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Monthly Archives: January 2008

I’m running out of glue!

I’m sorry to say that I’ve been at the glue and cardboard again. Not content with attempting to create Snowbound with my new found toy, I’ve set about making the original Halo’s Hang ‘em High map.

I hoovered the living room especially for this photo.

It has turned out huge and so far it has eaten up a lotof cardboard, three Pritsticks and one roll of sticky tape, plus I’m not done yet.

Whilst the main layout is already there, the North Base needs its tower, all the gantries need installing and countless “tomb stones” need adding to the floor to instill that true Hang ’em High feeling.

The one consideration I did make when spec’ing the layout is to make sure it comes apart easily. Ali’s already getting fed up of it taking over the kitchen but as long as it can fit through the loft hatch then it’ll be grand.

You can find more model fueled images here.

365 Word Review: Boogie Bunnies

Having Bernard and Baldrick has meant Ali and I have a soft spot for most things rabbit. As much fun as Rayman Ravin’ Rabbids is, I doubt we would ever have bought it had it not been for the deranged bunnies on the cover. The same can also be said about Sierra’s Boogie Bunnies, recently arrived on Xbox Live Arcade.

Boogie Bunnies is another match-and-pop puzzler in the same vein as Zoo Keeper, Bejewelled and thousands more. Given a grid of coloured bunnies it is your job to match three or more by hurling a similarly coloured bun at them. Those then disappear and hopefully others then follow likewise as they fall back, filling gaps left by their fallen brethren.

All the time the bunnies advance towards you and if too many reach the edge then it’s Game Over.

Blue! I need a blue!!!!!!

What this game adds to the traditional mixture is the ability to attack things from a different angle; rather than firing straight down the table, ala Space Invaders, you can move round the side and fire into their ranks.

This may not sound much but it brings a different style of play to an old formula as you start to look for matches round the back. Success can cause said cascades which can help you out of a tight spot, bringing those bunnies back from the brink, whilst adding a mass of points to your score.

Whilst I found the game on its own a good experience (I’m a sucker for block puzzlers) it was the co-operative mode that made it shine. Here, you both control a bunny as you bid to control the warren and team work is surprisingly key because your characters can never move past each other. Instead, one has to move over enough to allow the other a shot. Every time Ali and I play there are screams of “left!” and “budge right!” as we jostle for position.

Overall, I’m surprised at how much I actually enjoyed Boogie Bunnies. From a traditional template, just enough new features have been added to make it a welcome addition to XBLA, especially if you have someone willing to play co-op with you.

Go on. Boogie!

7/10

Hump-date

Emails have been sent back and forth, hurried IM conversations have taken place and it now seems as though our Halo 3 match-up against Bungie has a rough date of 5th March. Well, to be honest, this is their “print” deadline of the showdown, the actual game will probably be played a couple of days prior to that.

What ever the date, we’re roughly five weeks away from it and the team can be found in training most lunchtimes. Things are progressing nicely and we feel that there’s a good work ethic growing between the four of us.

The only downside to our training is that we are all such widely different ranks within the multiplayer that we have to play on the casual social circuit. Here you get a right mixed bag of skills and so whilst we may not be truly testing our mettle we are getting some great feel-good victories as we crush the noobs under foot.

Wii Weary

I resent my Wii. The feeling has been growing for some time and it is now fair to say that I have nothing but contempt for my Wii Sports player that is cluttering up my television stand.

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought of Nintendo’s new-gen experience I would have done nothing but heap praise and love upon it. Wii Sports was still a roaring success whilst Zelda and the Rabbids complimented it nicely. What happened in the intervening year was basically a barren spell of uninspiring games and copious amounts of shovelware.

Grrrr

At first I just put it down to the tentative steps of a new system and gladly dabbled with Kororinpa and Elebits when they were released, in the same ways King Kong and Call of Duty saw me through 360’s launch window. Since then, however, the third parties have produced little of note and Nintendo themselves are pulling the same old franchises from their sleeves that they have done countless times before.

The 3D sections were not enough to inspire me to play through yet another Mario RPG; I’ve done Resident Evil on their previous platform; let’s not even mention that Tony Hawks debacle; and even if you could turn door handles a new Metroid launched at the same time as Halo 3 could never have drawn my attention.

Whilst I cannot deny that I am really enjoying Mario Galaxy, I just don’t think about turning my Wii on when I sit down to play games and so have barely got more than a handful of stars. What is keeping it off is my Xbox; it has been good to me these past twelve months. With Bioshock, Halo 3, Portal, Overlord, Colin MacRae, Pro Evo, Assassins Creed and a host of XBLA games, the Wii has nothing to rival the depth. Nothing.

Not only that, but when I’m on it I feel detached as I am so used to having my Xbox Live blade there waiting in the wings to swoop out and tell me who’s around and what they’re up to. As much as the Wii is a social console I feel very isolated when I have my Wii-mote in hand as Friend Codes are an utter joke.

I really don’t want to be down on this revolutionary console as I do remember a time when it was the love of my life but it’s just driving me mad that there is no consistent lure to get me to play it. For me, Mario is too little, too late.

Does anyone else feel like this? Is it just me who feels that the Wii is for when your friends who don’t really play games but have heard about this “Wee” come round of an evening? Please, reassure me.

A game called Wanda

Whilst I have dabbled in Ico, I never really felt its magic. With Shadow of the Colossus, however, I fell into its glorious world and gladly found myself lost in it for hours on end.

The fact that Team Ico managed to make such a delightful game seemingly composed of nothing but boss battles and a boy who constantly shouted at/for his horse is a testament to the emotion and core mechanics they instilled in the game. Judging by the love shown out there I know I’m not alone, either.

