Category Archives: Gaming

This is where I talk about what video games I am playing right now. Fun times!

My Xbox is Sexist

There is a problem with a new member of my household, the Xbox One.  With that statement, many people are probably thinking that my husband is playing too many games or that the system is taking up too much of our free time.  That is not the problem at all.  We hardly have any free time to play games, and when we do the other person is usually asleep.  J plays at night when I am sleeping and I wake up early and play on the weekends before anyone else is up.  L gets to play when he is being good and we are there to monitor his controller use (he is a little rough with it still).  No, the problem is with one of the coolest and newest features of the One; the automatic sign in.  My Xbox is sexist.

Yep, you heard me right.  Ignore whatever commercials that you may have seen; my Xbox has a distinct preference for men.  It can see and sign in J before the home screen even appears, but I can sit in front of it (with perfect lighting) and not be recognized for 10 minutes.  Yes, I have told it to recognize me in many different situations of hairstyle and lighting.  For some reason, it just does not want to see me; this is really frustrating because I actually end up playing the Xbox more than J (either gaming or Netflix/Hulu).

It doesn’t end there either.  The voice commands are not working for me either, but they work fine for J.  That one is particularly frustrating when trying to start Netflix but not wanting to grab the controller that you just hid from your 2 year old.  The Xbox even picks up L’s voice over mine, so it cannot be the pitch of the voice because his is even higher than mine.  I am at a loss for what to do about this.  Do I need to have a harassment seminar for my Xbox?  I hope that an update comes through soon with a fix for this problem.  Until then, my Xbox and I are not on speaking terms.

Smallworld

Let me step back from video games and talk about a board game that I have come to know and love.  Smallworld is a game, not for the faint of heart.  The amount of pieces to this game (not toddler friendly, btw) are a little overwhelming, but once you play a few turns it is much easier to understand.

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Basically you are a race of creatures with a special power that wants to conquer the world.  You gain money from each area that you are occupying and that is what decides the winner of the game in the end.  Deceptively simple, but each race has abilities and these can mix freely with the special powers.  Races come and go throughout the game as well.  A big plus for this game is the cheat sheets that come with the game.

I could keep going on and on about how much fun this game is to play, but I won’t.  I have played it with 2 and 3 people, it is fun with that amount of players.  Each game takes about 45 minutes, and it can easily be played while doing other things, such as blogging or cooking dinner.  It is a little pricey, but if you have a good group of friends to play it with I highly recommend it.  And there are a few expansions that add more races and other events to the gameplay.  Fun times!

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Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Plainswalkers

Get ready to bust out your old Magic cards, because Magic is now on the Xbox 360!  Yes, I was a nerdy high school kid that played Magic at lunchtime.  magic_the_gathering-card_backI was also in the marching band, so I guess it goes with the territory.  Luckily, I got through that stage; yet I still retain a nostalgic fondness  for playing Magic.  The game is available on the Xbox live marketplace for 800 Microsoft points.  This means that all of the closet nerd can play without having their buddies see them at a card shop.

There are 3 main modes that you can play in the game: campaign, co-op campaign, or challenges.  The campaign mode is the standard 1 on 1 Magic game.  In this mode you can unlock new decks and new cards for those decks (part of the completion achievement).  You start out with the green and the red deck unlocked and from there you get the white, blue, black, green/black, red/green/black, and red/green/white decks.  Each of these decks has between 15 and 17 cards that can be unlocked.  Luckily, the cards are unlocked by simply winning a match, not which computer opponent you play against.  Personally, I used the green deck until I got to the first battle with Tezzeret, then I switched to the green/black deck to finish the campaign.  Tezzeret is the 15th and 17th (last) fights in the campaign and he has an awesome deck.  It is a blue/black deck that is full of artifact creatures and you do not get it in the game!  I am hoping that they will release it as DLC sometime soon.

