Monday, November 22, 2010

Pixel Hunt Issue 12

The Pixel Hunt website has been hacked, which has forced us to re-construct it. But activity is still happening with the crew. Issue 12 has just been released, with even more gaming goodness.

I've got an editorial in there, as well as a feature on Child's Play (a charity by the folks at Penny Arcade). So check out the latest issue here, and keep an eye out for the new site!

I'm also on the latest episodes of Pixel Cast, our fortnightly podcast. Episodes 24 and 25 are now available on iTunes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What have I been up to?

It has been just over a month since I last posted anything here. Which, I admit, is a dramatic drop from my regular pace. I've endeavored to maintain a minimum of a post a week, but obviously I haven't kept to that promise.

Since the last post, a new issue of Pixel Hunt had been released, with contributions from myself again. I will have a couple of items in the upcoming Issue 12 as well. The podcast front has been fairly quiet as well, though we did record another episode a few nights ago.

The Pixel Hunt site has been hacked (again), so keep an eye out for new content once the site is restored.

I've also just submitted my first review for Hyper magazine. I'm hoping that my writing is deemed strong enough to warrant future opportunities. I've got my fingers crossed.

I've also really happy to have gotten the chance to get back into boardgames on a few occasions in the past month. I played some new hotness and some old favorites, and I'm really satisfied. Now my fingers are itching again, and I should probably get something onto the table some time soon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies - Review

My review of Dragon Quest IX has gone up at Pixel Hunt. Here's some snippets from my review:

Dragon Quest IX is my first foray into the series. Given my relative inexperience with Japanese-styled RPGs, I wholeheartedly state that DQIX has been a welcome introduction to the genre.

Narrative and character are two key attractions to JRPGs, and within the opening sequence detailed above, players will be sufficiently compelled to embark on this adventure.

There is ample opportunity to maximise usage of the party, with plenty of combat for players to engage in. Thankfully the combat is actually quite fun, with a couple of mechanics that help reduce the tedium.

As each member of the team are created and customised by the player, it sadly means that there is a lack of memorable characters within the story.

You can check out the rest of my review here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Starcraft 2 - Review by Community

A community review of Starcraft 2 has just gone up at Pixel Hunt. Whilst the primary contributions were from our community members, I did do the compiling and editing for the piece. And the idea was also mine originally.

So I'm going to claim ownership of the piece, and hope you all enjoy it.

You can read the full review here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

PixelCast 22 - Pixelcraft

I catch up with the boys again for our fortnightly recording of the PixelCast. 22 episodes in, and still going strong.

In this episode, we talk about Starcraft 2 (and little else) for the games we've been playing. We talk about various news piece regarding PC sales, piracy in indie gaming and engage in more R18+ discussions.

The topic of the episode looks at the stellar year in gaming so far, and the games we'll be looking forward in the remaining months.

You can listen to us here or subscribe via iTunes.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Nintendo Basement Podcast Episode 2

The boys at The Nintendo Basement invited me to join in their second episode as a special guest. It was extremely enjoyable, and I look forward to joining them again in the future.

In the episode we talk about a variety of Nintendo-related news, games that we've been playing, and express our opinions over a range of other topics.

You can listen to the episode here.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

PixelCast 21 - Pixelstain

Brand new episode of the PixelCast is now up. This episode, we have a special guest: Daniel Staines, from Eegra and Total Gamer. He joins the regular crew of Tim, Dylan and I as we pick his brains about morality in videogames.

We also talk about Persona 3 PSP, Limbo and 3D Dot Heroes, as well as Blizzard's RealID debacle, gaming schools and Metacritic's influence on game development.

You can listen to us here or download from iTunes.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Split Second: Velocity - Review

My review for Split Second: Velocity has just gone up at Pixel Hunt. It's a game I'd highly recommend, regardless whether you're a fan of racing games or not.

Here's some snippets from my review:
Imagine a vision that is about speed, precision, split second timing (pun intended) and no margin of error. Where a car must be in the exact spot at the exact time; a second off could spell disaster. The windows of opportunity to get into that spot are ever diminishing. This is the vision of Split Second: Velocity and the way it has been implemented is truly unique. Though there may be comparisons with Blur, another arcade-style racing game released in the same time window, it is this vision that sets Split Second apart from the rest of the genre.

Deciding when to use a Powerplay and what level to unleash is crucial to prevailing. Trigger a trap too early or too late, and opponents’ cars will be nowhere near the collapsing building. Time the opening of a shortcut perfectly and it shuts the moment opponents go for it.

