Saturday, February 28, 2009

GERARDAMO: Game of the Week 6

Alright, I'm back after my lazy week off. If this seems like a half-assed post, it's because I'm writing it in the hour I have until I go out for the night and I still feel lazy, but you'll be assured that I'm doing it right.

My game this week is once again a music game. This one comes from Sega. It's Space Channel 5 for the Sega Dreamcast. This half DDR, half Simon Says game is actually quite unique, not for it's gameplay, but in the style that it's presented. Set in the near future, Space Channel 5 is filled with plenty of 70's retro-chique throwbacks, from main character Ulala's tank-top and mini skirt outfit, completed with go-go boots, right down to the groovy dialogue. I was going to try to add some of this quirky dialogue to the post, but if you couldn't tell from that first one, it would sound awful.

Space Channel 5 puts you in control of Ulala, news reporter for "Ulala's Swinging Report Show!" The plot of the game is quite silly, and the game really just seems to laugh at itself the whole time. Aliens are invading the earth, forcing everyone on the planet to dance, with hopes of... Well... Maybe annoying them? Or starving them to death or something. It's never really made clear why. Somehow, they'll take over TV and the planet that way. Only you, Ulala, can save them by dancing back! Gameplay is simple, aliens (Called Morolians) will jump out and shoot directions in an attempt to attack you! You need to remember these directions and shout them back, because that apparently will stop them. You don't just remember the directions, though. It's all set to music, and you have to remember the rhythm pattern they followed, because what's a dancer without rhythm? You'll also need to shoot the Morolians and rescue the dance-crazed civilians by shouting "Chu!" (Shoot) or "Hey!" That's really all there is to the gameplay.

As I mentioned, Space Channel 5 is a rhythm game, and it easily has my favorite soundtrack. (I hope I didn't say that last week about IIDX as well, because I like this better.) It's very future-jazz-ish, and totally sets the mood for the game. It's one of the few games I have the soundtrack to and can listen to without playing the game. It's hard to describe without actually listening to it, so make sure you turn up the music when you watch the video at the end!

Easily, the most memorable thing about the game is the greatest cameo apperance of all time. Michael Jackson lends his voice to the game as Space Michael, and you need to rescue him, and he doesn't really say anything except for, "Thanks, Ulala!" However, in Space Channel 5: Part 2, he has his own entire level, and it's fantastic, because everyone dances around in an epic dance battle doing Michael Jackson moves (And yes, they do the Thriller.) and then he takes out a singing robot by... More singing. It's got to be the best level in either game. (There's only a Space Channel 5 and a Space Channel 5: Part Two. Well, there was also Space Channel 5: Ulala's Cosmic Revenge for the GBA, but let's forget that that ever happened.)

Space Channel 5 is still rather easy to find. It was re-released on the PS2 as Space Channel 5: Special Edition and comes with both parts, each on their own seperate disc. It's practically identical to the Dreamcast version as well. No unnecessary changes to be seen here. I bought a new copy of it on eBay for 10 dollars, so it's really cheap if you're interested in playing it, and with a price like that, I highly reccomend that you do, if nothing else just for the humor in the game.

The video below is of the first level of Part 1. If it looks easy, that's why, but it does get plenty trickier. The song playing in it is my favorite song out of any game, and that's why I chose this video.

Video by VirtuaPlayer

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

23 keeps current: 21 Prototypes

Jesse Venbrux, maker of the Karoshi series (as well as other good, but less famous games), started a project last week called 21 Prototypes. His plan is to spend an hour a day to create one prototype. That includes thinking up the game, programming it, and making sure it's playable. So far he has 8 days worth with 1 or 2 a day (after the first couple days). So far I've been pretty impressed with what he can do in one hour, and my favorite fun prototype is 5_1 (the transporting box/ball one) and the most artfull one is 4_1 (the one about long distance relationships).

Expect an interview soon that's composed over some of my conversations over the net with Venbrux over the past couple weeks. So, stay tuned with that project for some neat little ideas and check out the rest of his games for some more lengthy and meaningfull enjoyment.

Monday, February 23, 2009

20cc reviews: Saints Row 2

Yes I know, SR2 came out in October. I'm lazy though, and I can't get F.E.A.R. 2 until I return SR2 (or buy it, because I've got a discount deal on Gamefly and quite a bit of gameplay left).

I can't claim this to be a completely objective review, since I have yet to actually finish it, but my conscience is hurting after taking off last week, so I'll just do the best I can.

On first impression, Saints Row 2 is Grand Theft Auto 3.5. After three or four days of gameplay, I feel pretty much the same way. However, while that fact has remained the same, my overall opinion of the game has improved with time. If any of you follow game news and reviews, you'll probably have some idea that SR2 is a bad game, mostly because it has “bad graphics.” Of course most real gamers will have some perspective, and recognize that these “bad graphics” are flabbergasting by the standards of two years ago. Of course they aren't up to GTA4's standards, but I've come to realize that that isn't necessarily a fault. GTA4 suffers from a severe case of “graphical modernization,” as demonstrated by the fact that the game is dark and gritty to the point of being unintelligible. SR2 strikes a nice balance of color while still being realistic. Some of you will be perplexed by that statement, but look at it this way: The world is not entirely made of mud. The sun shines, buildings and water reflect that light, grass is green. Darkness does not necessarily go hand in hand with a lack of clarity. I'm currently sitting in a relatively dark basement, and can still see clearly into the completely dark pool room some distance away. Sure the nights are still dark, but you don't get the same problem with GTA4 where you leave a dark building and the bright sunlight causes your screen to... get darker.

You will also likely have heard that SR2 is chock-full of bugs. Honestly, I never had a problem. Compared to Web of Shadows, the game ran like a dream. Like GTA4, it had the same AI path finding glitch where, upon receiving the order to enter a vehicle, your character decides that an obstacle is in the way of the door, runs around to the other side of the vehicle, and then decides that the other door would have been a better choice after all. Frankly, it happened less often than in GTA4.

My main problem with the game is the control scheme. Being used to GTA4, it took me some time to get used to especially the driving controls. SR2 doesn't do as well with what I suppose I'll call simulated realism as GTA4. I say this because obviously the driving and collisions in GTA4 weren't realistic, but they felt very close, putting aside the fact that you could slide at fifty miles an hour into a telephone pole and emerge unscathed. I at first was irritated by the driving system in SR2, but I've since gotten used to it and realized that, while simpler, it can be just as effective. Furthermore, each vehicle has a more individual feel than in GTA4. There is a much wider gap between the good cars and the bad ones, and you'll find that you'll soon start choosing which vehicles to jack based on something more substantial than the paint job.

On a related note, the customization is in all ways an improvement over GTA4, and not only because of the fact that there was none in the latter. Of course there is in the beginning a character customization screen, allowing you to choose from different skin colors, genders, body types, weights, voices, movement styles, combat styles, insults and compliments. Once in game, you can further customize your character and add to your “style value” by buying clothes, jewelry and tattoos. Also, there are a number of cribs to purchase. Some are just for vehicles, such as docks and one airport hanger. Other cribs can be customized with beds, bigger TVs, and decorations. All of these things add to your style value, which gives you a respect bonus upon completing activities.

I realize that this is in a rather illogical order, but it fits together in my head, so I'll continue.

The aforementioned respect system is used to unlock missions. Each time you want to play a campaign mission or a stronghold (side missions used to kick gangs out of certain areas), you have to spend one respect bar. The respect bar is filled by performing stunts in driving and combat (two wheels, near miss, gang kill, slice n dice, etc.) which are ranked based on the duration of the stunt with one to three stars in either bronze, silver or gold. For instance, spending some time driving in the left lane will give you a bronze star in the opposing lane stunt, and staying there longer will add another star, and then a third, and then one silver star. Similarly, killing an enemy while holding a human shield will give you a bronze star in shield kill, and each subsequent kill within the time frame will add another. More stars means more respect.

