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.