Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Weekend Visit to the Curious Village

There are many mysteries to solve in the curious village

I've owned "Professor Layton and the Curious Village," a point and puzzle-filled adventure for Nintendo DS, for well over a year. In preparation for the sequel, I finally decided to come back and finish what I started after a sizable hiatus.

Sadly, things this happens to gamers a lot. We start a game. We get excited for the game. And then we trail off, our attention yanked in another direction by something else. Sometimes it's life that pulls us away from the games we crave to play, or often times it's another game (or even a bad game - but who buys those and is genuinely surprised). This is all part of a strange cycle that even the most devout and dedicated gamers can fall into, and it's gems like "Curious Village" that suffer.

I didn't stop playing Professor Layton's first adventure released in America (Japan already has three, I think) because it was boring. Absolutely not. In Layton's case, the opposite is true; I couldn't put it down because of how polished it all was. The puzzles, the presentation, the mystery are all well conceived and executed. And the addictive nature of solving puzzles completely reeled me in. The story seemed childish (as in Saturday morning cartoon) in tone, but it's a much deeper experience than I first thought.

The bigger reason why Layton got the boot from the game slot of my DS was... because another game came out that I wanted to play as well.

I dropped Layton for "The World Ends With You," another handheld gem from 2008 that held my interest for a few months before I moved on to something else.

It's so schizophrenic isn't it? Move from game to game and never finish what you started, never experience the ending or full charm of a game. In some ways never discovering the conclusion is like nibbling a corner of a fresh bag of Doritos and then promptly closing the bag, then putting it away.

Well, I'm done with this buy, try, and then shelve routine. It's absurd, and the wrong way to really do anything. This weekend I started by resuming my file in the "Curious Village" and I was done by Sunday afternoon. The game was amazing, and seeing (and guessing) how it all came together was a blast.

It felt so good to finish a game for change, and it's inspired me to on to more. I'll finally restart and conquer "The World Ends With You," I'll restart my adventure in Hyrule and then save it in "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," and I'll find some other great games I tossed aside over the past two to five years.

Maybe I'm making my New Year's Resolution too early, but I'll try my best to finish everything I start from this moment on.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Podcastin' It Up!

Not pictured: Matt Chandronait

Okay, it's a lame title for a post, but hopefully the content herein is not so lame. I got lucky (hooray) and was invited back on Rebel FM for Game Club, a podcast dedicated to playing an already released game as a community and discussing its' highs and lows with the each other and the fine folks who visit I still remeber the last time I was on; I got to see off my good friend Sterling McGarvey.

It was such a priviledge to be a part of the discussion with such a great group of guys, epecially considering the game they picked for this Game Club - "Heavenly Sword" for the PS3 .

Nariko, the ill-fated wielder of the Hevenly Sword

See, the thing is Heavenly Sword was a game I had zero interest in. As in at all. It was the subject of many arguments between a good friend and I back in then. I wasn't convinced it would deliver the cinematic goods that both Sony and Ninja Theory said it would. I could have been wrong, but at $60 in a crammed holiday release period? I couldn't justify it.

I felt the need to choose between it and "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune", a game I was much more interested in. I chose to believe in Naughty Dog's game instead.

I should make clear that I love action games. "God of War" and "The Mark of Kri" were two of my favorite games from the last console generation, and the final decision regarding a purchase between the two basically boiled down to gut reaction.

In the end, my gut chose Uncharted and I have no regrets.

Feel free to check out this week's episode and see what we thought of Heavenly Sword. And if you have feedback, leave a comment at their club site located here.

Image Courtesy of:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Two Days Off, A DSi, and a Whole Lot of Clean Up

It's been a very relaxing few days since the end of the Beacon summer session, and I've made it a priority to take advantage of the downtime, finally enjoying my vacation. Then again, vacation is a pretty relative term here coonsidering the amount of leisurly stuff I did while I was "working". The Beacon Summer Program went to the movies, visited the Academy of Science, walked the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and went on a pretty kick ass camping trip.

In fact, I really can't follow up that kind of experience with much of anything so far. The last few days have been alright but today was especially boring (filled with dastardly chores; the kind that haven't been done in weeks).