The better way to gain respect is through activities, however, and this is where SR2 shows its true stripes. What really makes it an improvement over GTA4 is that it doesn't try to take itself seriously. This manifests itself in a more interesting plot, more colorful characters (both literally and figuratively) and most importantly, truly absurd activities. These include Septic Avenger, which calls for the character to devalue property by spraying sewage on houses, Insurance Fraud, which involves getting into violent car accidents to collect health insurance, and Fuzz, a parody of the show Cops, in which the player disguises him or herself as a cop and commits random acts of police brutality to be caught on film. These activities each have six levels, with each subsequent level granting more cash and respect, sometimes up to two or three full bars. At present, I believe I have nine bars, but I recently had thirteen.

I'll wrap up the review now, as I fear it's become too verbose. I will add that my sole real complaint about the game is a lack of split screen cooperative play. Sandbox games would always be vastly improved through a coop mode, including Assassin's Creed, GTA4 and SR2. It seems foolish to me that Volition would decide how I play my coop, since of the best friends of mine that play video games (pretty much the people on anyButton), only two of them have 360s, and neither of them have Gold XBL accounts. Games are often improved by adding a social component, and that's always better done in person than online. Setting this complaint aside, I have ultimately decided that I agree with Yahtzee's assessment. SR2 is so far a more enjoyable experience than GTA4, and it seems that it will have more replay value once I finish it. I may very well buy it.

One last thought: Why isn't there an apostrophe in in the title?

Okay here's the last one: If you're one of those people who reads a page and skips over all of the hyperlinks, make an exception and check out Yahtzee Croshaw's Zero Punctuation. Seriously, he's a critical genius, and my personal idol when it comes to reviews.

Xbox Marketplace is running out of space! Everything must go!

It seems Microsoft will now be offering discounts on the Xbox Marketplace to all Gold members. Discounts will range from 25 to 50 percent off of downloadable goodies such as DLC, XBLA games, and Xbox Originals. So what's this discount this week? It's Braid at the reasonable price of 800 Microsoft Points. If you managed to miss this game, now's your chance to finally play it. I know I would be buying it now, but I'm too damn lazy to subscribe to Gold again.

Later this month, you can also expect discounts on the still totally relevant DLC for Ninja Gaiden II, Project Gotham Racing 4, and the Xbox Original, Fable.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Game Releases for the week of 2/22/09 -It's puzzling-

Tuesday, 2/24:

XBOX 360:
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (Because the first 50 Cent game was so good.)
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix (This is, unfortunately, your best bet for the week)
Shellshock 2: Blood Trails
Ski Doo: Snowmobile Challenge
Star Ocean: The Last Hope (I'd actually play this if I knew the rest of the story to Star Ocean. I need another J-RPG)
The Godfather II (I guess this could also be good. I've heard good things about the first one.)

PlayStation 3:
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
Shellshock 2: Blood Trails
Ski Doo: Snowmobile Challenge
The Godfather II

Sony PSP:
Nothing all week, so sad.

Nintendo Wii:
Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop (This game is still relevant, and this version screams quality game)
Yes, that's it for the Wii this week.

Nintendo DS:
Avalon Code
Blue Dragon Plus (Apparently, they still think people want to play this game.)
Imagine Family Doctor (Imagine SEXY Doctor)
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Codename Panzers: Cold War ("I'm gonna launch a missle!" "No, I am!" "Nuh uh!" "Yeah huh!" Hours of entertainment to be had.)
Drakensang: The Dark Eye
Shellshock 2: Blood Trails
The Godfather II

Friday, 2/27

PlayStation 3:
Killzone 2

GERARDAMO did it first

Hi all. I took the week off, so that's why there was no Game of the Week this week. I didn't even play much of any new games this week either, because I didn't even get Cooking Mama from Gamefly until yesterday. It's not that I wanted to get Cooking Mama, I wanted to return it for bikinis and zombies. Alas, my week off is over, and next week I'll be providing you with more games that you don't remember.

Just so I don't feel left out, I too have my own personal blog over on LiveJournal, and if stereotypes on content you find on LJ are true, I highly suggest that you stay away from my personal blog. It's private, so you're going to have to add me as a friend to read it, and it's important to know that because if you don't, you'll I haven't updated it since last May with a post that's rather silly. So, yes. I have one, too, but I'm going to leave it up to the readers to find it on their own, mostly because I don't want them to. (Trust me, it'll be SO hard because I totally don't use the same name as my username on every website and as my Gamertag and PSN name and like everything else. SARCASM OVERLOAD!)

In regards to the "personal" blog I have here, those were just a few copy and pastes of my less angsty LJ entries. I gave up on it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

20cc is ripping off 23

Sorry I haven't posted much lately. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I've had Saints Row 2 instead of F.E.A.R. 2, so I haven't been able to review it as planned. I may actually review Sainsts Row 2, late as it is, and I'm currently contemplating whether I should wait and return it later, or pay Gamefly's keep it price, and just get F.E.A.R. 2 now.

Either way, I haven't had time to write that review yet, and will hopefully have it done for next week. By the time I'm caught up on all this, Watchmen will be out, and I'll be able to review that.

What this is really about, is that I've taken a leaf from 23's book and started my own side project, for more trivial news and rants. Don't worry, I'm not abandoning aB. I've just realized that with the stream of good new games so thin, it would be nice to be able to write about some other stuff. However, alot of that stuff might not be apropriate for aB. Therefore, it seemed logical to make a little room on the side, so at least I'll be able to keep writing on a regular basis.

So check it out if you've got the time. It should be amusing, if nothing else. I'll be back next week.

Friday, February 20, 2009

23 interviews: Cryptic Sea

23's interview with Edmund McMillen and Alex Austin from Cryptic Sea

Both Edmund and Alex have had various projects with game development, but together, they make up the team of Cryptic Sea. Together they have made Gish and Blast Miner, also listed on the site are Alex's works Bridge Building Game and A New Zero. They've been working on, and hopefully complete in due time; Gish 2, and No Quarter. They have very different styles, both very unique, and together they create exceptionally unique and entertaining games. So, here's the interview :)

Who are you, and what company(s) are you apart of, and could you give a brief explanation of both?

Alex: I'm a designer/programmer, right now I release my games under the Cryptic Sea label. From 2001-2005 I was a part of Chronic Logic.

Edmund: Edmund McMillen, i make games. im an design and artist for Cryptic sea and my own personal side projects.

How did you get in to making games?

Alex: I've been making games since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the possibilities of computer games. I started making money from games when my friend Ben and I started Chronic Logic to release Pontifex.

Edmund: I had been doing basic interactive flash projects from 2000-2003 and started working on a game with Tom Fulp Called Cereus Peashy. Shortly after starting the project i got a job doing freelance art for Chronic Logic, a company that alex founded a few years earlier.

How did Cryptic Sea/the partnership between Alex Austin and Edmund McMillen start?

Alex: Edmund and I started working on Gish when he was doing art for Chronic Logic.

Where did the name Cryptic Sea come from?

Alex: Originally it was a name I was going to use for some music projects I was working on.

Who are some other people you've worked with?

Edmund: Ive worked with quite a few, Jon Blow, Kyle Gabler, Tom Fulp, Tyler Glaiel, Florian Himsl and Alex Austin to name a few.

What games have you made (I know there's a very long list, so, just some highlights/series would be good) also, how would you describe your style?

Alex: Bridge Builder, Pontifex, Triptych, Pontifex II, Gish, Blast Miner, most of the games I've done involve phyiscs-based gameplay.

Edmund: Gish, Meat Boy, Aether, Coil, Triachnid and Blast Miner are the games im most known for. Id describe my style as "awesome".

What are some of your influences? (Other games/outside of gaming)

Alex: I'm definitely influenced by Sid Meier's games, the Ultima series, simulation games from the 90's, and NES games like Super Mario Bros or Zelda. My non-gaming influences include music like Boards of Canada, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Aphex Twin and Pink Floyd. I've been really interested in Stanley Kubrick recently, not just his films but his approach to the creative process also.

Edmund: Game wise ive been influenced by all the classics, Zelda, Mario, Street fighter 2 and so on. outside of gaming id say my major influences come from film makers like Rod Serling, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Lloyd Kaufman and Comic writers/artist like Jack Chick, R Crumb and Sam Keith.

What's your favorite game (if not answered in the last question)?

