Friday fun link: Glorg

Glorg is worth checking out simply on the strength of its design. It’s a minimalistic one button rpg inspired by roguelikes with great art design and music. This isn’t a deep experience, but it’s perfect for your friday lunch break. Pay attention to the timing on your mouseclicks – it’s not obvious at first that timing plays an important role. A video is below:

Return of the Friday fun link: Cursed Treasure

Cursed Treasure is a fantastic flash-based tower defense game with a level up system. If you’re a fan of the genre you don’t want to miss this one. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it’s just really well executed, has good graphics, UI, and sound, and enough depth to keep you engaged. I finished all levels with a brilliant rating. A hint: the fear power of Crypts is really powerful. I found it easiest to focus on leveling that tower type up. Also holding down shift lets you repeat actions, something that’s not obvious and which is critical to beating Ninjas with your fireball.

Game Finished: Gears of War 2

Gears of War
Image via Wikipedia

I’m still on a roll, finishing games at a rapid clip. Susan was out of town for several days at a conference which also helped.

It’s clear Gears of War 2 was written for 15 year old males, and for the most part I hated it. I disliked the first one and traded it in before finishing it, and ended up with the sequel because of a buy 2 get 1 free sale at Gamestop. I’d heard the sequel was an improvement on the original, and it probably is on a technical level, but the abysmally stupid plot, awful dialog, and mediocre game mechanics all drag the thing down into ‘don’t bother playing this dog’ territory. The script writers are channeling braindead hollywood action flicks from the 80s, think, say ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando‘ level dumb dialog. Lots of folks loved this game (it’s got a 93 rating over on metacritic for example) – I guess I’m just not in the target audience for this one. My appreciation for it wasn’t helped by the fact that I played it right after Halo ODST, a game with a refined combat and gameplay aesthetic that Gears of War 2 compares very poorly to. The one positive thing I can say is that the game does have some imaginative settings with impressive scope, especially when you venture underground into vast cavernous areas with ancient temples, sunken cities, and a giant worm out to get you – that part was a visual treat. Everything else…I disliked.

The clip below plays some of the cutscenes from the game and gives a pretty good idea of why I disliked the game. Video quality’s not that great but the audio is really the point. Don’t play this with other people around, it’s definitely NSFW.

Game finished: Halo O.D.S.T.

Halo 3 - Master Chief
Image by Ricardo Saramago via Flickr

I finished Halo O.D.S.T. (aka Orbital Drop Ship Troopers), the 4th game in the Halo series (or like the 8th, if you count the Marathon games as the spiritual predecessors they were) over the weekend. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected. I’ve solved all the Halo games at this point, including 2 of them in coop, and I figured I had seen everything the Halo games had to see at this point, plus Halo 3 concludes the Master Chief‘s story arc, and I sort of figured without the Master Chief I wouldn’t be interested.

I only ended up getting the game because Toys R Us had a buy 2 get 1 free sale after Thanksgiving and I couldn’t find anything else I was interested in. My first session with the game seemed to confirm my suspicion – been there, done that, I thought, and I quickly set the game aside for others. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to clear out my game backlog before buying any new games though, and I love buying new games, so I returned to it and warmed up to it as I played.

The Halo series does a pretty good job with their basic combat mechanics, and their level design focuses on setting up repeated ‘situations’ or skirmishes that require tactical thinking, skill, and sometimes a little luck. The same skirmish can play out wildly differently each time you approach it after a failure too, which helps enormously with enjoyment. In terms of what ODST brings to the party this time around…well, not much new. Some tweaks to the weapons, graphics, vehicles, a lack of the more resilient Master Chief, and that’s about it. The relatively short plot follows the misadventures of a squad of soldiers on a mission in a city under siege by alien invaders. It’s told non-linearly, and while in the end it’s not that exciting, by the standards of most first person shooters it’s actually pretty solid. I played on normal difficulty and either the game is fairly easy or I’ve played enough Halo games to do really well at them, because I mostly found it pretty easy.

