Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Fighting Games!!

The greatest genre you’re not playing

Episode I - Button Bashing Roots.

When I was growing up my first exposure to fighting games was Street Fighter II’ Turbo - Hyper Fighting on Super Nintendo. I didn’t actually own the game myself, but I played a lot of it at a friends house. This was back when I was about 7 or 8.

Having served my years with the NES I had seen my share of games where the objective was to kick ass...but Street Fighter II was different. It was 1 vs 1, I could either walk towards or away, crouch or jump, and every button initiated a punch or kick of varying strength. This was my first true taste of a “Fighting Game”.

Basically you had 2 ways to play... either against a friend, or we could choose a character and then try and complete the arcade mode with them. Although both ways of playing were essentially a mess, not because of Capcom (who made this great game) ...but because in “Arcade mode”, we would get our ‘n00b’ asses handed to us by the computer, and in “VS mode” neither of us had any real grasp of our characters, and thus the natural human instinct of “button mashing” kicked in. Although because of that, any wins (via button bashing) never really felt like wins.

Still, regardless of the frustrations and the complex difficulty the game threw at fondness for the Street Fighter series was born with my very first hands-on with it.

I credit that to a mix of the following; the characters stood out, it was my first taste of a true fighting game, and although I sucked at was rewarding when I managed to learn something, whether it was remembering 1 of a characters ‘specials’ or simply a tactic that would work against the computer (M. Bison’s Slide for instance, []).

There was also a sense of unique-ness to every fight too. Sure I’d taken Little Mac to as far as I could memorise attack patterns for in “Punch-Out” [NES], but that was more about timing than fighting...
I’d also fought my way through random henchmen a plenty in “Turtles” on the NES, Final Fight on SNES, or Streets of Rage/ Cyborg Justice/ Golden Axe, etc on the Megadrive, but your movesets in these games were always quite limited...

However with Street Fighter... as well as Mortal Kombat, Clayfighter, Killer Instinct, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, and other crazy fighting games I played as a kid. It felt more like what a fight should feel like...even with the addition of fireballs and many other crazy shenanigans.

Fast Forwarding to my teenage years... I still had respect and nostalgic love for Street Fighter II, backed up by the fact I usually had a copy of SFII on each and every system I had (except my N64...because the once rumoured Street Fighter 64 never got made).

Still though. Even during my teenage years, and closing in on hitting twenty, I had never really “up’d my game” in terms of making any real improvements at the fighting games I would occasionally pull out from time to time. At the most I would go as far as to perhaps look up a characters move list on the internet or someplace, and try to mash those moves out as much as I could in hopes it would get me the win...and sure it would work against much less experienced friends, and perhaps get me through the first 3-4 matches of the 1 player Arcade mode, but this never was enough to motivate me into putting that many hours into whichever games in question.

It was a trend between many of my friends too. Everyone I knew had at some point or another owned a fighting game, but in comparison to the rest of the games they owned, they barely got that much play time. Nor did I know anyone who was actually truly impressive at any of these fighting games.

I didn’t really give it any extra thought though. I just presumed fighting games were just destined to not really last you that long, that they pretty much where the kind of games you would whip out every other month...perhaps to see if you would randomly be any better at the game now... or maybe you had some friends round and wanted to mix up your multi-player gaming sessions with something violent and different to whatever else you’d be playing...

...and that was that. I remained oblivious to the true depth, the true reward, that lay within fighting games. That was until...February 2009, but I'll fill you in on the rest in Episode II.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Retro Monday: N.E.S (original and best)

In light of the recent 25Th Anniversary of the brothers Mario and the release of Super Mario Bros All stars on Wii (which Brapscallion took a look at in last weeks Retro Monday) i decided to talk today about perhaps my favourite console of all time. The original and best, the 8-bit monster - The Nintendo Entertainment System. A CLASSIC !
Originally released in Europe and Australia in 1987, I received mine quite late on in 1990 for my tenth Christmas. The main reason I'm writing this is the warmth I feel every time I think of playing the old dear titles. Amazing games like Mario bros 3, Zelda and Duck Tales. My fondest gaming memories all took place whilst burning away the wee hours hooked up to this genius piece of kit.

I can honestly say the single reason why I'm such a game freak now; is because of this machine, as I'd got it late on the wealth of cartridges that were available to buy was HUGE. Well to a ten year old, I'd say so.

As one of the best presents I had received came all sealed up bundled with Mario bros, Double Dragon, Duck hunt and the Zapper i was literally beside myself. I'd been buying (well, my mum had, as i said i was 10) as many game magazines around winter as i could in anticipation in what Father Christmas could be bringing, it was too much, I had to know everything about the Console, titles released, new games coming out, graphics, everything. I attribute that OCD behavior and quest for game knowledge in every console and every title I've played or heard about since. It's made me how I'am today, always seeking info, the next nugget of news, scanning sites such as IGN and Kotaku everyday. Listening to hours of podcasts from the Gamespot team or the U.S Hotspot. Other people will be just like me on this front, they'll all have similar stories and fond memories about their first love.