It is the intensity of every single fraction of a second that makes Split Second: Velocity so exciting. It is the difference between victory and defeat, and it is the game’s vision that communicates so brilliantly through the gameplay.

You can read the rest of the review here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

PixelCast 20 - Pixel to Pixel

Another fortnight, another episode of the PixelCast. The regular panel of 3 are back once again to talk about games and gaming-related news.

In this episode, Dylan, Tim and I talk about Transformers: War for Cybertron, Uplink and various arcade games. In the news, we chat about internet access as a basic human right, Starcraft themed aeroplanes, and the dwindling appeal of Farmville.

We also talk about the clutter in our lives, filled with boxes, books, boardgames, instruction manuals, jewel cases and discs. And about getting rid of all that junk.

Listen to us here or subscribe via iTunes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Red Steel 2 - Review

My review of Red Steel 2 (Nintendo Wii) is now up on the Pixel Hunt website. So go on over there to read what I thought about the game. But here are some tidbits:

Red Steel 2 features cowboys and ninjas in a futuristic, Asian-themed Wild West, which is every bit as outrageous as that statement sounds. The fantastical setting allows the game to be creative in its application of the visual style, influencing the look of characters and environments.

The star attraction in Red Steel 2 is the sword wielding, and brandishing your sword can be immensely satisfying. There are a wide variety of moves, and a large number of combos to pull off, giving the fighting system a real depth.

There are moments when everything falls into place, and a truly brilliant moment of gameplay shines through.

Click here for the rest of the review.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

PixelCast 19 - Three Little Pixels

It's said a lot, but Tim literally fell out of bed and went straight into recording this episode. This wouldn't be so bad were it not for the fact that it was already post-1pm at this point.

Fortunately, there was a panel of three others to back him up. Michael, Dylan, and I keep the show in check and make sure that things remain (mostly) focused on gaming. Lots of gaming. Apparently we all love Nintendo again. Go figure.

You can listen to us here or subscribe via iTunes

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010

E3 2010, the largest showcase of video games and other forms of electronic entertainment, has recently closed. As always, there are a whole slew of news and announcements about past performances, as well as new plans and initiatives. And always accompanying are post-expo reactions and responses.

It seems that this year's E3 is focused on the short-term, with many announcements related to this coming holiday season. Very few products break the mould, and most are retreading familiar ground.

Sequels are an accepted reality in videogames; we always want more of a good thing. But even in sequels, there are innovations. That seems lacking in the sequels we are seeing this year. Halo Reach, Gears of War 3, Killzone 3. There may be improvements in the technical aspects, but there's a general lack in bold imagination and and inspiring creativity.

I want to see more games like Journey, where the imagery is evocative, and about "singing, sand, hiking, cloth, surfing, astronauts and feeling small". My expectations for the game could ultimately go unfulfilled, but the developers have a such strong track record that I feel justified to be hopeful.

If nothing else comes of the game, at least they have given us some truly beautiful art.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

PixelCast 18 - Pixel Sucker

On this episode of PixelCast, Tim, Dylan and myself talk about Red Dead Redemption, MGS: Peace Walker, Auditorium and Sam & Max.

We also talk about games that evoke emotions, and answer the largest number of listener questions we've ever received: a grand total of 4!

You can listen to us here or subscribe to us via iTunes.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Super Street Figher IV - Review

Michael Pincott and I have got our joint review of Super Street Fighter IV posted online at Pixel Hunt. Go on over there to see what we thought about the game.

Here's some highlights from the review:

With the 10 new additions, the roster has become so much more robust when compared to the original SFIV. Consequently, the amount of gameplay has also exponentially increased.

It’s clear that some characters have been buffed and some nerfed, though I’m not academically qualified to say whether this has resulted in a truly balanced game. Sagat, for example, is still a beast, while Dan is still… well, Dan.

Street Fighter IV was a superb game, and Super Street Fighter IV surpasses it in every way. As far as modern fighters go, there’s not much competition.

Read the rest of the review here. And while you're over at the Pixel Hunt website, read our other reviews, listen to the podcast and leave us some feedback.

Monday, May 31, 2010

PixelCast 17 - Your Pixel is Under Attack

PixelCast is back with another exciting episode. This time, we talk about Super Street Fighter IV, Blur, Split/Second, Starcraft 2 Beta and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

I'm also talk enthusiastically about a great reality TV/social experiment on the Discovery Channel: The Colony.

News and the attractions of 2D gaming round out the show.

