Archive for January, 2011

NGP Pros and (minimal) Cons

With the internet aflutter right now about the NGP from Sony I was curious as to how large it would be. Thankfully this question didn’t last too long thanks to a post and an image from Kotaku (click the image below to go to post). They went ahead and sized it up to other handheld devices rather nicely to let us all see just what we’re working with.

Kotaku sizes up the Sony NGP

Kotaku sizes up the Sony NGP

NGP Pros

I’m an adult. I have big manly hands. Okay I have big hands….okay I have hands. But they are average adulty hands. My wife has an 8 year old brother who loves to play video games with me but his system of choice is the DSi. While it’s fun I always notice just how small this system is in my hands. It was not designed for someone of my stature to work with. This isn’t a knock on Nintendo at all. They know who they are targeting and they do it damn well. This is just me saying that it’s too small for me.

I have the same dilemma when I attempt to play a video game on my phone. While it is a fun distraction from time to time it will never be something that I do more than whimsical Angry Birds style gaming on given its diminutive nature.

What we see with the NGP is that it is slightly larger that the PSP. The PSP is a good solid fit for me with a familiar interface that seems to work with my natural expectations. Making it slightly larger ensures that I can easily pick it up and not feel like I need to use a complex system of toothpicks to make it work properly. Add into this the dual analog sticks and we’re moving it from “That’s pretty fun but here’s what I don’t’ really like” to “That’s pretty fun”.

Not to mention they upped the screen size on us. While I was never upset with screen on a PSP since hey…its a portable gaming device, making it larger just means it will be easier to see with my ever aging eyes.

NGP Cons

The biggest con I see at this stage comes with the overall size. Now this doesn’t necessarily have to be a con. I never found the PSP to be awkward but then again, I never really tried to run around with it in my pocket. However now that I notice it, I appear to be operating under the assumption that I will be joined at the hip to the NGP. Odds are I won’t be. However I will be more inclined it if proves to be a light, non invasive device that nestles perfectly into wherever I may attempt to place it.

The other worry comes from the rear mounted touch screen and its functionality. It’s not that I’m worried that it won’t work. I’m worried that it will work when I don’t’ want it to. This is, I’m sure, something Sony will address but without a hands on test I’m relying on news feeds for information.

NGP Conclusion

It’s fairly safe to say that I’m pumped as hell to give this a whirl. The “cons” really aren’t that much of a con at all. More of a “odds are they thought of it.” Give the technical specs listed below, this is no slouch when it comes to gaming. In fact the processes appears to have more horsepower than my wife’s Wii.

sony-ngp

The Sony NGP

Sony NGP Technical Specs

CPU ARM® Cortex™-A9 core (4 core)
GPU SGX543MP4+
External

Dimensions

Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth)
(tentative, excludes largest projection)
Rear touch pad Multi touch pad (capacitive type)
Cameras Front camera, Rear camera
Sound Built-in stereo speakers

Built-in microphone

Sensors Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope,
three-axis accelerometer), Three-axis electronic compass
Location Built-in GPS

Wi-Fi location service support

Keys / Switches PS button

Power button

Directional buttons (Up/Down/Right/Left)

Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square)

Shoulder buttons (Right/Left)

Right stick, Left stick

START button, SELECT button

Volume buttons (+/-)

Wireless
communications
Mobile network connectivity (3G)

IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1×1)(Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode)

Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)

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When Inventory Management Ruins a Game

not a typical video game rucksack

You can seriously carry a couch in this thing

Many video games have inventories. Lets face it, any game that requires you to pick stuff up, carry stuff around, or use something typically has some form of inventory management. Whether its keeping tabs on how much ammo you have or making sure you still have room in your expansive (albeit invisible) rucksack that holds 150 fire arms, 12 outfits, 3 items of food  or potions, and a fork, lute, cup, or cat (yeah Anders I’m looking at you) you have to remain aware of something you are lugging around. Some video games do it so well its almost unnoticeable while others wind up taking up more time than the actual gameplay.

Diablo falls into this category because it was simply clean and fantastic. You had a system that was based around a grid. Each item took up a specific amount of squares on this grid. You have certain items that are stackable and items that aren’t. Either you could carry it or you couldn’t. You can quickly see what will and what will not work. There is typically very little question about if you can or even want to carry that shiny new sword or not. This allows you to spend little time mucking about asking if it’s worth it or not.

