I wanted to share some links to writing by me that’s been published recently, just in case you missed them.
First up, my review of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is up on KmartGamer as part of the League of One content creation project there. It’s my first review for the project, and I hope that you’ll give it a look. I went from having a strong dislike for the game’s new DFM mechanic to accepting that Assault Horizon is an Ace Combat game in name only. It was important to judge Assault Horizon on its own merits instead of how it holds up against previous titles in the series. I did wind up liking it, although I personally won’t be replaying it. On a personal note, I’m much happier with the numbered games in the series and don’t really prefer mixing Call of Duty and Ace Combat. It’s still better than the H.A.W.X. games, but it’s not the Ace Combat game that fans were hoping for.
Next, my analysis of September’s NPD sales data is also live on KmartGamer. Rather than list all of the public numbers, I took a slightly different approach and talked about each of the three hardware companies. I followed that up with a short overview of software sales trends. Having access to data that’s not public, I’m able to see some trends that aren’t obvious to others… including what was an impressive month for Sony and the PlayStation 3. In hoping that you’ll head over and take a look at the piece, I don’t want to spoil anything here; however, it’s important to note that the PlayStation 3 was the only platform with positive YOY growth in September. There was also a significant jump from August to September in unit sales for the PS3. What’s fueling this rise? Is it the recent price drop? Is it consumers coming on board late? Did Resistance 3 have anything to do with it? It’s a curious situation, and it also somewhat dulls the continued domination of the Xbox 360 as the best-selling console on a monthly basis. I don’t think that Sony’s going to fade in Q4, and even if the PS3 can’t catch the 360 in any month, I think that it will be quite competitive. I hope you’ll read and react to the article over at KmartGamer.
Finally, I’ve been reviewing the latest Pinball FX2 table additions for Games Are Evil. My reviews of the Sorcerer’s Lair and Ms. ‘Splosion Man tables were a blast to put together as Pinball FX2 is one of my favorite games. Although both tables are a bit on the easy side, this difficulty is ideal for newer players. Racking up over a billion points may sound ludicrous, but when you have a run like that, it’s an “in the zone” feeling that’s hard to top. I’m hoping to do some more work for this site in the months ahead, particularly after my move is completed. Many thanks to Blake and Keri for keeping me in mind for these reviews and for their flexibility. Be sure to check out the Games Are Evil site for lots of other great content.
I hope that you’ll check out a few of these links. I write with the hope that people will read my work; that’s the real payoff for me.
I also wanted to let everyone know that the date for my move is rapidly approaching. I’m set to leave Arizona on November 8th, which is coincidentally the release date for Modern Warfare 3. I’m driving cross-country back to West Springfield, MA, so I’m going to be limited to my cell phone for internet usage. I’m still likely going to be active across my social networks (Twitter, Facebook, and Google+), so I invite you to follow me on any (or all) of those channels. I’m hoping to arrive back at home by November 15th. Once I arrive, it’s going to take a couple of more days to get situated and set my consoles back up. Since my HDTV is not making the trip, I’ll be gaming on a smaller 720p set for a couple of weeks until I can replace it. My PC is also not making the trip, sadly. I’ll be working from my little-used laptop for at least a few weeks and hoping that Santa Claus smiles favorably upon me with a new workstation or technology for the holidays. Even without the workstation, my laptop will get the job done and I’ll be back to writing more regularly once I’m settled.
As for my immediate future, I’m accepting the fact that I’m probably not going to be working too much. There’s a possibility that I may be able to transfer to a store close to where I’ll be living, but my hours worked will still be light. I’m hoping that some behind-the-scenes planning with the League of One project comes to fruition and that I’ll be able to cover at least a few games for review. I’ll still be contributing my Armchair Analysis columns at least once a month, too. I’m considering looking into freelance review work, but it’s a very competitive field at the moment and I’m not sure that I can break in. I have my fingers crossed.
So… that’s it for this entry. A little bit of self-promotion never hurts, right? I hope not.
I spent a little bit of time after updating my PS3 firmware last night playing the PSN version of Puzzle Quest. I’ve played the Nintendo DS and PSP versions of the same game and really enjoyed the portable versions. Yes, the DS version was easier, but combining puzzle and RPG elements is really a genius move. When I found out that it was coming to PSN, it was a no-brainer for me to want it… after all, we’re talking cleaner (and bigger) visuals, among other possible improvements.