Subscribe to us through iTunes, or download from here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monster Hunter Tri - Review

My review for Monster Hunter Tri (Nintendo Wii) has just gone up over at Pixel Hunt. So if you wanna know what I thought about the game, click on the link, give it a read, and make a comment.

Here are some snippets of my review:

Players will need to prepare, plan and scavenge in order to become a successful hunter. Knowledge of a monster's patterns of behaviour and being able to live off the land are also factors in a hunter's ability to succeed. In other words, Monster Hunter Tri rewards attention to detail and patience.

The game's visuals are quite impressive, and no one can deny that Capcom has managed to draw a lot of power out of the Wii...

...However, seeing the game in its current form makes one wonder about the greater potential that could have been realised had it been reproduced on a more powerful console. The colours could have been more vibrant and the sense of scale could have been even more majestic and epic. The artistic potential in the game outstrips the technical capabilities of the console it was created for.

...the first time you take down a towering beast and skinned its hide to make a nice new coat, you will know whether or not you are cut out to be a hunter.

Read the rest of the review here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's been a long time since... / Catacombs

It's been a long time since I last played a boardgame. My last recorded play was two rounds of Space Hulk earlier in January 2010. Before that, it was in August and July 2009. And before that, it was in 2008. So it's pretty clear that my boardgaming has gone down drastically since I've moved to Melbourne.

There's a number of reasons for that. 1) My games collection is back home in Singapore, and I'm not keen on re-buying most of them. 2) We've moved about from one rental home to another, and owning games would be a hassle. 3) It's a touch more troublesome getting to meetup groups.

I do still try to keep up with the newest games being released, and I've still got a couple of pre-orders still going on. And one particular game that's caught my eye is Catacombs.

And it's pretty simple why it's caught my interest. Catacombs = Descent: Journeys in the Dark + Pitchcar. It's a dungeon crawl game where playing pieces are flicked around a board.

From the reviews and session reports on Boardgamegeek, it seems like a light game with minimal strategy, but with some tactical depth. It also seems to foster collaborative group play, which appeals to me.

I'm not sure if it's available in Melbourne, but I think it'll be worth a hunt. Neither Milsims or Mindgames seem to list it on their sites, so I'm probably going to have to get to a store to physically search for it.

Monday, May 03, 2010

PixelCast 16: Time to Pixel

It's a return to form, with the original 3 on the latest episode of PixelCast - Time to Pixel. It's our 16 time out together, and we reminisce about our early heady days in gaming. We also talk about the games we've been playing in the past 2 weeks.

In the news, we've got Infinity Ward/Respawned shenanigans, the impending free Mechwarrior 4 release, and the reduction of paper waste by Ubisoft in the form of game manuals.

Listen to us!!

You can download directly here, or subscribe to it via iTunes.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Iron Man 2: My thoughts and impressions

After catching Iron Man 2 yesterday, I'm rating it a solid C, or 5.5/10. It's a passing grade; perfectly enjoyable and decent, but not great.

My main problems with the movie was the pacing was a bit off, and that there were missed opportunities for some of the characters.

The first quarter of the movie focused on many of the ancillary, inconsequential goings-on in Tony's life. While it is good to establish a context, it went on for far too long. The middle sections were quickly glossed over before the big battle at the end. There wasn't a sense of time to the whole sequence of events. I wasn't able to gleen whether all the events happened within days, or weeks or months, giving me a disjointed feeling by the end.

At the end of the first movie, Tony seemed so self-assured about his purpose that his actions in Iron Man 2 seemed out of step. The movie explained it as a way of coping with his gradual poisoning by the miniature arc reactor, and his way of leaving behind his possessions to his inheritors. But I felt the portrayal of Tony was a bit over the top, and turns into a caricature of himself.

Pepper Potts, once a capable strong young executive, comes off more as a overly harassed wet nurse, which is true to character. But the portrayal grates on me.

I also felt that the antagonists were a wasted opportunity. And they really lacked the level of menace and threat that Obidiah Stane presented in Iron Man. Stane was a amoral calculating,cold, cunning business man. Justin Hammer was more akin to a joke, a buffoon and a wannabe.

Ivan Vanko could have also been a far larger threat; he is supposed to be on almost equal footing with Tony in terms of intelligence. During his first monologue, where he talks about making God bleed, I was really hoping he'd be a far more interesting opponent and an antithesis to Tony.

The highlight for me was the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff. She was deadly as her moniker suggests (the scene in which she and Happy breaks into Hammer's facility is gold), and she's smoking hot without being trashy.

I did enjoy the movie, although I was disappointed in some areas. It's not often that a sequel surpasses the original, so there's no real surprises here. I was hoping for a "Dark Knight", but instead it is more of a "Die Hard II".

