CyberPunch83's Blog - Jan to Mar 17 (36 followers)
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Mar
20
PermalinkSolitary Confinement
Something I used to do, and indeed don't do much anymore, is list off when I've acquired a bunch of new games that will be making their way to my console sometime before the eventual heat-death of the known universe. In the last few months I've discovered a new video game store not far from where I live, and it's packed to the brim with both new games and hardware, along with one of the most impressive displays of retro games and consoles outside of private collections.

I've been to this store a couple of times now, and even just looking at the Xbox 360 stock, it seems to rotate enough that this store should always contain something interesting. Even outside of that, it's the only game store I know of that has an admittedly non-functional Atari Jaguar in-store display unit. The kind that has the console sealed in a case but visible, with two usually-mangled and chewed controllers playing a game or some demos on an ancient CRT monitor. I say non-functioning, but the unit could also just not be plugged in.

Like all game stores these days, this one has been infested with Funko Pop figures, a bunch of game-branded items that did not need to be game-branded, and most interestingly of all, an active rentl service. You could walk into this store right now and rent a new copy of Fallout 4, Final Fantasy XV, and other such Xbox One and PS4 titles. At this point there is likely a small selection of Nintendo Switch items for sale or rent.

Ranting aside, you came here for a list of games, and here is said list of games. This is the net result of a few trips to the local EB Games / GameStop and this independent store. As always, no word on when these games will be played, blogged about and reviewed, but it will happen one day. Some of these games come from the Games with Gold program, as you can likely tell from some of the titles you've downloaded to your console in the last few weeks,

-LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
-Remember Me
-Bionicle Heroes
-The Saboteur
-Jimmie Johnson's Anything with an Engine
-Bionic Commando
-Layers of Fear
-Project CARS
-Heavy Weapon

Microsoft Solitaire Collection Micro-Review: It's funny how things change when you try to write content ahead of time. This was originally meant to be a Progress Report stemming from being on the cusp of another achievement, specifically 'Go for the Silver', at the time being one medal away and 9/12 for Bronze Medals. After I wrote that up and stored it away, I decided I'd had enough of that game, went and earned the remaining achievements. So here's the review.

It's Solitaire. If you don't know how to play the card game closely related to computer games outside of Hearts, this isn't the review for you. For those of you that know, this version contains five Solitaire games, including two I'd never heard of until this game, Pyramid and Tripeaks. Quite where I've been to miss those is anyone's guess. You can also play each with different sets of rules and timers to suit your fancy. I said as much in the Windows 8 review: it's the definitive Solitaire experience on Windows.

The Daily Challenge progress not transferring over is the only real fault I can level at the game, which is far more of a personal issue and probably a glitch to some extent as well. The games all act as they should, there are no known glitches or bugs in either a positive or negative light that influence gameplay. Accessing old Daily Challenges does require changing your computer's clock, which for me resulted in limited internet access during those times, but that's a very small matter that can be worked around either with another computer or tablet.

Verdict: still the single best Solitaire experience around, now with an extra 1000 free Gamerscore to to be earned. 9/10

Coming up on Friday: some definitive plans for the summer.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 20 March 17 at 16:10 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
17
Permalinkde Blog
The Achievement Research Project 2017 is still ongoing. In the last two weeks the project hit the unofficial halfway point. Basically when you sort achievements down to just physical games on the Xbox 360, you get around 330 pages of results, around 30 of which are Japanese-only games I can't read or understand, so those ones will be left out. Before this week I was around page 160, since it can take anywhere from 7-20 minutes to process one full page. Progress was steady, and since there is no real due date for the project completion, it slowly soldiered on.

This is when the project hit a rather major snag that will drastically increase the amount of time required to complete this project. To sort the games, I first sorted by platform (Xbox 360) and title type (Games Only). Sort by achievement in alphabetical order and away you go. Up until this point there were different sort fields for Xbox 360, Windows, XBLA, and Xbox One. However sometime in the last week one of those sort fields was removed: the XBLA sort field. This now means the XBLA games like Minecraft and World of Tanks are sorted alongside physical titles like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4.

This now means that every time a common achievement name comes up, extra care has to be taken to ensure the games I'm counting are indeed physical games and not XBLA games sneaking in. If I was any further back in this whole process, ideally less than 100 pages in, I would consider starting over and including XBLA games into the fold. It might even sway the results and make a new top ten. However I'm over 150 pages in (now over 180 pages in since the number of entries I need to process has swelled considerably) and I'm going to continue as this process began: physical Xbox 360 games only.