Not the Best Buy we went to, but a Best Buy nonethelessStill, I'll admit that the downtime was needed. No one likes to work year round, least of all me. Thursday we had an impromptu reunion of volunteer Beacon Staff at the Best Buy over on Harrison. A bunch of the cool kids (ATF!) invited me to go with them as they eagerly scouted the electronics giant for a worthwhile item to spend their prized $100 gift cards.

And I walked into Best Buy with my a mission of my own - to not buy a Nintendo DSi. And I failed miserably.

So, why wouldn't I want a Nintendo DSi, you ask? This is especially puzzling if you actually know me in real life, and know what a champion for the games industry I tend to be. The truth is, I wasn't interested in any of the little things: the smoother matte finish on the device, the smarter menu design, the bigger screens, and the (low quality) cameras were all wasted on me.

Nintendo DSi

Instead, the purchase of my DSi came down to the potential of Nintendo's downloadable games. Say what you like about the format, but downloadable games are the future of the industry. Yes, they're smaller budget, and these games are no where as visually polished as currnet gen console stuff, but the focus in developing downloadable games tends to shift to just being fun and entertaining.

I did take pictures with the camera though, and there is something oddly fun to be said about manipulating photos on the device. I'd proabably have to pay to do this on my iPhone 3G, or try a series of different apps before settling on the right one.

What will I do with my DS lite?

So the greater question is, what will I do with my DS Lite? It still has a GBA slot for the old school great games of Gameboy's past. Someone I know even mentioned getting an R4 for it, but I haven't decided if I really want to take that route yet.

Besides becoming the proud owner of a DSi, nothing else really happened on my vacation so far besides a lot of cleaning. Oh, and I started re-playing a Japanese RPG called "The World Ends With You" on my new DSi; that and a downloadable Brain Age Math game have been keeping me pretty busy.

I can only hope the rest of my vacation turns out to be more interesting.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Splosion Saturday

Splosion Man, Splosion Man, Splodes Like No Other Splosion Can

In case you haven't read it on other tumblr blogs's, the OMIE Beacon Summer Program (a.k.a. the people that I worked for) took it's staff and students on a camping trip over in Livermore, CA. Those adventures can be read right here, here, here, and here. I had a great time despite my clashes with the ATF, but you can read about what happened somewhere else (and you really should).

The only unfortunate thing from the trip was the apparent pandemic I brought back with me ( I suspect it came from the shitty pool lake). So, I've spent the past three days pretty much as sick as, well .... just really frigging sick. And since in my book sick comes under the heading bed rest, and luckily the bed is right next to some game systems, I spent the majority of Saturday catching up with video games.

The first game I tried I'd heard about a few weeks ago, called "Splosion Man."

Splodin' Like No Other Brother

In Spolsion Man, you play the role of the title character trying to escape the platforms and pitfalls of a twisted laboratory. As the name suggests, you only have one major ability - to explode. Sploding is the only way to jump, and the Splosion Man can jump up to three times before he needs to hit the ground again and recharge.

I think the thing that surprised me the most about "Splosion Man" was the consistent level of humor found in this game. Spolsion Man, himself, is a very animated character. He runs through the hallways of the lab swinging his arms like a plane and making noises, quoting the occasional Arnold film as he goes. Every once in a while you'll hear something like, "get to the chopper," "No way, Jose," or some other famous movie one-liner. And in the end, making Splosion Man such a fanboy is a brilliant way to add character depth to a platformer - even in the light hearted tone of this game.

As cool as the "Splosion Man" concept is, it's not a game for everyone. This is a really difficult game. It's so mind numbingly tough at times that you'll frequently question if some of the move combinations needed to escape a particular section are even possible. More challenging is the fact that most of the game revoles around a trial-and-error style of game, making deadly mistakes feel more like user error than anything else. As negative as this all might sound, I never really got stuck in the same space for very long. Most of the time, it just came down to being observant and hitting the jumps as best as possible.

Well, I've gone on long enough and now it's Sunday morning and I'm still sick (hooray). So, besides getting some much needed breakfast, I'll probably be home again playing more games again. Sigh.