A week or so off

Well, I had been doing pretty good getting Wed news posts out, getting at least a review a weekend out, that sort of thing. I will probably be taking a week or two off from posts though. I have a stack of new games I've been playing, and been pretty busy the last couple of weekends with other things. This weekend I have nothing going on though, so I plan to sit back and log some serious game time in and relax. Currently being played: King's Bounty - Legend on my PC, The Witcher on my PC, Monster Hunter Tri on my Wii, the latest Castlevania for my 360 and Fallout: New Vegas and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune for my ps3. I need to whittle down this list by 1 or 2 games though I think. Recently played games coming up for review soon include Metroid: Other M, Risk: Factions, the latest Pacman and Space Invader remixes and Faerie Solitaire so I have plenty to come - just need a week or two to get things around for the next flurry of posts. :) Until then, enjoy the 3 most recent ones including Marvel vs. Capcom 3 review. I've been enjoying that game a lot.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse - Retro Reflections

Okay, the trilogy of X-Men (technically, Marvel) articles on the weekend. I doled out Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the Playstation 3, then Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for Xbox Live - now I'm headed back to the Super Nintendo.

I couldn't think of any throwback Marvel vs. Capcom games I had floating around the house (though I recall similar beat 'em ups in the arcade once upon a time) - so I decided to look around for an X-Men or Marvel title, and found X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse for my Super Nintendo and figured I'd toss it in for a bit. Now, while the other two games I talked about this weekend were fighter games, this one is a beat 'em up/platformer. It lacks the depth of field you find in Final Fight, Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, but you have to time your jumps and memorize attack patterns a bit more along the way.

Early on levels are designed around whichever mutant you are going to play (Psylocke, Wolverine, Cyclops, Beast and Gambit). It's an interesting idea, since most games of this sort let you pick from a pool to get through a level - and that happens later in the game, but early on each X-Man is assigned a task in a different location, forcing you to use them all. This is a good and bad thing since you may prefer one character over the others, but it does add a bit more variety to the gameplay as well when you have someone like Wolverine who just tears through people using his claws while moving left to right, as opposed to someone like Beast who can cling to ceilings and attack enemies from above as well.

The story's a bit of a mess, which is often the case in these older comic games, but the sounds get the job done and the graphics actually look pretty good. I didn't spend a ton of time playing this one again - I honestly don't have the patience for memorizing platforming like I did years ago, but I got a grin out of my time running around beating people up along the way.


Marvel vs Capcom 2 - Xbox Live review

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a game I got a lot of mileage out of in the past. I had the Dreamcast version and I played the crap out of it. I spent countless hours tweaking favorite teams, killer combos and learning how to use literally every one of the characters - and there were a lot of them. So it took me about 3 seconds to get very excited when Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was announced for the Xbox Live and Playstation Network. There are some cool modes to be had here, and a load of characters. I'll do a quick rundown on this game review-wise. Not quite as meaty as Marvel vs. Capcom 3 since this has been out for awhile, and not quite a Retro Reflection because while the game's origins are old-school, it got a slight update with its release on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live.

Graphics - 7:

The graphics were a blast back when this game first came out, and the remake has a few options like widescreen and some cleanup that help the game look better than the original, without touching the level of detail found in releases made currently. The colors are vibrant and characters are well-represented in their attack animations. The backgrounds look good and some of the special moves are still spectacular when they dominate your screen.

Sound & Music - 6:

It's all appropriate and while I don't have my old copy of the game on the Dreamcast (the disc got scratched beyond use years ago), I don't recall the sounds or music clearly enough to remember if what I found here is faithful to the original or not. What is here is solid for the kind of game it is. Again, it's a downloadable release, so Marvel vs. Capcom looks and sounds decent, especially given its price, but does not really go head-to-head well against newer released fighters like Super Street Fighter 4 or Tekken.

Gameplay - 8:

Everything handles just like I remember it. It took me a bit of practice to get back into the swing of things when I first bought it - it has to have been about a decade since I last played the game with any degree of regularity. Still, Capcom fighters have a sort of feel and pacing to them that allowed me to get my groove back pretty quickly. Everything is fast, over-the-top and rewards skill, though I do have to mention that some characters are a bit overpowered as well. Menus are pretty simple, but easy to navigate, though connecting online and setting up good sorting options to find matches that suit your preferences do not always seem to work quite as well as I'd like.

Intangibles - 9:

Then again, it has online! Seriously, this game's fun to beat up on the cpu with, and my son and I have gone more than a few rounds too, but online is where the real fun is at and if you can manage the lobby and get into the matches, there is a ton of value here. Not to mention that there are a ton of characters - 50+. Sure, there are quite a few who play similar to one another, but even so, that is a lot of characters to beat up on and to learn your way around.