Monday, April 19, 2010

PixelCast - Stopgap Episode 2

We've had to make a quick stopgap episode, while Tim is away. So we got Dylan, James, Patrick and myself just talking about games we've been playing recently, and some general chatter about iPhone gaming, upcoming games, bonus materials for first-hand buyers, and James' Facebook fan page.

Games talked about: Tilt to Live (iPhone); Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 (multi); Blazblue (multi); Pokemon Heart Gold (DS); Splinter Cell: Conviction.

Download the file here. Or subscribe to iTunes.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

PixelCast 15 - God of Pixel

Exciting stuff for this latest episode of PixelCast. Tim and I are joined by a real-life GRRL, Lauren Headley. We talk about God of War 3, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and dead mice. We also share our opinions about videogame retailers, and their role in our gaming lives.

Download directly here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Heavy Rain - A few thoughts, and loads of spoilers

I bought Heavy Rain, played and completed it over 3 days, and promptly returned it. But that is not an indication of the quality of the game. Rather, it was because I considered my experience with it complete. And holding onto it would be akin to trying to grasp onto the last wisps of a dream. And letting it go was probably the best thing for us all.

But I'm hoping to be able to quantify my experience with it, and where I think the game truly resonated with me. And I hope that sharing my perspective will enable other games to hopefully enjoy it as much as I did.

*Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers*

Scott Shelby is the Origami Killer.

This is an important development in the game, and not just in the narrative. It seems that for some players, this particular revelation reveals several inherent flaws in the game, and thus tainted the overall experience.

And the criticisms leveled against Heavy Rain's red herrings, and logical gaps in the narrative are fair and deserved. And the criticism against the mixed performance by the voice actors are also fair. These are lessons that should be accounted for if a sequel or successor emerges.

But the problems listed above should not be a deterrent to enjoying the game. And I believe that the game challenges our understanding of our role in the game, and this challenge may have left some gamers cold.

It seem that most players engage the game with the thought that we are the primary actor. We control Ethan, Madison, Norman and Scott. We are in control of the characters' actions, thoughts and impact in the game world. This is a commonly understood language of games, where the player is the sole determinant.

However, in Heavy Rain, we have to understand that we are not the primary actor. We are not even the director. Our role is not to determine their progression for them. They have already done that for themselves through their own independent actions. Our role in this world is far less involved, serving only as observers, as flies on the wall. And the game serves only as a window into which we glance briefly into the lives of these characters. And these characters, who exist completely independent from us, do not conform to our understanding of the world. If we were to extend the film-making analogy, we would be more akin to that of a post-production editor. We can affect the pacing of the narrative, and pick out one scene over a selection of alternatives. But ultimately, our impact is minimal.

And because we are placed in this unfamiliar position, various story elements may seem out of step with our understanding of the game. And we ask whether the reveal, or any other plot point made any sense to us. That, I believe, is the wrong question to ask. The question should instead be, "Did it make sense to them?".

Was the character of Scott Shelby internally consistent, within the confines of the world he lives in? Yes, it was.
Did Ethan truly believe that he was the killer? Yes, he did.
Did the peripheral characters also believe that Ethan was the killer? Yes, they did.

Ultimately, there are fair criticisms that can be laid against the game. But we should not diminish the game's challenge to our commonly understood role as a gamer. It may seem disempowering that we have no impact within the game. It's like picking up a snow-globe that won't work whenever we shake it. But I believe that this challenge could change our perspectives of our roles as gamers, and our expected interactions with a piece of interactive creative work.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

PixelCast 14: Said One Pixel to Another

We are an unstoppable podcasting juggernaut. Tim, Dylan and I are back again to talk about magazine sales, true cross-platform gaming, and how media can affect/improve/dampen your game-playing experience.

We also talk about Just Cause 2, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Starcraft 2 beta and Street Fighter IV on the iPhone.

You can download the episode directly from here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dear Ramly Burger,

Sometimes the smallest, most insignificant object can play a pivotal role in a person's life. A trinket or a memento from long ago; a battered old souvenir or a loved toy.

The Ramly Burger would be that one thing for me. I don't remember when I ever had my first one. But its taste and aroma evokes memories that would otherwise been forgotten.

The Ramly Burger, in essence, is the lowest quality burger that one could ever find. A meat patty made from suspect ingredients, wrapped in a thin layer of egg, smothered in sauce and spice, and drenched in oil. The flavours are so strong and overbearing that one can never tell what one is exactly tasting. And truth be told, that is the one true way.

