LocoRoco 2 PSP Review

This is a guest post by Elle, who you may remember from the old City In The Clouds blog.  She now blogs at elle87.wordpress.com

I have finished the entire game, and very surprisingly I feel extremely let down, despite it giving me hours of entertainment intermingled at times with severe frustration, especially as I had big expectations for it. Why, you ask…?  Well read on!

LocoRoco 2 is very much similar to the original LocoRoco, but has been advanced, in many ways… for there is more interaction.  The first noticeable difference being the annoying world map, where you literally, at times, have to go the whole way round the world to find where your next point of adventure lies.  Each level within its own planet section has a theme, whether it be a snowy setting or a jungle.

The second difference is that the LocoRocos can swim.  It’s hard to figure out at first to get the LocoRocos where you want/need them to go.  My top tip though is to beware of the creatures you meet, and remember the saying: never judge a book by its cover!

Continue reading LocoRoco 2 PSP Review

Since when did games become such ‘cheap’ commodities?

This has been bugging me for quite a bit, but across various forums and websites I’ve seen gamers talk about their PS3 games collections that are absolutely huge- we’re talking 50 games plus.  Sure, you can pick up some games for a reasonable £30, but most of the latest releases are around £40.  I’ve seen some stores try and get away with selling PS3 games for £50.  Shame on them.

I just find it astounding that many gamers in general these days will actually grab three or four games even if they are all released in the same week.  Maybe because money is a bit tight in my case, if I have any spare funds I’ll try and pick one of them.  Even if I was flush with money, I would still probably stick with getting one game as I don’t seem to have enough hours in the day to play everything.

Take the past month or so with the releases of LittleBigPlanet, Resistance 2, Call of Duty: World at War, FarCry 2 etc…  It was a big stretch for me even to get LittleBigPlanet in the end.  As for the other games?  I may get some of them as and when I can afford to do so, but by then, another must-have game will probably be out by then (hello, Killzone 2?).

As a result of not being able to go out and buy each and every game that is out there, I feel I respect my games more: I play longer on them, I cherish them.  Which is why I probably only have about ten or so games for my PS3.  I’m not counting PSN games or any games that people rent, their disposability is understandable.  But full retail games abandoned after a few plays, like some cheap soda can?

I just don’t get it- for me it is wasteful, and just shows decadence by those who have more money than sense.  Sure, over the period of about 5 years or so with a PS2, I notched up quite a games collection, but perhaps no more than 30 games.  Games seemed to be a lot cheaper those days as well, because they probably were.  These are just some thoughts of mine, however there are always two sides to a story.  I’d love to hear from anyone who has a ton of games and has something to say about it.  I’ll discount those people with an Xbox 360, as it has been out for a few years now.  Muchos gracias.

Sony on PS3 price: We’ve a business to run

Sony on PS3 price: We’ve a business to run– And people have got food to buy, fuel bills to pay.  I’d say a PS3 could be considered a luxury these days.  In all honesty, I agree that Sony have some fantastic games coming in the pipeline, but the Xbox 360 is sooo much cheaper.  Why should Sony waste the momentum they’ve currently got?

Ensemble Studios closure: my thoughts

All the headings you see below are scattered thoughts and opinions of mine.  They don’t necessarily follow on from each other.

In the beginning
Well, where to start?  I guess I’ll mention first that Ensemble Studios has to be one of my favourite developers due to their sterling work on the Age of Empires series.  I grew up playing Age of Empires, and I have fond memories of playing historical campaigns and battling friends over a LAN.  Yes, Ensemble Studios has a special place in my heart.

The good times
Things were never better than when Ensemble Studios were making Age of Empires.  The pinaccle of the series must be either Age of Empires II or Age of Empires III.  My personal preference has to be Age of Empires II.  That’s the game where I spent many hours over LAN- battling my friends, and the game runs on practically any PC!  I won’t go into great detail about the history of Age of Empires, or all its wonderful features but suffice to say, it remains great till this day.

An ever-closer union
Ensemble Studios got the Age of Empires II expansion pack out of the door as an independent developer- The Conquerors.  By the time of their next game, Age of Mythology; they were Microsoft-owned.  Now, I’m not saying that this has been a bad thing, but if you’re independant, you have more leeway to do what you want.  Some great examples of independant studios having a close relationship with publishers and major players are Media Molecule and Insomniac Games.  Undoubtedly, once you become the property of a larger corporation, their objective become your objectives.