Mass Effect 2 is another example of an inventory control system I enjoyed. While it’s not perfect its pretty solid. It’s a simple “only important shit” system. You have things that kill, things that heal, and things that keep you safe. If you don’t have to decide on it then you don’t have to look at it. It gets stored in your data pad and you bring it up when you find the person that is ultimately looking for it.

Mass Effect - Mako

Put the bike down, we are not putting it in the trunk. Or the sofa.

When it comes to the equipment itself you typically know what weapons and armor you like before going into a mission. If not you deal with it prior to the mission. During the game if you find some fancy new boom-stick while you’re exploring a new world new you get to try it out. If you don’t like it you can swap it out after the mission or at a weapons locker that is typically found near the point of discovery.

What makes these so fantastic to me is that they are  quick, easy, painless, and it gets you back to the action. It’s almost easy to forget that they are even there. They fit into the game and flow naturally. I’m admittedly an A.D.D. gamer. I need to keep moving, keep doing something new, because that’s what keeps things going. I may stop and take a look at what I have and size it up with what I’m using from time to time but its the GAME that makes it fun, not the stuff I get in it.

What made Mass Effect 2 so good was the improvement from the original Mass Effect. Weapons, armor, and upgrades were found with such a high frequency that I wound up spending more time seeing what I just picked up instead of simply using it. After a while I had to force myself to adopt the mindset of “screw it I will look at it after a few missions. After a while it became “screw it, I’m just going to sell it.”

Mass Effect - Hand Cannon

I swear to the goddess that if you drop anything for me to pick up I will unity your ass kill you all over again

Then there is Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. Again I spent so much time worrying about inventory that it wound up taking away from the video game itself. Whether it was scrolling through all of the items themselves or checking them to see if I should be using them, I would up spending more time staring at the screen of a Pip-Boy than down the barrel of my tri-beam laser rifle. That’s not an attack on Fallout. It was a fantastic game with a great set of stories that could absolutely hook you. Hell even the long stretches of just walking around were fun. But do I really need to decide if I should carry 210 forks or my weapons? That’s a no contest. I’ll just throw forks at things and move on with my day.

Now the real question gets asked: What makes for a good inventory management system?  The biggest flaw in Fallout isn’t how its displayed (however the long scrolling lists could stand a revamp) its the sheer volume of items. This is part of Fallout’s charm however. Being able to take just about anything you find and do whatever you bloody well want with it is half the fun for some people. Hell, for some its the entire experience. But the ridiculous volume was the ultimate killer. This is ultimately the same complaint for Mass Effect. There was just so much information and no easy easy way to trudge through it or quick compare with what you’re using.

Quick comparisons between what you’re using and what you’re looking at can always be a big benefit. Dragon Age: Origins took this concept quite literally and would display a side by side comparison of equipment. While it made things go more smoothly there was always a lot of information to go through. What we need is quick and simply inventory management that can keep you in the action. Quick displays of is it better or is it worse than what you’re currently using can help you make that tough decision: throw the new sword away, or save it for later.

Sound off: what’s your favorite / least favorite inventory management system in a video game?

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Rating: 5.0/ Stock Trading Broker Comparison 5 (2 votes cast)

Video Game Pin Ups: Trishka Novak

Trishka Novak - Bulletstorm

I don't know if we're gonna try to stamp this one ourselves. Maybe just ask politely to stamp it on herself.

Meet Trishka Novak. Trishka here is a female space pirate in the upcoming release from Epic and People can fly that you may have heard of. It’s called Bulletstorm. It’s kind of a topic of conversation in some circles.

If the demo is any indication Bulletstorm is a first person shooter that is going to wind up being incredibly fun to play and an absolute vacuum of my time. However this is not a review of Bulletstorm.

Very little information has been released about this character. So far what we do know is the following:

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She has also been described as “A foul-mouthed member of the Dead Echo squad in Bulletstorm, who has a dark past.” (GiantBomb)

This means that we should hopefully see some interesting story evolve around her. Not to mention any time a woman can curse like a sailor it’s always a plus for some of us here at Polish the Console.

Trishka here gets Polish the Conosle’s Ass Stamp of Approval…and all from a demo. A definite first.

Ass Stamp

Seriously. I'm not stamping it. She looks like she bites. Another plus.

bulletstorm Trishka Novak

Knee pads are always a plus. Safety first, kids.

