June 24th, 2009 5:33 pm | by Ryan Fleming News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

GamerVania: Your Week In Video Games

So this is it, the final edition of GamerVania for WW as my internship ends. Assuming you can still read through your tears, thank you all for reading my video game blog. For me, it has been like high-fiving awesome and French-kissing bad ass.

But it has been a fine ride, so please, no tears, no regrets. Well maybe a few tears. And maybe a cake or something. Nothing too crazy. I'd even takea goodbye pie. Or a rally. In fact, how about a riot? It works for LA when they win championships! Maybe just a flipped car? I mean it isn't like I expect a Buddhist monk to light himself on fire in protest, or a guy to stop a row of tanks by standing in their way or anything. Although…

Oh yeah, my final edition.

I'm trying something a bit different. Instead of my normal takes, I thought I would do a recap style edition. There is even one mistake I made. Yeah, I know! Crazy that I could possibly make a mistake! So in a fair and balanced response to that mistake, I decided to do everything I my power to destroy the game that fooled me into thinking it was a good game. With luck the developers will be shamed . Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me-….cant get fooled again! And now to the interwebs!

Worst Game Disguised as a Good Game
Ninja Blade (360)

Normally I love to get my digs in on the PS3. It is an overhyped piece of hardware that is overpriced by at least $100 simply because Sony wanted to push its Blu-Ray technology. But this time they may have dodged a bullet. I almost have to give Ninja Blade, a 360 exclusive, credit for its disguise as it is one of the worst games I have played that disguised itself as a good game.

This game came out one week before I began my column, otherwise I would have reviewed it and given it a positive review. I played the demo, and I loved the mechanics. The movements were solid. And the scope was cool. But one thing I have learned is that demos lie like a baseball player in front of Congress.

I ended up running the range of emotional gamuts on this game. First I enjoyed it. That soon faded to a more annoyed tone, followed by dislike, and finally ending on if I saw this game walking down the street, I would punch it in the face. Then I would make sure it stayed down with a kick to the genitals.

There is one frequent part of the game that sums things up nicely. Often you will find yourself hit with electricity. Your character will writhe in pain, and will continue to lose energy until you obey the on-screen command and wiggle the left joystick left and right as quickly as possible. Go ahead and take a second to look at your left thumb. Now move it right and left as quickly as possible. Feels awkward doesn't it? THAT'S BECAUSE THE HUMAN THUMB WAS NOT MEANT TO MOVE IN THAT DIRECTION. And this happens very, very often. To the point that I actually let my character die, while cackling with maniacal glee. Games should not inspire this level of anger.

And then there are the QTEs (quick time events). (For those unfamiliar with the term, a QTE is essentially a cut scene where a prompt will appear on the screen. You do what the prompt says, and ta-da, you win!) QTEs are a neat idea used in small doses. But Ninja Blade does not subscribe to that theory, as you will spend the first half of the game having spent half your time in QTEs. By the third level of the game, I had spent more time in QTEs than actual game play. Here's what I mean: Imagine flying through the air while fighting a boss the size of a semi truck. With careful timing you jump to avoid its attacks, then counter while swinging by it. You then run up it and, with a few final blows you jump on a freaking helicopter and slam it into the beast, barely jumping off in time to avoid the bad ass explosion that destroys half the building you must escape from!! Sounds awesome, right? Well unfortunately you don't actually get to do any of that, except for the odd press of the “X” button. If any game publishers ever read this, please note: QTEs are a privilege, not a right.

And then there is the story design. There is a passingly interesting plot thread dealing with your character's father, but it is diluted by monster bugs that are destroying Tokyo, just ‘cuz. All in all there are only about four types of ground enemies, not counting the swarms of pointless and illogically placed bats that don't actually fit in the game motif. After you wade through generic enemy 1-5, you then fight a giant bug, then repeat through nine levels. And this is the entire game. Why giant bugs? Because giant bugs are apparently very scary in Japan. The level design is also dull and is frequently repeated, and the camera seems to actively want you to die. Oh, and the depth perception is off, so you will frequently be standing next to a boss, but swinging at air. So there's that.

The reason this game really got my ire is that it was potentially a solid game. The fighting mechanics are fun, the character moves well, and the combo attacks are cool. And that is my fair and balanced review of Ninja Blade.

Best Game of the Year You Need to Own
Dead Space (360, PS3, coming soon to Wii)

To rinse the horrible taste out from Ninja Suck (Ha! Get it? I took the name Ninja Blade and turned it into Ninja Suck! I am a comic genius!) This is a bit of a cheat, since it came out last October. But it's my column and I do wha' I want! It was a tough call between this game and Fallout 3, since Fallout 3 might have the better value. If you buy a $40 used copy, and include all 5 DLCs, for roughly $80 you can have a game that will never end. Ever. In fact it is entirely possible that if I decide to replay this game from the start, my friends might one day come looking for me and discover me with a ratty beard and bloody fingers, crying and muttering that I must find 10 more Nukla Cola Quantum bottles before the game will let me go. But not everyone is into the style of play Fallout offers, so my game of the year (well, game of the last 365 days), goes to Dead Space.