In co-op campaign you and a friend (on the same box) play against 2 computer players.  There is no card or deck unlocking in this mode.  The opponents are very good at using their cards to help each other out, and I was getting my ::cough:: kicked until I got Jack and I both on the green/black deck.  Now it is almost too easy.

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The newest innovation of the game is the challenges mode.  In this game, you are given a scenario and you have to figure out how to use the cards in your hand to win the game in one turn.  This teaches you how to use the abilities of cards with others and make them work to your advantage; a much more subtle game that casual players usually get.  Some of these challenges can be downright puzzling, too!  Here is a great site for challenge answers, if you get stuck and frustrated.

I have only a few complaints about the game, and none of them are insurmountable in my mind.

  • You do not unlock Tezzeret’s deck after you beat him.
  • You cannot modify or make your own decks.  I was told that this was done to make online play more balanced between the amateur and expert Magic players.  I can understand that reasoning, but I still want to make my own decks to play against the computer.
  • Sometimes the game freaks out and freezes when you have too many creatures out.  I have had the game freeze 3 times and go extremely slow during the attack-damage phases 2 times.  This is sub optimal programming in my mind.  Hopefully there will be a patch soon to remedy this.
  • There are some very immature people playing online.  I have had about half of my opponents leave the game when they realize that I am going to beat them in the next turn or two.  This is bad sportsmanship and very rude.  When playing a ranked match, you should stay until the end so that the person gets the rank up that they deserve.

I think that this is a great game.  It is much better than the old PC version of the game.  Running around looking for battles was not fun, and very buggy.  So far, I have unlocked all cards for the red, green, white, and green/black deck.   I have completed the campaign, challenges, and ¾ of the co-op campaign.  Once I finish unlocking all of the cards available, I plan on playing many online matches.  This game has a very high replay factor, and I do not see it becoming unpopular anytime soon.

 

For all of the uber-fans out there:

Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution

5dlIf you are a fan of Sid Meier games on the computer, I recommend trying out his console version of Civ (I play the Xbox 360 version).  Civilization Revolution, if you are not familiar with the series, is a turn based strategy game in which you play the leader of a colonizing civilization.  It is your duty to build cities, troops, wonders and city buildings while amassing gold and researching new technology; all in the name of making your “country” the best.  There are multiple civilizations to choose from, with different benefits associated with them.  There are also four different ways to win the game: Domination, Technological, Cultural, and Economic.  This gives some variety to the game-play and allows you to work with each civilization differently depending on their attributes.  I have spent many hours trying to get all of the achievements for this game, and I am still working on it with enjoyment.  Replay factor on this game is high!  For your enjoyment, here is the trailer from IGN.

Pros

  • Easy to learn how to play and learn the controls.  This makes the game playable by people who have never played Civ before and/or are not heavy duty gamers.
  • Multi-player!  Yes, there is online multi-player.  That is all that needs to be said there.  What would Civ be if you couldn’t conquer your friends?
  • The game was scaled down appropriately for the consoles.  On the PC, sometimes you would have to ammas gigantor armies of troops (50+ units) to attack a city.  In the console you rarely have to make more than 10 units attack the same city.  This makes it much easier to navigate with a controller vs. keyboard and mouse.
  • DLC is available.  There are new maps to play (some of them free), new wonders, and new ancient artifact thingies that you can discover.
  • You can group 3 of the same units into an army.  This gives bonuses to attack and defense while making the troops more manageable.

Cons

  • You cannot change the name and colors of your civilization.  I enjoyed making my civ bright pink and calling them the Elephanteers in the PC games; would that option have been too hard to add?
  • The Advisers!  They seem to pop up every damn time you turn around to tell you what you already know.  Not only are they annoying, they slow down the load time of turns.  Grrrrrr.
  • You cannot choose who or how many enemy civs you have for a specific game.  Sometimes it is fun to have only 3 people on a huge planet or 12 people on a tiny one.