Overall - 7.5:

There is a lot of fighting game to be had here. It's not quite as deep and satisfying in my opinion as the latest Tekken or Street Fighter games, but it's a quarter of the price. The pacing is a lot faster too - and it can be more frustrating for people who can't just pick up a game like this and keep up. My son is okay against the cpu, but not great and prefers to play against me. My daughters can't keep up at all, even on the easy modes. I have no problem with it and take it easy on all three when I play. The computer's a cakewalk but man - hopping online and finding people who can bust out moves as well - if not better (and there are a LOT of players out there better than me) is much more challenging - and rewarding.


Marvel vs. Capcom 3 - Playstation 3 review

So, I did something just a bit out of character and picked up a brand new game on release day. That doesn't happen often. Usually I try to be a bit more frugal with my purchases and wait until they're used at Gamestop or something. However, there was the perfect storm of having a couple of beaten games waiting to be traded in, a good deal at Gamestop where they were handing out an extra 50% on all trade-ins and the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on Tuesday. I like my fighters. I'm not especially great at them, but they are a lot fun in my opinion.

I played part 2 a ton in the past, and have been looking forward to part 3 for quite awhile now. The premise is pretty basic stuff. There's a large pool of fighters from both the Marvel and Capcom universes, and you put together teams of three to duke it out in Street Fighter-like fashion. It's all very over-the-top and people looking for a solid storyline need not apply. However, if you enjoy a fast-paced, balanced fighting game with a good number of characters to pick from, this might be the game for you.

For those familiar with Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom 2, you will find that the controls are a bit different. Instead of buttons mapped for various strength punches and kicks, now they are simply mapped for power to the face buttons - light, medium and hard with a fourth 'pop up' button for attacks meant to pop your opponent up into the air. The shoulder buttons are used for things like calling in a special attack from a team mate, or swapping out your character for another one on the squad. As the combat progresses a power meter slowly increases and allows you to pull of big attacks that can rack up the hits and damage.

There are some online modes - ranked or unranked matches against people and there is a lobby system where up to 8 people can occupy a virtual room and you take turns playing one another in a sort of 'winner stays' style you might see at an arcade. There is a story mode, though it's really little more than characters talking at the beginning of rounds as random combinations of characters are pooled together and increase in difficulty on your way through several matches culminating in a big end fight against Galactus. Whichever member of your team that deals the killing blow is the one whose ending you get to see, which consists of a few static images and some text overlay with music.

There are also mission modes, which try to teach you how to do combos and learn a player's moves in a sort of stage-by-stage training progression. There is also the requisite training mode, where you go against a computer opponent you can help tailor to specific situations. So, with this game having been hyped up quite a bit now, what are my thoughts?

Graphics - 8:

This is not the most technically amazing game. Backgrounds look good and are heavily animated, though sometimes you don't even really get a chance to sit back and enjoy them as you're participating in the frantic fights themselves. Characters remind me a bit more of the chunky style used in Street Fighter 4 than the prior Marvel vs. Capcom game, which does a good job of making the game look like it is taken from a comic book or cartoon. Still, the game is loaded with vibrant colors, explosive-looking super attacks and the framerate doesn't tear as it moves along at a smooth clip.

Sound & Music - 8:

The music matches the feeling and tempo of the game itself, and the voice work is decent - what there is of it. It generally consists of a few one-liner comments between the lead characters right before the start of a match. The sound effects are pretty solid, with a variety of tones and special effects. It's not going to blow you away with surround sound technical proficiency, but it's not going to make your wife complain about hearing nothing but gunfire and explosions either.

Gameplay - 9:

The game feels like it has been slowed down from part 2, but I think the game actually plays better for it. It is still very fast-paced, and you don't feel like you can take any 'time off' in most matches. One of the keys is to always be moving. Seems like any time I try to stop and 'think' - either cpu or human opponent drills me. The game is best played instinctively. The controls feel pretty good - some of the super moves can be a tad difficult to perform under duress, but most are just fine. Throwing out my fireballs or doing dragon punches all come very naturally after years of playing Street Fighter games. The menu is nothing special to look at, but it gets the job done. The roster of characters also feels very well-balanced. In my online matches, I saw almost completely different characters every time. That's unusual in my experience, and gives me the impression that people can find favorites and play them while not feeling like they are hurting their odds of success.