The main result is this process will take quite a bit longer to complete, and now will make it much harder to do follow-up research into XBLA titles or any other medium. Let's just hope TA doesn't remove the Windows sort field as well before all is said and done otherwise this project may never be completed. To have all the research done and for it all to mean nothing would be truly a tragic end to all of this work. In less depressing news, here's a Micro-Review for a game I am thoroughly burned out on and is likely one of the most colourful games you will ever see:

de Blob 2 Micro-Review: Game consoles today are littered with the same dull industrial shooters of varying shades of grey and brown. When a game comes along that throws all of those conventions out of the window, it's worth your time to sit up and take notice. This is what I did with de Blob 2, and for the most part the game delivered on its promise of vibrant colour, but somewhat fell flat on the gameplay front. You play as Blob, an amorphous mass of variable size and colour, set out to restore said colour to the world.

This game is all about visual style. You absorb paint, and proceed to colour the entire world around you, from buildings to vehicles and even local plant life. You are restoring colour as fast as it's being taken away by Comrade Black and the Inkies. The game will endear itself with its lively music and visuals and compelling narrative. It's a shame then that the gameplay doesn't hold up across all 12 levels. As diverse as the levels are, the core gameplay gets repetitive and somewhat boring toward the end. Even adding temporary power-ups does little to break it up.

One thing that surprised me the most was how stingy this game is with achievements. Only 25 available, however a majority of them only come at the end of the game, assuming you found all collectibles, freed every civilian, earned S-rank everywhere and didn't purchase a single power-up. Good luck with that last one on the last few levels. Despite this, the game is beautiful visually, and even available on your Xbox One through backward compatibility. The game has an incredible original music selection, with three tracks available for each level and an unlockable fourth track as well.

Expect to spend anywhere from 20-30 hours on this game across multiple sittings. I found I could only handle two levels at absolute maximum per day, since to get all collectibles you need to use an admittedly-excellent text guide. Your mileage may vary and you may be able to play half the game in one day. More power to you if you can. Otherwise, take this one slow, enjoy the atmosphere and restore colour to the world of Raydia. Full disclosure: the title for this entire blog came from my friend and co-op partner petranat. Go check out her blog!

Verdict: a truly unique concept, held back by repetitive gameplay and unnecessary time limits on most levels. 6/10

Coming up on Monday: a long-term project completed, again.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 17 March 17 at 18:33 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
13
PermalinkOff the Plane.. Again
When a new console is released, there is a period of time where both consoles are available, along with games for both platforms. What will often happen to said games is they are released for both consoles at the same time, to get sales from both early adopters of the new console and holdouts who prefer the older box. Playing the same game across multiple platforms in this sense is known as double-dipping, which is the topic for today. The first of many games I'll be double-dipping on my card.

Up to now I've never double-dipped on a game, despite having more than a few titles available to me to do just that. As with many games I either wouldn't normally play and certainly wouldn't spend money to get, these often come to us from the continually-excellent Games With Gold program, which as far as I can see has no sign of slowing down or stopping. Taking a quick glance at my gaming to-do list, the double-dips include Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Thief. While ACIV has already been completed on the Xbox 360, the One version was free a while back so I snapped it up.

The walkthrough for Thief is still in progress as of this writing so I'll be waiting on that one to get completed and posted on the site before I jump into that one. I played the opening chapter of the game with a friend way back when that game launched in 2014, so I somewhat know what to expect and know that a walkthrough will be all but required to get all of the game's achievements with as little pain and re-treads as possible. Once the walkthrough is up, I'll plan an ETA for both titles and when they can expect to be played by me.

The only reason I began this specific double-dip process when I did was a carry-over service from last-gen was ending and I wanted to take advantage of it before it was gone, saving me many hours in the process. I've been sitting on this game for well over a year now, waiting for the requisite number of hours to become free in my schedule. It's taken some time, and even more pushing from the game publisher due to the aforementioned cutoff, but I got in mere hours before the service was gone, after much worrying over whether the game would install and update in time given my less-than-great internet service.

Grand Theft Auto V was originally released in September 2013, with the GTA Online service getting a buggy release one month later. Anyone trying to access GTA Online back then will recall how it barely worked. The enhanced edition of the game released in November 2014 for the Xbox One, and with it came the opportunity to transfer your character and their respective online progress, rank, and assets to the new version of the game and continue to use them on the new version of the game. The availability to do this ended on March 5th, so naturally this was the day I used it.

