29 December 2011

That was the year that was

2011. The best year in gaming ever! Yep, that's what gaming media is trying to convince you. I say, 2011 was one of the most dire years in modern gaming. So many hyped-up mega games, most of them sequels to sequels to already uninspiring games. All those got superlative, mad-raving reviews everywhere.

In truth, imagination and originality are dead. I can see no way them being resurrected in this gaming world where big corporations run gamers on a leash. No one take risks and the public don't even want anyone taking risks, they just swallow every hit game on offer. They can't realize there could be better games, they can't dream of better games as they are so used to big games as they are now. Sad but true. There are rebels who think otherwise though, like me. I can't be the only one but we are minority. And big companies don't care for us. I can vote with my wallet and refuse to buy the latest hit. But for every me there are thousand of those who buy the game.

And here we are, reviewing the year that was in the gaming. I didn't pick the usual "best of the genre" winners because in my books games in general weren't good enough even for that. So I chose only the game of the year. Ironically though, the best game of 2011 isn't imaginative or original per se either. It only takes tried and tested ideas and boost them skyhigh, intervowen into an intriguing and involving story. And no, I'm not talking about Mass Effect 2 on PS3 which would be game of the year, and come to think of it, game of the year years to come, if it wouldn't count as cheating as in reality it's 2010 game. So, the most logical choice is Dragon Age II, see DA II entries here for further reasoning. Funny thing, the game got pretty much raped in the gaming media...

Lady Hawke

A runner-up for the game of the year could very well be Star Wars: The Old Republic, also by who else than Bioware. If only I had a computer to run it on... I had a chance to play it recently and liked my sith warrior. Little birds tell me though in the long run the combat can be stiff and quests get repetitive. The main selling-points are the license and Bioware's always engaging storytelling, really getting you into the character, but the gameplay mechanics aren't those of World of Warcraft standards.

 Wait until I get my light saber...

P.S. Of course, I haven't had a chance to play every game that came out in 2011, so take the above rant with a bit of salt on it ;) A very little bit.

25 November 2011

"Your Xbox can't recognize this disc"

Bored with so-called hype games the big game companies pour onto the shelves for the end of year season, we dug up old Xbox, dusted it off and hooked it up to the TV. After all, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II was left unfinished few years ago so what would be better time to continue it! Hurrah!

Alas, that was what we got, attempt after attempt...

We know the first generation models with Thomson DVD drives have compability issues with later games, but that couldn't be the reason as the game worked perfectly years ago. As did all the other games which didn't load up now. About 50% of the games that used to work without a hitch didn't work anymore. And yes, all discs were clean with absolutely no scratches or dust.

So we figured the disc drive must be dirty. We bought pure alcohol from pharmacy (remember kids, that's something not to consume or inhale, in fact a very good ventilation and even a face mask when using the stuff is strongly recommended) and a couple of "jeweller's screwdrivers" as we knew there would be such screws to, er, unscrew outside and inside the machine. I watched from sidelines and let my brother to do the job, heh. After getting to the heart of the DVD drive, he carefully cleaned both the lens and the reflective mirror with q-tip dipped in the alcohol and then let them dry for a while. After that all pieces back together.

The good news: he didn't kill Xbox. It's working.

The bad news:

Those games still don't load so we assume it must be some mechanical stress on the DVD drive. Sigh. So all we can do is watch jumble sales for a working, newer model of the first Xbox...

6 November 2011

Hydrophobia attacks!

Downloadable games can be like straight-to-DVD alternatives to Hollywood blockbusters. Most of them are crap but some of them are actually more honest and likeable than their multimillion counterparts. Here we have Hydrophobia Prophecy (available on PSN store and Steam) by a small UK developers Dark Energy Digital. On a big screen we have Uncharted 3, one of the hyped, "must see, must play" games of the fall. That is, if you read forums and see those strange comparisons. In fact Hydrophobia owes more to Tomb Raider's legacy than to Sony's flashy thrill rides.

Hello, Kate. Feeling well, are we?

You see, there are none of those "push the buttons" set pieces and orchestrated cash-in on offer here. Instead we have Queen of the World, a big ocean liner suddenly flooded and taken by terrorists. That's when the panic ensues and in the middle of all of it we find Kate Wilson, a low-level security officer. The water rushes everywhere, presenting hazards to your way, and to top of that, "malthusians" take very seriously their agenda. That is, they kill everyone who doesn't think like they do.

The water in Hydrophobia is your worst enemy and best friend. Presented in three acts, Hydrophobia follows Kate through the ship, a reluctant heroine (phhs, not that kind of reluctant, like "fuck you, man" attitude but more as frightened and bewildered young woman) in a pursuit to escape the chaos and perhaps find the solution to end it all.