Alex: Civilization.

Edmund: Probably the first Zelda.

What's your favorite game that you've made?

Edmund: Right now its Aether.

What game(s) are you working on now?

Alex: I'm working on No Quarter, A New Zero, Pontifex III, Gish 2, and a few other ideas.

Edmund: Im currently working on 2 flash games, No Quarter, Super Meat Boy and Gish 2.

How do you feel about your fan base?

Alex: I don't think I really have a fan base, unless it's like the Flight of the Conchords fan base, except without Mel.

What are your future plans?

Alex: It depends on how No Quarter does, if it does poorly I'll probably look for a job.

Do you plan on making any games or ports on a console?

Alex: Yes.

On Gish/Blast Miner:

Who came up with the idea for Gish and how?

Edmund: Gish himself came from this strange demon i had been working on for a local magazine. He was origionaly made of smoke and had small arms and legs.. he kinda de evolved into how gish looks today.

How is Gish 2 coming along/when can we expect to see a final product or at least a beta?

Alex: Not for a while, we haven't been working on it much lately.

Are there any plans to make a Blast Miner 2?

Alex: Nope.

On No Quarter:

When is the planned release date?

Alex: Late March or early April.

When will you post a new video?

Alex: Probably not until it's finished.

How is the game development and beta testing going?

Alex: Some days it's good, some days I feel like quitting.

When will you get the next beta out?

Alex: In the next week or so, we'll probably add another game into the next beta.

How much will the whole CD cost?

Alex: Not sure yet.

Is there any way to pre-order it?

Alex: Nope.

For Edmund

How was the Global Game Jam?

Edmund: i wasn't actually a part if it, we just talked at UCSC to a few of the teams that where working on games for it. I decided to make a game for it a few hours before it was over. Tyler and i finished AVGM in about 3 hours, the game is a joke... it really isnt to be played.

What's the story with you and Tyler Glaiel, you two seem to be working together a lot?

Edmund: Technically we have only worked on 2 games together now, Aether and AVGM. But tyler has a great mind for games, and good eye as well. Its fun working with him because he works really fast and is basically up for anything :).

Where do you get the idea for such strange games?

Edmund: I just look around, everything in life is strange. Its strange to me that my stuff is even considered strange or weird these days. i mean look at us.. we are these delicate sacks of flesh that eat shit and reproduce... isnt that strange? we dont know what happens to us when we die, that's pretty strange. Life is strange, im just mirroring it.

Do you plan on making more art games (like coil) or more fun games (like meatboy)?

Edmund: Yeah, Ive been writing this game called Huck for a few months now. its a simple design that would be probably considered an art game, its another auto biographical piece like aether. The game im working on with florian might be considered an art game, its a social experiment.

When can we expect Super Meat Boy and how is it going?

Edmund: Late this year, we are still in the very very early stages of development.

Can you tell us anything about your current and future projects like spew and your untitled game that you're working on with Florian?

Edmund: Other then they will both becoming out in about a month, no.

For Alex Austin (sorry for doing yours second, no prejudice)

When can we expect a finished product of A New Zero?

Alex: I'm not sure, I'm not working on it full-time so the development has been slow.

How is Golf? Going/when can we see an update or final product (you are part of that team, right?)?

Alex: Golf? is pretty much dead right now, I was doing programming and design but at this point it doesn't look like it will ever be finished.

What's your role at Chronic Logic?

Alex: I'm no longer a part of Chronic Logic, but some of my games are still sold through there.

You seem pretty hard to get information on, is this on purpose, or am I just missing something?

Alex: It's not on purpose, it's probably because I haven't done many interviews lately.

Do you plan on making A New Zero playable over the internet instead of just LAN?

Alex: It is playable over the internet.

23: oops... I guess nobody has been on much lately...

How did you develop such a unique style?

Alex: I'm not sure I have a style really, but I create graphics and physics engines for each game which I think helps make them unique.

Is there any hidden games (other then what's on Cryptic Sea and Chronic Logic, and Golf?) that you've made or are working on that you can tell us about?

Alex: I'm working on a puzzle game called Shadow that I might release in the next few weeks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

23 interviews: Nifflas

23's (abridged) interview with Nicklas "Nifflas" Nygren

a very squished map of Knytt

Nicklas Nygren, also known as Nifflas is a Swedish indie game developer who has made such great "exploration platformers" such as Knytt, Knytt Stories (KS), and Within a Deep Forest (WaDF). His games are very well known in the indie gaming community, and his current project, Night Game, is a nominee in this year's IGF for both excelence in design and the grand prize. For more on the basics of Nifflas' design watch Wolfire's design review of knytt stories, as well as reading this, and trying out his games for yourself (all of which are free).

In Within a Deep Forest you play as a bouncing ball (he can't swim)

Here's his response when asked about some of his favorite games and influences:

Nicklas Nygren (Nifflas) (NN): I'm mostly into very atmospheric games. I really wish there were more of those

NN: An "Ico" isn't released on a regular basis

23: yea, defiantly, the only one I can think of like it are abstract puzzle games

NN: Ah, those can be great

23: they can, but it's defiantly a different feel, usually art games, I see yours as more... a mix between the art and fun games (for lack of better terms)

NN: heh, a bit like the Shellblast / Acidbomb games.... Basically a slightly more complex take on Minesweeper, but the atmosphere makes it so exciting

23: yeah, definatly
23: you mentioned "Ico" before, what is that?

NN: It's a PS2 game. I guess my fans are tired of hearing that whenever I'm asked to mention a favorite game, I mentions that. It's an adventure game that lacks almost everything a good game is supposed to have. It features minimal dialogue, almost no music, only 3 or 4 enemy types, almost no weapons, no stats or levels...
NN: so you pretty much explore a large castle, solve puzzles, and enjoy an awesome atmosphere
NN: It's still the game that have affected my own games most.

23: cool, sounds neat
23: I'll have to look it up

NN: It's neat, because they took almost everything away from what a game is expected to have, and still made something really beautiful

23: I love when games can do that, also, what else do you consider your influences?

NN: I take a lot of inspiration from places around where I live
NN: mostly the sounds, deep forests 'n stuff

23: that defiantly explains the relaxing and isolated yet not lonely atmosphere

NN: Yeah :)
NN: Personally, I think that if you get away from the city and either into the forest or to the ocean around where I live, either at early spring or fall, the atmosphere should be a bit similar to Knytt somehow :)

The basic design of knytt; colorful environments with ambient wildlife (you play as the mouse)

How Nifflas became an indie dev:

NN: I don't know.... I've always been interested, as a child I used to make drawings that I pretended was video games
NN: At early school I learnt qbasic and attempted to create some ASCII games (all failures)
NN: Later with Visual Basic (also failures)
NN: Then my parents gave me Klik & Play
NN: and well, I failed for a series of years to create games with that too (I upgraded to The Games Factory and Multimedia Fusion 1 during this period)
NN: I basically tried to create too large games, that I never had a chance to finish
NN: so I gave up completely, and started to create music instead until many years later when I decided to try creating small platformers instead of huge RPG's and adventure games X)
NN: ...and well, since then I've released games at a quite regular basis (although NG is taking a little longer than my previous games)

Even though it's a very peaceful environment there are dangerous enemies (you play as the girl)

On the topic of how he would describe his games/style:

23: so, how would you describe your games? (or at least knytt)

NN: The main focal point of my games so far have been atmosphere
NN: Hmmm
NN: Basically, I want the games to feel more like a place than a challenge
NN: if that makes sense :)

23: hmm, yeah, alright, it definitely feels that way

NN: So far my games have been non-violent and have a rather cute and helpless (but brave) character exploring a large world.
NN: I don't know why, but that express me best

Jump Knytt, jump!

Where the name "Nifflas" came from:

23: so, where'd the name Nifflas come from?

NN: Well, I once sat in a car with my uncle and his girlfriend, and a debate started between me and my uncle about how to spell my name
NN: As everyone knows, I spell it Nicklas, but on the paper it's actually Niklas
NN: so my Uncle doesn't fully agree about that extra c, thinking it makes it sound like "Nisklas" or something
NN: So my uncle's girlfriend got tired of our debate and told us to spell it with f
NN: and well, it was nailed pretty instantly

23: haha, that's pretty funny
NN: :)

The origin of the names and some charecter designs:

23: so, where do you get the names for these games?

