Archive for the 'gaming' Category

Review: Galaxy Trucker

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Red says:

Patch and I have some very dear, gamer friends.  These friends are in possession of, or perhaps possessed by, a very active eleven year old boy.

We adore the whole family, spawn included, but the mixed generations make game selection difficult.  Most of the time, game nights are a series of compromises, and we try to fit in something for everyone, and the kid is very good at wandering off when the grown ups decide to play something truely boring.

Just for a change, Patch and I decided to go searching for something that would be perfect for the entire group.  Our list of needs was so specific, we knew we would never find something that would hit every point, but there had to be some game which came a little closer.

The list:
No direct conflict between players (when families are involved, this can be key, trust me).
Layers of strategy, with just enough elements of chance that players of all levels can still win.
Aliens, but not as bad guys unless the game can be tweaked and played from the alien’s perspective. (This one was quite important for keeping the kid enthralled.)
Rounds that move quickly (no eight hour games).
Art that doesn’t turn Red off.

Amazingly, we found something that fit every criteria.  Galaxy Trucker caught my eye first because of the space theme, which I hoped would include aliens, and second because it was put out by Rio Grande Games, who I trust to put out interesting, quality products.  (The box art showing a galactic hauler with pudgy pink cannons and batteries strapped on every which way didn’t hurt either — the art carries through to the game with a cute aesthetic which somehow doesn’t take away the sensation of being a tough, inter-space trader one bit.)

The game play is broken up into three (four for experienced players) rounds, each one lasting half an hour or so.  The first half of each round is spent building the player’s ships.  For those of you familiar with Carcasonne, this section of the game is rather like a mutual solitaire version of that — mutual solitaire because all the players are building their own ships at the same time, with very little interaction, other than chatter and a non-intrusive bit of competition introduced by way of an incentive to finish first and/or tidiest.

The second half of each round involves all the ships flying through space and meeting up with various obstacles and bonuses.  There is no direct competition, but you are trying to get the most bonuses and come home with the most cargo aboard your ship.

Because you are privy to some of the challanges that will come up on the flight (pay attention to those radio broadcasts as you outfit your ship, Captain) there is strategy to how you build your ship — will guns or engines be more important this flight?  Will there be lots of cargo to stow, or am I better off putting in shields?  On the flight its self there is also strategy, whoever is in the lead at the end of the round gets a bonus, but if you are in the lead when pirates hit, watch out!  Yet bad luck can make even the most careful of planning go awry, and that clunker that didn’t look like it would make it out of dock can swoop in and make ridiculous amounts of space credits, winning the round.

And of course, there are aliens.  Friendly, helpful aliens that you can build life support systems for, and who use their mad technical skills to get more power out of your guns and engines.

All in all, it was the perfect game for that little group, and I suspect it will play well with most of our gaming friends.  It even plays well two player, so Patch and I can get a game in before bed.  Absolutely delightful, and highly recommended.


Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Patch says:

Cave Story came out on WiiWare last week.  You can play it on the PC for free, but the Wii version is  worth the purchase, both for the joy of playing the 8-bit homage on a console with a proper controller, and because it is really a solid piece of work, made with love and care, and it’s nice to see people make money off of something so well done.

Important note:  Cave Story is not an easy game.

Responding to one of many curses emanating from the couch whilst I played it, Red wondered aloud why I regularly subject my ageing reflexes to these paeans to the days of “Nintendo Hard.”  (Her actual words were more like “so you died again.  And you’re surprised?  Why are you playing this, again?”)

She acted like she did not understand.  But she has her own games, and over the next few days, as I worked at my computer, I would hear the occasional howl of agonized profanity coming from the living room couch.  And then one evening, she turned to me with glowing eyes and pointed proudly to the final screen from Greed Corp., shimmering on our TV, and I rather think that she understands, after all.

Harboring Difficulties

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Red says:

Rather, difficulties with Greed Corp. Level 23, Asaphyr’s Harbor (Campaign Mode).

