CyberPunch83's Blog - Oct to Dec 17 (39 followers)
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Nov
21
PermalinkDisappointing Kart Racer
EA is in some hot water. That may be a bit of an understatement. After the lead-up and eventual launch of Star Wars Battlefront II saw some of the harshest video game backlash since the reveal trailer for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, EA decided to backpedal so fast they gave themselves whiplash. All microtransactions have been removed from Battlefront II, but we all know they will come back at some point in 2018. It's just a matter of time.

Gamers as a community managed to beat Online Passes, we have come to reach a coexistence with Season Passes, but this cannot stand. If people still purchase these games, we are showing a tacit compliance with EA's practices of charging gamers to no end for as much money as can be wrung from the collective pockets of gamers everywhere. I'm not trying to incite a full-on boycott of everything they have done, but remember that we always have the ability to think and speak with our wallets if we want to see this predatory practice come to an end.

Expect a full blog on this and more about EA at the end of the week. In the meantime, here's a pair of reviews for games I recently completed.

Madagascar Kartz Micro-Review: Arcade kart racing is somewhat of an underserved genre on the Xbox. With this in mind, Madagascar Kartz intends to fill a gap in this market. However they filled it with total garbage that is only good for the unintentionally funny moment or some quick gamerscore if you can get your hands on a copy for cheap. As previously stated, this game is about as bare-bones a kart racer as you can get without being so offensively short on content as to drive away literally everyone from playing.

Nine characters are available, seven of which are even from the titular Madagascar franchise. Guest appearances from B.O.B. from Monsters vs. Aliens and Shrek. Only nine tracks are available as well, which you have to race four times each at the different speed levels. The highest speed, 200cc reverses the track directions, and makes the AI borderline unfair. There is a boost gauge filled by doing drifts and aerial tricks that can be used anytime. The AI on 200cc difficulty starts with a full bar. You do not.

Rubber-banding aside, the only other points of interest are some checkpoint races, of which another person is required for five minutes to get some achievements. There is also a unique mode called Move It! Move It! where the race leader has a disco ball and gains points for passing through gates. First to 50 points wins. There is also a Time Trial mode to get the best times on all nine tracks. That mode is surprisingly hard as it requires a perfect run for all three laps to get a Gold medal. My personal recommendation for character there is Shrek. He is unlocked later on.

Being released in 2009, the graphics are alright and the sound is irritating. Being true to the franchise, the song 'I Like to Move It' by Reel 2 Real was licensed for use in the game. You will get very annoyed with the song after the 17th listen in one hour. There are some other ambient sounds but nothing other too noteworthy. The game is ultimately forgettable and can be completed in one day with the right motivation and a little luck on some of the races. Don't expect to replay this game, ever. There isn't even any 'so bad it's funny' humour to be found here.

Verdict: we may not have Mario Kart on the Xbox, but this is no substitute. 2/10

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Thomas Was Alone Micro-Review: The writing of a game makes the difference between forging an attachment with your virtual avatar or forgetting the character as soon as the game is shut off. Quality writing is the backbone of a memorable gaming experience, which is why I will praise the writing of Thomas Was Alone above all else. The writers made the tale of differently-sized blocks trapped in some sort of simulation one I won't soon forget. Being helped out my solid mechanics and a pretty, minimalist style doesn't hurt either.

The game is a 2d puzzle-platformer. Each of the up to eight characters you control have different movement speeds and jump heights, and it's your job to get everyone from A to their own respective B. Along the way you will come across various hazards to traverse, everything from gaps to spikes to toxic water. Each area is broken into ten stages, each one increasing with difficulty as a new game mechanic or character is introduced. The overall narration by Danny Wallace (Shaun from Assassin's Creed) is excellent and ties the whole game together.

