and and "performance mode" in the options, or maybe I'm just forgetting them from earlier games.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Minecraft Alpha

Developer: Markus Persson
Publisher: Markus Persson
Release Date: May 17, 2009 (Alpha)
System: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: I'm almost entirely sure I'm doing this wrong.

0:00 I've been hearing a lot of buzz for this quirky indie title, but not enough to really know what it’s about or how it works. Hopefully it'll be easy to dive into with no prior knowledge...

0:01 I decide to try the in-browser version rather than wasting time on a download. The game still spends a good minute downloading Java files, though.

0:02 No music, no fancy introduction, just the MINECRAFT title with a pulsing yellow “Woo, worldofminecraft” message on the top. “Play tutorial level” is grayed out, which is kind of unsettling. I guess I'm on my own...

0:03 I go with Normal difficulty rather than Peaceful, Easy or Hard. Peaceful does sound rather peaceful, though.

0:04 I start up a new single-player game and the game spends a few seconds generating a new world from scratch. I see that world from a first-person perspective. My environment is made up of a series of cubes arranged to resemble a snowy world with lots of tiered cliffs. To my right: a steep mountain. In front of me: an ocean with a far off island continent.

0:05 I have a targeting reticle and what looks like brown stick as a weapon. Clicking pushes the stick forward a bit lamely. The only sound is that of my footsteps crunching in the snow.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Sept. 12, 2010
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Simple puzzles, even simpler protagonists.

0:00 I liked the first Professor Layton DS game for its mix of clever puzzles and cute British charm. I put down the second game midway through, though, as the prevalence of sliding puzzles began to grate on me.

0:01 The piano and violin music on the title screen is ominous and catchy at the same time.

0:02 "This is a work of fiction," says the disclaimer. What, people were confused by this? Fade to an animated video of a bustling London street. A double decker bus trundles by. Cut to the bus interior. "It just doesn't seem to add up professor," says toe-headed Luke. "I honestly thought you were pulling my leg," Top-hatted Professor Layton replies. "What? I wouldn't dream of it." Um, what's going on?

0:03 Cut to a shadowy figure that looks like Luke, writing a letter. "Professor, I hope this letter finds you well. As for me, I'm in quite a predicament." The letter writer is from ten years in the future, when London has been thrown into turmoil. He tells the recipient to go the the clock shop. It's from "Your student, Luke Triton." Whhhaaaaa?

0:04 Layton's voice sounds a little more gravelly and less British than previous games. Maybe it's just my imagination? Anyway, Luke and Layton joke about time travelling postmen and how even future-Luke is too stupid to do anything without Layton's help. The "strange letter" gets filed in "Unsolved Mysteries." I loved that show!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Guilty Party

Developer: Wideload Games
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Release Date: Aug. 31, 2010
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Why is this game so endearing? It's a mystery...

0:00 Usually I wouldn't be this excited about yet another Wii party game, but I've heard surprisingly positive things about this title from people I respect, so I jumped at the chance to get a review copy.

0:01 I know I'm supposed to play this game with multiple people, but I'm a lonely misanthrope so I'm just gonna go it alone today. Nice tinkly spy music loops on the preview screen.

0:02 Loading, logos and the title appears in front of a salt-and-pepper-bearded man, contemplating something in an ornate chair. '60s style doo-wop singers come in: "There's been a crime/A crook is on the loose/You have to act/Before he cooks your goose. ... You have to find the guilty party before the guilty party finds you!" Catchy.

0:03 On to story mode, where I have my chocie of six stereotypical-looking detectives. I go with big fat lug in a fedora, Max. I can only choose the Rookie difficulty and the Prologue chapter. What is it with party games locking content? I was forced to play the single player version of WarioWare: Smooth Moves at a party recently because we didn't have the multiplayer mode unlocked yet. Ugh.

0:06 More loading. Love the piano-heavy backing music. "I see you've accepted my offer in a refresher course in the art of detection," says salt-and-pepper beard (S&PB) to all six detectives. "Mom said we can't have dinner unless we humor you," says Max.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dead Rising: Case Zero

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: Sept. 28, 2010
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: M

In a nutshell: Beats paying $60 to try out the full game, but doesn't beat paying $0 for a demo.