Like Hydrophobia Prophecy does. Yes, this is the fourth time Dark Energy Digital has released Hydrophobia. Originally it appeared on Xbox Live over a year ago. They listened to the critics and soon released a patch so comprehensive it gave the game a name Hydrophobia Pure. With revamped graphics engine, controls and obstacles, it was smoother, yet as thrilling and cool (pun intended!) as the original. Me, I would have been perfectly happy with the original but it's a good sign developers listen to fans and try to improve, isn't it? Soon after Pure, Hydrophobia Prophecy was announced for PC (available through Steam) and PS3. PC version landed first, re-cut, re-designed, making it practically a completely new version of the same game. And they changed Scoot's (Kate's supervisor with whom she talks via ear piece) voice actor. That's what the audience wanted: "get rid of that awful, screeching Scottish accent!". And so we hear a bulky, commanding voice coming out almost unfriendly towards his protegee. Oh dear! Don't listen to everything the people say! For Pete's sake, you make the game, you should know better! No word about the promised PS3 version though. And no, Xbox would not get its Prophecy. Go figure!

I couldn't believe when I saw the game was suddenly released on a PSN store! At very handsome price it was a must buy for me. And thus we arrive at what Hydrophobia is to Uncharted 3. For all of its lack of big budget polish, it has more character than Nathan Drake ever could have. PS3 version is yet again revamped from PC's Prophecy, with some re-designed levels and added Move controls (luckily they are only optional). At the moment, it's the ultimate version of the game.

A boss fight! Great! Wait a second, Xbox version didn't have it. I smell something here...

Sounds great, doesn't it? Yes it is! It looks good, plays good, Kate is good, new Scoot voice is still crap, Kate's new water-controlling kinetic powers are cool. Yet... somehow I'm disappointed. Prophecy is more straightforward and forgiving than the game originally was. And it has a boss fight... A stupid boss fight because as cool as kinetic powers are their controls don't work well. In the end, it's easy though but this boss fight tells something. I fear there will never be a Hydrophobia trilogy as it was originally intended. Now Dark Energy Digital you should hear us, fans of your game! Don't be like George Lucas! Stop obsessively tweaking your game and move to the second part! Please! Pretty please! Still, I recommend Hydrophobia Prophecy. It costs only about 1/10 what you should pay for the blocbuster games big game houses throw at you for the end of the year season! It gives you chills, you know, those good chills and not those why I wasted my hard-earned cash chills.

9 October 2011

Logo through the ages

Logo is a multi-paradigm computer programming language used in education, created in 1967.

Er... right. Let's start over;

A logo is a graphic mark or emblem commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition. Logos are either purely graphic or are composed of the name of the organization.

Right! Much better. Before rebooting the blog for good (so much stuff to tell about) let's have a look at different logos used to present Lost Planet.




18 June 2011

Exterminate, exterminate!

Breaking news! We just interrupted this decrypted feed from Microsoft: "...bzzz... exterminate... ex...minate!... all the old model Xbox360 games consoles are going to be extermina...d one after another in favor of cust...mers buying new slim model cons...les instead... Resistance is futile... you will be assi...lated...!"


Well, a bit dramatized version of what really happened; my friend's Xbox 360 died too, and it was his third one! Maybe old Xboxes are timecoded or something...

29 May 2011

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Sob... It was just a one day short of its three-year birthday which also means the warranty is long gone... I'm glad you carried me through DA2 before the end, you old war horse... sob. Beautiful! Thanks to my brother for immortalizing our Xbox's death mask... Waaa-aaaaah! Time to get ME2 for PS3 perhaps, while scraping together enough dosh to buy a new Xbox.

26 May 2011

Dragon Age II. A True Champion.

A champion has risen! Defeated an officer gone mad and plethora of other fiends along the way. And fled Kirkwall with her lover. That is to say, I finished Dragon Age II! What a ride! What an emotional ride! I think I shed a couple of tears when confronting my companions before the end. Especially with my character's love, who I forgave for his... erm, admittedly enormous crime. The last game moving me into tears was ICO, mind you. And that, getting you all emotional, is a high complinent for a video game. Bioware, please, if you are ever to do Dragon Age III, don't change anything from this one. Don't listen to any false critic the game has gotten! People who has spat that shit don't know... well, a shit! I just love DA2. It's a beautiful, beautiful, engrossing, intense game, and just goes on to show there are still games that matter. Really does matter. Games that aren't of mindless violence, easy entertainment or any other superficial and shallow values. So, really, Dragon Age II IS The Game of The Year. Period. (Mass Effect 3 was pushed to the next year ;)

Anders, we melee get blood all over our faces and you... you have blue crackles?
TaoTao Hawke is caring and tactful, but unforgiven when called for.
The armour changes all the time. Here, in this shot, just a regular wear, in the end, mostly epic (in WoW terms)
Oh sweet, sweet Merrill, don't dabble with blood magic. Oh, you already have?
My Champion. My beautiful and determined champion.