The game is not overly long and doesn't overstay its welcome, however the two chapters that have to be completed after the 'end' of the game that serve as prequels can come as an unexpected surprise. These need to be completed for 100% achievement completion, which can be done in 5-6 hours. There are two collectibles per world, none of them are hard to find either. The sounds are decidedly 8-bit, and the visuals are sharp colour contrasts that make for a striking package. Fans of 2-d platforming and puzzle games will find quite a bit to like with this package.

Verdict: recommended for fans of British narration and quadrilaterals. 8/10

Coming up on Friday: what's going on over at EA?
Posted by CyberPunch83 today at 03:43 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Nov
18
PermalinkCars Retrospective
In helping my girlfriend petranat through as many games on the Xbox 360 as possible, sometimes you find yourself playing a game you never thought you play again after the initial run and achievement unlock. Case in point here today, with Cars. One of the first Disney-Pixar film-based games released on the Xbox 360 way back in 2006, and for all the game's age, it does some things surprisingly well, and other things unnecessarily well.

One thing that may most surprise people about this game is the apparent use of all of the original voice cast from the film in the game. While that may not sound like a big deal, and there are plenty of well-known voice artists in gaming today, to get all of the celebrities who lent their voices to a movie back again for some quick hits of dialogue in a game, some of which may never be heard from the majority of the players for one reason or another is a big deal. So credit where it's due to Disney getting everyone back together there.

Another surprising aspect of this game, given its dual pedigree as a movie-based game for kids from 2006, is the game is open-world, with three distinct areas you need to go between for the story. Traversing this open world isn't the best as you have basic movement only from event to event, but only after the events have been completed. If you're trying to reach something for the first time, you may run into some difficulty. The main Radiator Springs area and the side Ornament Valley area are easy enough to get around.

The second side area, Tailfin Pass, is more difficult as it's a lot of one-way roads and no clear indication if you're traveling in the direction of your objective or not. Expect to get lost or at least turned around in this area at least once. This brings me to another point about this game and its execution: the minimap. To its credit, the game does have one, however it isn't particularly useful. One would think in a game all about driving. the roads would be clearly marked on the minimap at all times. This is not the case here with the roads only being indicated during race events.

Even then, the roads in the game are not highlighted, rather the course you need to race on. With that said, the races are the main draw to this game. Smaller race events in and around Radiator Springs that would pass as side missions or minigames in any other title are the filling between larger plot-driven race events at a handful of speedway tracks you race at exactly once each. It wouldn't have been a terrible idea to at least add a qualifier race at the tracks to get more use out of the environments, but this is not the case here. One race and that's it.

Racing game controls have somewhat homogenized in the eleven years since this game was released. These days it's always RT to accelerate LT to brake, and A for your E-brake, before getting into additional controls for standard transmissions. Cars does things a bit differently, and by that I mean they couldn't have done it more different if they had tried. It's A to accelerate, X to brake and also to reverse. Stunt controls have been mapped to the triggers and the B button. Gameplay protip: release the X button once stopped then press and hold it again to reverse.

The game looks about as nice as can be expected for the age. It holds up well on a 1080p display on my TV, which is more than I can say for some other older games and how they have done. The game slowed down at a couple of points, perhaps trying to render too much on-screen at any given time. Most every game does that at least once. The sounds are very limited, and what there is for engine noise, music and ambience is very quiet and muted. Either bring that sound level up or play something else to listen to while playing.

Achievement-wise, the game is an early Xbox 360 game. That says a lot right there. Only 15 achievements available, a handful of them for completing story races, only really one achievement for side content, and that's for collectibles. Because of course this game has collectibles. They are postcards all over the map, with no indication of where they are, either in-game or on the minimap. A video guide is strongly recommended for this one. While you may eventually find them all on your own, it will take far too long just to say you didn't use a guide.

Easily the funniest moment of helping my partner petranat through this game was mentioning her previous experience with this title. She had originally played this game on the Nintendo Wii. I figured the Xbox 360 port would be superior in some way, either in content or graphic fidelity. Turns out, the game is identical on both platforms, right down to the annoyingly-small soundtrack and the overall layout of the game. Talk about the last thing you were expecting to find with games of this age and platform differences.