Grand Theft Auto V First Thoughts: First Thoughts on a game I haven't played since May 2015 on a different platform. Yeah, that's a bit of a weird one, but here we go. Considering this blog wasn't active or even an idea back in 2013 and wouldn't be started for another year, consider this my First Thoughts for both versions of the game. The first thing to notice in the game is it's much nicer-looking than the previous version. I'm sure it was the best the Xbox 360 could do, but the One has that much more power, meaning everything looks and plays much smoother. I haven't explored the entire map yet, but I plan to soon to get the full experience.

First-person mode is weird. While it's fun to run and jump around, fling yourself into walls, pedestrians, and oncoming traffic, actually playing the game with this new perspective doesn't quite work. You don't realize how much you miss peripheral vision while driving until you don't have it. This is likely a graphic limitation, but the side and rearview mirrors don't work in the vehicles. Again, you don't realize how much you miss something until it's gone. It also feels like vehicles are more sensitive in first-person mode, but that may just be me.

It would appear that new activities were also added to this enhanced edition. The first one I noticed was a photography contest available to Franklin, and stock car races available to Trevor, though the latter may be available to everyone. Michael likely has a unique activity to the enhanced edition, but it hasn't been found yet. As of this writing, I've only completed two missions for Trevor and am relatively early into the game yet. There is still a lot to explore, find and do. I'm sure there is a full list of extra content and I'll stumble across most of it in time.

Coming up on Friday: a Micro-Review many frustrating hours in the making.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 13 March 17 at 16:06 | There are 4 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
10
PermalinkUnfaithful Adaptations
Film adaptations of any other form of media can be a mixed bag. Sometimes the studio will work closely with the source material's creator and create a massive success of a film franchise that still sees spin-off works over a decade later. Other times you get a studio that made a film just to hold on to a specific character license and prevent it from reverting to the original creators, who would arguably do a much better job and could integrate them into a pre-existing film universe. We're taking about none of those today, since those films all got off the ground.

Today we're looking at a pair of films that never actually became films, and instead died in some executive's studio due to either budget, casting or some other constraint that could not be worked around. It's a shame really, to have a film adaptation announced for e beloved game franchise, a director on-board and a script claimed to have been mostly-written, only to have the whole thing scuttled before a camera even had the chance to begin rolling. Let's start with arguably the most-known cancelled film adaptation, Halo.

As some of you may know, there were talks about plans for a Halo feature film dating as far back as 2004, after the launch of Halo 2. Announcements were made for production companies, potential film locations and writers. That was all that was known until 2006, when both 20th Century Fox and Universal (the international and North American distributors respectively) pulled out of the project due to issues related to creative control and film royalties. Despite having two planned distributors, Microsoft held on to the Halo IP throughout this whole process, which likely played a part in tanking this film.

Through all of this, Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp were set to direct the film. When the studios pulled out, the budget was stated at around $120 million USD. At the time that was an incredible amount for one film. Keep in mind this was all said and done before the Marvel Cinematic Universe took off, and when DC films were limited to just Batman. This even slightly pre-dates another CGI-heavy project, Avatar. Blomkamp has gone on record stating the studios basically wanted as much creative control as they could assert, leaving none for Blomkamp as the director of the film.

The failure of the Halo film is questionably credited with the production and release of District 9, a 2009 science-fiction film from Blomkamp around aliens landing in South Africa. Claims have been made this film was developed with the remnants of the Halo film, while others suggest this experience inspired Blomkamp to make a feature-length adaptation of the short film Alive in Joburg. I find that unlikely, since in 2007 Blomkamp directed and released a Halo short film, depicting the Battle of Earth seen in Halo 3.

Another video game that had plans for the silver-screen treatment was BioShock. Rumours about a film adaptation began as early as 2007, only a year after the release of the first game in the series and while the game was still fresh in everyone's mind. Considering how the game was, and still is seen as one of the greatest games released for last-gen consoles and arguably one of the greatest games entirely, a film adaptation was of little surprise. Gore Verbinski was brought on to direct, the film had a vert tentative 2010 release date.