Most of my complaints are things that I am able to work around and deal with because I like the game that much.  Next, I want to see a console version of Alpha Centauri (another Sid Meier game).  I had so much fun playing that game on the PC (Win 95/98).  I think that it would make a good expansion for the Civilization Revolutions game.  You would not need to make a whole new game, just re-skin the current game and add some new civilizations.  I think that the game mechanics could mostly be kept the same.

Tales of Vesperia

A new month, a new game I am playing.  Tales of Vespeira is my current time sink, and what an enjoyable one it is!  Actually I have been playing this game since April off and on; one free rentaltales_of_vesperia coupon per month makes it hard to get really into a game.  I was finally able to pick up a used copy of Tales and immerse myself in the story.  And what a story it is!  I am getting close to the final boss and I have already played the game for almost 60 hours, and I skipped a ton of side quests and events.  Once I finish this play-through I plan on doing it all over again and getting that 100% completion I am so fond of.

At first I was leery about playing this game because, while I like watching the occasional anime, I cannot stand cell shaded games.  I hate it when a game uses all of this wonderful technology to make everything look 2-D.  I was convinced to give this game a try by my local game store employee and friend, C.  I was debating between Tales, Devil May Cry 4, and The Last Remnant and asked the opinion of C, who likes many of the same games I do.  C said to try Tales because I like RPGs and it has a really good story, but don’t expect achievements from it.  So I gave it a whirl and ended up using the April, May, June, and July free renal coupons on it; Jack was irritated with this because he wanted to play Hot Wheels.

There are many things to enjoy about this game:

  • The storyline is deep and immersive with a few unexpected twists.  There is nothing completely out of the blue and extraordinary about this story, but like a favorite children’s story, you just want to hear it anyways.  None of the villains are all that bad, and not all of the “good guys” are pure and innocent.  It does a very good job of representing the grey areas of morality that are more accurate representations of what people actually have to deal with.
  • There are titles and items that your characters can get to change their outfits and accessories.  While this seems superficial, it is so much fun to be able to have the main character wear a black fedora or mustache and pipe.  It makes things different; yay for variety in costume!  (I am such a girl!)
  • Combat is easy and intuitive.  A jPRG with real time combat seems like it should be against the rules, but it works very well in Tales.  The controls are easy to learn and the battle tutorial is smoothly integrated into the story of the game.  The spontaneous monster encounters are also avoidable because you can see the monsters and simply walk around them.  This is a big thing for me because, sometimes I am just trying to get to a save point fast!

There are also some things that just bugged the crap out of me in the game:

  • The forced dialogue sections require you to hit a button after each person speaks.  This really cramped my style because I always used those sections to make a bathroom break or refill the snacks and beverage. Yes, my place is small enough that I could still hear the game while not in front of the TV.  By having to hit the button after each sentence (and some of these conversations were loooooong) I missed my usual pit stops and had to make artificial interruptions in the game-play to perform these necessary activities.  The button pushing also made the conversations halting, which really breaks the game trance.
  • The map was very difficult.  While I am happy to have a mini-map on screen while traveling,  The big map was constantly referenced to see where I was, and usually where I needed to go.  The big map, while you could zoom it, did not do much good because you could not highlight the name of the place by scrolling over.  You had to select it from a list next to the map (and the list was big) and know if the area you were looking for was a city, dungeon, or field.  Finally, there was no clear indication of where you needed to go next in the storyline.  Many hours did I spend wandering around the map looking for a city.

Tales has so many little details and events that you must see and do to get all of the achievements, I would say that a guide is necessary for 100% completion.  If you just want to enjoy the game, then don’t stress over it.  I am using GameFAQs for my general guide and then 360Achievements for my achivement guide.   Honestly, I did not use them this first play-through very much, but I am going to be using them like crazy the second and maybe third time through.

