Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Octopii Don't Have Opposable Thumbs

Hullo again, Octopus here with another bowlful of cranial excretion!

Now, I mentioned that I'm a Sony fanboiii in my previous post, but I should probably go back a little. I played my first game evar (The Lion King sidescrolling platformer, on a floppy disk) on my Acorn PC running Windows 3.1 for Workgroups (hell yes!) when I was about 6 or 7. I thought it was awesome, and my time was torn between this amazing new phenomenon and my new-found love of the bicycle. I later got some Scooby Doo DOS game, which wasn't nearly as interesting, but alas, I was not deterred. I recieved a PlayStation from my dad in the late 90s and played the collection of EA Sports games, Rugrats Studio Tour and craploads of demo disks (they used to give them out at MacDonalds) until my eyes bled, or I was sent to bed, whichever came first.

The love slowly faded as I paid more attention to girls, and to a lesser extent, school, and my PlayStation began to collect dust from its house under the television. Then, towards the end of my stint at junior school, there was a particularly stormy day. I was petrified of being by myself in the storm in my empty new house waiting for my mum and sisters to get home, so on a whim, I went round to the house of one of my friends at the time. There, I discovered the PlayStation 2, and simultaneously, Grand Theft Auto 3. From then on, I pestered my parents, and I got my very own PS2 (complete with the GTA Double Pack) the following Christmas.

Now, 6 years later, now with a slimline PS2 and slim PSP, I like to think that I can be officially classified as a gamer. But just to make sure, I'm currently working my way through a big list of all the best PS2 games I've missed. Amazingly, I've never played a Resident Evil, Guitar Hero, God of War, or, until last month, Silent Hill game. Oh, but I have played every GTA game. I now sit impatiently waiting for someone to buy me a PS3 (all my money goes on bacon sandwiches from school or miscellaneous games whenever I venture into town), and possibly even more impatiently for Patapon, the new PSP game.

Just because I'm a Sony man doesn't mean I haven't played other consoles though. I love the GameCube; seriously, I love that thing. Super Mario Sunshine and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect for GC are two of my favourite games of all time. The Wii's great (even though I don't own one), and Zack & Wiki and Twilight Princess are both awesome games. There's even an original Xbox laying around somewhere, but the only games my sister has for it are racing games, so I don't play much.

Anyways, that's my gaming life so far in a nutshell! I should think the Wanderer will be around soon with his own gaming history, so until the next time, au revoir!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

A Little Bit Of Rotting Text

Afternoon potential readers. I'm the other one in this caustic pair, also known as Aquatic Wanderer.

Oh, and before you start driving yourself mad trying to piece together our identities through our odd internet aliases, let me assure you that neither I nor Octopus live underwater, and that these names are completely devoid of any factual information.

Although he has been known to glow from time to time.

Since my partner in literary crime has already introduced us both, I will spend little time doing the same. It is true we are both students, and yes, we are also geeks. Two important facts you have to keep in mind when reading through all this inane dribble.

Since the formalities are quite over, I though I might as well get on with the meat of this post. Y'see, not only are we geeks, but we are gaming geeks. I'd even be bold enough to say that we are both avid about games. So much so that when talking about games in such fervour, any passer by could easily determine our gaming roots and pin us down in the 'geek' genre.

Which is why I'd now like to dedicate a few paragraphs reviewing a game that I've recently played, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. And I think, because of this quiet interest, (read: obsession) it would not be unwise to assume that this feature will become commonplace in this blog.

I've been a big Resident Evil fan ever since it's original debut in '96. I was only a young scamp back then (for the sake of anonymity, let's say I was 42) but I knew there was something great about the series, despite cowering behind the chair at every blood drenched groan. And ever since then I've had the privilege to watch the franchise grow into what it is today.
And so when I found that Capcom was releasing an arcade style shooter encompassing a vast majority of the Resident Evil time line, I was positively giddy.

The game starts off at the beginning of Resi 0 (or more commonly known as 'the one with the train') going through Resi 1 and Resi 3, ending with a brand new chapter, one year before the events of Resi 4. Considering the game doesn't really have much of a new storyline in itself, it's hard to mark it up for originality, but I love the whole zombie virus outbreak scenario no matter how it's portrayed, so Umbrella Chronicles could have the Tweenies fighting off hordes of the undead in Tellytubby land and I wouldn't care.

So, let's get onto the gameplay. True to the arcade shooter genre, Umbrella Chronicles (or as some have affectionately named it, 'Umbrelly Chronies') is an on-rails, infinite ammo, shoot-em-up at it's core. Thankfully Capcom went a bit further than this and didn't go all Time Crisis on us and instead added a little bit of depth.

A variety of guns can be picked up throughout the course of each level, and with the use of points, you can upgrade these weapons to a certain point, making your zombie infestation worries dwindle away slightly faster. These points are gained by achieving god-like scores in the main storyline by killing more enemies, completing the level faster, getting more files, obtaining more critical hits and
destroying more objects. Hang on a minute. Okay, fine, I understand the first 4 criteria, but destroying more objects? Why would a game where you're supposed to be worried about surviving the onslaught of festering corpses punish you when you don't shoot every lamp to pieces?