Overall, Cars was an entertaining game, but little about it proved memorable or had any lasting power once it was over and done with. I see no reason to ever go back to playing this game or re-installing it on my hard drive. The game is available digitally, so you can pick it up that way if you wish. Physical copies are hard to find and generally expensive. A fun enough experience.

Coming up on Monday: a review of a disappointing racing title.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 18 November 17 at 03:17 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Nov
13
PermalinkBattle of the Binge
Quick aside: this wasn't the intended content for this blog post today. Recent events and discoveries have bumped this one up in the priority list, and the planned content from today will be moved to later in the week, likely Friday or maybe next Monday if another bump needs to happen. Despite being bumped in favour of this content, fear not. The blog will still be worth reading when it is published, and I highly recommend you check it out once it published. Make sure you follow so you know right away when it is published. I generally post Mondays and Fridays.

Old habits die hard. Some never die at all, and instead just get pushed to the back of your mind, waiting for their moment to resurface and take their place once more. It could be said I did something similar to that in the last few days. By sheer coincidence, I stumbled across a link to a package in the Xbox store for World of Tanks. This is one of the games that received an upgrade to graphics and overall look for the Xbox One X, and to celebrate that, released a 'New Tanker' package. This isn't the first time a promotional package has quietly been released, but one of the best.

Contained within this package was a Tier II American T1E6-X1 Light Tank, or a garage slot if you already had that vehicle, and three days of premium time. Anyone who knows me and my dedication/obsession over World of Tanks over the last three years knows this was a golden opportunity for me, plopped directly into my virtual lap. A free three days of premium, when all I had left to do in this game to get 100% completion once again was a whole load of grinding? Sign me up.

Rather humourously, the package indicates in its Store description that it's intended for new players on the Xbox One X. A nice gesture to be sure, but one with no method of enforcement. The Store doesn't know if you're a new player to World of Tanks, or if you're a grizzled, jaded veteran who's been around since the original Xbox 360 launch way back in February 2014. I will fully admit to being in the latter category any day of the week. With all this in mind, I downloaded the pack and waited.

I wanted to wait until I had a few consecutive days to make the most of this gift of premium time. That time started on Sunday. From mid-morning Sunday to mid-morning on Wednesday, the plan is to get as much World of Tanks in as possible, and finally unlock the 'Top Shelf' achievement. For those just joining is now, that achievement is for researching a Tier X vehicle of all four classes that currently go to Tier X. These are Medium and Heavy Tanks, Tank Destroyers and Artillery. As of this writing, only Medium Tanks and Artillery remains for me.

I've been grinding these last two vehicles out for the better part of the last day as of this writing, and much progress has been made. There was a spreadsheet created to track my progress toward this achievement, to see how much Gold would have to be purchased at any point if I decided I had enough with the grind and just wanted the achievement now. It has now progressed to the point where I no longer need to buy any Gold and could use the Gold I have on-hand from past purchases and earnings.

As a result of this, I have been moving the proverbial goalposts in my spreadsheet, removing amounts of on-hand Gold as enough earnings come in. This reflects the amount of my own Gold I would not need to spend in order to get enough XP to distribute. I have no idea what this Gold will be spent on in the future, but I know it won't be spent here. At this moment, researching the last Tier X vehicles will require a combination of Tank XP and free XP,the latter of which is earned in small amounts from every vehicle and placed in a shared pool.

The next step, after Gold purchases have been removed from the equation, will be to remove free XP from the equation as well. I have close to 100,000 free XP as of this writing to distribute wherever I see fit, keeping in mind if using a combination of the two to research a vehicle, all of the available Tank XP will be used first. Slowly the on-hand free XP will be removed from the pool until ideally nothing but Tank XP is used for researching the vehicles. This is the ultimate end goal for this grind, and the reason for this spreadsheet.