Now that I’ve spent some time with the game, I’m not quite as thrilled as I’d hoped I would be. Sure, the game looks great… and the new content (by way of the included expansion) is solid… but there are bugs and minor issues here that makes me shake my head. For starters, the music incessantly loops. Since the game doesn’t support custom soundtracks, you get the stock music and that’s it. The stock music isn’t bad, but the tracks don’t rotate on their own; you have to prompt a chance by going into the Options menu and toggling the music off and then on again. How was this bug not picked up? I also have a small issue with the controls, as they’re not quite as responsive as they should be. Button presses don’t seem to be registered all the time, so you wind up having to press the X button a few times to get the desired response. Thankfully, Puzzle Quest isn’t a time-based game, so you can take all the time you need to select your grid and make your move.
The last issue is more of a gripe, and that’s one that’s been echoed by at least one review so far: Why aren’t Trophies supported? Come on now… we’ve had Trophies supported by PS3 firmware for months. There simply isn’t an excuse for any developer not to include Trophy support in a game that’s coming out now (and beyond) for the PS3. I don’t want to hear that development tools weren’t available… or any other excuses. At this point in the PS3′s lifecycle, if a publisher needs to delay a title in order to implement Trophy support, then make it so.
Having said all of this, Puzzle Quest is still as good– if not better– on the PS3 as it’s ever been. It’s funny to me how I can have as much fun with this game the third time around.
A few other observations:
- Linger in Shadows was a pretty cool ride for only $3. I still haven’t unlocked all of the Trophies, but I have played through it more than once. It’s very stylish; the music is arguably as awesome as the visuals are. There are worse things that you could spend $3 on, and, at the very least, it’s good for several Trophies after your very first playthrough.
- Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars may be fun online (if I could find more opponents), but the offline modes grow old quickly. I’m really not overly impressed with the game, despite some pretty cool replays after goals are scored… soccer with cars just doesn’t work all that well.
- I don’t know why I can’t get into Rogue Galaxy. I tried playing it for a couple of hours last night, and I’m just not a fan of the combat system. It feels like some strange variation of Tri-Ace‘s combat system from Star Ocean: ‘Til The End Of Time. Also, Will Friedle (of Boy Meets World fame) as the protagonist? Really? This one’s trade bait later today, I think.
- NFL Blitz update: I’m 8-0 now. The 7th win was the toughest as it took 3 OT periods for me to come out on top. Late hits are awesome, and I don’t know how I remembered the code for Big Heads. I’m still averaging over 30 points per game, while allowing a shade under 26 points per game. The inevitable spike in opponent difficulty likely isn’t too far behind.
- Why not check out my latest columns over at Games Are Evil? Hey… you’re already checking out my blog, right? It’s the same kind of thing.
Now, with my editor on vacation after today, I’m done writing for a week. Maybe now I can get some more time in on Burnout Paradise…
On a completely unrelated note, what’s the over/under for today’s Dow Jones selloff on Wall Street? -500 points? *shudder*
Good night… errr… good morning, all. Zzzzzz…
I was able to wrap up my BUZZ! Quiz TV review late last night and we were allowed to publish it despite a standing embargo on reviews for the game. It was a pleasure to play and to review; my excitement regarding the game may seem a bit overblown, but I really do believe that there’s a bright future for the game; with regular expansion packs and with continued MyBUZZ! support from users, this game could have legs that carry the game’s relevance into the new year. It’s too bad that the single-player game isn’t a bit deeper, though.
I still have several reviews on my plate, including NHL 09 (awesome), NHL 2K9 (not so much), and Mystery Case Files: Millionheir (decent). I’ve been fighting a bit of a cold, so my motivation hasn’t been where I want it to be, but this list will keep me busy. Combine that with what appears to be a banner week for PSN (Mega Man 9, WipEout HD, Burnout Paradise), and that means that my workload will be pretty heavy clear into next week.
Getting back to hockey for just a minute, one can only wonder what hockey games would be like if there was a marriage between EA Sports and 2K Sports. While NHL 09 is the clear winner this year (Be A Pro is utterly fantastic), there are some presentation aspects from NHL 2K9 that NHL 09 lacks… like a somewhat decent analysis between periods and better stock replay angles. 2K9‘s 3 Stars montage is sweet, too. I don’t understand why it is that, despite a partnership and cross-branding with ESPN, EA Sports can’t nail down a rock-solid presentation in any of its games. I’ll grant you that you don’t need a stellar presentation to have a great hockey game, but having that solid presentation value certain adds to the game’s aesthetics. I can’t help but to wonder if EA partnered with ESPN solely to keep their branding away from 2K Sports.