0:00 I shelled out the five bucks to download this one after hearing from a few sources that it was much more than just a demo for Dead Rising 2. I played the Wii's "Chop 'Till You Drop" version of the original game, which left me a little bit wanting.

0:01 Lots of logos, then a plain title screen quickly fades to a gas station with shambling zombies. "THIS AREA OBSERVED BY COMMUNITY WATCH CITIZENS" says a green street sign. I guess they're watching the zombies shamble all over their community, then?

0:03 My wife, watching from the couch: "This isn't Left 4 Dead? I mean it looks like Left 4 Dead. Not just because it has zombies, but the style too." My wife is very perceptive.

0:04 Some decently long loading precedes a shot of an open road. "This is Rebecca Chang reporting live from outside Las Vegas," says a tinny radio voice. The zombie outbreak has left 100,000 dead and one million may be infected. The military has set up a 50-mile perimeter outside the city, and they have shoot-to-kill orders. So... things are bad, then.

0:05 A guy gets out of a beat up pickup truck. The lettering on his orange shirt reads "IJIEK" for some reason. He walks over to gas pump cautiously and starts filling up. Personally, I'm shocked the pumps still work in the middle of a zombie apocalypse...


Metapost: Just when I think I'm out...

Oh, it's you. Hi there. How's it going. What? Oh, you thought I was serious with that last metapost where I said goodbye to Games for Lunch after 500 posts? Oh, you're so gullible. Don't you know not to take what I write so seriously? Jeez, lighten UP!

OK, seriously, I did think Games for Lunch was done for good when I wrote that last post. But life has a funny way of changing things up on you. In this case, the change up came in the form of an opportunity to write Games for Lunch over at new site Gameroni.

Games for Lunch will be running there in much the same format it always did, with one small change -- the schedule is now set for Monday, Wednesday and Friday, rather than every weekday (I'll change the header image soon). While this might seem like a large scale back in the quantity of GfL posts, regular readers will know I've never really been able to keep up the five-days-a-week schedule consistently. In fact, in 2008 and 2009 I averaged roughly three GfL posts a week, so this should be the perfect schedule (for me, at least).

Enough mindless chatter... as Radiation Dude would say, up and let's go!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Metapost: The end of an era

As you already know if you're an avid reader of my Twitter feed, today's Games for Lunch is the 500th one-hour review to be posted on this blog. It is also the last one that will be posted, for the time being.

The fact that these two events coincide is mostly a coincidence (though I did scale back to three reviews this week just so I'd end on a round number). The plain truth is that Joystick Division, which has been paying me to write Games for Lunch since April, has rearranged their budget and decided to leave this feature on the unhappy side of the new arrangement. As of now I've been unable to find another outlet that's been willing to pay to continue running the feature on their site.

Part of me wants to keep writing Games for Lunch sans pay, as I did for over a year before Crispy Gamer first picked it up. But a larger part of me realizes that, at this point in my life and my career, I can't justify spending a couple of hours (editing and formatting included) playing and writing about a new game every weekday. There's always a chance someone will want to pick it up in the future (Are you that someone? Get in touch. Reasonable rates!) but for now, the Games for Lunch experiment is over.

It's been fun and educational playing so many different games over the years -- many that I wouldn't have even considered spending an hour with if it weren't for this column. The one-hour review idea didn't exactly start a revolution in the game journalism community, but it did spawn some imitators (see sidebar) and I'd like to think it got people to look at their staid old review formats in some new ways. Maybe I'll go through the whole collection and compile some statistics and favorites as a sort of send off for the concept.

Thanks to everyone who contributed a comment, sent in a review suggestion, subscribed to the RSS feed (700 of you?! Insane!) or even just read a single review. I hope you didn't consider it a waste of time.

The Nethernet

Developer: GameLayers
Publisher: GameLayers
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2007
System: PC/Firefox
ESRB Rating: N/A

0:00 I don't really feel like actively playing a game today, actually. So, for my last Games for Lunch entry on Joystick Division, I've decided to try out a more passively multiplayer game.