NN: That's always problematic. I'm really horrible with names, but it have still always worked out somehow.

23: haha, alright, I think they fit pretty well

NN: My ex-girlfriend designed the Knytt characters, and named them Knytt from Tove Jansson's children's books.
NN: so I didn't name Knytt
NN: and it took me months to figure out that I could call the second one "Knytt Stories"

More charecter design:

23: so, you mentioned that your ex designed some of the knytt characters, did she design all of them?

NN: She designed around half of the characters in Within a Deep Forest
NN: And those from WaDF that I used in Knytt were hers
NN: She didn't draw any characters specifically for Knytt, but she did the patterns for the Knytt startup screen and credits screen
NN: both with are lovely :)

23: yea, who designed the rest?

NN: I designed most of the game, but I also asked at the forum for help with character designing. In the game credits list, a few people are mentioned who created extra characters.

23: cool, it's a nice and unique design

NN: Evil-Ville, TheoX and Mr.Monkey
NN: regulars of either my forums or music communities I've been into

And finally, what he plans for the future and end:

23: alright, and do you have any plans on what you want to do after your current projects?

NN: I have, at this moment it's all pretty secret
NN: but I sure have :D
NN: (and it's game related)

23: alright, that's good
23: I think we would all like to see more games from you in the future

NN: :)

23: alright, well, I think that pretty much covers it
23: do you have anything else to say?

NN: Not that I can think about, but it was great doing the interview! Thanks :D

23: yea, thank you
NN: no problem :)

You can find the whole transcript at this post on bluGrey if you want to see more. So go to his website and download your own free copy of Knytt, Knytt Stories, and Within a Deep Forest. You can also go here and get some of his older, less known, works. Expect a review of Nifflas' games soon and then an interview with Alex Austin and Edmund McMillen from Cryptic Sea. Have fun!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Game Releases for the Week of 2/15/09

Monday, 2/16/09:

Nintendo DS:
Fire Emblem: Dragon Shadow

Tuesday, 2/17/09:

XBOX 360:
Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3: Senior Year (That's right, they fit two colons in one phrase)
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned
Street Fighter IV (I never much cared for Street Fighter, but this appears to be the best game coming out this week. Now get out there and kick some ass with Sakura! She was always the best.)

PlayStation 3:
Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Street Fighter IV

PlayStation 2:
Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Petz Saddle Club
Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?

Nintendo Wii:
Battle Rage: The Robot Wars
Cradle of Rome
Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Little King's Story
Roogoo Twisted Towers

Nintendo DS:
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst
Penumbra Collection

Thursday, 2/19/08

Noby Noby Boy (This is by the same guy behind Katamari Damacy. I still don't know what it's about, but check it out if you like Katamari.)

Doesn't look like much of anything is coming out this week except for Street Fighter IV, and it's still a series I don't care much for (I'll stick with Namco and huge breasts, thank you very much.). Maybe I'll get around to trying it out anyway. I mean, it does have Sakura in it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Well then...

Things are not going as I had planned this week with Gamefly and my week off. While I was originally planning on starting off with Onechanbara and writing a review on it, it seems they just sent me Cooking Mama: World Kitchen for the Wii instead, which is great because I don't even remember adding Cooking Mama to the list of games I wanted. Oh well, c'est la vie. Maybe I'll do a review on it, but probably not. I won't have it until at least Monday now, so by the time I send it back and get Onechanbara, the week will be long over.

Friday, February 13, 2009

23 news: 2.13.09

Here's some news, all indie, that I've seen lately (mostly today). Anyway, hope you find it informative and interesting!

ThatGameCompany releases Flower: ThatGameCompany (yes, that's really their name), makers of flOw, released a very unique and tranquill game yesterday (2/12) name Flower (you might have seen this on GERARDAMO's release date list) for the PSN (Playstation 3's downloadable content). This game looks beautiful, and so far has had fairly good ratings. I personally would like to see ThatGameCompany do more for PC and Wii, but that might just be because I don't have a PS3.

Plain Sight's beta extended: Plain Sight, an indie game made by Beatnik Games, has decided to extend their open beta testing for just a little bit longer. I highly advise grabbing up this game (even if it is a beta) before they take it off-line (or however they decide to close the beta). Plain Sight is a 3rd person action game with robots and points and blowing yourself up, so, really, there's no reason not to try it!

Half-Life 2 gets an indie live action series: Purchase Brothers have made the one thing all Half Life 2 fans have been waiting for (well, other than Half Life 3 and their own companion cube). Anyway I'll embed it below, because really, for a $500 budget for the first to episodes (according to escapist), it's really amazing. I admit the gun fights could have been a little better, but really the special effects and filming are amazing, so, just click the play button!

"Violent" computer games can help with fire safety: According to Science Daily people have actually realized you can mod Half Life, who woulda thunk it! Seriously though, researchers are starting to use FPS's such as Half Life 2, CS:S, F.E.A.R, Doom 3, and more for use in training fire fighters and civilians for dangerous fire situations. Anyway, I'm glad these games are being used for more than entertainment, I think education in any field could vastly improve by implementing some of the numerous technologies available (I'll probably end up talking about virtual reality and improved computer interactivity in the class room in a later post). Anyway here's the citation, to make us look all official n' stuff:
Durham University. "Violent Computer Games Have Role In Fire Safety." ScienceDaily 13 February 2009. 13 February 2009 /releases/2009/02/090203192427.htm>.

Expect more links to be added within a couple days as well as maybe a couple more stories if I find anything

Thursday, February 12, 2009

23 interviews: Nabi Studios

23's Nabi Studios Interview

So, you might remember my review a couple weeks back of the game Toribash. Well, Hampus "Hampa" Soderstrom, the maker of Toribash and CEO of Nabi Studios, let me do a little interview. While this one isn't as extensive as my last i think it provides some pretty nice information about Hampa and Toribash. Some of the questions may seem repetitive, but it's hard to predict the answer of the last one, so I try to cover all my bases. Anyway here's a pretty picture and a nice little review:
Some call it art, some call it brutality, either way you look at it it's really fun!

Could you give us a brief introduction as to who you are and what company you're a part of?

Hi, I am hampa. I work at Nabi Studios where I develop and run the online game Toribash. I am originally from Sweden, but enjoy the weather and food of my current residence Singapore.

What games have you made?

I've made Toribash, an online turn based beat-em up.

How did you get in to making games?

I did software development for a couple of years. Being a programmer making a small game is a fun exercise that I recommend everybody to do.

How did you come to work at Nabi Studios?

Having a company to run the game makes things much easier. It is really a necessity when you start dealing with payments, contracts and staff.

Have you worked for/with any other game developers?

Nope, I worked with other IT related work, such as telecom, before gaming.

Nice logo, eh?

How would you describe Toribash?

Toribash is an online fighting game featuring full body dismemberment and cartoon blood.
If you could place Toribash in one or more genres, what would they would be?

Best described as a beat-em up.

What are some of your influences? (other games/outside of gaming)

I am a fan of the books by Ayn Rand.

What's your favorite game?

The game I have played the most besides Toribash was Quake World.

Why did you decide to make a fighting game that wasn't just another button-masher? (question courtesy of GERARDAMO)

I just thought the game mechanics would be fun to play with. That most other games in the genre are button mashers didn't really concern me.

Who came up with the idea of Toribash and how?

I came up with the idea but since then it have evolved quite a bit and many people and players have been contributing to making it what it is today.

On my spare time I enjoy practising Judo, having a hobby besides a gaming can be good when coming up with ideas for games.

Off with his head!

What project(s) are you working on now?

Toribash for Wii

What new features are you planning to put in the next version of Toribash?

Version 3.7 (release feb 2009) has a new particle system and some GUI updates.

How well are your current projects coming along?

At a steady pace. I want the game to be perfect, and that doesn't always go hand in hand with good enough for release.

How do you feel about your fan base?

It is a nice mix of highly creative and fun individuals.

What are your future plans?

