Archive for November, 2010

Community Voice #23 : Your Black Friday Hauls: Howd You Do?

The weekend after Thanksgiving, starting with the notorious Black Friday and going through Cyber Monday, are an annual shopping bonanza, in which retailers of all shapes and sizes offer steep discounts in an attempt to separate us from our hard-earned cash.

With the economy being relatively sour, and many people holding onto what money they can get, times have been especially tough for many retailers, especially after a relatively dismal Black Friday showing last year.  This year, many retailers attempted to balk the trends by offering discounts starting as soon as November 1 and leading up to the big weekend.

Amazon, for example, had some stellar deals all weekend long, especially on Black Friday itself, with many deals selling out almost instantly.  iPhone in hand, I know I scoured the deals as much as I could during holiday festivities and travel this past weekend, and managed to pick up deals like Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition (you can never have enough DA in my opinion) for only $35, Red Dead Redemption for $29, and Monopoly Streets for $25, all on PS3.  Im still kicking myself that I missed out on getting God of War Collection for only $10, and you could also find plenty of other steals like that as well.  Some retailers had PSPGo bundles for only $150, others had steep discounts on PS3, Wii, and 360 Console bundles.  Even Gamestop got into the action by offering several games (new) for only $10.

So, how did you guys do?  Did you score big deals online, or did you battle the crowds for the last deeply discounted PS3/TV bundle at Best Buy?  I love to hear a good deal, so please share your hauls in the comments, or maybe those items you hoped to find on sale but didnt (and maybe are still waiting for).

What is Community Voice? Community Voice is your weekly chance to make yourself heard on Spawn Kill. Yes, you can leave comments on any post that we have, but The Community Voice is a feature that is notorious for encouraging discussion and fostering a sense of, yes, community. We want to hear from readers of the site, so let us know your opinions on the topics every week and let’s get something lively going!

Editorial: A PlayStation Thanksgiving

With turkey just around the corner, Id like to take a look back at this last year and why Im grateful for the PS3. Released at the end of 2006, the Playstation 3 has had an interesting run. From a struggling competitor to the Xbox 360, to now a dominating player on the market, its influence can be seen in its sales and game production.

I first picked up my PS3 around June of 2008 with the release of Metal Gear Solid 4. It was one of the big games that helped raise PS3 popularity due in part to its exclusivity. A 20-hour romp into the world of Solid Snake, the game is now a best-seller and continues to enthrall people not only with its incredible story line but also with a robust online multiplayer game. Along with Metal Gear, I picked up a few of the launch titles to get started: games like Resistance: Fall of Man and Assassins Creed. Resistance was an amazing first-person shooter that was a new IP for the PS3. The game followed a key soldier, Nathan Hale, on his journey through an invasion of an alien species and his struggles to not become one of them. The story, action, and most of all, weapons, were incredible and made the game one of my favorites even to this day.

Now skip ahead a few years to 2010. By this time, the PS3 has had many hugely successful titles ranging from Uncharted 2 to God of War 3 and even to smaller release titles like 3d Dot Game Heroes. The system has had its share of multi-platform blockbusters as well, such as Modern Warfare 1 and 2 and many, many sports games. The platform has outperformed all original expectations and has recently picked up sales thanks to a new marketing campaign and much needed price drops. With features such as free online play and the best Blu-Ray player on the market, the console should have a very long life. Having the PS3 these last few years has been an adventure. Whether Im traveling around on horseback through the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption, or if Im pulling headshots in Modern Warfare 2, the console has never let me down. Playstation has always provided great service to its customers in the form of fun games or a well developed console to play them on. Not once in these past years have I had to worry about my PS3 randomly dying, nor have I had to worry about not having a good game to play because of the consistent quality exclusives.

Although Im grateful for my family and health, the Playstation has been something I appreciate as well. Ive gotten my fill of killing baddies and racing around cities this past year thanks to the system. So this Thanksgiving, I urge all of you to stop for a minute and think about your console, be it PS3, Xbox 360, PC, or even Wii, and consider the fun youve had and the great games youve played. And from one gamer to another, Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday Gift Guide for Casual Gamers

Casual gamers seem to always be the hardest people to shop for, especially from a hardcore gamers perspective. They don’t like certain genres, they don’t spend all day playing games, and they often can’t handle games with complicated controls. While many of them would love to get an iTunes Store card to pay for their iPhone games, I’ve come up with a list of titles and accessories perfect for the casual gamers on your shopping list.
NBA Jam

I am a huge sports fan but not every gamer shares my passion for sports. With NBA Jam it doesn’t really matter if you are a huge basketball fan, everyone can enjoy this game. The controls are simple the game requires little skill and the games don’t last that long. The controls are really simple, especially on the Wii, which makes this one of the best pick-up and play titles. NBA Jam brings us back to the days of over the top sports games when even non-sports fans could sit down and enjoy playing a sports title. With little skill needed (simple flicks of the wrist) and great pick-up and play modes, NBA Jam is one of the best titles for the casual gamer.