Intangibles - 7:

The game is a lot of fun. You're going to spend most of your time fighting and that part of the game is nice and tight. There's also a fair amount of unlockable content - including 4 fighters (that were probably a bit too easy to unlock as I got them all in about my first 40 minutes of playing). There's a lot of characters here, but like 20 less than in part 2. I've seen that bother a lot of people, but honestly I'm good with it. The characters feel a lot better balanced than in the later iteration. Plus, most of the characters feel unique from one another. Sure, you might use the same move input, but that same control scheme might make one character do a rising uppercut and another character launch a flurry of missiles. That's a far cry from version 2, which had several characters who felt exactly the same, just skinned differently. There are 2 additional characters coming out for download soon for purchase (or for free if you bought the special version of the game). There are some omissions that fans will consider glaring, and a few added in who just seem goofy or out of place. My youngest wanted to know where the Fantastic Four were at, and I admit a few favorites of my own like Psylocke and Cyclops were nowhere to be found. I suspect we'll see a bit of DLC come out - already Capcom has announced some new costumes. I'm rather hoping for more modes or characters though than outfits. I also can't help but think that given Capcom's history, that there will be a super-duper-shiny-edition that comes out in about a year, though nothing's been announced that I'm aware of.

So, why this score? Well, the game does get some demerits. It seems like there should be some more modes for one. Also, while there is a fair amount of bonus content to unlock, none if it is terribly compelling. You can look at 3D models of characters, or get new titles or icons for when you play online. There's also a fighter's card that keeps track of your record, stats and playing style, which is cool - but it comes at a bit of a cost. This extra content and this card seem to force the game to do a lot of saving, which is not a super quick process. It's not a huge deal, but when you just really want to get back into a match and hit someone, waiting for the profile to save can be at least mildly annoying.

Also, the online lobby sounds good in theory, but there's a lot of sitting around. It would be nice to actually spectate the people who are fighting, but I didn't see a means of doing so if there is a way. Also the single player ranked matches are hit and miss. My lag time was good in all but one match, which is huge for a game like this built on twitch reflexes. But, a lot of times it just does not come back with a match. Tonight for example, I only got to fight 4 times out of 13 attempts to find an opponent, and I left my settings wide open to have as many options as possible. Considering the game's recent release date and popularity, it sure seems like there should be plenty of people playing right now.

Overall - 8:

I've sunk in probably around fifteen hours so far overall, and have unlocked over half the trophies. I've beaten the game now with about 1/3 of the total cast of characters. I've enjoyed the game quite a bit - and so have my younger two children. There is a simple mode to the controls I did not really talk about much because I only used it for a few fights. The idea is that it can help you perform some techniques that might otherwise be too complicated for the player. It's nice to see my daughter be able to use moves that she normally would only see once in a blue moon by complete accident. Some people worried that making special moves a single button press would give an advantage to these players, but I don't think that's the case. From what I have seen of it so far, it lets them do things they normally would not be able to consistently, but it does take away from their flexibility. I think someone on the normal controls has a better repertoire to react with for given situations during a fight, so skill still tends to win out more often than not. The key is, the younger kids are having fun with it, and so am I. There is a lot of addictive fun to be have with this game, and its broad cast of characters really helps with the game's appeal as well.


Gaming News and Notes from 2-16-11

A Game of Thrones has been a hot property, and now there's some info about the game.

Oh, some games released this week. Marvel vs. Capcom hit Tuesday to very good reviews, and the Ogre Tactics remake for the PSP has been getting solid response as well.

Dead Island - I'll admit, I haven't heard much about this game, but the trailer looks very cool.

Playstation Plus user? Congrats - you get some free Sega Genesis games.

Steam has some discounts on Square Enix games this week. It started Monday I believe - can't recall what game was up there that day, but Just Cause 2 was up yesterday. Today is Front Mission Evolved. Each day the discount has been about 75% so not a bad value.

Here's the new stuff on Playstation Network. Also, they will be doing some voting for games starting Feb 22nd that could lead to some discounts on Minis, PSP games, exclusives, etc.

I'll file this under semi-random: but Felicia Day is involved in a web-project for Dragon Age. She's cute in The Guild (I'm a fan of it), Dragon Age was awesome and these webisode things have been taking off for other games and shows (remember when Lost did them? Also, Mortal Kombat is planning some). Might be worth a peek later.

Sony is preparing to ban people who are detected with hacked PS3s. Xbox 360 started the trend - and it looks like Sony will follow suit.

Interested in Killzone 3? Ps3 system? There's a bundle coming up.

For fans of Chris Evans (I think I just saw my wife raise *her* hand) - he's going to be part of the Captain America video game cast.

Crysis 2 demo hitting the PC on March 1st.

NBA Jam - Retro Reflections

Continuing my weekend NBA theme (couldn't the Pistons have at least put up a fight Friday night?) - here's my Retro Reflection.

So I posted the NBA Jam review for the Wii already, and that got me thinking to the SNES version. Now, I'll be honest - I've owned a few copies of NBA Jam over the last 15 years or so, but had completely forgotten we owned it for the Super Nintendo. Most of my older gaming systems have made their way upstairs to the "kids' living room", and I have probably forgotten at least half the games we own. I was always a bit of a gaming packrat - I kept boxes, booklets and I even stored them in alphabetical order. There was no easily accessible used game trading store when I was a kid, like Gamestop now, which keeps my current gen games going through a bit more of a revolving door.