I am mostly concerned with finishing the current project we are working on.

Do you plan on making any games other then Toribash?

Yes, I have a prototype for a game called GlitchRacer. It is great fun and I hope to be able to release it some day.

Do you plan on making any games or ports on a console?

Yes, Nintendo Wii coming up!

Alright, well, that raps it up. You can check out Toribash, Nabi Studios, and Glitch Rider for more information. Once again we would like to thank Hampa a lot for the interview, and we can't wait for more Toribash!

P.S. Thanks for GERARDAMO and Kevin from It Came From /dev/null for editing and helping coming up with questions! Also, expect one more question to be posted soon that I forgot to ask.

Final question:

Why did you decide to give Toribash away free of charge?

We tried donationware, shareware, trialware, crippleware, velvet rope ware and addware. All of which more or less requires you to spend time making sure people can't play your game instead of making sure they are having fun. Selling virtual items for Toribash is both fun and supports the cost of further development.

Check out the Toribash blog, they actually blogged about us! So, if you're coming from there, thanks for the visit!

I sue, you sue, we all sue. Why? Who cares!

(I sure did pick a good week to use IIDX as my game of the week, didn't I?)

Early last summer, Konami, developer of music games such as Guitar Freaks, Drum Mania, and Beatmania IIDX filed a lawsuit against Viacom's Harmonix, developers of Rock Band, claiming that Rock Band violated two of Konami's controller patents (Hmm... PROBABLY guitar and drum controllers, since, well... What else could it have been?).

Now, yesterday, Harmonix decided that they would sue Konami for a patent infringement. Wait, what? Didn't Konami make the controller first? Yes they did, but according to Viacom's patent, filed Dec. 2, the Rock Band controllers are not ripoffs of Guitar Freaks/DrumMania controllers, but rather improvements on even older music game controllers, like Beatmania. So, Harmonix is borrowing the design from Konami, and Konami is stealing that borrowing from Harmonix, which means that Konami is stealing from an influence by... Konami? No, that is a terrible argument from Harmonix.

I hate to sound like I'm taking sides but Bemani games will always have a special place in my heart. Yes, with the exception of DDR, Konami did a terrible job of pushing their games to the States, but they did do it first. Yes, it's silly that they sue the pants off of everyone and still don't try to make decent US versions of their games, and that's why I'm okay with these other "ripoffs" coming out (I still hate Guitar Hero.), because it's all we Americans have. However, when a company like Harmonix decides to sue the company that basically gave them the idea for their game, that's not cool.

It'll be interesting to see how this turns out, but why can't we all just get along, guys?

Full story available here

23 optimizes: Google Analytics

So, I decided to add Google Analytic to anyButton. What this mean is that I can count the view count, by day, how many unique visitors, where they're from, what pages they visit and so much more. I know this seems kinda creepy, but it reveals no personal information about our readers and helps us recognize how popular the site is. So, if you have a site and want to track some info I suggest to check it out, also, while I'm promoting Google I might as well mention GMail, Google Reader, and, of course, blogspot.

Anyway expect some more interviews and reviews to be posted soon, I do like to stay on our front page :P. Expect interviews of Nicklas Nygren, Jesse Venbrux, Hampa from Toribash, and Edmund McMillen (Some of his stuff is NSFW), and reviews of some of their games within the coming weeks!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

20cc has a weakness for metal.

Sonata Arctica is making a video game. If any of you out there asked, “What is Sonata Arctica?” then I have two pieces of advice. First, find something blunt and hit yourself in the jaw with it. Next look them up. Allow me just to clarify that I am not so much of a fanboy that I expect this game to be awesome. It's a game inspired by an obscure Finnish power metal band, and developed by a company that has never made a game before (Zelian Games). However, I still intend to follow it slavishly, because SA is doing the soundtrack, and they're one of the best bands ever.

The game is called Winterheart's Guild, named after SA's breakthrough 2003 album. It was originally intended as a post-apocalyptic action RPG, back in 2006. Videos and screen shots suggested a setting in a cold, tundra-like area, perhaps representing a nuclear winter. There was little to be seen as far as gameplay, but it looked like a typical third person, Elder Scrolls-esque RPG. Also there were wolves (little surprise, if you know much about SA's image).

It seems that at some point in the past, however, Zelian became concerned about the game stagnating, and diverted their attention into a new game, xOrbic, to test their ZelianX engine before using it in Winterheart's Guild. This apparently signaled a genre shift for the game into puzzle RPG territory. When I learned about this in the SA forums (earlier today) it concerned me. I've never been a huge fan of puzzle games, and I certainly don't believe I've ever payed for one. However, being the SA zombie that I am, I decided that I would hold out hope. So I wandered over to the Winterheart's Guild website and downloaded the xOrbic demo.

It turned out to be, as I described to GERARDAMO earlier, “Fun, in a flash game sort of way. Not the kind of fun that I'll pay thirty dollars for.” It had a relatively engaging RPG leveling and inventory system, and a combat system that's somewhat reminiscent of Bejeweled. The player is required to match certain tiles in order to attack the opponent in a turn based battle. I didn't actually get that far into the game, mostly because the only time I had to play it in was the fifteen minutes in between Physics and Music Theory, but I saw enough to know that unless the system is modified significantly for the final Winterheart's Guild, I probably won't bother paying for it. As it stands, I'm most excited about the new song that SA is writing for the game. Of course, by the time it comes out, I certainly hope they'll have a new album.

Ripoff Hero: The Activision Game

That's actually a really rude title. I know I still give Activision a hardtime for ripping off Guitar Freaks, but it's just as much Konami's fault for not pushing their Bemani games. 

Now, info is starting to come out about two new games... DJ Hero and Scratch: The Ulitmate DJ, by Activision and Genius, respectively. However, instead of arguably making the game more difficult as was the case between Guitar Freaks and Guitar Hero (The addition of two more buttons), this time, instead of the 7-button layout you all should know about by now, they will be returning to a simpler 5-button control, because apparently Activision and Genius couldn't think of two more colors (Yes, the color scheme is, AGAIN, Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, Orange, in that oh so familiar order.) It looks like it could be interesting; it looks pretty. Genius just confirmed the first tracks in it. They include artists like The Beasite Boys, The Black Eyed Peas, The Gorillaz, Run DMC, Nelly, and Kanye West, but I ask you, do any of those sound like they could be better than Lovely Trans Pop? (No.) DJ Hero and Scratch: The Ultimate DJ are both set to drop more of the same colored beats on the PS3 and 360 later this year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

20cc reviews: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Last week, I signed up to Gamefly. As reluctant as I am to actually pay money for something, I realized that the monthly charge is probably a better deal than the slightly ridiculous Blockbuster rental fees, and the library is substantially larger. So I got an account and ordered LotR:C to play with Biscuits. I was at first impressed with the game. It felt much better playing alongside a friend, and the game seemed more promising in a real level, rather than just the tutorial. The feeling didn't last very long, however.

Although it continued to be amusing, the game was too full of problems for me to enjoy it for more than five minutes before thinking, “Wait, how does that make sense?” The plot was a convoluted mess, that was not only inconsistent with the books and films, but didn't even hold true to itself. This became first apparent in the second level, when Gandalf kills Saruman during the destruction of Isengard. Then, at the beginning of the evil campaign, Sauron arbitrarily “resurrects” every evil hero that had been killed, including Saruman, the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, and the Witch-king of Angmar. He also summons Balrogs on several occasions, which should have been well beyond his power.

Of course, I can't focus exclusively on the plot, because then the review would be over, and you (anyone reading this) would be feeling betrayed and bitter. Or not. Regardless.

Ignoring the holes in the plot, the game actually managed to be pretty enjoyable. At least enjoyable enough that I felt like picking it up again after I had put it down. It did, however, have a somewhat rushed feel. This game, like Silent Hill: Homecoming, had been on my radar, slipped under it, and then released much sooner than I expected. Also like Homecoming, it suffered from the quick release. The campaign mode was very, very short. I picked it up late Friday night, and we beat the good campaign in a few short hours, went to sleep, woke up on Saturday, and beat the evil campaign in a few even shorter hours. Each level felt the same, and none of them had the replay value of Star Wars: Battlefront, Pandemic's magnum opus. I was interested enough to make it through the campaign, but I can't see myself ever going back.