Sonic Colors

Finally, Sega gets something right.  Sonic Colors is the first game featuring the blue blur that isnt atrocious and embarrassing, and its fun for kids and casual gamers, due to its relatively easy gameplay and modern touch.  It might be the game to get your girlfriend if shes disappointed another New Super Mario Bros wasnt released this year, and youre worried Donkey Kong Country might be too demanding.

Wii Storage Ottoman

Most casual gamers have Wiis, and they might even have a balance board and slew of other accessories, but since they arent traditional gamers (and many are women), rather than having their game gear proudly in view at all times, they may prefer a place to hide everything away when not in use.  Level Up has several great storage options, but this is one of their best.  It has room to save your Wii balance board, games, and accessories like the Wii wheel, all in a beautiful and functional piece of furniture.  This might be the best way to keep the gamers and casual gamers happy in your household.  Available from Kohls for $139.99.
Multiplatform

Rock Band 3

I’ve always felt that Harmonix has done everything they could do to make Rock Band a game that appeals to everyone. With Rock Band 3, they’ve truly outdone themselves. This version, more so than previous titles, is ideal for the casual gamer. Of course it doesn’t hurt that you can have seven people play at the same time (three on vocals, plus drums, guitar, bass and keyboard). Harmonix has catered more to the casual gamer by simplifying the navigation menus and offering more features that assist those who struggle with playing the plastic instruments. The new menu system allows for easy drop-in and drop-outs at any point, even in the middle of the song. All the songs are unlocked right off the bat so there’s no need to spend countless hours playing through the career mode. In-song options now allow players to switch difficulty at any point in the song. When you change the difficulty you automatically go into no fail mode, so if you want to challenge yourself you can do so without hurting the rest of the band or the score. In career mode you’ll now have more choice when it comes to the songs you play and if you happen to fail a song in a set, you can simply skip that song and move on. It really is all the little things in Rock Band 3 that lends itself to a more casual audience. It’s also a great game to play when you have a mix of casual and hardcore gamers.

Split/Second

I wouldn’t say I’m a big racing fan, but I love racing games that are more on the arcade side, and Split/Second is definitely that type of racer. With over-the-top explosions and multiple exciting game modes, Split/Second is a title that speaks to the racing fan in all of us. The controls are simple and so is the gameplay. In Split/Second you try to take out the enemy by triggering explosives set up all over the track. A button icon is displayed on the screen when they can be triggered so you’ll know when you need to hit it. The cars are pretty easy to control, they go fast but after a few racers you’ll get the hang of cornering and soon enough you’ll end up in first place every time. The career mode offers plenty of variation to the basic racing mode and the competition slowly gets harder and seems to scale a bit to your abilities. Split/Second kind of took over from Burnout. While Burnout had an amazing open world environment, many casual gamers were overwhelmed by this. Split/Second is a great racing game for all those casual gamers who miss the old days of Burnout, or who are looking for something a little less kiddie than Mario Kart.

Eclipse Universal Gaming Storage

If your casual gamer already owns Rockband 3, they might find this universal storage tower a convenient place to store their guitars and games when not in use. Because this unit is universal, it will work regardless of whether the giftee on your list owns a PS3, Wii, or 360, or even a combination of those. This storage unit can hold games, controllers, guitars, drumsticks, and even the consoles themselves.  Available from Walmart for $69.99, it is also a more affordable option than the Wii storage ottoman.