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Mass Effect 2 – PS3 Review

If you are a hardcore (or even slightly more than casual) gamer then odds are you fall into one of two categories. Either you are the gamer who has played the critically acclaimed Mass Effect 2 or you are the gamer who has said “I would totally play this video game if it came out for the PS3.” Myself, I fall into the first category. I enjoyed Mass Effect and totally loved Mass Effect 2. When news broke that BioWare was going to be releasing Mass Effect 2 for the Playstation 3 I got very excited. I aslo found this very confusing since I had already beaten it. Twice. I was actually playing Mass Effect through again so that I could replay Mass Effect 2 with a whole new history of my character.

Miranda Lawson - Mass Effect 2

This helps bring you back to life. No joke.

For those who may not be familiar with the story let me give you the breakdown. You assume the roll of Commander Shepard a Council Spectre on a mission to clean up after the events of Mass Effect. You die a rather horrific death at the hands of a mysterious enemy only to be brought back to life by an controversial organization by the name of Cerberus. Your development is overseen by the fine backside of Miranda Lawson. After fighting your way out of the facility that help to recreate your glorious visage you meet the man who gave you new life. Martin Sheen.

He informs you that there has been a string of strange disappearances of human colonies at the fringe of the galaxy and you have been brought back to investigate. Throughout the game you assemble your team, shoot some stuff, blow some stuff up, have some conversations, and ultimately do what you can to help save the galaxy from a threat that will very well destroy everything to achieve it’s goal. That is because it’s goal is to pretty much destroy everything. So you can see the importance of helping out.

Mass Effect 2 – Controls

If you have played Mass Effect 2 then the controls are going to be pretty much exactly the way you remember them to be. If you haven’t then let me lay it out there: they are pretty damn tight. You will find yourself having a fairly good idea of what you are doing before you even start the game.

Where the game does a very good job is when it comes down to how you interact with your squad during times of combat. Bringing up a wheel that allows you to have your squad execute specific functions is fairly straightforward but what impresses is the lack of mistakes that are typically made. You almost have to try to make a mistake when telling your squad member to use a specific power on a specific enemy.

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Mass Effect 2’s controls get a 4 out of 5

Mass Effect 2 – Gameplay

The gameplay in Mass Effect 2 is smooth, clean, and very very open. When I say its open I mean you can go off and explore the galaxy, you can stick to what you know, or you can just follow the basic story. You decide what you do, where you go, who you help, or how you help them. The only thing the game makes you do is recruit your crew and fight some bosses. How you do that is left entirely up to you.  If your crew likes you and even if they make it through the end is left up to you.

And this is where the Gameplay either shines of fails. Lets face it, there just some people out there who flat out HATE open world games. If you are one of those people then this is not going to be a game that you enjoy. However this not open in the way that games like Fallout 3 and New Vegas are open. You can’t float around the Galaxy taking dinner plates and coffee mugs to store in a warehouse of a town you just brutally slaughtered so that you can set it up to be the most morbid and disturbing tea party of corpses ever imagined.

You have a mission to accomplish. Once you start your missions you don’t have much margin for error. I imagine you rarely do when everyone is shooting at you like they do in Mass Effect 2. But you are open to go about completing them however you bloody well like. You are open to go around the galaxy helping humanity and other civilizations or you are free to ignore the pleas of your crew and fellow galactic denizens.

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Mass Effect 2’s gameplay gets a 4 out of 5

Mass Effect 2 – Graphics

miranda mass effect 2

Yeah, she really does know how good she is.

When BioWare said that Mass Effect 2 would be build on the Mass Effect 3 engine I got all excited. I imagined that loading it up would open a hole to the heavens and a glorious warm light would bathe my system in a calming warmth and a choir of angels would sing as the game played. Yeah I was wrong.

The graphics on the Playstation 3 version of Mass Effect 2 are just as they were on the XBox 360 version. I don’t care what any side by side comparison online says. Unless you’re an overly nitpicky douche you’re not going to notice any difference other than things are a tad brighter on the Playstation 3.

The thing is that the graphics are still fantastic. The game still looks amazing. The worlds are still gorgeous and fascinating. The ship is still beautiful. Miranda still looks like a biologically enhanced smokin hottie who is better than you in every way, shape, and form.