The classes were interesting, but not particularly original. There's a warrior, archer, scout, and mage. The scout actually looked like the most noteworthy, but it didn't fit my play style well enough. You would have to talk to Biscuits about that. Otherwise, the archer felt slow, the mage felt weak, and the warrior felt overpowered. One thing that struck me from the demo was that the warrior is given a set of special attacks that cause his sword to glow with fire and give the player an absurd edge. Also, the enemy ranks are bolstered with the “grunt” class, which isn't playable. This seems to defeat the purpose of the Battlefront style game, in which the player is no more or less powerful than the enemy. Also, it meant that once I got to the point in the game when I was fighting real enemy warriors, it was infinitely frustrating that they block almost every attack I threw. It could take two minutes to defeat a single enemy. Biscuits also complained endlessly about how useless the scout's cloak ability was, even though enemy scouts seemed to become completely invisibly. In addition to the base classes, either side has a “vehicle,” for lack of a better term. For the Alliance, this unit is the Ent, and for Mordor it's the troll. The two play the same, with a heavy attack, a light attack—which is just as good for splattering little infantry units all over the ground—a health regeneration ability, and the ability to pick up enemy units, crush them, and then use them as projectiles.

Then of course there are heroes, which all felt exactly like the base classes, but with more health. Their special attacks were changed aesthetically, but not functionally. They are mostly modified warriors, except Gandalf, Saruman, the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr and Legolas. The three wizards are perhaps my favorites, because they combine the basic mage's spells with an actually functional melee attack. Of course there are a couple of super heroes (pun intended): Sauron and the Balrog, both of which are amazingly fun, just because they make people go splat.

In summary, the game is short, the replay value is nonexistent, the plot is scattered, the classes are broken, and the evil heroes include the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, the Witch-king, the Balrog and Sauron. Make with that what you will, though since Gamefly asked, I gave it a 4 out of 10. Just don't hold me to that.

Tales of GERARDAMO's Fangasmia

I know I promised my co-authors that I would stop reporting on silly news stories, but this one makes me SO happy. You know that Tales of ______ Series that I'm always praising? Probably not, as I haven't made much reference to it here, but the Tales of series is my favorite series of RPG's out there. Anyway, you might know that Tales of Symphonia got an short anime series based on it in Japan. Well, the most recent entry in the series, Tales of Vesperia, is getting a freaking anime movie! It's going to be released this year and is being directed by Kanta Kamei. Get your subtitles ready! It's gonna be awesome.

Full story available in Japanese.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

GERARDAMO: Game of the Week 5

In a choice that will surprise not only my co-authors who I have been talking with about my choice for this week, but myself as well, I have chosen an arcade game as my game of the week this week. It's suprising not because it's an arcade game, but because it's a series that's not dead yet. It's Beatmania IIDX (Insert any style here) for the arcade/PS2.

Beatmania IIDX (Known from here-on only as IIDX, pronounced TOO-DEE-ECKS) is probably my second favorite game series, only to Dance Dance Revolution because I'm exponentially better at that than I am at IIDX, and I started playing it first. Also, it has better music. (Arguments to start... Never, because I doubt anybody capable of starting such an argument reads this.) So, why not DDR instead of IIDX? Uh... Because if you don't know what DDR is, welcome from your coma. It's the year 2009, and somehow you've stumbled upon this wonderful thing known as teh internets. IIDX is a DJ Simulator of sorts, in the same way that DDR is a dance simulator... It isn't. (Oh, you should know that DDR and IIDX were both created by Bemani, a branch of Konami that solely creates music games that use awesome controllers.) Those parenthesis bring me to my first point. Holy freaking crap the IIDX controller is the coolest damn contoller you will ever lay your pathetic little eyes on.

(That's the Japanese console controller.)

7 keys and a turntable. (It was orginally 5 keys in Beatmania and Beatmania III, which is strange considering III came out after IIDX) Dual-colored, flat rectangle notes fall from the sky, and all you have to do is press the corresponding button and spin a little plastic record.  Each key also makes a sound when you press it, but they all change over the course of the song, so you aren't just limited to one key going "THUMP, THUMP, THUMP" to the bass and the other six just playing synth and the turntable doing the crash cymbal. (Actually, on higher difficulties, that's pretty much all it does). However, unlike our crappy American music games, instead of your guitar just making a foul noise... Er... Instead of not making any sound when you press a key when you aren't supposed to, you can still play the sound that each key is assigned to, so you can, in a sense, remix the song as you go. It tends to sound quite terrible. 

But, it's not just as simple as hitting the right button at the right time and keeping your "Groove Gauge" from emptying. Well, actually, it is, however, just finishing with some points left in your Groove Gauge is not enough. It has to be filled AT LEAST 80% of the way or you fail. You could have full comboed a chart up until the very end and still fail just because you missed a few notes in a row, despite having gotten a new high score. You don't fail when your Groove Gauge reaches 0 either. You could actually just sit and wait through half of a song and then decide to start playing and still pass, despite having ignored most of the song. I can honestly say that I have done both of these (But mostly the first) MANY times. It makes the game quite frustrating.

The music, as you would expect in a DJing game, consists mainly of thumping trance, techno, and house music, but there is definitely a variety in the genres available. Whether you like eurobeat, hip-hop, or cheesy in-house covers of Toxic (Yes, the Britney Spears song), it's safe to say that there will be at least ONE song you find yourself enjoying as you play. Unlike most music games, though, you won't have a clue as to whether or not you'll actually like a song until you actually play it, because there's no song preview. Instead of a little 10-second clip of the song or something, you get to listen to the same loop over and over and over until you finally pick a song, or until the timer runs out, then you're just screwed into playing something considered Library Rock. That's actually another one of the game's charms. Every song is assigned to its own genre. While, as I already mentioned, most songs are assigned to the standard Epic Trance, Hardcore Techno, or Gabba, as the Japanese like to call it (You probably know it as Gabber... Or don't know it at all.), some songs have totally bizarre genres... Like Education, Cuddlecore, Lovely Trans Pop, or Tri Euro Fantasia (Though that is apparently a very good genre, judging by the whole one song I've ever heard of being placed in it.)

So, sounds like a party, doesn't it? No, not really. Don't get me wrong, I've brought my turntable and several Styles (Each new version of the game becomes the xth numbered Style, though every style after 10th ditched the "th Style" at the end each has its own unique subtitle. IIDX RED, Happy Sky, DistorteD, GOLD, DJ Troopers, and Empress, respectively. If you can't count, we are currently at 16 styles) to friend's houses, and we've had a great time with it... Well... I'VE had a great time with it, and they thought the concept was neat, but you'll need to devote more than just a couple of hours to the game just to start passing songs. This learning curve is STEEP like a... Well, I can't think of a comparison, but this game is hard like a- Oh... No. Even on the easiest setting, you'll probably spend your first few attempts struggling to make anything that remotely sounds the way it's supposed to. Plus, there's a distinct lack of familiar songs, so nobody is really going to go too crazy to play a song called Bitter Chocolate Striker. Don't get me wrong, I've yet to met someone who didn't at least slightly enjoy playing this game, but you're not going to have the party of the century with this game unless you happen to be a Bemani nerd and so do all of your friends.

Video by ST0iiC

For someone playing on Normal, he wasn't that bad. I was hoping to find someone who might have messed up more, just so people could see what it looks like, but it was suprisingly hard to find a high quality video of someone who sucked at it. Just for giggles, this next video is the hardest song I've ever passed (I'm still learning how to play and I've been playing for about 2 years now. It's ranked a 9 out of a maximum of 12 for difficulty) It's one of my favorite songs in terms of music as well, and you can see how awesome the music videos are. Well, okay, you can't really see the video too well in this video, but believe me, for a PS2 game, the graphics that accompany songs are awesome!

Video by Xythar

Now, if you promise to be good until the end of the review, I'll show you two more videos of what used to be the hardest difficulty, and the now hardest difficulty. Trust me, they'll make your head spin and your eyes explode.