Anyway - after having spent so much time lately with the Wii version of the game, I was a bit surprised by a few things when I fired up the Tournament Edition on the SNES. For starters, I recall playing the Wii game thinking: These graphics are pretty old-school. Gameplay is pretty much what I remembered it to be. The announcer is as awesome as ever. That sort of thing.

Maybe I should have done the reviews in opposite order? The Wii version is much improved on so many fronts - as one would honestly expect with a decade's difference between the releases. Still, the graphics were okay on the SNES version, but you could not really say: Oh yeah, that's Joe Dumars I'm using. Looks just like him. And while it's the same announcer, he has a whole lot more to say with the current iteration as well. It was interesting last weekend when I played the Ninja Gaiden games, and found them to be pretty much how I remembered them, and then to put in NBA Jam here on my SNES and realize - I remembered this game a lot more fondly than it may have deserved. It was still fun to poke around with, and some of the roster combinations cracked me up (like Pippen and... BJ Armstrong for the Bulls). There's some fun to be had here: both of these games are fast paced and have that same over-the-top style of action, but honestly if I have a craving for NBA Jam, I'm going to pick up and play the new Wii version first.

Screencast version of the video:

Youtube version.


NBA Jam - Wii Review

Going to theme again this weekend. Got free tickets to a Pistons/Heat game last night. Seats were high, Pistons got drilled - but it was still a load of fun, so NBA is my theme this weekend. :)

EA Sports did not get around to releasing its "EA Elite" basketball series (based off of its longstanding "Live" series) this year. For the last several years, 2K sports has been releasing an NBA series that has been receiving better reviews and sales. Thankfully, EA had another NBA game in the works, and while it does not try to contend with 2K as a realistic sports simulation, NBA Jam is a game that brings back a lot of memories while being a whole lot of fun.

NBA Jam has been around for aged - I remember it from late high school/early college. It was a quarter muncher in the arcades, and it was a blast when it was brought to home systems. We still have a version of it bouncing around on one of our Nintendo systems - I want to say our Super Nintendo. I may have to look that one up for my Retro Reflections this weekend.

I imagine most people have at least seen or played a round of NBA Jam in one form or another over the years, but for the uninitiated it is an over the top 2 vs 2 arcade hoops game. Defense consists of soaring ridiculously high in the air to block shots, or to try and steal the ball - or to simply shove the ball handler in an effort to knock them down and take the ball, or maybe knock them out of the air on a shot or dunk attempt (which sort of reminds me of Arch Rivals now that I think about it).

Offense consists of dribbling, passing and shooting. Oh, and dunking. Lots of ridiculous, high-flying dunking. You can amp these options up, doing some fancy dribbling to try and ankle-break your defender. You can throw elbows to clear space around you (Bill Laimbeer and Charles Barkley would be proud of these swinging limbs) and are capable of flipping behind the back passes to your teammate. This is all well and good, but you play this game for the insane dunks and hope to hit 3 shots with one of your players while the defender does not score. Do this, and the insanity ratchets up a few more levels as you hear the announcer let everyone know that your player is "on fire!". You gain a tremendous bump to your shooting percentage, allowing you to rain down three pointers and perform roof-scraping dunks that leave the net burning when the ball passes through it. Flying alley-opps, summersault dunks and more are not only fun to watch, but something you see occur in almost every game as well.

There are some other modes as well. You can play the classic game, but we have a remix mode where it is NBA with Power-ups (like ones that make you really strong, really fast or really small for example). There's a backboard smash where the goal is to deplete the basket's 'health' and the win. Obviously picking high flying dunkers over three point shooters or nimble guards works best. There's 'boss battles' where you play against NBA legends like Magic Johnson or Larry Bird - I thought these were cool, but a bit frustrating at times, 21 - which is three guys doing what they can to be the first one to reach 21 points. So, how does the entire package hold up?

Graphics - 8:

The visuals themselves are fairly throwback - but I loved that about the game. There are Photoshopped heads tacked onto the bodies. No fancy 3D rendering of heads here - you get faces that are looking this way or that way; they're comical and fun (especially in Big Head mode). There's plenty of things going on in the background, and while none of it is rendered in incredible detail, the graphics all animate very smoothly. I am sure from a technical standpoint it's easier to craft an engine that only has four players on a court instead of ten like an actual NBA sim, but the quality was excellent all the same. The game oozes style, and it feels like one big highlight reel.