I remember late nights at a pasar malam. And that one trip to KL which I made with friends from the Army. I remember always seeking out the same Ramly Burger man because his skill on the grill cannot be imitated.

The overpowering flavours mirrors the vibrancy and life of home. It brings to fore fond remembrances of friends and family. And it is this that makes the lowly Ramly Burger transcend itself, and become an iconic food not just for myself, but for many people back home.

Monday, March 08, 2010

PixelCast 13 - Tear from a Pixel

On this episode of PixelCast, Tim, Cody, Dylan and myself talk about Heavy Rain, Plants vs Zombies, Brutal Legend and Aliens vs Predator.

We also consider the utility of Ubisoft's DRM in upcoming PC games and anti-R18+ ratings sentiment. We also discuss the futility of Nintendo having a press event when there's really nothing to say.

You can download directly from here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

PixelCast 12 - Pixellent

The crew is back together for another stimulating, invigorating and exhilarating conversation about videogames. This episode, we've got Michael, Tim and myself talk about the average games that somehow still gets a little love, and how a Brisbane man can afford to pay a whopping AU$1.5m piracy settlement.

Grab the podcast, and give it a listen. It'll put hairs on your chest. And that's a good thing. For everyone.

PixelCast 12. It's Pixellent.

Download directly here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marshmallow Head Shot; Reach out and shoot someone with sweet, delicious gooey goodness

Why haven't I heard about this? And why don't I already have one? A marshmallow shooter makes so much sense I'm amazed I hadn't thought of it myself. Or sought one out.

The guys at the Marshmallow Fun Company are, and I daresay, geniuses.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Life in Melbourne: At the drive-in

Audrea and I went to the drive-in for the first time over the weekend. It's been something I've wanted to go for the longest time, having only read about them in old Archie comics. For me, it sounded like a place for that old-time movie magic. And making out.

And there being a drive-in just minutes away from us, it seemed silly not to give it a try. And not knowing what to expect, going to the drive-in was quite an experience.

We drove in, bought our tickets and promptly met with a wall of cars which were parked for whatever was presently screening. I think we broke a few courtesy rules leaving the headlights on while we prowled for a suitable parking spot.

And getting the sound on was another little tale. We were told to tune our radios in to the cinema frequency, but we were both worried that leaving the radio on would drain the car's battery. Audrea and I have had some bad experience with cars whose batteries drained after about a half-hour of radio. I asked a guy in the car next to our's, who said it's never happened to him. I also posted on Twitter and Facebook to ask, and was promptly assured it wouldn't happen. Still, I think we were both nervous about the car refusing to start after the movie; Luckily those fears were unfounded.

Being in your own car whilst the movie runs definitely gives more privacy, and personal space. We could shuffle about in the car, use our mobiles, and chat with each other at our own discretion. But a car gets uncomfortable very quickly. We didn't have the right tools with us this time, which we'll remedy the next time: pillows, blankets, and finding the right angle to simultaneously stretch out while maintaining the optimum viewing angle.

Still, the drive-in was something quite memorable, and definitely worth going back to again. And something for us to do with visiting friends who may have never been before. But like I said earlier, we'll have to arm ourselves suitably the next time round.

Friday, February 05, 2010

PixelCast Episode 11: Them Old Pixels

Eliot Fish, Producer on ABC's Good Game and former editor of Hyper, joins Tim, Dylan and myself as we once again gather round the fireplace reminiscing on the old games of yore.

We talk about aging games and whether they live up today's standards, as well as explore the virtues of Beyond Good & Evil.

You can download the episode here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

PixelCast Episode 10: Year of the Pixel

I took a break on Episode 9, but I'm back again to talk about Bayonetta, Torchlight, Trine, Tales of Monkey Island. We also discuss about playing games all the way to the end, a task I often fail in.

You can download the episode from here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Year's Resolutions 2010

The New Year has come and gone in a blink of an eye, and we're well into 2010; The final year of the first decade of the 21st Century. And there have been monumental changes in the past nine years, changes that have drastically shaped my life, and the person I've become. And hopefully by the close of this year, and the decade, I'll be able to mark some more notches on my belt.

  1. Take a course and learn something new.
  2. Watch more movies.
  3. Write more.
  4. Read more.
  5. Ride a bicycle. Regularly.
Since leaving University, I don't believe I've applied myself vigorously to new thoughts, new ideas or new experiences. And as such, I believe I've stagnated mentally for a good period of time. I need to break out from my complacency and malaise, and try to reignite my brains once again.