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What I’m Playing: PC, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360

Posted in Games, Technology by engtech on October 12, 2007

marv sin city

“These are the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days; the sitting at your desk eating entire chocolate bars while trying to debug this bug from hell days.”

– Marv from Sin City

I’m on day 10 of “one of those weeks” so I haven’t had time to fully develop the usual cornucopia of rainbow-coloured blog post ideas. All of my time has been spent on work and family with a smidgen of video game playing to decompress my brain. This isn’t one of those “I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging!!” posts that means it’s time to hit ‘J’ in the feed reader – instead I’m going to talk a little bit about video games. Feel free to interject in the comments with what you’re playing. (It’s Halo 3, isn’t it?)

I currently have three game systems in my household: the PC, the Xbox 360 with the home theatre system and my handheld Nintendo DS. Surprisingly the Nintendo DS gets way more play and games bought for it because A) my girlfriend and I both have our own DS and B) no game company has realized that people might want to play Xbox 360 games sitting on a couch with another real human being. I don’t play online multiplayer games[1] as a rule of thumb because they’re too addictive, but I find it much easier to invite someone over to play a “couch multiplayer” game than to find free time to play with by myself.

This is probably for the best because it pushed me off my ass to get a new roleplaying campaign started with some good friends.

PC Games – Found Interesting

I don’t know what happened to me (oh wait, I’m 30 and have a career and a little bit of a social life) but I can never finish PC games anymore. I seem to always reach a halfway point where the game becomes too sluggish on my underperforming rig and I give up on it. This week marked the death of PC gaming for me when Electronic Arts (boo, hiss) bought out my favorite Canadian game company that I’ve always had a secret fetish for joining: BioWare.

The last two PC games I tried out were Thief 3 and Fallout: Tactics. Thief 3 was amazing to play in the middle of the night with all of the lights off, but kept crashing my computer. Fallout Tactics was a great return to my favorite post nuclear setting and made me realize how much I miss the Infinity game engine (from Baldur’s Gate series). I wish someone would do a Planescape Torment re-release using the latest version of the Infinity engine.

fallout tactics

Nintendo DS – My Favs

I’ve already written about Puzzle Quest before. It’s Bejewelled gem-matching meets 90s styled RPG and the game that got me to buy a Nintendo DS of my own. There were many enjoyable relaxing hours spent playing, until I learned an unbeatable combo of screen clearing spells. It’s out for Xbox Live Arcade now.

nintendo ds puzzle quest

The next win for hours spent playing was Age of Empires: Age of Kings. It was surprisingly challenging as it has the most replayability of all my DS games because of the random maps feature. A definite keeper.

age of kings ds

I’m currently schlocking my way through Rune Factory which is possibly the most accurate Japanese translation I’ve ever seen. I really feel like I’m a factory worker sometimes. The game captures all the nasty power-leveling aspects of roleplaying games: the crafting for no reason other than to see skill increases so you can craft better items, the fighting monsters in hopes of getting a rare drop, and almost literal gold farming with crops you have to maintain. It’s almost a perfect example of all the things I like least about RPGs.

Yet I can’t stop playing.

rune factory ds

Nintendo DS – Her Favs

My lady friend who has the eternal patience to put up with my geekery prefers the new Super Mario Brothers, Brain Age, and Animal Crossing. Brain Age has never appealed to me as I’d rather be doing sudoku with a pen and paper. Super Mario Bros looks like button-mashing fun and Animal Crossing looks like the exact same kind of pointless (yet addictive) time wasting as Rune Factory.

animal crossing ds

Xbox 360 Games

The only real winners for Xbox 360 couch multiplayer have been Small Arms, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and Lego Star Wars 2 (honorable single player mentions for Amped 3, Gears of War and Crackdown). There’s been a few horrible buys as well because of bargain bin pricing (Kameo, Dead or Alive X2, Table Tennis) – enough that I’ve switched from buying Xbox 360 games to “rent only”.

Small Arms is a 2D death match style game that allows for four person couch multiplayer. It by far has the most hours racked of any game I’ve played on the 360. I wish they’d do an update with more characters and levels. There’s nothing quite like playing the bazaar with four chickens with flamethrowers.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance was a lot of fun because I got to show off my encyclopedic comic book knowledge to my girlfriend (which she finds dead sexy – at least that’s what I keep telling myself). The Xmen Legends game engine is really solid for couch multiplayer, and I’d love to see more games come out using it. Although there’s a strange bug where everyone who plays Wolverine has to steal all the power-ups…

Lego Star Wars 2 is the spiritual successor to the childhood fun I had with Star Wars that the Episodes I – III crapfest almost managed to ruin. It’s got some camera issues, but other than that it’s full of solidly fun gameplay. They’re releasing a combo pack of Lego Star Wars 1 & 2 in November.

Puzzle Fighter on Xbox Live Arcade will most likely be my next buy. I’ve already played the crap out of it using MAME and my laptop, but the Xbox Live version is much more convenient than hooking up the laptop.