To someone who hasn't played the game, it doesn't sound that bad, but it gets to a point where you need to conserve your grenades, not to increase your kill count, but to more effectively destroy every piece of furniture in the god forsaken room. Every new door effectively leads to more lights to shoot out, more chandeliers to obliterate and countless paintings to puncture. Enemies just become an obstacle in your path of defacing the surrounding scenery.
I admit, a great game for all you vandals out there who want to be rewarded for your wanton destruction but for the goody-goody inside me, well, let's just say it irked me a little.

Other than that little bother, the large majority of the gameplay was thankfully great fun. Zombies torso's could be showered with led before succumbing to death (re-death?) but that perfectly placed shot on the head would lead to a very satisfying melon-like splatter. Environments ranged from creepily dark train-stations to large medical facilities, each requiring it's own style of gameplay. Bosses were true to the Resident Evil franchise and were designed greatly. And this isn't even factoring in the experience of multiplayer (in this case, the presence of another player really does double the fun). The zombie fanatic part of me could go on. But let's not.

And then we come to the controls. I decided first on to omit the use of the lightgun, for the sole reason that I looked wrong in every sense of the word. The 'classic' Wiimote/Nunchuk did just fine for me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

First there's the aiming. My immediate woe was that I found that my previously honed skills of achieving headshots meant nothing to this game. At first the cursor seemed to be about half a second behind me. It was as if you were out in the shops and your child would rather not be there, but you've attached him to a rope that meant he would eventually go wherever you go, but from time to time he likes to swing about a bit and throw a temper tantrum. After a while though, you begin to ignore the child (as I'm sure happens in most families) and get used to the slightly drunken movements of the crosshair.

The control stick can be used to slightly extend your field of vision in any direction, which is a nice plus when you're trying to kill all the zombies, or more likely; shoot out this one pesky light in the distance that's moved out of the vision of your frickin' screen.

And finally we come to graphics. Considering it was a Wii game, I had allowed myself to believe way before I even played the game, that I would not be, as you kids call it nowadays, wowed. But contrary to previous conceptions, I was. Not in a Super Mario Galaxy way, let alone a Crysis way, but in a Resident Evil kind of way. By this I mean, there weren't just no jaggies, but the lighting was perfect for the survival horror atmosphere, and the character models and enemies were surprisingly believable. And trust me, at the pace the game moved sometimes, you had enough time to admire the un-Wii-like looks.

Overall, I love the game. It's a great homage to Resident Evil, even though it isn't true to the ammo placement, amount of enemies, or pacing. Buy it, and if you don't enjoy it, at least you've had some practice for inevitable zombie apocalypse thats due any day now.

Well, that should be it, for today at least. Perhaps I should've been more accurate when I said "a few paragraphs". I didn't mean to ramble on as much as that (unfortunately I have a lot more to say) but if you got through it all, go on you. Maybe you won't get eaten.

And for the record, iPod's are gay.
-Aquatic Wanderer

Come In To Our World (No, Not Like That)

Hullo there, and greetings from me, Fluorescent Octopus!

I am not from the moon, as the rumours and religious writings dictate, but instead from a small village known as Temple Harrington in the west of Greenland. Which is obviously a lie, but I'm not gonna tell you where I really live, am I? Silly you.

Right, I should probably explain what this blog-of-sorts is about. Me and Aquatic Wanderer here (he's waving), are students. Not fantastic ones, mind you; we get quite lazy with ICT coursework in particular. We could do well if we wanted to, but our teacher is the sort that deserves to honestly burn, and so we have grown to detest the subject that, as self-confessed geeks, we should adore with full sincerity. Where was I? Oh right, students. Which isn't remotely interesting.

Yeah, we love games, and so you will see a lot of stuff about games on here. I am a Sony man at heart, but actually growing more of a platform agnostic every day, mostly due to the awesome games coming out of everywhere. That's right, even England. Yes, that's sarcasm, we make the best games: GTA, Burnout and the like are all ours. Anyways, if you're looking for something quirky and fun to play (for free), try either Lux, or the demo of Armadillo Run. Remember, both of us here are always looking for something new, so if you find anything cool on your internet wanderings, do share, and don't be a selfish little bugger all your life. Oh and most anticipated game of 2008? LittleBigPlanet (PS3, Q3 08).

Moving on, Aquatic Wanderer and I were having a heated discussion this week about MP3 players, which are obviously the most important things in the world, and therefore something valid to argue about. My point is that I've had an iPod nano (1st gen) since Xmas 2006, and eventually threw it away in November after I fell asleep whilst listening to it in bed and woke up to find I had crushed the screen. I still use iTunes for music (apart from a brief stint with the Zune Software at the end of last year), so I'm thinking of getting an 80GB iPod Classic. Now Aquatic just refuses to use anything with an 'i' in front of it, so has been trying to convince me to get something else. Thing is: Creative's are nice but the UI are the MP3 player equivalent of a Sony Ericsson phone (as in, it is shit), Archos' are boring and ugly, Samsung's...erm...I'm just not interested in, the Zune hasn't been announced for release here yet, and Sony's have really crappy PC software, so I'm left with an iPod. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Now, to introduce a feature! *pre-emptive applause* Welcome to...Custom Soundtracks! Now this is effectively a 'What have I been listening to lately?' segment under a different name, so without further ado, here goes:

Right, get that lot down your intertubes, and give us a shout back with what you think!

I think there's just time to sum up, so hope you all have a lovely lifetime, and I'm sure one of us will be back soon to blog some more!

Fluorescent Octopus

P.S.: Pata-pata-pata-pon.