In summation, I thought that this was a very well made game with an immersive story.  My main gripe is the endless dialog that requires button pushing to further it along; if that was changed I would think this was the best game I have played all year.  If you have at least 50 hours that you want to dedicate to a good RPG, then pick the game up.  As I learned, renting this game does not work very well.

1 vs 100 Beta

Xbox Live has a new online multi-player gaming idea.  They get the players to participate in huge live game shows that are scheduled to air during “prime-time TV”.  The only game that is currently being offered is 1 vs 1oo and it is still in beta.  What this means is that if you have an Xbox Live Gold account, you can join in on the beta and maybe win some prizes.

To play the game, you select it on the dashboard and enter the lobby.  Once you are there you get partnered up with 3 other players and then get sent into the game.  You can get placed in the Crowd, the Mob, or as the One.  The object of the game, if you have never seen it on TV, is for the one person to “knockout” all the mob members by getting all the questions right as the mob gets them wrong.  Hence the One vs 100 (the mob).  If the One wins, they get MS Points and/or game download credits.  If the One answers wrongly the Mob gets to split the winnings between whomever is left.  At certain times the One can take the money and run; which is pointless in the beta because they are not using real prizes right now!  Sorry, that drives me nuts!!  If you are playing in the Crowd, you get to answer the questions to improve your stats and win a small prize if you are in the top 3 for score.

On to the fun stuff.  You get chosen as the One or Mob by having a quick answer time and a high correct answer percentage.  I like this method of selection because it ensures a competitive game that goes on for a while; but I do not like it because I will probably never get selected with my 82% correct answer rate and 1.2 second time to answer.  Even though I will always be in the crowd, I enjoy playing this game with Jack and laughing at some of the people that I see playing.

The questions are a mix of everything you could imagine in a trivia game.  From pop culture to chemistry to sports, it is all there.  If you do not watch TV at all, you will be at a big disadvantage (trust me, I know).  Some examples of questions are:

  • What is the 24th letter of the alphabet?
  • What is the scientific name for the study of birds?
  • Where was the Indy 500 race held from 2002-2008?
  • Who of these was never married to Madonna?
  • In what city would you find the Prado Museum?
  • How many numbers are on the XBOX 360 controller?

Remember that all of the questions are multiple choice, I just can’t remember them all to list them here. As you can see, it is a wide range of subjects.

1 vs. 100 Live Screenshot

Currently there is one Live game offered Fri and another on Sat for 2 hours of game each.  On the other days there is Extended Play where everyone is in the Mob just answering questions.  This is where you get the chance to raise your rankings to be selected for the One or Mob in the Live game.  There is also going to be special themes for the Extended Play sessions such as: community written, he said – she said, and current events.

Personally, I enjoy playing this game and have encountered no bugs so far.  Finally, the reason to play the beta; for each answer you submit you get an entry into a sweepstakes drawing.  The top prizes are a TV or a laptop or a Zune.  Not a bad reason to play a game that requires no commitment other than a little time, right?  I think that this is a great way to be interactive couch potatoes rather than a standard vidi-it!  Nothing will stop people from sitting on the couch in the evening and staring at the TV, but maybe this will encourage socialization with those sitting in the same room.  Wishful thinking, I know.

Fallout 3

game-fallout3-poster Fallout 3 is my pick for Game-of-the-Year.  Wait!  It already won that in 2008: I nominate it for Game-of-the-Decade!  Having never played the earlier Fallout games, I was able to come to this experience with an open mind.  Although, I was slightly predisposed to like it having played Oblivion and enjoying it.  Fallout 3 is a Western RPG set in post-nuclear America with lots of guns, ammo, and mutants to shoot.  Fallout 3 was released on October 28, 2008 by Bethesda Softworks and is available on PC, XBOX 360, and Playstation 3.

I have recently finished the main storyline but still have a few quests to complete.  The biggest thing that this game has that others don’t is DLC.  Fallout 3 is one of the few games that offers DLC long after the game was released; DLC that is actally a whole chapter added to the game, rather than a new armor set or weapon only.