Xbox 360 Demos

I think I’ve downloaded and played around two out of five of all of the demos available on the Xbox 360. I really love how the network/hard drive console environment has opened opportunities for try-before-you-buy and game demos are now freely available (and often easier to get running than PC game demos). It does amaze me sometimes that companies put crap demos up (Vampire Rain, Bladestorm). These demos are worth downloading:

  • Amped 3 – snowboarding sim with great wackiness, worth buying
  • Beautiful Katamari – Katamari for the Xbox! demo is too short
  • BioShock – steampunk fps
  • Burnout Revenge – driving smashup
  • Crackdown – convinced me to buy it
  • Conan – solid hack-n-slash action
  • Eternal Sonata – surprisingly engaging turn-based RPG
  • Lost Planet – sci-fi fps
  • Overlord – evil overlord rpg sim, great sense of humor
  • Shadowrun – this would be a strong buy if it was single player – very fun fps, I’ve probably put 40 hours into replaying the demo
  • The Darkness – interesting concept, but poor mechanics
  • Time Slip – fps with time manipulation

[1]: Other than blogging. Blogging truly is a MMORPG.

19 Responses

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  1. bs angel said, on October 12, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    You have been busy with those games! I enjoy Brain Age as your other half does and also the new Super Mario Bros.

    Don’t buy Tetris Splash. Not worth what they are charging for it.

    I just picked up Thrillville Off the Rails yesterday and it is just as fun as the first one. I played the first version on my PSP but bought the most recent version for my 360. Great fun if you like those sims sort of games.

    I agree about the Lego games. They are wonderful relaxing fun. I can’t wait for the Indiana Jones one to come out.

  2. dlowe said, on October 13, 2007 at 12:40 am

    Please, please don’t convince me to pick up a Nintendo DS.

    Damn, too late.

  3. Cat said, on October 13, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Phew, a big gaming post.

    Thief 3 is an excellent game, I loved the missions int hat even though the difficulty curve was rather steep in it.

    I’ve just downloaded Puzzle Quest on XBLA, as I don’t play on my DS too much to warrant the extra money spent on that.

    Lego Star Wars is one of my alltime favourites, excellent game, just like it’s predecessor.

    You didn’t like Table Tennis? How come?

    As for Bioware, I’m hoping that Mass Effect will be fully finished and polished. It’s the main game I’m waiting for this year..

  4. J. D. Harper said, on October 13, 2007 at 10:36 am

    I just finished playing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption on the Wii recently. Best shooter ever. It’s a lot more fun to point a stick at the screen and shoot than it is to use a joystick.

    I’ve heard good things about Puzzle Quest; I might have to pick that up.

    Game that I want to own right now: Super Smash Brothers Brawl. But it’s been pushed back to February. :*-( If you’ve never played Super Smash Brothers, it’s basically characters from a bunch of different games fighting each other: Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach can fight Fox McCloud from Star Fox, Link from the Legend of Zelda, Pikachu, and Samus from Metroid. I can’t wait for the new version to come out….

  5. engtech said, on October 13, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    @bs angel:

    Indiana Jones lego! Hadn’t even heard of it (surprisingly I don’t read many game sites)

    I’ve been a bit disappointed with what’s available on Xbox Live Arcade… so many low quality releases of games that you can already play with MAME. I also hate how the Xbox 360 UI is so slow at loading game icons / descriptions. Why don’t they cache that stuff?

    I think they made a mistake by not assuming there would always be a hard drive for storage.

  6. engtech said, on October 13, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    @dlowe:

    The DS is surprisingly fun, except for when your arms fall asleep. That sucks.

  7. engtech said, on October 13, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    @Cat:

    I was looking at the Mass Effect trailer yesterday and they made one design decision I’m disappointed by… all the dialogue is spoken. I can read much faster than they can talk, so I always enjoyed skipping through the dialogue tree as fast as possible.

    What killed me about Table Tennis was that I have to play the single player game to unlock stuff for the multiplayer. I want to play head to head with friends… going through the actual tournaments doesn’t interest me that much. It got about a weekend of play and it’s been collecting dust since then.

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  9. Cat said, on October 14, 2007 at 1:38 am

    I think I heard something about a Lego Batman somewhere as well…

    As for Mass Effect I love it when the dialogue in any game is spoken and thinking of previous BioWare RPG’s [Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 [developed by Obsidian but using the same base engine], Jade Empire] I’m thinking it might be possible to skip it as well. I would very much like to see an option to skip it of speed it up.

    Well, I didn’t get too far in it, but I loved the game simply for being different. I’m a sucker for Rockstar games and it was a well done albeit very hard game. Still have to unlock several characters though…

  10. engtech said, on October 14, 2007 at 11:51 am

    I rented Bioshock for the weekend. Man, that game is fun.

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  12. Tony said, on October 16, 2007 at 9:15 am

    I’d love to say I’m playing all sorts of great games but honestly, Halo 3 is taking up all my time. I still haven’t finished the single player because the online multiplayer is soooo good. I know you don’t do online, but it actually has great couch multiplayer along with the online. You can even play couch and online multiplayer at the same time. I can’t get enough.

  13. engtech said, on October 16, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    @Tony:

    I’m going to have to give it a rental.

  14. syahidali said, on October 20, 2007 at 11:44 am

    man, we are much RPG-alike. planescape torment, fallout, and baldur’s gate, brings back all the good memories. :D

    icewind dale is quite okay too. but baldur’s gate story is much better especially the 2nd one – Shadows of Amn. but nothing beats Torment’s story and spookiness.

  15. Kevin said, on November 03, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    You reminded me that I never finished Fallout: Tactics – I absolutely love that series, but I really do suck at finishing games. How do you find the time to actually play games? Somehow it’s just not something that fits into my schedule anymore.

  16. engtech said, on November 08, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    @Kevin:

    My secret is that I *don’t* find time for finishing games. That list was from games I’ve been playing for the past six months. I haven’t finished all of them.

    Not even Fallout Tactics :)

    I’ve been playing Fantasy War lately — stuipid title, but fun turn-based strategy.

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