Second to the last level, and I got thoroughly stuck.  I lost a couple dozen times over the course of a week, before deciding to give up and find a hint on-line.  Silly me.  I didn’t find one walk through of this game, and the only reference I to this particular level was another poor stuck person, asking for help.  Okay.

No way was I going to stop playing this game so close to the end.  I decided to be more analytical in how I approached the problem.  No more, “whee, I’m the Evil Empire crushing this world,” I had to start breaking it down like a computer bug.  What were my bot opponents doing, and how was it better than what I was doing?

Warning: only read below the break if you want the play by play of how I figured out this level. (more…)

Adorable Death and Destruction

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Red says:

This week, Patch and I both have individual video-games going, as well as a co-op.  All three are utterly cute, in their own fashions, and all three manage to embody doom and gloom in a delightfully chipper way. (more…)

Having played the Bayonetta demo …

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Patch says:

I wonder if it is possible to go so over the top with your hypersexual portrayal of female anatomy that you move beyond sexism, objectification, et. al., and into … I’m not sure that I want to apply the term “art”, but the game is so lovingly put together, that it really cannot be dismissed (even more so, in both directions, than Tomb Raider). (more…)

Stress Soup

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Red says:

Patch and I know better than to play competitive games together unless we are both VERY chill.  So most of the time we prefer co-op games, and one of our current favorites is ‘Splosion Man, which is set in a fun world, and has achieved a set of game play challenges which work really well for developing the individual players and the team.

However, the stress levels at our house have reached a point where even a nice, co-op session of ‘Splosion Man can turn into a nasty fight, with lots of deep button pushing.  Le sigh.  Statistics say that a majority of couples break up over money issues, and it’s true, unstable times can make it really hard to find the romance. (more…)

Too Much Combat

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Patch says,

Premise:  there’s too much violence in video games.

(There’s also too little sex and profanity, but that is a topic for another post.)


Rant: Boring Game Tutorials

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Dear Game Designer Who is Unwittingly About to Push my Gamer Rage Button,

Game manuals are boring to read, this is true. But taking the content of your game manual and scattering it amongst the NPCs in your game world, making it accessible only in agonizingly slow chunks, doled out via tiny speech bubbles, diluted with poor attempts at “witty dialogue” … well, that’s not less boring, that’s more boring. It’s not a solution; it’s the direct inverse of a solution. It’s an anti-solution that threatens to blow up your game in a great big 100% matter-to-energy explosion of Boring.


Teaching to the modern world.

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Red says:

Yes, I have a thing about how games should be moving forward, especially in the skills that they teach. We live in a modern world, where hunting reflexes aren’t necessarily the primary skills we should be learning, yet those are the skills that most video games attempt to teach to, or at least the primitive instincts that video games attempt to tap.

First watch this.

Notice that he’s actually swinging at appropriate moments, and not just flailing wildly? Sure, a kid can learn to play catch, but this kid is learning to play virtual catch. At his age, he’s already learning that there is a correlation between real world actions and the actions of the character on the screen.

Traditional developmental theories say that a child this age should be putting together cause and reaction, (pulling a pillow toward them to get the toy on top of it,) and here is a perfect example of this developmental stage integrated with the technological world that this child will need to survive in. A perfect example of using games as teaching tools in a way that is relevant to our new world.

Scritch Behind the Ears

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Patch says:

I finally tracked down a copy of Puzzle Quest for my DS while travelling in the hinterlands of Visalia, CA this weekend. True, I could’ve ordered it from Amazon, but that way would not have been nearly as fun as finding the little treasure of a game tucked away on a bottom shelf in a random game store after searching every random game store I passed for the game for some weeks.

Puzzle Quest isn’t perfect. The lack of head-to-head online play is disappointing, and the graphics are not perfectly designed to show up well on the small DS screen. But it’s a Puzzle/RPG hybrid, which is to my gamer self what a nice scritch behind the ears is to my cat.