21 May 2011

Deeper in DAII

In Act 2 in Dragon Age II at the moment. I can't but wonder all the bad rep the game has gotten. So far it feels like Bioware's third best title after masterful Mass Effect 2 and stellar Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, just poking Jade Empire to the fourth place.

For starters, rogue class is actually fun to play now; effective, intense and deadly. And what's more important, NPC AI is significantly improved over Dragon Age. No need to patronize them any more so you can concentrate on the essentials, that is, in my case, being an effective, intense and deadly rogue.

Each and everyone of Hawke's companions is an interesting and intriguing person, no one is a kind you'd rather kick out than choose to your party. You actually feel bad to leave some good guys and gals out when you venture forth with what is in your books "an optimal party". And juggling between friendships and rivalries is engrossing this time around.

And Hawke talks! Yes, that makes more dynamic cut scenes and narration, and gives so much more emotion to the choices you are to make along the way. And Hawke's voice actress isn't that bad as I initially thought based on the demo. That's because demo-Hawke didn't have the face I would have liked! So in a bizarre way the face I made and the voice create my very own and only Hawke kind of feel. Sort of, yes?

If something completely disastrous doesn't happen towards the later parts, I think the Game of the Year is already here. I think I said something similar about ME2 over a year ago...

Ser Isaac's armor and an old friend. Or is it foe...?
 I like what I made out of my Hawke. Both out and inside.
You know, Merrill is like Winona Ryder of the Dalish <3
 Feelings in the play...
...and further so.

11 May 2011

Da-da-dam Dragon Age II

Finally got Dragon Age II! It hit a sale in one on-line store and after two agonizing weeks of waiting for it to arrive at my doorstep, I got my chance to make my very own Champion. As always in CRPGs, I picked up a rogue (even in Mass Effect 2 I chose an infiltrator as it's closest to a rogue the game allows) and after one hour of tinkering her looks, I was ready to go!

I have read stories how Hawke's siblings' appearances change based on a face you create, and how you have to re-create your character several times just because Bethany or Carver look too horrible to look at. Again I tried to create an Asian face for my character and apparently I was lucky as both Bethany and Carver (and the mother) look Asian too. Bethany even came up sooo cute! Hawke doesn't look exactly what I tried to create but she turned out nice enough to carry on with her.

Bioware states they borrowed the ideas both for the game and the appearance of it from numerous sources to make it easy to familiarize with. I'm only in the beginning of the game, just after completing Bethany's "Birthrights" quest, but so far, everything in its wretchedness reminds me of some of the best Roy Thomas/John Buscema's Savage Sword of Conan comic books. If that's what Bioware was after, then I raise my proverbial hat off to them, making it the best Conan game without Conan in it and with me playing a female character! Kirkwall is just so something Conan and his random companions could end up in on their adventures!

The tone of the game is very different from the first game. For starters, everything's streamlined, from action to interface and from inventory to quests, much like how ME2 was streamlined from ME1. And then the appearance. I almost can imagine how late John Buscema would have drawn the scenes and the characters. Oh, the bliss...

Of course, Dragon Age II is not up to ME2 standards but nevertheless, I'm loving it so far! Let's see how it fares further still... I'll keep you posted!

Great drama from the beginning.
Farewell...
Sisters.

23 April 2011

Yar's Revenge of Yar's Revenge

Betrayed, brain-washed and then revealed to the truth, Yar sets out for a revenge.

1981. Even I didn't play videogames then. I only started two years later with Philips Videopac. But back to 1981. A quirky shoot'em-up Yar's Revenge was released on Atari 2600 and remained the system's best-selling original title. Fastforward 30 years into 2011. Without much ado Atari releases a re-make at Xbox Live arcade. The titular Yar has been changed from an insect into a manga chick - but not forgetting Yar's insect roots - with four arms. Handy! Ahem... Donning a mechanical battle armor, she zooms into the screen on rails, with left thumbstick controlling Yar and the right thumbstick crosshair. Gameplay is top-notch; fast, frantic and intense. By the last boss my hands were shaking and sweat pouring down my face. Also art design is lavish, especially on mechanical levels which reminds me of those in Panzer Dragoon Orta. Indeed, Yar's Revenge is as close as you can get to Panzer Dragoon and Starfox on current platforms.