Somehow my Comander Shepard is still ugly as sin.

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Mass Effect 2’s graphics get a 4 out of 5

Mass Effect 2 – Story

When it was announced that Mass Effect 2 would come out and not Mass Effect the big question became “How will they be able to create the story from Mass Effect so that people playing would have some idea as to what the hell is going on?” To sum things up BioWare issued out a digital comic that summed up the back story quite well that  allowed you to make the key decisions that were made in the first game to carry over into the new one.

The slight downside is that you don’t get the FULL back story. Ultimately this can leave anyone who never played the first Mass Effect to scratch their heads a bit, but its not going to be a total deal breaker.

Mass Effect 2 PS3 Kasumi

Someone is about to have a bad day

But you don’t just get a digital comic. You get the Mass Effect 2 DLC missions. So you get the bonus goods for the price of the main game. So you may miss a little here and there but gain a big win in the long run.

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Mass Effect 2’s story gets a 4 out of 5

Mass Effect 2 – Overall

Across the board 4’s can only give us one final tally. Mass Effect 2 is still gorgeous, still fun, still interesting, and the PS3 release gives us the DLC to also play. Overall Mass Effect 2 is getting a 4 out of 5.

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Rating: 5.0/ stock market crash current recession 5 (3 votes cast)

Sometimes its better to have Amnesia

It was a lonely weekend where other games were currently not cutting it.  I decided to try out a new single player only game.  One can usually find gems in games like Bioshock, Fallout, and Mass Effect.  However, I was looking a new scare your pants off game; and considering I have already discovered those other gems long ago, soemthing else needed to fill the void.  In comes a newer indie game “Amnesia: The Dark Descent”.

To start, this is not your casual horror game.  The kind of horror game where your girlfriend might giggle as she clings to one’s arm but harmlessly watches on….no.  This is a horror game that keeps you from going to the bathroom because that 15 feet to the toilet is completely dark.

The title gives a very good summary of the game.  You are Daniel, a single man who has just woken up in a castle room with absolutely no memory of past or present…..and the game treats you to the exact same conditions.  You have no idea who this person is initially, why he is here, and absolutely no story to start off with.  As you do find information, you soon realize what type of person you really are.

Amnesia: Dark Descent monster

Quick! Hit it with a brick!

Part of what makes the game suspenseful is it’s major enemy, the Shadow.  At first sight, this drew memories of the 1999 movie remake of House on Haunted Hill.  The shadow is a shapeless supernatural figure that can happen to take shape as a couple horrific monsters.  The 2nd part that makes the game suspenseful is that there are absolutely no ways to attack enemies; the only actions available to you are to run and hide.  Don’t worry though, the game slowly allows you to realize this before the baddies will start coming out of random corners.  Once it does, you better know whats behind you because if you don’t start running immediately after something pops out, you will die.

The gameplay plays like a click and drag game.  You control the speed at which you open cabinet doors or desk drawers.  This does add to the immersive nature of puzzles and the environment.  However,  you are only limited to basic drag movements (up, down, left, right, and circle) and they do not play deeper into puzzles (a missed opportunity).  They also include a sanity meter.  My last experience with a sanity meter was Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube.  It was a very fun experience and gave you very real reason to keep your sanity up.  However, with Amnesia, when your sanity gets low, you are only treated to blurred vision and bugs crawling over your screen.  It feels more like an afterthought punishment than anything.

Sadly, this game does have even more faults, which warrant a no go on a recommendation.  Level design seems very lacking.  There is not much to the design so scenery is lacking.  Even when the shapeless Shadow can take any shape, you will usually see the same monster many MANY times.  You will quickly notice this and be able to plan accordingly.  The game relies heavily on pure story and simplistic puzzles.  The story is quite nice.  It allows one to follow a story of madness.  However, the puzzles seem to just be filler.  Allowing one to spend some time to go find other story elements while they look for another item.

You can say this is the horror counterpart to a Jason Bourne movie.  Amnesia tells a wonderfully dark story but only treats the player to a handful of gameplay elements.  If you are looking for a game that could help instill a fear of the dark, and has a good horror story,  I would definitely recommend it.  However, if you are the casual player looking for a deeper gameplay experience, there are other scary games to go to.  Its a bit of a shame.  If this was by the right AAA publisher, this could have gone further.

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Rating: 3.3/ 5 (4 votes cast)