Sound and Music - 6:

You know, I don't recall most of the music. I recall a few tunes here and there that were okay, never really heard anything that made me go: wow - that doesn't fit. But the sound effects were good and the announcer was a treat. In the old games he rattled off comments and one-liners and they still did not get old for me. The enthusiastic presentation kept me grinning and I was looking forward to certain catch phrases - knowing they would inevitably occur. Obviously it's not amazing tech on display here - it's not as detailed as the kinds of audio you find in a game like NBA 2K11 or Madden, but it gets the job done and helps set the mood. Still, a bit more variety wouldn't have hurt, especially given how many games you do play to get through a 'season', and it really does not have the depth of a game like NBA 2k where you get a lot of color commentary about a player's background.

Gameplay - 8:

You can navigate the menus easily enough. There's several modes here. Still, none of it works if you don't have a smooth controls and a fun game to play. Luckily NBA Jam delivered this. The pacing is fast, and sure - sometimes it feels a bit cheap when you get laid out near the end of the game and the cpu hits a near-half court shot to win the game *ahem*, but pulling off huge dunks never gets old and watching a basketball that's on fire swish through the net, setting it ablaze from beyond the three point line is a great feeling. There are a few different control schemes too, for people who just want to use the Wii remote on its side, or use a more active scheme that takes advantage of the motion, or a classic controller hooked up to the Wii remote (I usually used the last option myself, but all of them worked quite well in my opinion).

Intangibles - 7:

The game is a hoot. When I first put it in, I played for nearly 3 straight hours. All three of my kids stopped to watch and ask questions. My oldest, who doesn't really care for sports or play many video games sat out on the sofa chatting with me and getting excited at some of the bigger dunks for nearly an hour. My son doesn't really play sports games, but he enjoys this one too. He's not interested in a post game that mirrors real life, or if Blake Griffon's dunk ability is an 80 or 90 or how his players will progress. Games like NBA 2k11, as well as they are made, have never piqued his interest once, but he wanted to play this - on his own and with/against me. This game really plays and feels like the classic game - right down to having a bunch of unlockable content, which is a lot of fun to find as well.

That said, there are some limitations here. The game does not offer a great deal of depth to the core game. There are obviously differences in the players, but really Lebron James never felt that much different to me than using Wade. Bed Gordon and Rodney Stuckey were just fine, but not much different either. The additional modes are interesting, but don't live up to the primary game for the most part. Playing locally is fine... but there's no online, and that feels like a tremendous missed opportunity. That would have added a ton of life to this title in my opinion.

Overall - 7.25:

I've really been enjoying NBA Jam. It was a Christmas present that I've finally had a chance to sit down and spend some time with, and overall I have to say it is one that I am going to enjoy playing through another season or two with. But, I suspect it will wind up in my trade-ins pile before spring, and that's a shame because a few more decisions would have furthered its value - like adding online support. However, when it's said and done, NBA 2K11 will be getting put back into my 360 sometime this summer when I get an itch to play some basketball again, because the year by year progression and online options will be there. Then again, consider the audience I suppose. None of my 3 kids will playing NBA 2K11, but at least 2 have played NBA Jam. It facilitated some discussion between my daughter and me about the NBA, some of my favorite players - and that probably would not have happened without this game. That will no doubt keep me thinking favorably about NBA Jam for the Wii, much as I have fond memories of it from the arcade and Super Nintendo days.


Gaming News and Notes from 2-9-11

Let's see what's crept up in the last week in gaming news:

Guitar Hero or True Crime fans? Bad news then - those business teams are being disbanded. End of the line for both it would seem.

Blizzard is notorious for making sure their games are incredibly well-polished prior to release, which no doubt is a big reason for their success. So from a quality standpoint, fans of the company (raises a hand) can appreciate their somewhat slow release time. Those of us hoping to see Diablo 3 this year however may be left a bit disappointed as Blizzard promises two releases before the end of 2012 - but that they may not have any in 2011.

Like Tekken? (hand might as well stay raised from the last paragraph) Then any bits about Tekken Tag Team 2 will be welcome. I recall the first tag team for Playstation 2 - it was awesome. This should be good stuff.

Will there be a Kinect Gears of War -on-rail shooter? Maybe.

Like Infamous? (hand still up). Excited for part 2? (hand still up). Want a $100 hero edition? (hand falls quick). yeah, bit outside my price range, but if you're interested - check here.

LG is suing Sony - and trying to keep PS3's from being sold in the US. Yeesh

Playstation Network got it's update - including Stacking, which has been getting good reviews so far. Oh, you can get it on Xbox live too.

The Darkness was a pretty cool shooter, so hearing that a sequel is in the works is good news.

Tecmo Super Bowl - Retro Reflections

We'll consider this the Super Bowl special edition. I was trying to think of what game or games would be most relevant this weekend. What did I come up with? Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES. Before there was Madden, there was Tecmo Bowl, which I played a fair amount of when it came out. But it wasn't until I could play out an entire season, complete with rosters, stat accumulation and the Pro Bowl teams that I first fell in love with the NFL. I was discovering Barry Sanders on my Detroit Lions around the time this game came out, and they really were what developed my interest in sports games.