0:01 "Hi and welcome to the Nethernet" says a steam-punky guy in glasses, from a comic on the official Web site. He goes on to describe how you play the game just by surfing the internet, unlocking badges, leaving traps and rewards. "If you don't have time to play, you're still earning points." Sound challenging!

0:03 At the risk of spamming my followers, I try to sign in using Twitter rather than creating a new account. Twitter gives me a PIN number to enter on the main site, but I can't seem to find where to enter it. Oh well, I guess I'll create an account.

0:04 I set my player name as "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" because I can. Then I set about downloading the Firefox toolbar needed to actually play the game. The 2.7 MB download is done pretty quickly.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Developer: Playdead
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: July 21, 2010
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: T

In a nutshell: The gameplay is much more colorful than the graphics.

0:00 I've been careful to avoid reading any reviews or previews of this game so I can go in as fresh as possible. All I know is that everyone who's touched it seems to love it without exception. Man, I really hope I am not the exception.

0:01 The title screen reminds me of a movie from the '20s or something, with it's black and white and fancy fonts. "Limbo contains elements which may be offensive..." says a tiny disclaimer. I leave the "Gore filter off" and jump on in.

0:02 Fade from black to a gently lit black and white forest, with trees that fade to fuzzy indistinctness as they recede into the background. Um, where's my character? Oh, there he is -- a solid gray person-shaped blob with two glowing eyes. He slowly rises on his hands and knees. I think I'm going to have to shut the blind if I'm to have any hope of making him out. Excuse me.

0:03 I run left along the 2D movement plane, figuring they wouldn't expect that. I end up stepping over a small white egg, which cracks to give me 5 Gamerscore points and an avatar award. Nice!

0:04 I jump off the end of a downed tree and down a sloping hill. The fall is about three times my height, and my body crumples horribly upon landing. Oh, right... this isn't a Mario game.

0:05 This time I slowly edge myself off the tree stump this time and slide down a hill... right into some spikes. OK, I'm learning, I'm learning...


Monday, July 19, 2010

Joe Danger

Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
Release Date: June 8, 2010
System: PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating: E

In a nutshell: Excitebike + Tony Hawk's Pro Skater = AWESOME!

0:00 I really liked the old-school feel of the five minute demo I played at PAX East. But what really pushed me to download this one was the passion displayed by developer Sean Murray at last week's Develop conference.

0:01 Nice cheery guitar, bass and maraca music over the preview screen as the square-jawed protagonist stands at the foot of a ramp, smiling. I'm grinning like a fool already.

0:02 A cassette tape appears in the corner of the black screen during the loading. Is this a reference to those old tape-loading systems or something? That's before my time, sadly.

0:03 "J-j-j-j-j-j-joe DANGER!" says an over-caffeinated anouncer "Folks, let me tell you about Joe Danger," says a grizzled sounding man. "He was the world's most determined stuntman. That was a long time ago, back then he was a household name ... But it all went wrong. They said he'd never walk again, but he showed 'em. Now he wants to make his comeback. Maybe YOU can help." This quick story is accompanied by old newspapers and billboards showing Joe with a '70s mustache. Cute and, more importantly, QUICK!

0:05 The menu is a sort of trailer park. I zoom in on "Stunt Weekly" and choose "Joe Danger Returns," my only option. My mission is to "Collect all the Ministars?" Um.. "all the Mobsters?" This text is nearly unreadable on my 20" standard def TV.


Friday, July 2, 2010

F1 2009

Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: Nov 17, 2009
Systems: Wii (reviewed) PSP, iPhone
ESRB Rating: E

In a nutshell: This race is too easy. This race is too hard. This race is NOT just right.

0:00 I usually prefer my virtual driving in kart or off-road form, but damned if I didn't wake up this morning wanting to race something, and this is the only unplayed racing game I have on hand.

0:01 Stirring synthesized trumpet music on the preview screen. I could see listening to this while doing a Rocky-style training montage.

0:02 Lots of wispy graphs and green speed lines whoosh around a hot-as-hell F1 car. The signal turns from red to green and it zooms down the road at warp speed, blurring everything around it. The rather pedestrian title screen with that trumpet music again.