Okay, the game may be a tad short with only six stages, and it's not that hard at least on normal difficulty, but achievements are quite a bitch to acquire so if that's your thing, Yar's Revenge keeps you busy long after you have completed it. It's a matter of opinion (and virtual wallet size) whether to rush to get it now for 800 points or wait it to hit a sale. I can say I was happy with the full-price purchase. Games paying respects to retroroots are more often than most just embarrassing to everyone but when done right, they can be just as fun as their illustrious ancestors. And Yar's Revenge sure is a blast.

The game's story is told through some nifty manga drawings. You know, the thought of a girl with four arms is... kinda titillating.

22 April 2011

Arrival of the Third Kind, if it wasn't for Shebby...

 Another excuse to post a picture of MY Shepard

Supposedly the final extra mission for illustrious Mass Effect 2, Arrival, before the, er... arrival of Mass Effect 3, may not be as essential as Kasumi's Stolen Memory (Kasumiiiiii, the best squad member ever!) or as exciting and cool as Shadow Broker (mission with alien hon Lliara, phwoar!) but still it gives plenty of twists and escapades for commander Shepard and proofs that wherever she goes, she finds herself in more than shitty situations. Not to mention there are a couple of juicy renegade actions to be made. Embrace the Dark Side! So in a retrospect Arrival should be considered as an essential purchase for any true ME2 afficiendo. And now we shall wait for the final part of what should be the best trilogy ever - in any entertainment media!

10 January 2011

The Game of the Decade Past

A new decade and games are getting better and better, aren't they? Er... not exactly. For every Mass Effect, there are dozens of lacklustre rehashes of safe and sound so-called hits. "Hey, you said Mass Effect! Then Mass Effect 2 surely must be the game of the past decade (2000-2010, that is), given how much you have babbled about it here!". Close, but no cigar. Bioware is the developer of the decade for sure. No one can beat their track record, including classics like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Dragon Age and of course, both Mass Effects. "Okay then... but the game of the decade must still exist on the current generation of consoles anyway?". Nope. In fact, that game was released as far back as 2001 on PS2 and that game is...

Bare. Unpretentious. Beautiful. Enchanting. Ico broke the boundaries between art and games, a feat no game has surpassed. Ico created an emotional sounding board, born from an unlikely friendship. The game doesn't tell why this outcast kid with horns was thrown into a castle of mist simply to die. Nor does it tell why there is an imprisoned girl, all stone-white and delicate. When they meet, the game turns from what could have easily been just one of the many have-seen-it-all 3D-adventures of the time into a tale of untouched beauty, where no words are needed, and the little speech there is in an imaginary language. There's no romance, no kisses. Just the boy and the girl, these kids, unselfishly helping each other to escape. And there is no love greater than that. Presented in an ethereal lighting and music, the ruined castle and its immediate surroundings is the only world they know, with shadowy creatures on their heels and the puzzles the haunting place presents in every step on their way out.


And when the game ends, it's all up to you to decide what happened. Did they survive? Did they die? I can't tell anything more because there are tons of people who missed this gem and who has yet to answer the question themselves. Soon there is no excuse to overlook the game anymore, at least for PS3 owners, as an HD-remake along with Shadow of the Colossus, also made by Team ICO, will be released this year on PS3.

 pictures scanned from the European release game box and postcards within

1 January 2011

Games of the Year 2010

Best RPG: Mass Effect 2
I think this was more than obvious. It's not about throwing dices behind the curtain, filling the inventory with dozens of equipment, or adding points to gazillion of skills you probably won't ever use. It's about you, the choices you are allowed to make. That's the beauty of it; you are commander Shepard.

Old friends, been through hell and more.

Best adventure game: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition
I think it tells something about the strength of the game, its storyline, humor, characterization and the puzzles, that MI2 is in fact 19 years old game and still can grab this award easily in 2010 A.D. Lavish HD treatment aside, the core of the game is just as good as it was upon its original release all those years ago.

Best fighting game: Super Street Fighter IV
Okay. I suck in online play at SSFIV. It's the damn balance issue... (or maybe that's just a bad excuse :P) But the gameplay mechanics, the immerse depth to it despite of superficial simplicity, make SSFIV stand head and shoulders above other fighting games. And the game adds one of the most fresh, fierce and original characters ever in a fighting game to the roster; a Korean meanie Han Juri. Phwoar!