Halo Wars speculation
Halo Wars has been in development for quite some time now, and as of writing this article, it’s still in development.  Apparently:

all non-essential staff have been laid off and remaining staff have been given incentives to remain until the completion of the project

My guess is that something has gone wrong.  It would be easy to guess that development has probably gone way over time and over budget, yet there could have been some other factor.  This is my thinking, because Microsoft isn’t exactly strapped for cash.  And even if that were remotely true, why kill Ensemble Studios?  They were able to grant Bungie its independance.  Maybe we’ll find out the truth at some point…

Age of Kings II
That’s right, you heard me.  Out of the ashes of Ensemble Studios, if it is possible I’d like Age of Kings II.  To me, the medievil period remains the best slice of history served up by Ensemble Studios.  Age of Kings was released almost 10 years ago, so how amazing would a new game be?  Of course, you’d get updated graphics and physics like Age of Empires III, but there’d also be the opportunity to breath new life into the game, by tweaking the gameplay to pefection.  This is assuming they’d have any rights to the franchise, which as a new studio, looks unlikely.

The End
Well those are my thoughts, opinions, and hopes.  I haven’t intended to provide any answers.  Anything I have mentioned is purely speculative and should be treated as such.  Signed, a confused and uspet fan.

The Stone Age Gamer

This article originally appeared on TheSixthAxis on July 25, 2008

Let’s talk tasty treats for a moment, shall we?  The general consensus is that as tasty as vanilla is, it just has to be chocolate.  Chocolate is so much richer and decadent than vanilla.  Right- keep those thoughts of ice cream and chocolate in the back of your mind for the minute.  All shall be revealed in due course…

I had a discussion the other day with a fellow PS3 gamer.  You’d have thought that we perhaps shared common ground?  Wrong.  Very wrong indeed.  I was talking to this gamer about the latest PS3 update and the Trophy system that had been added.  I received a blank look.  That wasn’t a good sign, I thought.

I then venture out and ask whether he’s played online at all with his PS3.  He said he hadn’t.  It turns out that he hasn’t even registered with the PlayStation Network!  This means, my friends, that he has not experienced the soft, blue glow of the PlayStation Store containing all the latest PS3 game demos, PSN games, film trailers, themes and more.  He will also not be able to collect Trophies without registering, let alone play any games online- the bread and butter of the online experience.

I mentioned all of this to him.  He didn’t care.  He told me that he ‘just wants to play games’.  I have to admit that it had never occured to me until now that there were gamers out there who didn’t care about what else they could do apart from play games.  In my opinion they are not getting the fullest, richest experience.  They are munching on plain vanilla ice cream.

I however, am indulging on the rich chocolate experience of the PlayStation Network which is a glorious feast for the senses and showcases some simply cracking entertainment.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  This writer is a trully next generation gamer, not stuck in the Stone Age.

This leaves me wondering: which category do you fall under?  And do you know any other gamers who are like this?  Feel free to leave a comment on this subject, or send me some hate mail if I’ve really rattled some cages.  Till next time!

PS3 Fan Noise Controversy

Updated December 2008

I’ve been reading an interesting article in PS3 Fanboy entitled ‘Clean your PS3 fan with quick-n-easy test‘ which is for 40Gb PS3s and works by running a fan test, which speeds up the fan and also supposedly ‘blows out the dust…essentially cleaning it up’. Fair enough.

What is interesting though is the controversy and misinformation about PS3 fan noise in the comments section at the end of the article. To be honest, it looks like it has turned into a bit of a flame war so let’s try and rationalise things a little bit.

Some people are saying that the 40Gb PS3 sounds really loud, and the 60Gb version doesn’t (who knows about the 80Gb version, whatever) and they use examples such as this on YouTube. Now, I have a 40Gb PS3 and let me tell you it doesn’t sound like that at all; in fact, I can barely hear it. So I’m thinking that with the YouTube example given, and what such people are saying, I can infer two conclusions: either a faulty PS3, or a PS3 being run with the fan test. It’s as simple as that.

Other people have been saying that the 60Gb is louder than the 40Gb, although I couldn’t possibly comment on that. However I’ve been gaming with a mate who has a 60Gb PS3 and it sounds comparable to mine; I believe any difference will be negligible.

So what on earth is the point I am trying to make? Once they’ve started up PS3s are very quiet, I mean sometimes it doesn’t even sound like they’re turned on (although the lights are lit up of course). In general, PS3s are made to a very high quality; they keep very cool and the sound is kept to a minimum so if you have a particularly loud PS3 then there is a good possibility that there might be something wrong with it.

December 2008 update: I now find myself in possession of an 80GB PS3.  As to why this is the case, I direct you here for more information.  It is my observation that the fan noise on this model is slightly louder than my old 40GB model.  Why is this the case?  I honestly don’t know, and can only speculate.  Still though, the noise is not really that noticable and nothing for concern.