0:03 I name my racer Brock Driverson because that's the kind of mood I'm in today. I choose Qatar as my country, for tax purposes.

0:05 I turn on the racing line, steering assist, predictive braking, anti-skid, anti-wheel-spin, and automatic transmission. I may as well not even be driving.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: July 1, 2010
System: PC
ESRB Rating: RP

In a nutshell: Man, this guy really runs into a lot of puzzles and humorous situations in the course of his work...

0:00 I've been looking forward to this one since I first heard about it months ago. I like the look, the puzzle-based gameplay concept and the company behind the game, so my expectations are quite high.

0:01 After turning my screen pure white for a bit, the game fixes itself. Tinkling xylophone music accompanies a snow-covered field with a factory in the background.

0:02 Even when I turn off "full screen" mode and go to the lowest available resolution, the mouse is still a bit jerky. I don't know if it's my janky laptop or if the game is to blame.

0:03 I stopped the clock so I could shut a bunch of memory-hogging programs and tabs in the background, to see if that'd help the performance issues. The answer: not especially.

0:04 Cut to the basement of the FBI's Hoover building, where the Puzzle Investigation office resides. A guy at a desk sharpens a pencil and stares at his crossword dreamily. He unwraps and eats a piece of gum and blows a bubble. His eyes droop. He yawns. And... he's out. The comic timing is perfect.

0:05 A loud noise and heavy mechanical breathing wake the desk guy up. A man in a spacesuit takes his pencil and slowly opens his helmet to some foreboding music. Desk guy screams and tears up his paper in terror. But now there's no one there. Not a single word spoken and it's still some of the best introductory storytelling I've seen in a game.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ant Nation

Developer: Art Co. Ltd.
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Sept. 9, 2009
Systems: Nintendo DS (reviewed), Wii
ESRB Rating: E-10+

In a nutshell: If an ant's life is really this slow paced and dull, I don't know how they get through the day...

0:00 The hauntingly bad box art for this game has been staring at me from my game shelf every day for over nine months now. Once I play it, I can take it off my shelf and put it away in storage. So let's get this over with...

0:01 A chirpy, 12-note tune plays and then the plain title screen goes silent. Scrolling green grass at the bottom. Everything so far screams "very low-budget."

0:02 A series of static images show ants being sucked up by a tiny UFO and... dropped in a lake? In a lab with an ant on the front a white haired bearded man studies the ants. He thinks he can harness the ants to destroy all other bugs? Maybe? Really I have no clue what these pictures are supposed to be representing.

0:03 Ah, the professor is addressing me now. "Use the ants I've given you to defeat the alien ants!" Um, OK.

0:04 An overhead shot of the battlefield. The game's tutorial tells me what each on-screen button does. Most of them seem wasted on calling up menus or switching between the top and bottom screen. "Now the only way to learn the controls is by playing." What kind of a tutorial is THAT?

0:05 "Alien ants are out to plunder our natural resources!" says the professor. "Take these ants! Use them to defeat the aliens and protect our planet!" Why wasn't this portion of the story FIRST?


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Xbox Live Indie Game Demo Extravaganza

Developer: Various
Publisher: Various
Release Date: Various
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: N/A

In a nutshell: Who knew there was more to Xbox's Indie Games than awkward conversations with girls?

0:00 Here's the situation... I have exactly 720 Microsoft Points burning a hole in my digital wallet, but none of the current selections on Xbox Live Arcade seem that appealing. So I'm going to spend the hour wading into the untamed wilderness of the Xbox Live Indie Games section. Since I have no idea which Indie Games are good, I'm going to blaze through as many of the top 20 customer-rated demos I can in the hour, to determine which ones deserve part of my $9. Enough talk, let's roll.

0:02 I've actually heard of the top rated game, "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1" My only instructions: "IT'S A TW1N ST1CK SH00R3R" Immediately I'm entranced by the self-referential theme song. "Welcome to my game. I put zombies in it... for your pain." Ha!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Sid Meier's Civilization IV

Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2005
System: PC
ESRB Rating: E10+

In a nutshell: It feels nice to finally join the Civilized world.