So how did the game hold up when I put it back under the microscope this weekend? Surprisingly well! There's only 8 plays on offense and defense. It's a guessing game, you call defensive plays and if you guess the same one the offense guesses, you decimate them. Call something similar to what they call, and you have better odds of defending it. Offense is 4 running and 4 passing plays. They vary up a bit by team. I usually used the Lions, the Bills or the 49ers back then.

Calling a run play with Barry Sanders had me grinning ear to ear the first time I 'juked' (that's putting it nicely. I ran at diagonal angles is all) a defender, and when I got a sack with Ball after he tossed the blocker aside like a rag doll, I laughed aloud. It's really a gimmicky offense most of the times: drop back basically forever. Toss the ball really deep. 100 yard passes are not as impossible as they should be. It was still a blast taking control of Chris Spielman at linebacker and drilling the running back with a dive tackle.

In the video I made, I played the Pro Bowl rosters and had one play that epitomized the game for me years ago as I dropped back, immediately identified the bottom wide receiver with no one covering him, threw the ball very badly, but he leapt up, grabbed it, sprinted to the goal line and shed the defender for a touchdown. The cut scenes were fun to see as well - and I got that last sequence in the video I provided.

I don't know if this was the first game to use all NFL teams, have full NFL rosters, or to have full season stat tracking - but it was the first one I ever played and it set me down a path of more than 20 years (and counting) of NFL licensed football games and a lot of good memories playing them. Appropriate for Super Bowl Sunday, wouldn't you say?

Now for the videos... I've got Youtube first, Screencast 2nd

The Screencast one looks better, but it auto-sizes better, doesn't re-encode either. Youtube however doesn't attack my bandwidth the same way an offers the option of other people finding it. I'll probably do some tweaking and do one more comparison next week, but I am leaning toward Youtube at the moment - I just need to get better with the dimensions.

Madden 2011 - iPad review

Bonus post this weekend. I reviewed an older football game, because I had already reviewed Madden 11 earlier in the season and wanted something football themed. Then, I sat down with my wife's iPad and remembered that a month or two ago there was a sale on EA app games and I had picked up Madden 11 for 99 cents. Guess I have my modern, if lightweight review after all.

So, what is Madden 11? Basically the only NFL licensed game out there. I did a fairly lengthy review for it on the Xbox 360, but I was not sure how much this game and that one would have in common. Turns out - a fair amount in some places, and almost nothing in others. Probably my biggest gripe: no franchise mode. You have seasons and quick games, and they added local player versus player (which I haven't been able to take advantage of myself) since the release. They also added a mode called 'Vintage Voltage' - which really gave me a grin.

You ever play one of those tabletop football games, with the thin metal field that vibrates, and these little characters on green squares with 'feet' that move about as the table vibrates? I did - I got my uncle's when I was like 6. This looks like that, and it is pretty cool in my opinion. Sure, it's kind of a gimmick, but it's a very cool gimmick.

Another thing going for the game is that is has roster updates. I just ran one tonight in fact. You have your authentic players, their stats, season statistics, so it's got some meat on it - I just really miss franchise with progression. That's my favorite part of almost any sports series and here it feels like a huge omission. Let's break the game down a bit now, shall we?

Graphics - 7:

At first glance, I thought: these are really pretty good. The colors are nice, the players animate pretty well. Then you spend a bit of time in the game and you realize that players are a bit chunky looking and don't really look all that different from one another, and it sort of reminded me of a Sega Genesis version of Madden. It's better than that, but not great. I'm not sure if there's any weather or not - I played through about half a season and did not encounter any rain or snow, but then my primary team is a dome team. My guess is, there will be, but I can't really comment to it one way or the other. They do have some nice images of players.

Sound and Music - 6:

Probably the most startling thing for me was hearing Madden's voice going "Boom!" a few times. I'm not sure when the last time I heard John Madden's voice as part of the commentary, but it's been a few releases (or so). It was both kind of cool, and then like the graphics sort of reminiscent of the older versions like the Sega Genesis. However, repetition is the name of the game here. I got the exact same commentary chunk 3 straight plays on offense. The music was ok when it crept into things like the menus and pause screens and the on-field action was accented by the appropriate grunts and thuds that play out pretty loud and clear from the iPad speakers.

Gameplay - 7:

This is sort of a mixed bag for me. For one, the playbook was not as responsive as I would have liked. I found myself needing to poke 'short passing' or 'running' repeatedly to get a page flip in the playbook, so as a result I stuck with Gameflow because it sped up the whole process for me. I kind of liked Gameflow in the Xbox 360 version, but for the iPad I almost felt like it was needed just to keep the game moving along. The analog stick works fine, but it's easy to wind up pushing in the wrong direction because you're paying attention to the other action on the screen. Since there's no tactile feedback like you would get from an actual joystick, I found it just a bit too easy to be pressing in the wrong direction and not even know it - but honestly that's something that happens to a lot of iPad games.