Dead Space is a survival horror game at its best. It really wants to scare you, and doesn't care about anything else. You will not get lost thanks to a fairly interesting navigation system, and you never really need to wander too far to find upgrades and items. You will never find yourself wondering around walking in spooky circles, while you are terrifyingly lost, amid the dread of boredom! I am looking at you, Silent Hill. Instead, the game wants you to walk down that dark, creepy pathway while the lights flicker on and off and you keep hearing the sounds of clicking from inside the walls…

The story is solid too, and backed up by impressive visuals. You will spend much of your time in the ship, but there are a few stand-out scenes putting you outside the ship staring at a planet with a hole in it, on the hull of the ship dodging meteors, or on the bridge while tiny pieces of rock crack the windows. All of this is so you accomplish your goals of surviving while you piece together the horror of what happened. Pretty standard sci-fi horror fare, but it all works. I probably shouldn't bother pimping a game that has sold nearly 2 million, but, come on readers, you gotta give me this one. I played a damn Hannah Montana game, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad, and Damnation. You owe me! I am at all times, one more “so did you like the Hannah Montana game, Princess?” joke away from making headline news as I reign terror upon unsuspecting video game outlets.

Download of the Week
Sam & Max Save The World (Xbox Live Arcade)

I loves me some Sam and Max. If you aren't familiar with the foul mouthed duo, they have been hiding in the shadow of cult gaming for years, with a small, but dedicated following. Beginning as a comic from Steve Purcell, in 1993 LucasArts released the first Sam & Max games. From there they continued to gain popularity. Sam & Max are the video gamers equivalent of the hipsters who tell you they have been listening to the new band you just discovered when they were still a garage band.

This download is interesting for two reasons- first, Sam & Max are awesome. Just accept that and this review will go a lot smoother. But second, this set is a collection of episodes that were released one at a time on PC in what could be the future of gaming, or at least a new style of episode-based gaming where you must buy each episode one at a time. Half Life is trying it, and you can be sure more games like it are on the way. It has the benefit of keeping developers' costs low. But it will also end up costing the gamer as much as a normal game, if not more, and it carries the frightening possibility of cancellation. Imagine paying $10 a pop for four episodes, and the game is cancelled before they can release the final two episodes. Ain't technology grand?

In the meantime, enjoy this full collection of Sam & Max, also called Sam and Max season 1. The 1600 points ($20) is a deal considering the PC version cost $35. PS3 users also have the chance to play this game as either a download, or a physical copy that they can order, and all 6 episodes are available on Wii. As for the game itself, you take control of Sam and Max, a pair of detectives in the loosest sense of the word, and you try to save the world. Only funny. Using a point-and-click interface, you solve puzzles, interact with characters, and play mini games. The game itself is involving, but the humor is what you really play for. Watch the video above as Max insults the Pope and several others and you will get an idea for the humor. All in all, for $20 you get a solid game at a good value.


Kneel before Nokia, puny humans! Yahoo is reporting that Nokia has developed a new way to power cell phones. Through radio waves. Or as they are considering calling it: the “what up now, bitches” power source. It is still in the experimental phase, and is three to five years away from practical applications. The technology will never be enough to power anything major like a car or your house, but it basically means that you would never have to charge your cell phone again. Ever. The future is nigh!

In what sounds like one of the suckiest games in the history of crap games (and I have played a lot of crap games recently), Liberty Mutual, the insurance company, is releasing a program that will simulate what it is like to be an elderly driver. NBC is reporting that the program that is loosely being called a game, will simulate physical and cognitive limitations. Awesome! They say it is to help families cope with getting older, or something. Hopefully next up for Liberty Mutual is a simulation of arthritis! Wicked awesome!

Gamespot is reporting that Call of Duty: World at War has hit the 11 million mark. That means that on average 4,950,000,000 digitized Germans and Japanese have been killed, not counting online play where they at least have a sporting chance.

The Sun, the British paper well known for its in-depth coverage on celebrity breasts, is reporting that Moazzam Begg, a British national who spent two years as a “guest” of the United States in Guantanamo Bay, is developing a video game based on his experiences. Begg will be in the game as the head of a group trying to help the player/suspect escape. This is either wrong on so many levels, or right on a few key ones. The game will be on sale for the 360 in October.

According to Gamespot in-game ad sales will reach $17.2 billion this year. The growing trend to add real life advertisements to games through online updates has been a new source of revenue for struggling developers. Maybe one day while playing call of duty, you will creep around the corner waiting to ambush someone when suddenly the Burger King King will be there. But instead of holding a delicious whopper, he will be holding a hand grenade! Welcome to the future of gaming.

The online zombie game Left 4 Dead has quickly become a best seller for the 360, and gained a strong and dedicated following. So dedicated that they refuse to accept that there will be a sequel for the game, and have started an online petition to boycott the sequel, according to Yahoo Tech news. The petition has already gained 21,000 names. Gamers are protesting that the sequel is coming out too quickly, and when it is released this Fall gamers fear that it will split the online community. The petition to boycott the new game also list that developer Valve promised new downloadable content that it has failed to provide, prompting fears that the sequel is simply a cash grab. Valve responded by sending out a digital finger to all payers, followed by a “just kidding, we still love y'all.”

Somehow this seems like a perfectly fitting conclusion to my video game blog, GamerVania. Yahoo Tech is reporting that US parents are rearing a generation of gadget savvy children. A recent survey states that 37 percent of US children use personal digital music players, up from 6 percent in 2005. What that means is that sooner or later, our silly flesh bags will be obsolete as we all become one with the digital universe! I am reading between the lines there. Turns out all those formative childhood years I spent watching sci-fi were not wasted. They were training.

See you later, Space Cowboys!
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