Once all of that is done, I will research the vehicles with just the earned Tank XP, unlock the last achievement of this game, and hopefully put it away for a very long time. I'm slightly concerned there will be more achievements added at some point soon after this last achievement unlock, since two nations have since been added to the game and no related achievements have been added. This will likely change. World of Tanks has 114 achievements. The sky is the limit for this title since it is not held back by the Xbox 360 achievement list anymore.

Who's to say where World of Tanks will go next. Do you want to see more achievements added to the title? What changes or improvements do you want to see added to the game? Let me know in the comments. I'm interested to see what the players want.

Coming up on Monday: the blog originally intended for today.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 13 November 17 at 18:36 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Nov
12
PermalinkNew Consoles and Stuff
There's a funny thing about backups of any sort. You never realize how important they can be until the moment after you would have needed one most. This blog was mostly written and ready to go earlier in the day, which is still technically late, which is another matter entirely. I then went in to make further updates and add more content, and for whatever reason by internet connection blinked and I lost it all. There was no previous version to come back from. Needless to say I'm not impressed with that, but nothing that can be done now really.

If you've ever considered writing blogs like these or even are currently a blog writer on the sire, I would recommend using some sort of a backup for the content until you're ready to upload. This isn't the first time that I have lost progress on writing something due to a blip in my internet connection, and you always hope each time will be the last. Sometimes there can be no way to guarantee this, so you work around it as much as possible. Either a Word document or some other program can save you a lot of time and hassle.

No more preview pieces. No more 4k displays of test footage. The Xbox One X is officially upon us. Not quite the next generation, but a major improvement over both the Xbox One and the Xbox One S to be sure. Though people may have an immediate problem in getting their hands on the console, since multiple outlets are reporting that GameStop sold through their entire initial shipment of consoles. Expect some minor delays before more are back in stock. This can only mean good things for both Xbox and Microsoft going forward.

This console should put Microsoft ahead of both Nintendo and Sony toward the end of this generation, which I couldn't be happier about. Xbox gamer through and through here. I do plan on picking up one of the new boxes eventually, but it is not a high priority. Not only that, but I don't currently own the requisite 4k television to properly take advantage of the display output alongside the constant 60 fps and significantly reduced load times. As soon as I've seen one in full action I'll make a blog about the experince.

Until then, here's a review for a game that irritated both myself and petranat to no end.

Disney/Pixar Brave Micro-Review: Movie-based games have a certain reputation and set of expectations about them. This game does something a bit different from what we've seen before and feature a unnecessarily-hard final boss battle. It comes on multiple stages, because of course it does, and presents a challenge more than anything else you have seen up to that point. I won't go into much more detail, since that goes into spoiler territory, and that's not what we're here to do. Instead we'll quickly cover some other aspects of the game that were not great.

Outside of this, the game can be completed relatively quickly, since the levels are never really that long, and maybe have one or two tough fight encounters with bosses or mini-bosses. There is an upgrade system, and based on my experience with the game, will require more than one playthrough to earn all upgrades. I don't think there is any way there are enough coins, even after finding every single source of them in the game to do it in one run. I certainly never managed to do this myself.

If you play this game in co-op, don't forget to upgrade the co-op wisp as well. While it may not be as useful as you may like since it cannot activate pressure plates or anything that requires standing in place, the upgrades to make the wisp more effective in combat cannot be ignored. You don't want to be stuck in a combat encounter and be ineffective even when using the proper element to deal the most damage to an enemy. With this in mind, always keep track of the elements you should be using. These are too effective to be ignored.

In the end, Brave is still a somewhat enjoyable experience. Being thrown against a brick wall at the end of the game with the bosses, seemingly irrelevant of upgrades to either character, nearly ruin what could have, and indeed should have been another quick, ultimately forgettable film-based game. This did not happen, and Disney/Pixar Brave will be remembered as a game that turned sour quickly despite being an otherwise linear affair with some minor puzzle-solving and small amounts of platforming to be found.