You know, Juri is a kind of girl who gives you the best sex of your life. And then kills you.

Best platformer: Blade Kitten
Very much scolded in gaming media but in reality a nifty little platformer. Blade Kitten doesn't take the usual approach to platformers, that is to copy everything from Nintendo, but feels more like a polished Amiga game in the vein of Superfog, Assassin and such, which is not a surprise as the lead designer and the graphics supervisor started his career in Amiga scene back in the 90's. It's also his own web comic Blade Kitten is based on. And Kit Ballard is such a pussycat, with attitude... meow!

"See that? Totally not a man!"

Best downloadable game: Faery - Legends of Avalon
When you think something sweet, you usually get an excessive feeling of sugar rush in your taste buds. But Faery has a different kind of sweet taste, not icky or sickly at all. An alternative to the usual carnage on offer, Faery is a charming and cute RPG in the style of older Final Fantasies. Instead of angst-ridden, spiky-haired, androgynous teens though, you fly around a lush 3D-world with sweet little forest folk straight out of collective fairytales and folkore, all fused together into a world of its own, brimming fantastic characters and events. Turn-based, simple combat comes as a blessing after such convoluted disasters as the fighting mechanics in FFXIII. Get credits and download it today!

Character upgrade screen with my cutey pie fairy.

Best graphics: Mass Effect 2
In movie terms, an astounding set design, retro lightning mimicing optical effects with halos and glares, and effectively used hand-held camera in the more action-orientated cut scenes make Mass Effect 2 look more credible than most sci-fi films which nowadays look more artifical than they did when everything was done by hand or on camera. Lets not forget the character models either which look real but still stylized, and the real-time lighting and shadows which lively illuminate and mask the scenes instead of preset spotlights.

Point proven.

Best audio: Mass Effect 2
The music mixing Vangelis and other synth pop into a soundscape which still has a voice of its own liven up Commander Shepard's galaxy saving team like in no other game at the moment. Add high-quality voice acting and stellar sound effects to the mix and there's absolutely no dull moment in ME2's rich audio texture.

Honorable mention for visual achievement: Enslaved - Odyssey to the West
Where Ninja Theory's impressive debut Heavenly Sword drew its influences from sweeping Asian wushu epics, making it beautiful and breathtaking experience and three years and more counting, still the best looking game on PS3, Enslaved takes its visual cue from French sci-fi comics with broken colors (green married to red and such), over-exposed lightning and decadent, majestic landscapes. It's always a pleasure to look at, and Monkey and Trip look real, something you can care for.

Er... I can see your buttcrack...

Best voice actress (lead): Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 2)
See, I'm not absolytely biased to ME2 in any way. Really I'm not. Jennifer Hale just is the best voice actress in the business at the moment. She's your commander Shepard, someone who has had harsh times behind her and more harsh times in front, always keeping cool, and being tough or compassionate whichever the script (and your choices in the context) calls for.

The battle of wills.

Best voice actor (lead): Andy Serkis as Monkey (Enslaved - Odyssey to the West)
Yeah, a brute with a heart like Monkey sounds like all too common a cliche but Andy Serkis, here harsh but soft-spoken, makes Monkey feel like a real person. It seems mr. Serkis takes his business 100% seriously whatever he's doing, be it a movie, a TV series or a game.

Game of the Year: Mass Effect 2
No further comments ;) If you thought there would have been some other game here, you haven't been reading my blog!

I'm simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone...

And the rest of the best:
Best character: Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 2)
Best NPC: Kasumi Goto (Mass Effect 2)
Best voice actress (supporting): Kym Hoy as Kasumi Goto (Mass Effect 2)
Best voice actor (supporting): Michael Beattie as Mordin Solus (Mass Effect 2)
Best electronic pop fused with vangelisque ambience: Tali's theme (Mass Effect 2)
Best title tune: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition
Hottest ass: Juri (Super Street Fighter IV)
Best thighs: Chun-Li (Super Street Fighter IV)
Best quote: "How 'bout goodbye? (female renegade Shepard after pushing a mercenary through the window in Mass Effect 2)
Best villain: Ghost pirate LeChuck AKA Chuckie (Monkey Island 2 Special Edition)
Most bad-ass attitude: Juri (Super Street Fighter IV)
Hottest perhaps lesbian, perhaps cannibalistic Korean meanie: Juri (Super Street Fighter IV)
Hottest Japanese girl with penchant for kleptomania: Kasumi Goto (Mass Effect 2)
Hottest half-feline, half-human heroine: Kit Ballard (Blade Kitten)
Most handsome game hero: Ilkka Villi as Alan Wake in, er, Alan Wake