Fallout 3 DLC offered

  • Operation: Anchorage – January 27, 2009
  • The Pitt – March 24, 2009
  • Broken Steel – May 5, 2009
  • Point Lookout – June 23, 2009
  • Mothership Zeta – late July 2009

Pros 

My number 1 pro for this game is VATS.  For a un-coordinated person like me, FPS games are not an option if I want to keep my self respect.  When you activate VATS in the game, it shows the enemy and gives you the % chance of hitting each body area.  You then select which ones you want to try for and the game does the rest; is usually adds a cool slow motion video of the action too!

The next pro that I have is the ability to wander around Capitol Wasteland looking for quests and shooting animals/bandits/mutants.  It is much like Oblivion in this sense (no surprise there) without the plant gathering for potion making.  I can spend hours finding new places to burglarize. . . errrr explore . . . and new people to help or not.

My final big pro is the different ways to end quests.  Most RPG games have the go here, do this, go back to quest-giver, get reward format for quests.  Fallout 3 allows you to decide to kill the quest-giver, keep the special item, talk the quest-giver into giving you more money, etc.  In the very beginning of the game, you can choose to blow-up an entire town or not.  If you do, this ends many quests that you might have gotten.  Many RPG games do not allow you to shoot yourself in the foot in this manner (but it does make such a pretty boom!).

Cons

My biggest con would be the dialog.  The general, non-quest giving people have very repetitive dialog that I believe could have been expanded on.  It just gets annoying after a while to listen to the same 3 phrases given in a thick Minnesota accent for hours on end.

There are some points where you can explore too much area and find part of the main quest without following the normal progression of it.  This is nice at times, but you end up missing some major exploration and the quest is not very good about updating your progress (as Jack found out).  This is where a strategy guide or the GameFaqs site comes in handy.

The third con I have is null and void as of the Broken Steel DLC.  I did not like that after you finished the main quest, the game was over and you could not finish any leftover quests.  Broken Steel allows the game to go on and it raises the level cap from 20 to 30!

As you can tell, I am a big fan of this game.  If you like RPGs I would reccomend purchasing it, but if you do not I would reccomend a rental.  It has a gripping storyline, a ton of character customization, and a butler robot that tells jokes; you can’t get more RPG that that!

NXE

Hello and welcome to the New Xbox Experience (NXE)!  I have been waiting for this update for about 3 months now, and I am loving it.  The new interface and avatars seem to put the 360 somewhere between the Wii and the PS3 when it comes to target audience.  Microsoft is deffinately trying to get that crowd of casual gamers on board.  Jack does not like the avatars, being too Mii-like for him, but I spent about 2 hours working on mine and his.  I only wish that they had more clothing and hair options.  There is a predominace of straight hair styles, which does not work for those of us who have curly hair.  There are 2 true curly hairstyles, and both of them look like frizzy triangle heads.  The current hairstyle on my avatar is as close as I could get, and my hair is about twice as long as that.  There are not many long hair styles either.  I am anxiously awaiting the first pack of DLC for the avatars.  I am hoping that it will be free, but i highly doubt it, knowing Microsoft.

The Netflix capabilities of the NXE are simply awesome.  Now I can watch something on my TV even if my discs get delayed in the mail!  Boo for Sony not taking the higher ground and allowing their movies on the Netflix Watch It Now.  The only irritating part of this is that you have to set up a queu of movies to stream to your 360.  No browsing from the console.  Oh well, this is not a major issue, and I always have a computer on in the house for one reason or another. 

Another feature that I am enjoying is the ability to delete the 0 Gamerscore Games.  This has really helped increase my completion percentage, and has asthetically improved my gamerscore.  Those 0’s just looked ugly!

I have not had a chance to try out the party capabilities with my friends yet.  Nor have I been able to play a game that utilizes my avatar.  I am looking forward to playing the new Scene It: Box Office Smash with my avatar.