PC

Star Wars Clone Wars Adventures: Galactic Passport

While this is an MMO, Clone Wars Adventures includes many flash-type games that many casual gamers play when they’re bored. The only difference is these have a Star Wars theme to them and it works. If you are a Star Wars fan and don’t really play games, Clone Wars Adventures is a great game to get into. It’s a free to play browser-based game with a lot of minigames to choose from. The games range from tower defense to various puzzle games to a target practice title. Each of these games can be accesed from a menu rather than walking around the open world. It starts up fast and doesn’t require a powerful computer. If you wanted to interact with other people you can, or you can just get friends into the game and compete with them via Leaderboards. Clone Wars Adventures offers a lot of the same games that casual gamers love to play on their computer, but all in one place and with a Star Wars theme. With the Star wars Clone Wars Adventures: Galactic Passport, for only $20 you can give the casual gamer a 90-day premium Jedi Membership. This unlocks some of the more challenging levels within the mini-games, and includes a Yoda bobblehead!

Bejeweled 3

What casual gamer doesnt love to spend hours on games like Bejeweled?  With the third entry in the series releasinPreviewg on December 7, the puzzle fan in your life will be happy to know you thought of them with the gift of Bejeweled 3.  This latest version includes eight game modes: including Classic, Quest, Lightning and Zen.  The game also includes badges to earn, and secret games to uncover, as well as boasting smoother action and high-definition graphics.  Best of all, the game is available in a retail version for $19.99, so you dont have to worry about messing with download codes.

Amazon Gift Card

Unfortunately, most casual game portals (like PopCap, GameFish, etc.) dont allow you to purchase a gift certificate or card.  You can gift an individual game (or games), but you cant give that person on your list the ticket to purchase any game they want.  However, Amazon also has many casual games on offer, both digital and retail, including various entries in the DASH series, and more.  Let your receiver pick the games they want with an Amazon gift card, which you can purchase here in any amount youd like.

DS

Super Scribblenauts

Super Scribblenauts is a great game for someone who wants something easy to get into, and that they can play in small bursts if they want, or even on the go.  Having greatly improved the quirks of the original game, including moving Maxwell around the scene and the sometimes wonky physics, gamers are free to let their imaginations run wild as they use adjectives for the first time in this puzzle-focused sequel.  The par system from the first game has been removed, allowing gamers to experiment without penalty.

Picross 3D

If you have a casual gamer on your list who loves puzzles, then they will love Picross 3D, in which you must carefully remove blocks based on various clues in order to reveal their true shape.  With over 350 puzzles and a star system that will always having you go back to see if you can get a perfect score, this game will keep the puzzler on your list entertained for hours and hours.

Green (or Orange) Holiday DSi w/ Mario Party DS

Now, if you have a casual gamer on your list and they dont already own a DS, one of the holiday DSi bundles might be the perfect gift.  Available in either green or orange, each DSi comes with a copy of Mario Party DS, making them an excellent gift.  The DS has a great library of games that appeal to both hardcore and casual gamer, so you know that special someone will be thanking you for this one long after the tree is down and the presents put away.  Buy it on Amazon for $149.99 and get a bonus $25 video game credit you can keep for yourself, or add to your gift!

Every Kratos Kill Ever: Chains of Olympus

Narratively, Chains of Olympus actually comes before God of War in the timeline of Kratos universe.  In terms of real world game releases, it comes third in our God of War series, and also makes the series debut on the PSP.  Though one of the earliest PSP games to hit the market, Chains of Olympus would be one of the top rated and most successful games on the platform, only surpassed in quality by its successor (Ghost of Sparta) and a few other choice picks.   The crux of Chains of Olympus is that Kratos is a tool of the gods, particularly Ares himself, and when the Pantheon themselves are threatened, it is up to this mostly mortal man to fix their problems.  He does so with his twin Blades of Chaos, and while his killing isnt nearly as rampant and bloody as in any other game in the series, this is technically his heroic debut, so we can forgive him a shorter death list.

Basilisk

In-game chronology would have the Basilisk as Kratos first truly legendary kill.  This is the first real boss fight in Chains of Olympus, and also the biggest enemy he fights in the entire game.  In Kratos world, the Basilisk is a large, dinosaur-like beast that breathes fire and has no stoning properties.  Its as tall and as wide as a building, has a Spinosaurus-like protrusion along its back, and bears the mottled skin of one of the great lizards.  It also has large, webbed arms, though it never shows any indication that it can fly.  This image is in stark contrast to most of those in Greek mythology, but things are usually bigger and badder in the Kratos-verse, so this is hardly any surprise.  In legends, the basilisk ranges from a diminutive snake-like creature to something relatively cow-sized, and has even been represented multiple times as very chicken-like in appearance.  However, its rarely, if ever, a behemoth, and in no accounts that I could find did it ever breathe fire.  It has had the ability to spit venom, but its singular characteristic has always been its ability to turn victims to stone with a mere gaze.  Perhaps Ready at Dawn didnt wish to re-utilize this mechanic after the gorgon fights of God of War I and II.