BINGO, their it is, my first love, that's why i chose the N.E.S to write about today, it kickstarted my official geekdom. It was the first machine, my first machine.
xx Nintendo xx
Check out this American advert for the full NES Rob the Robot pak. Cheesy but timeless...

Boxart for the OG zelda, still good....

So what kept me glued to this machine, every night after school and every weekend for YEARS. I'll tell you; no, I'll list them for you... this is a blog site after all and i do love lists.

My top 8 NES titles:

NO.8 - Double Dragon 2

I spent MANY a play-through's with a buddy on this wee beastie. I can still remember arguing with my friend about who would be Jimmy Lee and who would be Billy Lee. As their moves where identical and they looked just the same (was a NES remember) i guess it came down to playing the guy with the blue shirt or the guy with the red shirt.

NO.7 - Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers

Oh gooood times spent on this mad-cap platform game, as a BIG TIME fan of the show i loved the fact i could play as all the characters. I'm humming the theme in my head as i write this. An underrated classic.

NO.6 - Mega Man 2

Officially one of the HARDEST games ever made. I never finished it. I did spend godless hours trying to hone my platforming skills on it though. As tough-as-they-come monster that became a NES poster child for smashed up pads everywhere. Curse you Dr.Wily. Loved it !!

NO.5 - Ducktales

Another TV game adap, this one featured Scrooge McDuck and the pint size trio Huey, Duey and Looie. A classic platformer where i'd spend half the game time on foot and the other half bouncing on Scrooge's cane. It was a masterclass in capturing a brilliantly designed world with it's TV counterpart. Everybody - "Ducktales, woohoo"

NO.4 -Kickle Cubicle

Sublime level based 1 screen puzzler, mixing action and ice. I spent so long trying to finish this one, eventually i broke through to the final level. My tale doesn't have a good ending because in the midst of doing so, i leapt of my chair knocking my NES and freezing my game in the process. It didn't register my save and I'd lost everything... i should have written down that damn level code.

NO.3 - Legend of Zelda

What's to be said about this game that hasn't before...
A timeless piece of work that introduced us to the kingdom of hyrule. Will always be in my top 5.

NO.2 - The Adventure of link

What! Top down action, and now this. Side scrolling too. Amazing stuff, for the first time i felt at home with my new genre of choice. Action RPG. Splitting the games view' into 2 modes was genius and a great use for a hub world, infact that leads me nicely to my number one spot...

NO.1 - Super Mario Bros 3

The king of platformers, one of the greats and my personal favourite game of ALL TIME.
Never to be toppled in my eyes. It left an echo so loud that every other Mario game since has borrowed from it, the overview map, the choice to store power-ups, the suits.
(to read more about this giant, check out one of my early Retro Mondays for a full gush)

Punch out!



So, the NES, in a nutshell the machine that made me, me. Right I'm off now Albion needs cleaning up some more before i can move onto pastures new, Rome for example (wink.)
For more Retro fun with us at Gainboy remember to check out our footage at Blackpool's Retro Expo '10. Loving the sites and smells of the old-school.

Peace and Love
Dr Lucian Sanchez (aka Marc)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Wii-Nut

4 years late. If you were 4 years late for something, you might as well not turn up at all. Imagine turning up for someone's 18th 4 years late. They'd be 22. Yet that's what I've done. Spurred on by a combination of my girlfriend gently nagging and the beautiful limited edition Mario Red console, I decided that I would reward myself. The first Paycheck from my new job, I rushed down to my local Gamestation after work, and picked it up. I had just bought a console that Grandmas and JLS are currently promoting.

Look at these Douchebags.

And I really like it. I reckon you've heard enough from absolutely EVERYONE on the subject, but it's a really enjoyable experience. I'm completely sold on the idea, and have been frankly blown away by the level of innovation the console sometimes comes up with.

I'm sure it'll gradually get less appealing over time, and it'll gather dust until the next Nintendo-developed title is released, but I'm ready for that, and fine with it. For the moment, however, I'm fully enjoying it. I was having a couple of beers and playing it with my girlfriend at the weekend when I figured it out. I had a moment of clarity, a breakthrough!

The Wii is a snack. a Peanut. No, a Wii-Nut!

If gaming is food, then the Wii is the snack element of it. It's a light bite, a bit of what you fancy in a small portion, that perfectly fills a hole with frivolity and brazen-ness. It's not classy, and it's not particularly well thought-out a lot of the time, but it's just what you need.

And I don't mean this in any derogatory way whatsoever. Of course I don't, I just told you how I'm absolutely loving it.

But imagine the Xbox or PS3 is like a meal. Depending on the game, it could be a steak dinner or a plate of crap. But it's aim is to fill you up, give you a full experience and be 'everything you need'. Most of the time, this is what I want. The DS and especially the PSP is a lunchbox. It's trying to fit the meal into a smaller form, but trying to give you it all still.

Mii. Bowling.