All in all, I think that this was a good move for Microsoft.  It gives their system a whole new look and feel, without them having to produce a new system!  Even though people have been complaining about the themes not looking great on the NXE, my favorite old theme looks great (Think Blue by Disruptive Publishers).  With avatars to play with, and a faster, easier to navigate interface, I give the NXE 4.5/5 stars!

Trouble in Paradise

The new Viva Pinata is HERE!!  The first weekend that I had the game, I played until I reached level 40.pinatabug  That sounds impressive, but I had to share the 360 with Jack, who is still playing Too Human.  There are good things and bad things about the game.  Mostly good things in my opinion.

The good things:

  • Co-op play : Jack and I can play together, and he gets some really cool bonus skills like healing and maxing out candiosity.  This helps with the new challenges format.
  • Challenges : Now you have a choice of three challenges, and you can choose to do them whenever you want.  They just sit there and wait for you to accept them.  This is much better than another annoying window popping up when you are in the middle of doing something else!
  • New pinatas and plants : I love trying to collect all of the pinatas and grow all of the plants to max growth.  Some of my favorite plants are: garlic, snowdrops, cactus, and tiger lily.  My favorite new pinatas are: Tigermisu, Geckie, Pengum, and Tartridge.
  • New variations : Now it is easier to get the special variations of the offspring and twins.  The romance game has been changed, and now after you get the Master Romancer award for a species, it is harder to not get a variant or twins than it is to get one!

The not so good things:

  • Co-op play controls : The second player has a severely limited set of basic skills.  Use a shovel, plant seed, water, sprinkle short grass.  No buying, fertilizing, or even selecting pinatas.  The camera in co-op follows the main player, swinging around so that the helper is always behind the player.  ANNOYING!
  • Requirements change : Some of the mating, variant, and evolution requirements have changed.  This bothers me because I remembered most of them from the old version, and now they don’t work.
  • Graphics : The look of this game is better and more detailed, but really?  Does it really take that long to make minor changes to the graphics?  I was expecting more, personally.

I have not had the opportunity to try the Pinata Vision cards, so no opinion on that front.  I am hoping that I can find a friends with a 360 camera I can borrow to try it; I am not buying one for just this game!

All in all, I am enjoying VP:TIP and I will be for a while yet.  It is a game targeted for children, but it is strangely addicting for adults.  I wish every problem could be solved by starting a new garden and ignoring the bad one.  It would also be nice to gain thousands of monies by harvesting bird-of-paradise flowers. :)

Too Human

Too Human Cover
Too Human Cover

Too Human is the newest game to be added to the list of “Awesome 360 Games”.  It is an action adventure game set in the far future, with a strong element of Norse mythology to make it stand out.  In short, you play as a cybernetic “god” or Aesir named Baldur.  I am assuming that you end up having to save the world, becuase that seems to be SOP for adventure games.

The first of many reasons that I am currently enjoying this game is the graphics.  I know it is lame for a gamer to admit this, but I love the eye candy!  This game has good enough graphics that I am not complaing and still has unnoticable load times.  The cinematics are not the highest quality I have seen, but that is fine with me if it decreases load times.

Another reason I like this game is the unique combat controls.  I am playing a melee character and I attack by pushing the right stick in the direction I wish to attack.  My character can also slide from enemy to enemy, making it look like a game of pinball rather than hack and slash.  The only down-side I have to the combat is that the jump command is the A button; this makes it difficult to slash a guy to throw him in the air, jump up, and continue to hack at him in mid air.

Finally, I like the skill tree.  You put points in nodes.  More points means the skill gets better.  New node equals new skill.  Simple and efficient, enough said.

Now for the down sides.  My only major complaint is that there is no local co-op play.  I know it is strange, but Jack and I like to play games together, on one system.  The newer games seem to be going towards online only multiplayer and that irritates me.  I refuse to purchase a second 360 just so I can play with my husband!