Regardless of its mythical variance, the basilisk fight, in a style reminiscent of every God of War game, starts Chains of Olympus off with a roar, and somehow Kratos manages to break the great reptiles neck.

Charon

As with just about every single God of War title, at some point Kratos is either thrown or forced into the Underworld where he invariably sloshes around slaying things that are supposed to be already dead.  As the mythology would tell it, Charon is the ferryman who trucks souls across the River Styx and into Hades proper.  Charon is generally depicted as an old, hooded figure, and not necessarily a warrior or magician capable of fighting.  However, he must have some power because he is able to deny just about any but the most persistent of mythological figures access to the Underworld.  This is what happens to Kratos when he first comes upon his boat, toying with the Ghost of Sparta as though he were a child.  Kratos eventually returns and not only beats Charon to death, but rips his mask off revealing the hideous geezer beneath.

There is no mention in later games the effect that not having an underworld ferryman had on the process of souls crossing Styx.  Presumably, theres a very long line just waiting to get in.

Persephone

Persephone might be the most peculiar kill for Kratos, for a few reasons.  Its not strange because shes a fairly major god, but because he kills her so early into his god-slaying career.  By all rights, this lone mortal should not have stood a chance, walking into the lair of a deity and slaying her with impudence.  Nevermind the fact that Hades probably would have been nearby and exacted a swift revenge, a fight that Kratos could not have withstood in his pre-ascension days (though stranger kills have happened).

In traditional mythology, Persephone is the child of Demeter and Zeus (incest!), but is abducted in the famous Rape of Persephone myth by Hades, and made to live in the Underworld for eternity with only occasional visits to Olympus and the world above.  At these times, nature flourishes and thus the reason for Spring.

The entire Chains of Olympus story revolves around Persephones revenge, and how she kidnapped Helios, the Sun God, and with her ally Atlas, the Titan holding up the earth, tried to destroy the pillar supporting Olympus and thus doom all the gods.  Kratos, as a tool of the gods at this point, kills her for her brash actions.  How this affects the coming of Spring and nature in general is never made mention of in any subsequent narratives.  As if Kratos cares about some namby-pamby Spring anyway.

Community Voice #22: Console Based Exclusive Content: Good or Bad?

As this gen of gaming continues, the trend of console exclusivity seems to be slowly fading in to the past. Key characters like Master Chief, Mario, and Nathan Drake will remain loyal to their respective consoles, but youre seeing less and less console-exclusive games. Dont forget the “exclusive” franchises that eventually break rank and end up multiplatform. Take Halo creators Bungie Studios for example. Since Halo 2, theyd been an Xbox 360 exclusive company, and yet now their recently inked partnership with Activision has them poised to appear on other consoles.

What were seeing more and more of is publishers and developers striking deals with one of the “big three” to release exclusive extra content, meanwhile leaving fans of the game who dont own said “exclusive” console out in the cold. So instead of Xbox 360 fanboys arguing with their PS3 nemeses about things like graphics, youve got one rubbing their console exclusive content in the others face.  Moreso, it takes choice away, in a sense, from the consumer, rendering some versions of the game less complete than others, since access to exclusive DLC will be forever (or at least for an extended period of time) barred from those users access.

Which is why I propose a solution that may enhance the highly profitable “console wars” we gamers are in the midst of. How about instead of offering only one console-exclusive content, companies start offering separate, but comparable, content for each console. Structure it the way game retailers do when it comes to pre-order bonuses, and offer each system its own unique bonus content. It not only offers hardcore fanboys perks for purchasing a game on their console of choice, it gives those who hold no allegiance choice, and gives item hoarders a chance to pick up each copy and nab all the exclusive content.  As a result, everyone can win: console manufacturers, developers, and gamers.

What do you think? How do you feel when only one console gets exclusive content? Is the above solution a viable option? Do you have a different idea on how to remedy the sometimes unbalanced exclusivity issue? Sound off and let your voices be heard!

What is Community Voice? Community Voice is your weekly chance to make yourself heard on Spawn Kill. Yes, you can leave comments on any post that we have, but The Community Voice is a feature that is notorious for encouraging discussion and fostering a sense of, yes, community. We want to hear from readers of the site, so let us know your opinions on the topics every week and let’s get something lively going!