I always get warm fuzzies when people do awesomely geeky things with hardware. Some brilliant people from Waterloo labs put an RFID tag inside a Koopa shell plushie, put a tag reader on a go-kart, and then rigged up the kart to react to the shell–thus creating Mario Kart in real life. This is, of course, a gross simplification of their system. If you want to learn more, check out their page on the project. Meanwhile, here’s a video showing the karts in action. They even had item boxes, and someone ran a traffic light like Lakitu.
In case you didn’t know, I have this constant, massive backlog of games that I need to play at pretty much all times. It’s a bit sad, but I’m making up for lots of lost time, so I often wind up putting off newer games so I can get through things from years past.
I did finish several new titles in 2012, but I also managed to clear out a significant chunk of my backlog. Here are some of the best games I played last year that I really should have gotten around to much sooner. Feel free to express your disbelief at how woefully behind I was.
|Persona 3 Portable|
|I love JRPGs, but somehow, I didn’t get around to playing a Persona game until last year. Now that I’ve beaten Persona 3 Portable, I could seriously kick myself for not doing it sooner. I loved this one so much that I started a New Game+ the same night I finished it. P3P is definitely one of my favorite games ever at this point. I must like being sad or something.
If you have a PSP, it’s totally worth it to get P3P and play as the female main character. You can have social links with every party member, so you learn more about them. Also, Elizabeth’s brother, Theo, is awesome.
|The World Ends With You|
|I figured I would like TWEWY when I started it, but I had no idea that I would fall so completely in love with it. This game has a great story, awesome character designs, a rockin’ soundtrack, and a fun, fast-paced battle system. Sure, fighting enemies on two screens and balancing your DS to use the stylus can take some getting used to, but it’s totally worth the hand cramps.
Psst. Squeenix! Can you stop it with the money-grubbing iOS games and just make a 3DS sequel to this? It’ll be like printing money, I promise.
|9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors|
|999 was the first visual novel other than Hakuoki that I’d ever played, and now I’m hooked on the genre. It’s not a pure visual novel, but that’s fine: 999 has fun puzzles, and I love a good brain teaser. See my in-depth thoughts on the game here.
A word to anyone thinking of picking up the sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward: play 999 first, or some seriously awesome plot twists will go right over your head.
|Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland|
|I suppose this wasn’t my first Atelier game; if you want to get technical, I did play Mana Khemia. I just never finished that one. Once I started Atelier Rorona, I got sucked into the story and couldn’t put it down. My only complaint is that I didn’t really like how much of an idiot Rorona could be sometimes. However, she and the rest of the characters were endearing, the alchemy system was entertaining, and there was a good variety of places to explore. Now I just have to play Totori and Meruru before Ayesha comes out in March…(Heh. Not happening. Maybe I can shoot for before the end of the year.)|
Hmm. Looking at my list, I guess I really do play a lot of Japanese games. In any case, if you’re behind like me and haven’t played these yet, I’d highly recommend all of them.
What sorts of games are in your backlog? How easy is it for you to check things off of your list of games to play someday?
Found this in my drafts repository. I guess I wrote it in November and forgot about it. Since I don’t really have time to do any well thought out posts right now, I figured I’d go ahead and put it up. I’ve since gotten bored with and uninstalled this silly game.
So, I got an iPad earlier this year. It’s my first Apple device, and I have to say, I rather like it. I probably use it more than my laptop for casual browsing at this point. And unlike my phone (which is tiny, likes to run out of internal memory so often that I had to uninstall Twitter, and is fond of freezing up at any given moment), it can play mobile games. Now that I have access to such a device, I thought to myself, “Why not play some random stuff and write about it?” So, once a week (okay, let’s be realistic here: whenever I feel like it), I’ll download a free mobile game, try it out, and tell you if it seems promising. I’ll try to put my phone through its paces and play some Android games too, but anything that can’t live on the micro SD card is out of the question.
With the first movie based on The Hobbit coming out soon, fans might have noticed a little game on iOS or Android called The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth. It has a picture of Bilbo plastered on the icon, and the screenshots are interesting enough, so I downloaded it.
The app in a sentence? KoM is a thinly veiled money sink that is probably only using themes from The Hobbit to get fans to try it out and become addicted. That’s only one way of thinking about it, though. If you pretend the in-app purchases don’t exist, KoM becomes an even weirder animal: it’s a game that encourages you not to play it in an effort to…I dunno. Make it seem more fun?