0:00 When people find out that I have never played a proper Civilization game (which does not include Civilization Revolution), they often say something along the lines of, "What's wrong with you? Don't you write about games for a living?" To which I reply, "Ummmmmmmm." Well that ends TODAY with a $5 Steam purchase and a two-hour long download/install. I just hope I don't get addicted.

0:01 A shot of stars. The camera zooms past the moon and over the Earth. Lights start appearing in the fertile crescent as a choir comes in. Zoom down to the coast and we see Roman-style soldiers racing to battle atop a castle wall. Down on the coast catapults shoot fire at ships with red and white striped sails. An eagle calls as the camera zooms up the steps of a coliseum. Soldiers cheer as an emperor steps out, kneels, and has a crown placed on his head by grey-bearded fellow. He raises his arms to more applause and the camera pans up to the sky as the title comes up. Pretty epic.

0:04 My laptop is below the recommended specs, but the game says it has automatically lowered my graphics settings to accommodate. Well isn't that handy.

0:06 Loading the tutorial necessitates restarting the game, I guess because they assume most players won't need it at this point (they've probably played one of the earlier games, after all)? My default Civ is Julius Caesar, leader of the Roman Empire. I'm not feeling creative enough to come up with anything else. A Normal speed and the lowest "Settler" difficulty are forced on me. That's good... I'm probably not ready to go for the top "Deity" difficulty just yet.

0:07 "Hi, my name is Sid. Welcome to Civilization IV!" Meier looks even scarier as a 3D model than in real life. "The objective is simple... create and maintain an empire that will stand the test of time." What if I want a Civilization that descends to anarchy, huh? Who are YOU to set goals for ME?


Friday, June 25, 2010

Scene It? Brights Lights! Big Screen!

Developer: Screenlife
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2009
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii
ESRB Rating: T

In a nutshell: Yup... that's some movie trivia right there.

0:00 I'm in the mood for something low key this Friday morning, and it doesn't get much more low key than a movie trivia game. I'm not much of a movie buff, but I am a bit of a trivia buff, and I'm hoping those two facts will even out. I'm playing by myself, which is less than ideal, but I'm in it for the pure thrill of trivia, not to gloat over friends.

0:01 "This is Planet Scene It. Population: Movies! If you've seen it on the silver screen you can bet it happens here. Every summer blockbuster. Every epic battle. Every love story. Every hidden treasure. Every dog fight. Every... collapsing evil water park. There I am, I'm the director. I pull it all together and I'll be your host for SCENE IT? BRIGHT LIGHTS! BIG SCREEN!" This is all illustrated with some of the lowest budget 3D animation I've ever seen. Seriously, this would have looked chintzy in 1990.

0:03 There are options for "Change Audio" and "View Credits." Wow, this is quite the full-featured game.

0:04 Some cute character model options, including flim archetypes like Desperado, Swashbuckler and... Disco Girl? I go with a Sci-Fi Cadet in a skimpy green costume, 'cause she's HOT!

0:05 I change the settings to a longer five-puzzle game instead of a short three-puzzle game because I have to fill up a whole hour, right? I turn on the Classic (i.e. timed) Scoring mode and activate negative points because I am HARDCORE!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sonic Unleashed

Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PS2, Wii
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Who says schizophrenia is a bad thing?

0:00 I believe I got this one when I was scheduled to review it for Crispy Gamer, but then the review got bumped for something more interesting. The people who have actually reviewed it didn't seem to like it much, so my expectations are quite low.

0:01 The title appears to soaring trumpet and string music on a starry black field. Reminds me of Super Mario Galaxy 2. Man, I wish I was playing that right now.

0:02 I switch to the Japanese voices because they are almost always better delivered. I don't know if that's because they actually care more or because I can't actually understand what they're saying. Oh well. New Game!

0:04 A shot of the earth's curvature from high up in space. Pan up to show a galactic fleet of mega-ships... very evocative of the Star Wars opening. Zoom in on a laughing Dr. Eggman. "Oh ho ho ho! Hmmmmm?! Sonic!" Blue walkers rise to face the hedgehog, who's landed on the deck. "Fire!" yells Eggman as cannons let out a fusillade. Sonic runs past the cannon fire and destroys the robots with some spinning jumps. Machine gun fire... homing missiles... nothing can touch him, until Eggman's walker sends out a large metal hand to grab him. Sonic grins coyly, then turns into glowing, golden Super Sonic and flies away into space, the ship exploding behind him. I wonder why he didn't just fly in as Super Sonic in the first place...