If your PS3 sounds very loud, then my advice above still stands.  There might be something wrong with your PS3, so get it checked out.  The people to call are the Sony care line.  In addition, you may want to check out the comprehensive PS3 fan guide.

Nothing is true, everything is permitted

Assassin's Creed
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve finally completed the story of Assassin’s Creed, even though I’ve had the game since Christmas.  However, I can tell you that it is not easy trying to complete a game when you only return home about once a month, and have studies to attend to.  I only completed Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune itself about a week ago.

Yet what I want to explore is the issue of using walkthroughs, and to what degree.  In recent memory, I have only used walkthroughs very rarely.  Generally I’ll only turn to a walkthrough to get past a bit in a game which has actually stopped me progressing any further.  After I get past a tricky bit, I’ll then discard the walkthrough and continue to enjoy the game at my own pace, and deal with the challenges ahead myself.  I’m sure that most people would agree with me in this respect.

However, a much more controversial use of the walkthrough in my opinion is finding all certain extras in order to complete the game “100%”.  In Uncharted, there’s 60 treasures to find and I admit that I have used a walkthrough to find a few after completing the main game the first time round.  The way I view Uncharted is that the levels are linear, and that entails being able to enjoy the story and gameplay once more, whilst being able to grab the extra treasures.  If you’ve missed a treasure in Uncharted you’ll have to start that particular chapter again.  However Assassin’s Creed is more of an open, free-roaming world in which you can go back to any city and look around for flags or Templars for as long as you want.  I am therefore more reluctant to use a walkthrough in this case.  I find a particular thrill in finding a Templar, hidden in a remote place and adding him to my tally.

That brings me to the case in point, as I see it: such items, be they flags, treasures, coins etc- are put there by the developers for the skilled or explorative gamer.  Not for a lazy gamer to simply collect by reading a walkthrough, else why bother?  I’m intrigued to hear any other voices or viewpoints on this matter.

Criterion defend their new baby

I thought I’d give my own take on this story as I have played Burnout right from the beginning and have some good memories from past games in the series.  I’d just like to mention before I go any further, that I have 1) read Criterion’s response, and 2) played the demo in question.

The gist is that players have taken the Burnout Paradise demo for a spin (on both the PS3 and Xbox 360 I believe) and (more or less) universally condemned it.  Kokatu’s rather nicely-worded article ‘Criterion Responds To Burnout Paradise Criticism‘ reveals a rather more accurate summery:

‘The Burnout Team have written a rather grumbly Christmas card to fans who have found one too many things to complain about in the demo version of Burnout Paradise.’

I still think that’s putting it mildly.  The Burnout Team are probably hacked off that they’ve spent so much time and effort on Burnout Paradise, only to have a fair amount of criticism levelled at their beloved.  When reading Criterion’s response I get the overwhelming feeling of despise for the critical gamer out there.  People have good reason- as consumers (in the UK anyway), next gen games cost £40-50 which is no pocket change.  Gamers are more critical than ever these days with good reason.

Next you will see how Criterion gets this totally wrong, and so here’s a choice quote from the Burnout Team themselves:

As to those who can proclaim from a taste of the demo that Burnout 2 was the best game (always nice to see all those Gamecube owners on the internet who haven’t played the game since B2! ) or that B3 is the better game – again, I can only smile. Those of us who have made the games dearly love those games but we’re confident that if you love those games too then you will love Paradise.

And therein I think, lies the problem.  All the Burnout games that have preceded Paradise have gone along the path of evolution- creating a better game with minor changes for the best.  Burnout was the ultimate in arcade racing in my opinion.  However Paradise seems to have taken the revolution approach- starting from scratch, and offering a completely revamped experience.  Whilst this is no bad thing, gamers that have followed the series from the beginning do not like such a great change.

I also totally agree with what Matt Brett has to say on this matter in his post ‘Burnout Paridise, a great franchise ruined‘.  Whilst gamers brand-new to the franchise will love it, it is fundamentally different to what most of us have known and enjoyed playing.

My Assassin’s Bane

After having a fair time to get acquainted with Assassin’s Creed and the various ins and outs of the game, I find myself particularly irritated with a teensy but (in my mind), crucial detail. If I draw the attention of a guard and speed off into the distance on my trusty steed, then calmly walk about miles away; a random guard where I now am will somehow know what that other guard did, and proceed to attack me. Are these guards psychic or something?!

Meh, it’s a minor detail I just thought I’d mention. I’d like to make clear though that it does not in any way alter my actual enjoyment of the game. It has to be one of the best action games I have played for quite some time. It is quite an achievement considering there are no guns- which makes a refreshing change.

Assassin's Creed