The one new thing that ODST does bring to the table is a multiplayer mode called Firefight that’s pretty fun – it’s basically the human players versus increasingly powerful waves of AI characters in skirmish battles. It’s tough, frantic, and a good deal of fun. The rest of the multiplayer is basically what you see in Halo 3 with a bunch of additional maps included, including some which were DLC for Halo 3.

So – would I recommend it? Qualified yes – if you’ve played Halo games and really enjoyed them, no question, you should pick it up. If you’re a singleplayer only player, well, it’s a tougher call. The single player is fun and well designed and has an above average story for the genre, but it’s also fairly short. If you’re a Halo 3 multiplayer fan, it’s probably worth picking up just for the Firefight mode alone.

Game Finished: Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty

Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty
Image via Wikipedia

I’m on a roll thanks to one of my New Year’s resolutions. I finished Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty earlier in the week. It’s a short coda to the previous game, Tools of Destruction, and explains how Ratchet figures out where Clank is after he…disappears at the end of Tools of Destruction. I scored the next game in the series, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time on sale over Christmas and I wanted to finish this game so I could move on its sequel. This is the 8th (!!!) Ratchet and Clank game and it doesn’t bring much new to the table. There’s more of a focus on puzzle solving than in the previous games, and it’s really short, maybe 3-4 hours long, but it’s still got the trademark Ratchet and Clank humor and I enjoyed it well enough. The series features run and gun arcade adventure with some light puzzle solving, a lot of saturday morning cartoon humor, and generally great graphics. I’ve played all of them and solved several of them, including this one, but if you’re going to skip one, this is the one. Counterbalancing that is it’s cheap – I got it for $9.99 from the Playstation store as a download. Below is an ~8 minute video showing off some of the gameplay. Bottom line, if you’ve played the previous games and enjoyed them, you’re likely to enjoy this one as well.

New Year’s resolutions

I’m a bit behind, granted. I have a good excuse – came down with pneumonia and it really knocked the stuffing out of me. I’m just starting to feel myself again after fighting this off for three weeks, and I’m still fighting a cough and dealing with fatigue issues. Anyway, I made two resolutions this year: To get back on track with my diet and exercise regimen, and to follow an example I set myself several years ago with my buying habits.

The diet and exercise resolution has turned out to be easy thanks to the bout of pneumonia. My weight had been creeping up and by this fall I was over 180 for the first time in a number of years, something I had begun to worry about. Stomach issues and a generally slacker attitude to exercise had me off my regimen for almost all of the summer and fall, so I figured, time for a new years resolution to address it. Pressures off now though – I’m down under 170 for the first time in at least 4-5 years. I just need to keep it off. As soon as my stamina is back it’s back on the exercise regimen, possibly adding in running, which I haven’t done regularly since I left Maine.

The second resolution is inspired by a successful resolution from years ago. At that time I had gotten addicted to buying books off of Abe books, ebay, and Amazon, and my to-read pile was growing faster than my read pile was decreasing. I resolved to only buy a book after I had finished at least one, and to generally focus on bringing down the number of books in the to-read pile. It worked. I still have a huge to-read pile (>20 books) but it no longer grows and it’s no longer close to 100 books. This year I’m applying these principles to videogames, because my to-play pile is like 15 games at this point and maybe higher. I’ve resolved to not buy a new game unless I finish one, and to focus on finishing off games I’ve left partially completed. I have this terrible habit of starting whatever new game I acquire, playing it obsessively for a week or two until the next game comes, then moving on, rarely finishing anything. No more! I’m working my way through games at a rapid clip, and not opening anything still in the shrinkwrap until I knock games off the list. So far it’s working – I’ve finished 4-5 games since the year began, and this was with me unable to play games for two weeks thanks to the pneumonia.

I’m such a hopeless nerd.

I’ve also put myself on a budget. Mint.com rocks for helping you see where you spend your money. I spend too much of mine on games, and that’s stopping as well.

Anyway, to sum up a rambling post, figure on a lot of  ‘Game finished’ posts from me, especially over the next couple of months, as I focus on a game at a time instead of flitting from game to game.