The ability to create and save offensive hotroutes and setting up defensive audibles worked well and I liked it. There's a handy option you have to 'slow down' time by pressing a stopwatch icon. The thing is, it felt like more of a necessity than an option, even more so than Gameflow. Otherwise it was way too hard to keep up with the action in real time. Trying to perform a spin move with a defender in real time without changing direction can be tough - but as soon as I started to use the time slowdown, I managed 2 sacks in the second half (using Suh, who is amazing. Just saying...). I found it really hard to run, but really easy to pass (Calvin Johnson was my game MPV every game but one - Stafford was the exception.)

There were a lot of little things the game did well though, like having detailed help and guides in the pause menu, and they keep you from doing stuff like going off-sides pre-snap. I like to use the defensive tackle (Suuuuuuh!) and I found myself moving a lot of times with accidental 'touches' of the stick. If there wasn't that invisible barrier to keep me from going offsides, I would have no doubt accrued a good deal of penalty yardage.

Intangibles - 6:

The ability to do multiplayer is nice I suppose, but I'll probably never get to take full advantage of it. The vintage voltage feature was pretty cool. The updated rosters are very nice. There's a full season to be had here, which is pretty solid for a portable game. However, no superstar modes, no franchise modes and lack of true online play really hurt the package a bit, since they're my favorite modes. The game does a nice job of automatically saving your game should you need to close it out - a huge perk with a portable game like this.

Overall - 6.5:

I wanted to really like this game more. It's a solid game of portable football, and they did some very good things with it from an interface standpoint. It's good for a quick fix, but I don't use my wife's iPad enough to play out a full season real often. If I'm using it, it's for 5 minutes and I'm flinging some angry birds at brick walls more often than not. I got the game for 99 cents though, so I can't say I regret my Madden purchase. I've already gotten my 99 cents worth out of it, but for those considering it at full price, just be aware going in that it's a decent game of football, but a slightly stripped down version.


All-Pro Football 2K8 - Playstation 3 review

This is a big weekend in football, wouldn't you say? I already had my Madden review a few months back though, so I had to dig around for something else. I'm stretching here, but what the heck: All-Pro Football 2K8 was staring me down this week. I have played it before - even commented on it about nine months ago as part of my cheap sports game article. I touched on each game briefly, talked about their scores and moved on to the next. Now? I'm going to talk about this one real quick.

What is it? It's 2K Sports' answer to the Madden NFL license. No longer able to use the players actively participating in the NFL, 2K Sports set out to do something a bit different - the ultimate pickup game if you will. It was an inspired idea really: get some of the greats players of all time - like their cover stars: Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice and John Elway. Three of my all-time favorite players - including my absolute favorite in Barry Sanders. The game's emphasis is on offense, at least that's how I felt in playing it - so it's interesting that none of the three cover athletes were defenders. I was hanging up some pretty substantial point totals while playing. Some of the names are kind of odd - The Boz and Andre Ware? Really? Guess they had to designate someone for the bronze roles.

So, next up - what are the teams? Well, they don't have an NFL license so these are fictional teams and you 'draft' players. Barry was my first pick - shocking no? They group the players by Gold, Silver and Bronze ranking. I had a handful of Lions on my team - like Herman Moore (another old but favorite player of mine as I glance up at the autographed football card of his I have on my sports memorabilia shelf). So you get to fill so many positions with gold, silver and bronze players and it autofills the rest of your team for you.

The customization options are decent - you can pick cities, design uniforms, name your team, and so on. I think setting up a team is probably my favorite part of the game. It's a lot of fun putting together a team of legends. I loaded up on the defensive side of the ball one time, created a team of mostly Detroit Lions another and even set up a third team just to help me establish Barry Sanders as the greatest of all time, spending my top picks on linemen, a quality tight end and fullback. My offense was a tad bit predictable. Still, the actual play modes feel a bit lacking. Part of it is probably due to the fact that the game feels a great deal like it's spiritual predecessor - NFL 2K5. The season modes are okay, but lack the punch of Madden's more established franchise modes. That said, I think this game aged better than the older Madden entries - perhaps because it has not seen the updated versions that help improve upon the formula each year?

Graphics - 6:

I feel like I'm being a bit hard here. For when it was released, it was pretty solid. Compared to the pretty visuals of Madden last year or this year? It suffers. The engine is very similar to what NFL 2K5 ran, which is both good and bad. NFL 2K5 was a great game, but by now it's an old game too. Animations aren't too bad though - juking and tackling is fun. The crowd is nothing special, though - and the stadiums just felt sort of lifeless to me compared to their real counterparts found in Madden games. It's tough not to compare the two, even if they're not trying to be the same thing.