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mad World

Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: March 10, 2009
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Fucking ream those fuckers with some ridiculously fucking over-the-top violence!

0:00 I believe I bought this one on hype alone, then proceeded to not touch it for over a year now. Let's see if stylish ultra-violence can work on the Wii.

0:01 There's a silent chainsaw blade rotating around the "orld" part of the title. HARDCORE!

0:02 An overhead angle shot of a metropolis in stark black lines on a white background. Comic-book-style panels show close up scenes of disaster -- flaming cars, bridges reduced to rubble. A flaming skyline. "As you can see, all eight bridges to Jefferson Island have been cut," says a newscaster. "There is no traffic getting on or off the island." Communications have been blacked out for 18 hours and the cops have been told to stay away. "We have no intention of giving in to any such demands," says the police commissioner just as a helicopter explodes. The mayor says "all necessary measures are being taken" and that he's personally authorized a special team of marines to go in. I didn't know mayors could just order in the Marines. Isn't that the president's job?

0:04 Zoom in on Jefferson City. A reject from Frank Miller's Dark Knight comics throws another into a flaming barrel. A spiky haired punk waves an equally spiky bat. One more thug beats a defenseless man on the ground. A low zoom starts on my character's boots, then pans up and out to show him taking a slow drag on a cigarette. He reminds me of Hellboy without the horns. "Who, me? Ready as always." Um... who are you talking to? No one said anything requiring a response.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Crackdown 2 (demo)

Developer: Ruffian Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: July 6, 2010
System: Xbox 360
ERRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Grand Theft Auto minus the boring parts plus a lot of jumping = Crackdown 2

0:00 The original Crackdown was one of my first Games for Lunch and I liked it a lot despite some hardware reliability problems. I quit before collecting every single orb, but had tons of fun before I got to that point.

0:01 A hard-to-read on-screen message tells me I can earn "demo achievements" as I play. Of course, I only unlock the actual achievements once I play the actual game. There ain't nothing for free... even Gamerscore points.

0:03 The options screen has for stuff like Dynamic Range and HUD Opacity. Huzzah-wha?

0:04 I have no friends playing online, but there are a lot of people playing around America, Europe and Japan, according to the handy map. At least, I think those dots represent players...

0:05 Selectable difficulties are Fragile and Tough. It looks like there's a third option, but it's grayed out and so tin that I can't read it on this standard definition TV. Let's start with tough and move it down if/when things get to be too much.


Monday, June 21, 2010


Developer: Cryptic Sea
Publisher: Chronic Logic
Release Date: May 10, 2004
System: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: It ain't easy being a tar ball... or controlling one.

0:00 I was convinced I had actually played this game before, but apparently I had just watched the trailer video and remembered controlling it directly. Now I'm actually getting around to trying it out as part of the Humble Indie Bundle I downloaded last month.

0:01 I'm not including the five minutes it took to configure the controls for the PS3 joypad, or the five more minutes it took to do it again once my computer mysteriously blue-screened for no apparent reason.

0:02 As the game loads I get to look at a fake movie poster that's obviously parodying a movie I don't recognize. Nice hi-hat heavy music on the title screen. I set the window to full screen and start a new game on Normal difficulty.

0:03 "Gish isn't your average hero. In fact he's not your average anything. Gish is a ball of tar." Um, a ball of tar is an "anything," isn't it? Anyway, "while on a Sunday stroll with his lady friend Brea a shadowy figure emerged from an open manhole pulling her away and into the ground below. Quickly, Gish jumps into action..." Yada yada yada. The simple story is illiustrated with manic, shaky lined drawings that remind me of static versions of those awful CD-i Zelda games.

0:05 The Sewers of Dross is level 1-1. I have five lives and zero points. Nice jazzy background music as I roll gish around some atmospheric sewers. The simple animation on his mouth and eyes makes him seem almost alive.