So, the game is a bit like Sim City in Middle-earth, but it’s a little odd. I mean, have you ever met a game that wanted you put it down? Seriously, going off and doing something else is a major mechanic of KoM if you’re insistent on not paying for it. I guess I should back up and explain how the game works, though.
The first thing you do when you start the app is pick a side–Elves or Dwarves. I’m pretty sure the Elves and Dwarves weren’t having an all-out war when Bilbo came into the picture, but whatever. I guess the designers needed factions so you’d have real people to defend your city against, and no one’s going to pick the goblins. If they’d let you be part of Sauron’s team, they could have had some awesome looking evil cities, so I feel like that’s a real missed opportunity. Then, it actually would have made sense to have Saruman as a hero. More on that shortly.
In any case, after you’ve picked a side and gone through a tutorial, you pretty much just start building. You can make homes to increase your population, build facilities to train troops, research various useful technologies, fortify your defenses, and gather resources to build more stuff. You have seven days to do as much building up as you can before other players can attack you. Meanwhile, there’s a nifty social aspect where you can make alliances with other players, though I’ve yet to see anyone in the chat that I’d actually want to play with.
Getting back to the Saruman point from earlier: throughout all of this, if you keep upgrading your Great Hall, you have access to various familiar characters from Middle-earth to act as heroes for your city. They lead troops into battle or oversee various aspects of your city building to provide boosts. For some reason, your happy Elven city can have Saruman as a hero. Pretty sure he was evil. I suppose they didn’t know he was evil in The Hobbit, but whatever. He’s bad.
Let’s back away from canon gripes and get to the most annoying thing about KoM. The build times are pretty fast at first, but then you get into upgrading. At the moment, some of the things I want to upgrade or research will take as much as three hours to finish, and I only anticipate the times getting worse. This is where the money grab comes into play. If you’re impatient, you can use these handy hourglasses to speed up the whole process, but they cost mithril. You start out with ten bars of mithril, and you can buy more starting at $4.99 for 50 bars and going all the way up to $99.99 for 1600 bars. That’s right, you can sink as much as a hundred bucks into this game in one go. The most popular in-app purchase (according to the game) is 240 mithril for $19.99.
So, if you can’t stand waiting for things to finish so you can get back to actually playing the game, you could easily spend a load of money on KoM. Then, you’d also most certainly have an advantage over players who just want to play for free.
KoM is pretty (the aesthetic really does fit in well with the source material), and I actually have fun seeing my city grow and conquering new lands, but I don’t think I’ll ever pay a penny to play this game. I’d rather give Guild Wars 2 or TF2 my microtransaction money for something that won’t leave my account in a matter of minutes.
The Good: It’s a pretty mobile game, and the city building is actually kind of fun. Middle-earth source material is always a bonus.
The Bad: The excessively long build times are just absurd. And Saruman shouldn’t be allowed to be a hero.
Bottom Line?: If you want to play for free, don’t bother with it unless you’re 1) patient or 2) well-disciplined about not spending a ton of money on in-app purchases.
Yeah, the title says it all. Thanksgiving has come and gone, as has Black Friday, so this is a little late. But I still hope you had a great Thanksgiving day, and if you aren’t in the States, I hope you had an equally great regular day. In any case, here’s a Dalek being nommed by a kitty.
Even though I’m still looking for steady paying work, I’m thankful for a lot in my life. I’m thankful for all of my geeky friends who understand me and my weirdnesses, my wonderful family who are always there for me, the fact that I live in world where I can make something of myself if I put my mind to it, and of course, for anybody who stops by here and gets something out of this blog thing that I created. Seriously, if you’ve read any of my articles and been amused, I’m thankful for you. So go have some leftover pumpkin pie (or whatever your chosen dessert might be) and reward yourself with a relaxing rest of the weekend.
I’m spending the weekend with family, so I’ll be back next week with more link roundups, more TARDISes, and maybe even some new crafts. What have you been up to over the holiday? Did you get out and find any good deals?
Update: You can find The GAMES Blog’s livestream at www.twitch.tv/thegamesblog! Come chat with us and help us stay sane as we play games for 24 hours to benefit CMN in our belated Extra Life marathon.
Extra Life is a 24-hour video game marathon to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network, and this weekend, The G.A.M.E.S. Blog is planning to participate. We’ll have a livestream setup and from the morning of Saturday, November 10, to the morning of Sunday, November 11, several members of the staff will be playing video games non-stop.
Our original plan was to host the marathon last month, but we had some hiccups along the way, and it got pushed back to now. If you’re interested in helping out, you can check out our team page and pledge money to one of the writers who are listed.