Here at the homestead, I have changed things around a little bit. I used to have my PS2 and PSone here in the office (hooked up to my GXTV), and my PS3 in the living room with the HDTV. I’ve since moved the PS2 out to the living room to join the PS3 in widescreen, 48″ glory. Granted, I could have played PS2 games on my PS3 (I have the 80GB model with software-driven backwards compatibility), but, much like playing PSX games in a PS2, something gets lost in the translation– usually on the graphics side. It’s also interesting to have just the PSone here beside me; if I want to play a game in here, I’m now choosing more discriminately. Do I want to start an RPG, like Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Cross? Do I want to relive the heyday of the Tony Hawk series on the platform where it all began? Maybe I can refine my skills in PaRappa or UmJammer Lammy. Honestly, I’ve not really fired up the PSone lately, so I’m hoping that this change will generate a bit more playing time for the venerable system.
I need to get my game collection online so that you all can see what I have, and we can compare notes. Do you still own any PSone games? Which ones? I’ll add this to my To-Do list, and when it’s done, I’ll post something here. Deal? Cool.
That’s it for this entry. As always, your comments are welcome… and please check out my work and much more at Games Are Evil. There’s been a flurry of content posted lately, and I’m sure that you’ll find something worth taking a few minutes to read (and comment on). I’ll post again soon… but for now…
It’s been a busy few days. My new role with Games Are Evil has been quite the active one, having completed three reviews (Tiger Woods 09 PS3, Jeopardy! PSN, and PAIN PSN) and seven articles total within the last seven days.I also just wrapped up my review for The Price is Right for the Nintendo DS, and that’ll be up later this morning.
It feels good to be on the writing side of the fence again. It’s not that I disliked proofing reviews and features or managing other writers, but this is the front line of things for me. It’s spending time with the games themselves and then critically discussing them in written format, with pros and cons and then making the final call on the game’s worthiness. Games Are Evil does not have a scoring system, which is unique… but it does kind of force viewers to actually read reviews in their entirety instead of just scanning for a number or letter grade and then moving on.
Of course, getting back to reviewing means getting my hands on games to review, which is rather difficult for me at the moment due to my financial situation. I’m barely getting by now as it is, so I’m hoping that my editors can work their PR magic and secure me some titles to cover.
Getting to gaming stuff…
NHL 09 rocks. I can’t stop playing in Be A Pro mode. I created myself playing as a center, and I’ve moved up to the first forward line for the Springfield Falcons, who, by the way, are the local AHL team here. Granted, if I get called up to the NHL, I’ll wind up playing for the Edmonton Oilers, but at least I’d be in the big leagues. I’m a scoring machine, with 22 goals and 14 assists in 15 games so far. Be A Pro is so immersive; and you can decide what you want to do. Do you want all of the glory and score 2-3 goals per game, or do you want to be more well-rounded and dish some passes to teammates for other scoring chances? Sure, there’s a Franchise mode here, and the online play is very good… but until I can wrest myself away from Be A Pro, I won’t know much about the other stuff. The visuals are markedly better than last year’s game, but the commentary is a bit repetitive and Gary Thorne has a penchant for calling the wrong names at times. Seeing this game in a silky-smooth 60 frames per second is very sweet indeed.
In a disappointing turn of events, I have Yakuza 2 sitting here at home and it’s not yet seen the inside of my PlayStation 2. I’ve heard and read nothing but good things about it. Sam Bishop over at IGN said that the game is awesome. I hope to get to actually try it in the next few days. I had thought about trying to play through the first game, but there seems to be a recap of the first one within the sequel, so… I guess I just need to hunker down and spend some time with it.
On the portable side, I’ve been splitting time between Mystery Case Files: Millionheir and Tetris DS. Final Fantasy IV is still unfinished, but with good reason: the game is kicking my butt as I’m near the end. I will go back to it, I’m sure, but I needed some time away from it. Millionheir is deceptively fun; sure, it’s just like playing Where’s Waldo?, but there are some interesting diversions from the core formula and the challenge of a ticking timer and limited hints will test your visual acuity. I just recently finished the Rookie level, so I’m tackling the next difficulty setting up. I am hoping to have this review done by week’s end.
That’s it from here. I hope that you’ll check out my latest work and consider adding the RSS feed to track our updates. Sure, it’s a cheap plug, but… it’s worth a try.
Have a great Tuesday!