So, when Team Ico started touting for new employees with an advert based around this “screenshot”, the internet* lit up with speculation about their new project. What could it be? Where does the chain lead? What does the page name of Wanda mean? Is that a bath plug?

Hmmmm.

Darn them and their secretive ways, especially as this could be the one thing that could tempt me to get a PS3.

*ok, my head.

Five

I don’t think it could have gone any better. After nine years we have finally done Arsenal over - and in style.

The team worked tirelessly, still defending with determination at 4-0 as though it was 0-0 and fashioning chances with some cracking link-up play. A couple of the goals were beautifully crafted and we utterly deserved the victory last night.

The fact Arsenal were fighting amongst themselves at points during the 90 minutes just made it even better.

We’re now off to Wembley next month with a manager who specialises in cup competitions, lifting five trophies in his last 18 months at his previous job, which hopefully bodes well. Although, even if we don’t lift the trophy in February, I’ll be remembering this one for some time to come.

Come on you Spurs!

C is for car

I had a Sesame Street moment over the weekend as it appeared it was brought to me by the letter ‘C’; in between the Christenings, curries and Cthulhus we ventured car shopping, which proved an interesting experience.

Personally, I don’t get cars. They’ve never really held an interest for me and are merely pressed, metal boxes on wheels that are there to do my bidding, so attempting to pick a make and model out of all those that exist has proven traumatic.

If only they still did these beauties.

Luckily, after advice from various quarters and wandering through rows and rows of the metallic beasts, we’ve decided upon a diesel Fiesta. Nothing fancy but it should get the job done whilst at the same time hopefully being slightly more efficient than the one we have now.

The highlight of this adventure, though, was when I got to test drive my first automatic. It was a very odd sensation, after five years of using your left leg and arm constantly to pop up and down the gears, to suddenly have them sitting their idle make me feel as though I wasn’t doing it right. By the end of it I thought it was great, the ease at which you could drive, but it did feel as though half you body had just become redundant.

The one thing I wanted to say, but didn’t in case I scared both Ali and the saleswoman, was “Sweet! Now I can drive just like I do in my games; I don’t use gears there, either!”

Is this thing on?

It seems as though everything went a bit tits up over the weekend with the website. Sorry about that; a password expired and no one deemed it worthy enough of mentioning to me, which is nice.

Many thanks to my dad who initially pointed the problem out.

365 Word Review: Portal

When the Orange Box was first announced, I’m sure that many thought the draw would be the combined Half-Life 2 series. With the initial game, two episodes and very many hours of play it was hard to see Team Fortress 2 and Portal as anything other than bonus content. And then came the cake.

Portal is a strange beast in that it is an FPS puzzler. There are no enemies to shoot, only dimension shifting holes called, bizarrely enough, portals that you use these to get around the lab you are scurrying around within.

You won’t be alone in getting headaches.

Where ever you shoot a pair of portals, entering one will see you exit the other. At its simplest this can be used to cross rooms very quickly but then take into account that your take your direction and momentum with you as you defy time and space and an interesting set of puzzles unfold.

All sorts of strange room arrangements present themselves that will see you hurling yourself hundreds of metres into the air, persuading energy balls to return to their casing and causing disturbingly maternal gun turrets to stop shooting you.

Portal’s originality is was what got me excited about this game. It’s all down to the way you can walk around the box, poking and trying things until the ultimate solution presents itself – and when it does you can feel like a god in later levels.

Of course, if you’re tired of puzzling you could just make your girlfriend motion sick by creating an infinite loop of portals and hurling yourself, or any Cube you may have to hand, into them.

It is not only the challenge and level design that is worthy of note, though; Valve have managed to take a puzzle game and create a humorous, intelligent narrative around it all that spins Portal within the Half Life universe which will make you laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Please, listen to your guiding voice throughout and your experience will be heightened.

There is so much to love about Portal but also so much to spoil. So, trust me and if you haven’t played it, play it. If only for the final song.

9/10

First Impressions: Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

I have been a rather lucky boy when you look at my haul of games over Christmas and my birthday. Most of them are for my Xbox or Wii meaning they have to fight it out amongst themselves for time with the television. Zelda, however, is my solitary new DS game and so sits firmly and smugly in its slot knowing that it will be the only one getting my attention. 

After only a couple of hours in, it’s safe to say that I love it. I’ve always preferred the top-down versions of Zelda over their 3D counterparts and this is no exception. For me, it’s the way the puzzles are handled and the charming sprites that the series have always used but what adds yet more to its stock here is the series of DS specific abilities that have been added.

Yes, he still makes exactly the same sound when swinging his sword.

The obvious ones in there, such as touching the screen where you want Link to go and using quick strokes of the stylus to get him to slash his sword, plus now you also have the ability to write notes on your map and, for instance, trace the desired path of your boomerang.

To some, these may initially sound like gimmicks used to shoe horn the series on Nintendo’s portable platform. What they actually do is open up new puzzle possibilities and a new way of playing a franchise that has basically been repeating the same formula now for many a year, which is never a bad thing.

A lot of the puzzles are observation based, encouraging you to jot down the clues on your map for when you need to hit switches in a certain order or repeat a certain pattern on a door. These are always woven into the traditional Zelda dungeons topped off with a boss that is more than likely to be weak against the weapon you just discovered hidden around his lair.

Personally, I never once felt about raving about Twilight Princess. I felt I had been there and done that so many times that I didn’t care and put the game down when other shiny things came along. With Phatom Hourglass, however, it has reawakened my love of the Zelda series.