IIDX is a pretty difficult game to find outside of Japan. If you have the proper connections and practice in sketchy activities that are frowned upon by copyright laws that I will not confirm I involve myself in, then it might actually be pretty easy to find. However, for the good people, you're gonna have to pay a whole bunch o' money and some import charges on top of the cost of a turntable controller, which'll run you from $30-$60 depending on where you look just to be able to play, unless you're one of the really lucky people who have access to an arcade version of IIDX, in which case I hate you. It should be noted that as with all console versions of their arcade counterparts from Bemani, console versions of IIDX have all of the new songs from the Style they are based on, along with a healthy portion of older songs. Each mix contains about 85-95 songs that clock in at about 2 minutes each, so you can practically get the arcade experience in your own home, just like it says on the box!

In 2006, Bemani finally listened to their North American fans and released a US version of IIDX, simply called Beatmania, as it featured both 5-key and 7-key gameplay. This mediocre attempt to throw fans a bone was... Well... Mediocre. There were only 58 songs available in this mix, despite that it was released after 9th style and really just a collection of songs, sort of a Best Hits (More like, "HEY GUYS! Remember DDR? Lookee! DDR songs!" But we'll save that nerdy rant for... Never, really.) It wasn't even a matter of cost since IIDX has never really used many licensed songs ever, though this was the mix that the cover of Toxic premeired in, which actually got a quite enjoyable Another chart in IIDX RED (I feel like I should mention that the three difficulties of IIDX are Normal (Formerly Light7), Hyper (Formerly 7-key), and Another (Which has always been known as Another). There's also a Beginner mode which lets you play on Beginner difficulty, wimps. The one good thing that we got from this half-assed mix was an improved turntable controller. This one actually has spring under the buttons so they don't get stuck, a problem faced by several Japanese players. (Ha ha) It was the first version of IIDX I played, and as a newbie, it was quite fun. If you see it anywhere, definitely pick it up. You can get the bundle for teh cheap now, and it's totally worth it, even if the mix itself sucks. (Be warned: Do NOT expect to get passed anything harder than a difficulty of 5, or maybe Colors Normal. The biggest gripe for this game was that there was no good set of transition songs to help get players from newbies to near decent players. Believe me, a good year and 9 months of my playing of this game was consisted of me struggling to follow anything rated 7 or higher because there were no good transition songs. It wasn't until recently that I started playing Japanese versions, and it wasn't until then that I could start passing 8's and 9's consistently. Yeah, still not very good at this game, and I tend to be pretty damn alright at most music games. It's hard.)

So there you have it. The Beatmania IIDX series by Bemani. It's definitely one of the most fun, creative, original, and frustrating games you'll ever play.

As promised, here is a video of the Another difficulty. (This is one of my favorite songs from IIDX and it's bound to get stuck in your head. Hello, 20cc)

Video by BeRevoPLAYER

And here is the newest difficulty, introduced in IIDX 15 DJ Troopers, some Japanese character that I can't type, or Black Another. (It's also a great example of how someone can have a Groove gauge of 0 percent at one point and still manage to clear a song.)

Video by djkc2dx

Game Releases for the week of 2/8/09

I don't know if it's just me, or maybe it's just the after Christmas game drought upon us, but there doesn't seem to be too much stuff being hyped up for release.  So, I figured I would start keeping track of what games are coming out each week, so you might be able to find something to be excited about that isn't the DLC for GTA IV or something. Yeah, who knows. You might actually find a new franchise to follow that doesn't focus each release on the new tea-bagging controls. (And yes, I will be trying to cover EVERY release for the week. This means there are going to be some terrible titles on the list, but hey, everyone could use a good laugh.)

Monday, 2/9/09:

Deadly Creatures
Totally Spies! Totally Party (Like, totally!)

Tuesday, 2/10/09:

XBOX 360:
Bionic Commando (I'm excited for this :D)
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Onechambara: Bikini Slayer Squad (This will be my reccomendation for the week)
Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (I also highly reccomend this. I believe it's a collection of 40 Genesis games. GREAT deal ;) )

Playstation 3:
Bionic Commando
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

LocoRoco 2

Nintendo Wii:
Fantasy Aquarium
Nascar Kart Racing
Onechambara: Bikini Zombie Slayers
The House of the Dead: Overkill

Nintendo DS:
Jake Power: Fireman (This game sounds like it could be dirty)
Jake Power: Policeman (This game also sounds like it could be dirty)
Legacy of Ys: Books I & II
Little Magician's Magic Adventure
My DoItAll
Retro Game Challenge

Bionic Commando
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

Thursday, 2/12/09

Playstation 3
Flowers (I believe this is a PSN game)

Saturday, 2/14/09

XBOX 360
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel

This week looks alright, anyway. Two games I'd like to check out (Onechambara Bikini Slayer Squad and Bionic Commando), and I'll probably pick up the Genesis Collection sometime once I get the extra money, unless it just turns out to be a collection of Sonic, Golden Axe, and Vectorman, which it probably will be, in which case I'll just have to dig up my actual Sega Genesis.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Actually, that title refers to the wrong console. Remember how Rare mentioned unlocking avatar clothing a la achievements? Well, maybe you don't want to work for your clothes. Maybe the developers don't actually feel like making those clothes, either. Wouldn't you rather make your own Master Chief outfit? (No.)

Now Rare is talking about adding user-made content to the wardrobe of your avatar. Art head of Rare Lee Musgrave added to this, "Creativity is going to play a big part in the development of the Avatars."

Oh, Avatars. We'll find practicality in you yet!

Story by VG247. Full story available here

Friday, February 6, 2009

Studies show that college males play violent video games, watch porn, and that water can quench your thirst.

In a recent study by the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, it has been PROVEN that college males play violent video games, and they also watch pornography! No way! Hard to believe, isn't it? Check out more on this fascinating, important, needed study here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

23 shows you: Overgrowth alpha

So, Wolfire has posted a couple videos lately showing off the Overgrowth alpha. The first one is a tutorial for the map editor and the second is just showing off the graphics with a very nice sounds track. Anyway here they are, embedded and all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

20cc reflects on: Advent Rising

I was hoping to have rented Lord of the Rings: Conquest this weekend, to play with Biscuits and review for this week, but... well I suppose I won't bother with my weekend story. I didn't get around to it, and that's that. Maybe next weekend, though if the XBL demo is any indication, there isn't much to look forward too.

In lieu of doing a review that's pertinent to, well, anything, I've decided to look back on a rather under appreciated game from back in '05.

The hook to Advent Rising is that the story was written by the well known sci-fi author Orson Scott Card. This didn't mean much to me, however, since I've never actually read any of his books. Really, the plot isn't anything all that special. It's well done, but the idea has been done before. In short form, the human race, living on some planet that I can't remember the name of, is visited by an alien species called the Aurelians. The Aurelians worship the humans as gods, and have been searching for the last remaining human refuge to pay homage. Unfortunately, they have been unwittingly followed by another race, called the Seekers, who are trying to wipe out the human race. I won't explain why, but it does get rather interesting by the end. There are a couple choices you have to make that will affect the ending in small ways, and a very interesting scene after the credits, so don't you dare quit when they start rolling.

The game's real greatness comes from its gameplay. Once again, it's nothing terribly new, although you can dual wield any weapon in the game, including rocket launchers. However, after a couple levels, the Aurelians help our protagonist unlock the innate potential that apparently makes humans worthy of being worshiped. Essentially, you become a Jedi, and its damn fun. Every few levels, you unlock a new ability. Each ability has two forms, and the game maintains the two hand system, so you can equip a power to either hand, or two forms of the same power, or a power and a weapon.

Powers, weapons and combat skills are leveled up through use. If you're in the mood, you could max out most of the weapons, the jump ability, and your melee skills, in the first level. Of course that's hardly efficient, but it can be fun on a second or third play through. And yes, you will play it a second and third time. It's certainly fun enough, and the simple leveling system is just enough to allow players to customize their playing style. You could play through the game using only the plasma pistol and assault rifle, or you could max out Lift and Surge by the time you reach Aurelia, and never switch powers again.

