Little Big Deal

June 8, 2011

So, are four free games enough to atone for the inconvenience and privacy violations Playstation owners suffered during last month’s PSN outage? I dunno, I’m pretty happy with the arrangement myself.

I’ve been an Xbox 360 man from the very beginning, so the Playstation Network’s downtime barely affected me at all. Hell, I don’t think I even owned a Playstation 3 when this whole mess went down! Still, I never pass up a chance to scoop up free games when they’re offered, so Sony’s peace offering was welcomed with open arms here at Casa Del Blitzo.

Without a PS3, I had to settle for two of the games offered for its pint-sized cousin, the PSP. However, it hardly feels like “settling” when the games on tap are as good as Little Big Planet. I spent a little QT with this one after the much-too-lengthy downloading and installation process, and I’ve got to say that I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

Sure, the game is a bog-standard platformer… you hop around, scooping up the widgets in each stage for points. However, the quality of the design and the promise of nearly unlimited customization are what add the extra to this ordinary side-scrolling action title.

The game looks fantastic for a handheld release, and the gentle British humor strikes a middle ground between the work of A.A. Milne and Monty Python. The narrator’s attempts at player empowerment sometimes have the distinct aftertaste of self-promotion (“you can do anything you want… IN OUR WONDERFUL GAME!”), but the writers’ hearts are in the right place. More or less.

I haven’t tried any of the customization options beyond dressing my Sackboy in black boots and throwing a few stickers around, but I’m in no great rush to make my own stages. However, I would like to know if the design engine offers all the flexibility of its PS3 counterpart. I remember someone making a pretty close approximation of the first stage from Gradius in the original Little Big Planet. Would such a feat be possible in its handheld counterpart, or is it strictly limited to platforming? Inquiring minds want to know!

I’ll be giving my other PSN freebie, Modnation Racers, a spin next. I’m not expecting the greatness of that other kart racer (you know, the one with those Italian guys in it), but for the price, who could complain?


The Continuation?!

June 7, 2011

The Gameroom Blitz isn’t back back… I just felt like posting whatever video game crap I wanted here because I was bored.  Hey, it’s just like when the site was alive, but without the expectation of anyone reading it!

Anyway, Sony just unveiled its next handheld at E3.  The Neo-Geo Pocket can finally have its acronym back, because the official title of the NGP is…

The Playstation Vitameatavegamin!

No wait, it was the Playstation Vita?  Well, close enough.

Here’s what we know about the Playstation Vin Da Bona so far.  First, thanks to careful trimming of the hardware specs and good old fashioned hardware dumping, the system will retail for $249, with a 3G-enabled cousin available for $299.  Of course, since the wireless service will be exclusively supplied by AT&T, you might as well forget the deluxe model exists.

Second, numerous sources (including my old stomping grounds at Stage Select) confirm that there are eighty titles in development for the Playstation Vini Vidi Vici, including heavy hitters like Uncharted, Modnation Racers, and a special edition of Street Fighter X Tekken with Cole from Infamous as a guest character.  (What, no Sly Cooper?  C’mon, it’s not like he’d be that out of place in the nutty Tekken cast.)  There may also be a Bioshock game courtesy of 2K Games, but it’s still extremely early and nobody knows if it will be a release of the first game or a spin-off of Bioshock Infinity.

So all right, I’ll give Sony some credit here.  I didn’t think they had the grapes to push the Playstation Danny De Vito under the $250 price point, but they made it happen.  Also, the line-up of games seems solid, aside from the occasional mystifying choice like a yet-unnamed pool simulation.  Does anyone even play pool anymore?  I mean, aside from middle aged guys with “Fats” in their name and barflies whose livers have soaked up ten times their weight in alcohol, and I’d wager that neither are Sony’s target audience.

Oh yeah, there was some other news from E3 too, but no great shakes.  Ubisoft is planning a new Rayman game with lively cartoon graphics, Microsoft is doubling up on its support for the Kinect, and Electronic Arts has announced a release date for Mass Effect 3 (3-6-12… it’s three to the awesometh power!), but beyond that, it’s the usual sequels for familiar franchises.  I suspect we won’t be getting the really good stuff until Nintendo’s press conference tomorrow.


The End

May 21, 2011

It’s just as you feared from the two week absence, folks. I’m dead.

No, wait… I mean the site is dead! There, that’s better.

I’ve been editing The Gameroom Blitz for a decade and a half now, and it seems that as each year passes, a little more of my enthusiasm for gaming goes with it. It’s not that I’ve outgrown them… it’s more accurate to say that they’ve left me behind. From my perspective, modern video games are too overproduced, too complicated, and above all else, much too long. 

When I was growing up, you could get the hang of the latest release just minutes after you dropped in the quarter.  When you were done fifteen minutes later, you weren’t just satisfied, but exhilirated. These days, everyone expects games to be at least ten hours long, but how much of that is actually spent doing anything fun? It’s all stat building, inventory managing, and cut scene watching, no doubt a by-product of the massively successful Final Fantasy VII. I didn’t like that game when it was released, and I don’t like the path it’s forged for the industry.