As you can expect, this is the last good thing to happen to this film project. Around 2009, Verbinski was working on the film Rango and left the BioShock film. Universal, the planned distributor, was working closely with voice actors from the games to make it as authentic as possible. Before Verbinski left the project, he made the claim in an interview that the film would have a guaranteed R-rating. As it turned out, this may have been the demise for the film, as the studio wanted a PG-13 rating in an attempt to bring more viewers to their film.

The last thing said about the film came from a 2013 interview with Ken Levine. He stated the film production had been called off, citing the box office performance of Watchmen as a reason their film would be no more. The last anyone saw of the film was some unused artwork uploaded to a website in 2014, which could just as easily pass for BioShock game concept art. With special effects constantly getting cheaper and more affordable on the scale a film like this would need, we may one day get a film adaptation of the city of Rapture.

Coming up on Monday: returning to Los Santos.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 10 March 17 at 17:58 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
07
PermalinkOdds and Ends
Slightly random assortment of features today. A lot of this and what you may see in the coming week or so is content I've been planning to write for a while now, but never found the time or proper motivation. The fact that the 'to-write' list is growing nearly in size to the gaming 'to-do' list seemed like a good motivator as any. Expect these to be spread throughout the next few weeks' worth of blogs, as always being bumped by more important content when necessary. With all that in mind, here's a new section I fully plan on using whenever possible.

de Blob 2 Final Thoughts: Since I am now spacing out when games are finished to when the review is published, there needs to be something to fill the space. Allow me to introduce Final Thoughts. It's basically the same as a Progress Report or a First Thoughts, however this will be the last on a particular game before its Micro-Review is released. With that said, expect a Micro-Review in about a week for this game, barring any schedule bumps for any more-pressing content. Spoilers for de Blob 2 ahead.

The last level takes place in space. For a game that was until this point happy, bubbly and full of life and colour (once you've had your way with a level), the final level is bleak, desolate and relatively empty. What should have been a final triumphant push to defeat the main villain of the game and restore colour to Raydia became a series of same-y planets and interiors, with only a few orbital pods to remind you of the surface below. If this was the atmosphere the developers were going for with this level, they knocked it out of the park. If not, this level is a disappointment.

All is not lost though. The level is somewhat redeemed by a boss fight which is equal parts entertaining and challenging, and an expanded version of a boss fight from earlier in the game. Broken up into six phases, it's perhaps one or two more than it should have been, but one less than it could have been. It took a few tries, but the level was beaten and with it the game. If you play following a walkthrough, you will then earn 12 of the game's 25 achievements for a combined 500+ Gamerscore as well.

The last level nearly didn't happen as well. My borrowed copy of the game bugged out in my 360 and always froze or locked up when loading the pre-level cutscene. No amount of cleaning the disc improved the situation, and the game wouldn't install on my console, citing a disc issue as well. However the day was saved by backward-compatibility. One 6.6 GB download later, I was fighting the final boss on my Xbox One and was able to claim victory for technology. Needless to say I was happy to find a workaround, but not happy at the reason I had to find it in the first place.

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Doodle God Ultimate Edition Micro-Review: Starting from the four main 'elements' of the universe (earth, air, fire and water), you combine and re-combine elements until you've built the entire of human civilization. The game is split into three episodes, each one focusing on a different area of human technological advancement, though the jury is out to exactly how and when magic and sorcery fits into human history, but when you're an omnipotent creator god you don't concern yourself with such trivialities.

In other Doodle God titles, you combine by clicking on the element group and then the element itself, then again for the second element. This is intuitive and easy. For the console, since you don't have a cursor, those controls were mapped to the respective triggers and thumbsticks. LS or RS to highlight the group, LT or RT to open it, and then LS or RS again to select the actual element. This is less intuitive and will certainly take some time to adjust to this control scheme. It's not the worst case of PC controls worked into a controller, but not quite the best either.

The game retains its sense of humour and charm that's made it as popular as it is on other platforms. Combinations like Apple + Cell Phone = 3 x Gold and the mere existence of the 'Censorship' element which likely only exists to keep this game family-friendly. There's even an achievement for creating all alcoholic drinks, and combining them all with Human, with predictable results. All told, expect to spend 3-4 hours for all achievements if playing alone, however this ca be reduced to 2-3 hours with the guide to all combinations being read to you.

Verdict: a fun re-tread of familiar creations and quirky combinations serves as a great entry point to the series. 8/10

Coming up on Friday: game-based films that never came to pass.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 07 March 17 at 03:40 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.