Sound and Music - 6:

The music was nothing special, but the sound wasn't too bad at all. One of the areas I sort of nitpick at sporting games is the commentary. Here's the thing, the commentary found in this game isn't that much worse than what you would find in this year's Madden. With all of the advancements made with video games in general and sports games in particular, this seems like perhaps one of the most outdated aspects in sports games. The sound effects from the game itself are pretty solid as well. Some of the hits look and sound appropriately violent.

Gameplay - 7:

This is a pretty solid element of the game Running is good - though I like it better in this year's Madden. Offense is easier than defense in my opinion. Gang tackling was a bit ahead of its time back three years ago. The menus are easy enough to navigate and the game of football itself is solid. Unfortunately the modes are a bit lackluster. It was more fun to play a game against another person than the computer. Something deeper and more involving than the season mode would have been nice as well.

Intangibles - 5:

There's not a lot of depth here. Even 2K5 had a franchise mode with progression. There's just not a lot to invest in here. The season mode feels a bit throwaway after going through it once. It seems unlikely you can even find someone to play this game with either. There are a lot of different players - 200+ I believe. That helps because setting up teams is fun, like I mentioned earlier. But the game feels more like a glorified version of fantasy football than the real deal, and that hurts the package quite a bit. The idea of a dream team is great - who doesn't want to see Elway throw to Rice? But once you've played for a bit, there's not much reason to pick it up again. Now, for the primary reason to pick it up in the first place - this game was $4 used at my Gamestop.

Overall - 6:

Obviously this game does not compare to people who want a Madden game with fully fleshed out franchise modes, with real rosters and NFL teams, but you can spend more on five candy bars, which actually makes it worthwhile to take a flyer on this game if you have any interest in it at all. I got it last summer, played it pretty heavily for a weekend and did not pick it up again until this week. I gave it a few more days, and doubt I will pick it up again for awhile. It's a decidedly average, dated game - but at $4 I got a couple of weekends' worth of play out of it, and really that's not such a bad deal I suppose.


Gaming News and Notes from 2-2-11

For fans of the Resistance series on PS3 - there's a preview video about the next installment.

My family loves Legos. My son has a ton of them. I liked them growing up. Oh, and there's about a dozen Lego-themed movie adaptation games out here. Including this first look at Lego Pirates of the Caribbean.

Here's a look at Pokemon Black/White - my kids are fascinated by all things Pokemon. We'll wind up owning this I'm sure.

The Last Story for the Wii was a huge hit in Japan. This is one I'm looking forward to in the US.

The Parasite Eve sequel, The 3rd Birthday, is slated to arrive in the US on March 29.

For Kinect fans, there's an interesting new game called Gunstringer that has a trailer out - since there's just not a lot of Kinect games out there yet, despite the unit selling like crazy, any new game news is of interest to their owners at this point.

And for fans of the new DC Universe online game, IGN already has a trailer for the next expansion.

For those looking for yet another reason to consider the 3DS - unsurprisingly there will be a new Mario Bros game.

Interest in Playstation downloadables? Well their half-off deal is done, but there's plenty of new content right now, including Bionic Command Reamed 2 according to the linked article. I loved the first one, but am curious how this will be received. I recall an IGN first impressions a few months ago that was not favorable.

For fans of Demons Souls (raises his hand) there's some info on its spiritual successor - which in theory is supposed to be harder? Good grief...

The upcoming Marvel vs. Camcom game is getting a limited edition fighting stick. A buddy of mine has a Street Fighter one from awhile back. I really really liked it, but they're a bit out of my price range personally.

Last up, I found this sort of funny - but on my own blog an adsense ad popped up for a Magic: The Gathering tactics game (how is I all this card game stuff keeps cropping up in the last 3 weeks for me?). Anyway, I had to give it a shot. The link is here:


My initial impression is pretty favorable. Like D&D Online or LotR Oline - it's free, but to get extra content you have to pay. It's a turn-based tactics game with Magic: The Gathering cards and theming. I may do up a full review on it soon, but so far sunk about four hours into it last night. It looks like it will be released on the PS3 at some point as well and is being brought to us by SOE - the same general group as DC Universe Online I believe. I think to date the Google Adsense stuff has made me a whopping 2 cents so far (retirement here I come) but I thought I would share this unexpected find (there's no reviews of any sort on this game yet that I can find on IGN, Gamespot or Gameinformer - I don't know just how 'new' it is yet).

Random posts

Our Streamers

Susan "Jagtress" N.

S.M. Carrière

Louis aka Esefine



JenEricDesigns – Coffee that ships to the US and Canada

JenEricDesigns – Coffee that ships to the US and Canada
Light, Medium and Dark Roast Coffee available.

Blog Archive