I briefly took refuge in the iPhone and its return to a simpler time for the video game industry.  However, my enthusiasm for the format sputtered out as well, the victim of general disinterest and hardware that’s three generations behind the latest releases.  That leads to my next point… I can’t afford to keep up with the hobby, and I can’t even afford to keep what I’ve got. Recently I had to sell a dozen Saturn games just to pay a month of overdue bills. Many of the games were acquired during my brief time in Arizona, and they were all I had left from the experience. It’s bad enough that I have to give them up… it’s even worse that I get nothing out of the deal but some fleeting relief from my creditors.

Unless my fortunes change, you’re not going to see a lot of activity here. I’ll write the occasional feature for 1UP as long as the management sees fit to keep me around, but beyond that, I’ve got nothin’. My apologies to the fans of The Gameroom Blitz who remained loyal through the site’s decline… I wish things could have been different.

God how I wish things could have been different.


When the Moon Hits Your Eye, That’s Atari

May 8, 2011

Remember those 2600 game reviews I promised yesterday?  Yo.  This time, Moon Patrol, Dig Dug, and the homebrew title Ladybug are up to bat.  They’re all great games, but which one is the best?  Click here and find out!

Seriously, right here.

Click click click.


All You Do Is Talk Talk

May 7, 2011

I’m going to take a different approach with this update.  Instead of waiting for the writing bug to bite (where the hell is he, anyway?  Did someone light a citronella candle?), I’ll just pick up a microphone and talk about anything that comes to mind for seven minutes.  Viva la podcasting!

By the way, that was indeed me yakking away on 1UP’s Retronauts podcast earlier this evening.  That scattered jumble of thoughts should be available on the site in about a week.  New Atari 2600 game reviews should be available on this site much, much sooner.  I’d give it another day or two tops.

Oh yeah!  I’m sure you’ve already heard, but Guardian Heroes will be making a comeback on the Xbox 360 in the near future.  I hope they actually mean that this time… if I had held my breath for that port of Radiant Silvergun, my lungs would have exploded by now.


Two Scoops of News

May 2, 2011

I was going to skip the update today (like I did yesterday, and the day before…), but some pretty big things are going down in the video game industry right now.  First, there’s word that IGN and UGO, two rivaling giants in the gaming press, are merging, with the former distancing itself from its parent company News Corporation.  Anything that gets IGN away from Rupert Murdoch is a good thing, but I’ll admit I’m a little worried about what it means for UGO properties, particularly 1UP.  I write for these guys!  I’d kind of like to keep writing for them!  I suppose I won’t know for sure what will happen to me until the deal goes through… I just have to hope for the best.

Onto that other bit of information.  Sony plans to make up for its recent PSN snafu with a free month of premium service, a month of Qriocity (evidently a streaming media service.  Sorry, I’ve been out of the Sony loop for a while), and various other goodies offered at no charge.  That’s not likely to stem the time of class action lawsuits, but it’s a start.  Frankly, given Sony’s history, I was expecting months of denials and veiled shots at the competition.

There is one other thing… Osama bin Laden is dead.  I don’t know what that has to do with video games, but after a decade of this rather unpleasant fellow being on the run, it bears mentioning.


Station-Nary (PSN Hack Thoughts)

April 28, 2011

It’s been several days since Sony admitted that hackers infiltrated the PSN network and snuck away with the credit card numbers of its members, roughly seventy million in total.  Nobody’s happy about this, but frankly, I’m not very surprised by it either.  It just seems like the latest punchline for the Playstation 3, which has been a comedy of errors from its 2006 premiere.  It was ludicrously priced at launch thanks to its Blu-Ray drive, continues to vex publishers with its convoluted hardware, and has been hobbled by an indecisive marketing campaign that changes with the weather.  First the PS3 was compatible with the past two Playstations… until key components were removed from the hardware as a cost-cutting measure, leaving Playstation 2 fans in the lurch.  Then it was open source… until Sony found that inconvenient, and pulled Linux out from under the feet of players who went to the considerable trouble of installing it.

Sony’s unpopular decision to drop Linux may have snowballed into the recent PSN fiasco.  Anonymous, a group of would-be terrorist nerds, promised an attack on Sony’s online properties in response to the company’s legal assault on hacker George Hotz.  PC Magazine reports that the Primatine-huffing purvayors of online mischief distanced themselves from the threats shortly after PSN went down… but as well organized as Anonymous believes itself to be, the attack on PSN could have been the result of an overly enthusiastic member who forgot to read his E-mail that day.

It’s still not clear who was responsible for PSN’s extended downtime and the leak of its members’ personal information.  However, Sony has to carry some of that responsibility on its shoulders.  It’s not just because the company’s online service wasn’t properly protected from hackers, either.  Sony’s wishy-washy support of Linux, along with an antagonistic attitude toward gamers who still support the operating system, practically invited this attack.  Instead of switching sides at its convenience, maybe Sony should have picked a stance on open source software and stuck with it.