The game has very pretty, if not really realistic, graphics in the cutscenes, and otherwise they're acceptable by today's standards. The environments are varied enough to be interesting, the powers look cool, and occasional use of slow motion highlights the cooler attacks and abilities. The characters are also fairly well developed, especially compared to the cardboard cutouts that infect most big games nowadays. Unfortunately, Advent Rising had a very small budget, and it can be seen in the number of glitches there are. Most of them are easy enough to overcome. However, if you've played through a couple times and want to feel more powerful, be advised that the cheat console occasionally causes the game to crash.

The game is great fun, and easily worth the $9.99 it costs on Steam. Be warned however, it ends with a terrible cliffhanger, and it's no longer likely that a sequel is ever going to made, because of the poor critical and popular reception. I've never been one to take a critical viewpoint, or especially a popular one, as the final word. If you're looking for some inexpensive fun, and you don't mind fighting through a few bugs, you should definitely take a look at this gem. Don't expect it to change your life, but it will certainly stay with you longer than, say, Gears of War.

It's apparently really hard to find a good gameplay video of Advent Rising. Here's a trailer that gives an okay presentation of the powers and combat system. It's a little too heavy on the cutscenes, but it's better than most of the other options. Also, in case you're wondering, the contest mentioned at the end of the trailer was canceled, so don't bother.

P.S.: It occurs to me that I should mention, apparently the Xbox 360 hasn't been updated to support Advent Rising, and probably won't be. This means that if you don't have an old Xbox, you'll have to get it on PC.

23 interviews: Wolfire

23's Wolfire Interview

That rabbit could kick your ass

Wolfire, the makers of Lugaru (the last game i reviewed) were nice enough to actually let me send them some questions, which actually isn't very surprising seeing how they have a very open communication with their fans. The questions aren't the best (especially the first one), but John managed to meet them with some pretty good answers. So, read the review, and maybe pre-order Overgrowth, or even just check out some of the links, cause these guys are pretty cool. Anyway with no further adieu, here's my first interview:

First I'd like to thank you for accepting my offer of an interview. I know that anyButton is very small right now, and Wolfire is very big (over 1000 followers), so this will probably benefit us more then you. So, lets start with the intro.

Who are you and what company do you stand for?

Hehe, that's a pretty intense sounding question. Is this an interview or an interrogation? :) I'm John. I work for Wolfire Games and we stand for making innovative games and being very open with our community. We definitely appreciate you taking the time to arrange an interview.

They sent pictures!

How did Wolfire start and who are the members?

Wolfire was started by our fearless leader David Rosen. We recently posted a picture on our blog that shows David using a computer at age 3. By age 7, David had made his first game in Hypercard. It was a stick-figure, choose-your-own-adventure war game complete with gunshot and explosion sound effects that David made himself by blowing on his computer's microphone. I had the good fortune to be going to school with David at the time and watched in awe as his game became very popular. Unfortunately his game spread to the library computer cluster and was then quickly banned from school. Librarians aren't too receptive to the sounds of gunfire and explosions going off in their library.

From there David went on to make a series of games with increasing complexity. He switched to pong, realized it was boring, and made Firepong which added fireballs and razor blades that could punch holes in the paddles or cut them in half. Next came GLFighters, then Black Shades, then Lightning's Shadow. The Wolfire site as you see it today was born when David decided to make his award-winning games available online in one location.

David made his most ambitious game Lugaru, 5 years ago, all by himself, while he was still in high school. He has since been recruited by companies like Crytek but decided he would rather start his own company where he maintains creative control.

After graduating from college, David is joined by his twin brother Jeff who is a web coding guru and has been selling commercial software since high school, Aubrey who is an amazing all around artist that has worked with David on previous projects, Phillip who majored in computer science and did his senior thesis on computer graphics and me who majored in economics and am focusing mainly on the business side of Wolfire.

Pretty clouds

What are some of your influences (other indie game developers, mainstream games, etc.)?

Working for a game development company does entail some competitive analysis. It's funny to think that playing games counts as work in this industry (as long as you don't do too much research on the competition). David has been playing, breaking and dissecting games his whole life. That's why we're really glad that he started doing design tours. So far people seem to really appreciate the way he thinks about games and game design.

David has stated that Lugaru's influences were the viking deathmatch game Rune and the 3rd person shooter/close-quarters-combat hybrid called Oni. David took his favorite parts of both games, added a bunch of his own new features and produced the wonder known as Lugaru. Recently we really enjoyed Little Big Planet and used it as inspiration for Phillip's map editor features.

Our indie hero at the moment is probably 2DBoy, specifically Ron Carmel who made time to come visit us for lunch. He and Kyle took a simple concept, polished the heck out of it, and broke into mainstream. The story of 2DBoy's success is very encouraging to indie developers everywhere.

This is more detail then most high budget games

What game are you making now and how is it going?

We are currently making a sequel to Lugaru called Overgrowth. While Overgrowth will inherit the essence of Lugaru's tried and true combat system, it will also be benefiting from every cutting edge feature that Wolfire's brand new Phoenix Engine has to offer. With better graphics, better physics, more moves, more characters, huge mod support and multiplay, Overgrowth promises to be Lugaru on steroids.

ooo, pretty...

Development is coming along well. Overgrowth looks better and better everyday. We recently made an Overgrowth alpha map editor tutorial video that showcases all of Overgrowth's latest features. You can check it out here.

The Overgrowth logo

How do you feel about your followers/why do you choose to be so transparent in your development?

Without the support of our fans, we would drown in the noisy and crowded space of the internet. We have been in awe of how much help the community has given Wolfire.

Perhaps the first major demonstration of the power of fan support was that even though David designed Lugaru with virtually no editing tools, fans went in and created two entirely separate single player campaigns (Empire and Temple) that rival the quality of Lugaru's original story. Since then it's been clear to us that our fans are too smart, creative and capable to be kept out of the loop.

For Overgrowth we've rallied fan support in our Overt Ops program. Visitors from around the world have helped us translate the Overgrowth fact sheet into over 20 languages and have gotten us exposure on foreign news sites and even Europe's biggest magazine.

Also because we make the weekly alphas available to preorderers, they have already been using the map editors to build things. One of our proudest moments was when our fans created the Wolfire and Overgrowth logos in engine (see them here).

Probably our biggest recent fan success though is the Overgrowth ModDB page. Not only is the page itself a demonstration of our commitment to mod support, but it has been fan-run for a few months now.

Actually a screen shot from the Overgrowth alpha

What makes you/your games unique?

All of David's games tend to have design elements that make them stand out. Firepong wasn't just pong, it was pong with weapons and magic spells. Black shades wasn't just an FPS, it was was a procedurally generated city system that kept the player on the edge of his seat guessing as to where the next enemy would come from. Lugaru became so popular because of its streamlined movement and fighting system. Overgrowth will be recapturing Lugaru's fluid movement and intuitive combat and adding a lot of fun new content.

As a company I think Wolfire is in a very interesting position. We have both the agility of a small company yet enough raw developing power to create high end assets.

Yes, that is lens flare

Why did you decide to charge for your games?

Well if you're planning to make game for a living, the bills need to be paid somehow. By charging money, we can afford to put 12 hours a day, 7 days a week into Overgrowth, make it a much higher quality product and still be able to put food on the table (we hope :) ). Preorders have definitely been helping.

Aubrey is a really good artist

Do you have any plans for the future of Wolfire?

We mainly want to focus all of our efforts on Overgrowth at the moment so we don't want too spend much time thinking too far ahead of ourselves. When we finish Overgrowth, then we will think more seriously about what our next step is.

Thank you for taking the time to interview me.

Bonus question:
23: oh, and I think I left out one important question: How did you get the idea for Lugaru?
John: oh I'll try to remember to add that, David Rosen came up with idea
23: yea, it seems kinda strange the whole idea for an anthropomorphic adventure/fighting game (that's the best description I could come up with)
John: so there are a few things going on, David wanted to create a universe that wasn't cliche like barbarians or space marines, he wanted to avoid the "Uncanny Valley" by using non-human characters
John: also you can make things really violent without them being as traumatic
23: hmm, good point

Now the show's really over. Till next time!