Verdict: only recommended for fans of seemingly-easy games. 3/10

Coming up on Monday: an entry in a relatively-new series.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 12 November 17 at 05:46 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Nov
06
PermalinkLet the Games Begin
It's that time of the year again. The game-developing machines over at the third-party publishers have begun to bear fruit in the form of this year's crop of new games. There's really no point in covering them here, since I won't be playing many of them if at all, and the games are guaranteed to sell well in excess of three or four million copies each, further confirming the continued existence of not only the franchises themselves, but the publishers and developers behind them as well.

With all of this in mind, let's instead cast our minds back, away from pre-order culture, guaranteed sequels and the never-ending hype machine. Let's instead go back to 2005, when the Xbox 360 was still the brand-new console, this site didn't exist yet, and no one was quite sure what would become of these little things called achievements. Specifically, we're back to a launch title, one that will stand for quite a while as one of the last played to type games I've ever seen.

Amped 3 Micro-Review: It's finally over. Five chapters, seven mountains, and 240 mini-games. All while wearing an oversized gnome outfit earned in the first chapter and never taken off since then. I have completed Amped 3, and found some slightly irritating things about the game along the way. Namely, one of the achievement descriptions lies to you. I know this was a launch title, and some games have vague descriptions, but this one is just incorrect.

The 'Supreme Snow God' achievement description is, and I quote, earn a Gold Medal for ALL challenges and media callouts. Fair enough. Your standard 'earn gold on everything' achievement. Nothing weird there. There are also five achievements for 'stoking' people on certain mountains. There are seven mountains in the game. You would be forgiven for not giving much thought to these peaks outside from the scant few story missions and side missions in which you must earn Gold.

It turns out you need to stoke people on every single mountain to earn those last Gold medals, despite the game not telling you this anywhere. To find this out after thinking you have completed every single action and event in the game is not a nice feeling. While it didn't take long to get those last few people stoked and earn that achievement, that doesn't excuse the game not telling you everything you need to need to know right away.

Every other facet of the game I have covered in my numerous progress reports on this game. The controls are alright, the park builder mechanic is effectively necessary to complete some of the harder challenges and media callouts, the graphics and sound are what should be expected for 2005. Special mention goes to the cutscenes, which look like absolute hot garbage on a 1080p screen. Clearly they were not designed for that.

Verdict: the goofier, more fun-loving cousin to SSX. 6/10

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Madagascar Kartz First Thoughts: In 2009, Activision decided there was enough room in the kart racer subgenre to throw their digital hat into the ring via Dreamworks characters of which they had the game rights. There couldn't have been much more thought than that which went into this game, since it really has the barest of concepts: here are some characters from the Madagascar series of films, and some extras thrown in to flesh out the roster a bit. That fleshed-out roster is nine players.

You also get nine tracks to race as well, broken up into Championships of three races each. Four speed levels, 50-200cc. You had better get very used to seeing the first track of each Championship a lot as well, since when you restart a race from the pause menu, it restarts the WHOLE CHAMPIONSHIP. I don't know who made this design decision, but they clearly should not be in charge of deciding such things, or why there isn't just an option to restart the single race within the championship. Perhaps some fake difficulty.

The rest of the game is pretty standard and predictable. There are quick races, time trial modes, and checkpoint races in both single and multiplayer flavours. A pretty standard set of options for this game. One quick note on the number of tracks: in an effort to pad out the gameplay, the 200cc championship mirrors the tracks. Not reversed, since on some of the courses that wouldn't be physically possible, but instead flipped around, as if you were playing in a mirror. 200cc is also the fastest difficulty, so good luck with that one.

One gameplay protip I can share with you now: Shrek is the best character in the game. That isn't really a spoiler as such since there are three achievements tied to either the character or his signature track. Each character is given a 1-5 rating on speed, turbo and grip. Taking all of those into account, the Jolly Green Giant is the best character in all aspects combined. You don't unlock him until well into the game, but it's well worth the wait.

Coming up on Friday: the 8 1/2th generation.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 06 November 17 at 16:41 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.