Easterday Night Fever

April 24, 2011

I’ve been out of commission for a few days so there’s a lot to report.  I hope you’ll bear with me!

Now to the first order of business.  I’ve got to tell you about a new blog devoted to vintage gaming called Retro Collect.  It’s what I hoped to accomplish with the short-lived Re:Activator, except this updates more frequently and looks about five times better.  I’ve added Retro Collect to the links on the front page, and will be referencing it often in the future.

The second bit of news is that there’s a new consolized Neo-Geo MVS unit, with a fine walnut finish and a price that matches its regal appearance.  Six hundred and forty nine dollars?!  Good lord, the original Neo-Geo cost that much back in the technologically hamstrung early 1990s, when the closest you could get to an immersive 3D experience was a Darth Vader helmet plugged into a Dire Straights video.  (Seriously, check out what passed for polygons back in those days.  You’ll get a good laugh out of it.)  Don’t get me wrong, I like the Neo-Geo.  I just like paying my rent and not getting evicted from my apartment more.

Third on the docket?  NBA Jam for the iPhone.  The price of this slammin’ update to the classic Midway arcade game is just ninety-nine cents over Easter weekend, and if you’ve got any brains in your head you’ll pick up a copy right now.  It’s silky smooth even on the oldest iPhone models, running like a champ on my first generation iPod Touch, and the action is even more outrageous than you remember, with two story slam dunks and a quick-witted announcer who’s got a sly remark for every occasion.  You bet your sweet potato casserole that’s worth a dollar!

Let’s top it all off with a little personal news.  Fortune hath smiled upon me this Easter, as I now have an official game to play on my PSP.  I bought a copy of Lumines II at a thrift store last year, but since I didn’t have the system at the time, I completely forgot about it.  Well, I did, until it reminded me by turning up in the back seat of my mother’s old car.  Score one for me!  Actually, score two for me, since someone will be sending me a copy of Patapon in the mail shortly.  Between those two titles, dozens of Playstation classics, and countless emulated games, I think there should be enough to keep me glued to my PSP for months to come.

That’s it, folks.  Enjoy your Easter, and be sure to pick up all that stringy green plastic stuff from your baskets before you leave.


Handicapable vs. Handheld Incapable

April 21, 2011

Many apologies for the absence, mem sahibs.  Writer’s block, blah blah blah.

So!  Jeremy Parish recently posted an article about Rapid Reload (the European version of Gunner’s Heaven) on his web site.  That’s a handy coincidence, as it was one of the first games I installed on my recently acquired PSP.  GameSpite contributor Mike Zeller hit the nail on the head when he described the game as lacking “the unrestrained wildness of Gunstar Heroes,” but one thing he leaves unmentioned in his review is that Rapid Reload is an impressive 2D showcase on the allegedly deficient Playstation hardware.  The lush colors, abundance of sprites, and constant explosions in this launch title give no indication of the Playstation’s 2D handicap, making me think the system was just faking it to collect a social security check. 

The often-criticized Playstation conversion of Darkstalkers gives me the same impression.  Sure, the animation isn’t arcade-quality, or even Saturn-quality, but it’s a more than adequate conversion that’s undone only by the existence of two vastly superior sequels.  After playing NightWarriors and Vampire Savior, going back to the original game with its straightjacketed special meter and dearth of moves is like building a five story mansion, then living in the basement.

One more thing before I go.  A year and a half after its inauspicious debut, the PSP Go is officially being put out to pasture by Sony.  Alas, tiny digital distribution-shackled handheld, we hardly knew ye.  Mostly because hardly anyone owned ye.


Will Wii or Won’t Wii?

April 16, 2011

This could be a big deal… or just more grist for the rumor mill.  (What the heck is grist, anyway?)  There’s word that the original Wii will drop to $150 in May, and that its successor will be announced at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.  Here are some of the features of the rumored Wiiluxe, if the system actually exists:

High performance hardware, more powerful than either the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360
Developer-friendly system design makes Xbox 360 conversions a cinch
Backward compatible with both Wii and GameCube titles
Supports all Wii peripherals
High-definition graphics (it’s not clear if Wii and GameCube games will be upscaled)
Compatible with Blu-Ray media (unclear if it will run Blu-Ray movies like the PS3)
New controller with a built-in touchscreen display
An exclusive, undisclosed feature

It all sounds grand, but it also sounds expensive, and Nintendo’s not known for catering to an upscale market.  A controller with a touchscreen display?  With the current Wiimote Plus selling for forty dollars, it’s hard to imagine how they’d get the price of this new controller under three figures.  I don’t doubt that some of these features are accurate, but others just seem too far-fetched to take seriously.  At least people have stopped talking about that silly holographic projector…