I’ll be helping run the chat when people stop by, so if you want to come and say hello, check this post on Saturday and stay tuned to my social media channels for a link to our livestream. The link will show up on The GAMES Blog’s Facebook page as well.
I bought my first two Pokemon games at a garage sale when I was in about sixth grade. I remember seeing someone selling off their Yellow and Silver cartridges for five bucks, including the strategy guide to Yellow. I knew about the cards, but I’d never played the games. So, I forked over some of my hard-earned allowance and proceeded to play the heck out of both.
Even though I enjoyed my Pokemon so much so long ago, the last couple of times a new game came out, I was on the fence about it. I worried that I would be bored with the series’ core gameplay and that no amount of shiny new additions would satisfy me. I gave in to Black/White version and wound up enjoying it, so when Black/White 2 came out, I just threw my hands in the air, bought the darned thing, and started playing…only to find myself utterly unable to stop. Sure, that grandma who was buying it for her grandson at the same time I was picking up a copy for myself looked at me a little funny, but I really don’t care. I still love Pokemon.
What is it about these games that can still keep me captivated for hours on end? I can’t chalk it all up to a compulsive desire to fill out my Pokedex; honestly, since I skipped Diamond/Pearl and the Gold/Silver remake, I haven’t ever been able to do that in the first place.
I guess part of it might be the story. Though the plots of Pokemon games are generally mediocre at best, I do usually want to know how the bad guys get done in at the end and watch the Team Whatever Grunts flail about when they lose to a kid. Maybe it’s the thrill of catching legendary creatures. It could also be the fun of starting a journey with cute little Pokemon and watching them grow with my character to become the very best like no one ever was.
Perhaps it’s just the catchy music?
I think for me, a large part of it really is nostalgia. I was pleased to find that B/W 2 had so many of the previous generations’ Pokemon available from the beginning of the game. Seriously, you have no idea how happy I was when I caught a Growlithe over by the second gym. Also, the fact that so much has stayed the same for so long probably helped me appreciate the new Pokemon, different music, new characters, etc., even more because I didn’t need to learn how to play. I could just think, “Holy crap, what the heck is this new Pokemon? It looks awesome!” and get on with catching it.
Of course, the upgrades are definitely nice. B/W was my first DS Pokemon game, so I loved seeing the improved box access and being able to trade online. Seriously, the GTS is wonderful. It has a few glaring usability issues that I’ll probably write about sometime, but since this is the first time I’ve ever had a chance in hell of filling up my Pokedex, I think I’ll still be playing B/W 2 off and on for a while once I’ve had a break from it.
Since I have a 3DS, I was also able to pick up Dream Radar, and I think that will also help keep me playing. You can use it several times a day to catch Pokemon, find useful items (Surely I’m not the only one that uses it to farm evolution stones…), and look like a crazy person while using the 3DS’ AR functionality to shoot fluffy clouds. Then, you can transfer your spoils to your B/W 2 cartridge, and voila! New stuff to play with in-game. Did you know that you can even plug in previous generation cartridges and catch those games’ mascots? I borrowed SoulSilver and Platinum from a friend to do that. Pretty nifty, right? I’m not-so-secretly hoping Dream Radar is actually a tech demo for how you’ll catch Pokemon in a full-blown 3DS entry in the series…but let’s save my hopes for the first 3DS generation for a future posting.
There are tons of social things you can do in Pokemon these days, too. I recently discovered the Pokemon Global Link website, and I’m hooked on it. Maybe I feel a bit childish playing those minigames to catch Pokemon, but I love that you can meet other trainers from the Dream World in your B/W 2 game. Join Avenue is a pretty gimmicky little time waster: you can run a shopping district populate it with trainers you meet online, through trades, or in person over IR. But hey, I actually have a lot of fun seeing them show up, so I figure I’ll try to put some effort into it.
Do you play Pokemon? If so, what’s your favorite thing about it? What would you like to see improved about the series in the future? Feel free to share your thoughts, Pokemon conspiracy theories, and random funny images in the comments.
If you’re looking for something inspiring to remind you that video games can be good for the world, take a look at this. There’s a class at the University of Michigan that has students develop games for use in therapy for autistic kids. Their goal is to provide these kids with simple games that will engage them and get them to do something active.
It’s such a great idea to have students working on projects that can actually be used in the real world to benefit others rather than having them just do abstract exercises that might teach them the concepts they need to know but have no context. It sounds like the kids these engineering students are making these games for are having fun, too.
Do you find this inspiring? I know I did. If you want more information apart from the YouTube video, check out the whole story here.
[via Gaming World Wide]