But the Wii, the Wii is a pub snack, and it's absolutely brilliant for it. When I'm having a few beers with my mates, or my missus, I don't want a meal. I want a bowl of peanuts there, for grazing and to allow the fun to flow, without anyone being bogged down. Same with my gaming. Wii-Nuts. Get it! Yeah I know, it's terrible, but it makes some kind of sense. The snack can be shitty, but it can also be brilliant. It could be a stick of celery, or it could be organic handmade honey-roast cashew nuts. See, you're now hungry from just reading that.

It's so good for it, too. I'll fire up Boom Blox and play it for 30 mins, get another beer, and then plug into Wii Sports resort and play a bit of Table Tennis, before deciding it's time for New Super Mario Bros Co-Op. All 2 player, all the time. It's an experience that demands human interaction, and demands company. It's a console that strips back to it's roots in the days of playing with others for the fun of it. No achievements, no online lag, no collectible gun camo. Just straight-up playability. Miyamoto made a bold move by dismissing all these things and more, but I finally get it. He's made the NES again. He's made games about family, and about friends, and about beers. He stripped it down, and to great effect.

And what a fantastic addition to my gaming, and to gaming in general. As time has indeed proved for the Wii, the market can accommodate both casual and hardcore audiences, and thrive. And those of us who sit in the middle? Well, we're getting spoilt.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Retro Monday: Super Mario All-Stars (SNES/Wii)

Within the last month, I've decided to finally succumb to my girlfriend's wishes and my inner Nintendo fanboy and purchased a Wii. I'm building up to some mega blog post filled with insightful metaphors and loads of fancy talking about it, but it's going to take me a while to summon up that kind of brainpower. In the meantime, let's talk about about Mario All-Stars. See, we CAN be topical! A Retro Monday that is both retro AND contemporary, the little Italian's plumbers greatest hits collection, or 'Now that's what I call the invention of game mechanics and industry-changing techniques and ideas'. Yeah, Mario always has been kind-of a big deal.

Released on Friday, Mario All-Stars is a compilation based on a Super Nintendo game, in which the 3 Super Mario Bros titles are put in one neat little package along with 'The Lost Levels' (Super Mario Bros 2 in Japan). All re-touched and re-done for the 16-bit era, the games were a great introduction to people who may have not played Mario before, and a great refresher course in those that did. All in a single package, I liked the game.

My main problem with the SNES game is the touching up though. As any die-hard Mario fan will attest to, the memories are what drives the series. When I switched on the SNES, the graphics overhaul was undoubtedly an improvement on the original, but it didn't feel the same. It felt a little more rounded, a bit too colourful for my personal tastes. I always thought it was a bit like eating an ice cream with extra sugar sprinkled on the top. Just a little too much.

Old Nes Super Mario Bros

New All-Stars Super Mario Bros

Nevertheless, it meant I got to play the Japanese Mario Bros 2, with it's invisible platforms and general bastardry, and got to properly get to grips with the Western Mario 2, which I never got a pop at first time round. Both were lovely additions, and the package itself was a delight. The little touch of the characters chatting before the title lights up was lovely, and it felt like real value, and a proper addition to a SNES collection.

This time round, it's a little more disappointing. Why? Because it literally hasn't changed.

In reality, it's a SNES Emulator on a disc. They haven't even bothered to fix the screen ratio properly. It's a pretty lacklustre attempt. One which, in my opinion, doesn't really celebrate the 25 years of Mario (we all know it's 27 really). What it does is more cement Nintendo's reputation for laziness when it comes to some of it's titles. Would it of killed them to add a little more to the package? The CD and booklet that came with the game was good, but the game itself could of been just that little more special.

I mean, they could of released a new package, included Super Mario World and a whole host of stuff. Put some Yoshi's Island on there? Paper Mario? All this would of EASILY fit on a Wii disc, and would have made it astonishing. I know it would of been more effort, and I know it might have taken a little longer, but come on guys, give the little plumber a bit of a celebration. He is getting on a bit, after all.

So what can I say? For a grizzled Nintendo veteran, the package was ultimately a tad on the disappointing side. I can see parents showing their kids this and getting them excited about the good old days, but for me, I just wish they'd done a bit more. I reckon you'd fare much better by getting yourself an original Nintendo Entertainment System, and blowing into a good old grey cartridge with 'Super Mario Bros 3' emblazoned up on it's plastic case. Either that or Mario Galaxy. Wahooooo.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

GainBoy Gets ART- 4


Another installment is here. Our fantastical series in which our good friend and all-round solid chap Heartbox to come up with classy Game Art. Well, we think it's classy.

Check it out below, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Kinect. Should you believe the hype?

When I first heard of Kinect I was definitely intrigued by it, instead of simply copying and pasting Nintendo's Wii success with Motion Controls they opted for some new technology that showed some good potential.

Yet post-release, after checking out several video's, reviews, write-ups, etc etc... It seems that at the moment the Minority Report controls are the only reason to own it...but that doesn't justify the cost for me.

This is coming from someone who is a very open-minded gamer too. I play a whole bunch of games from what's considered 'hardcore' to 'party games', and I'm not shy about it either. So please don't take me as one of those close minded "motion controls...f*** that" type of people. A game like "Kinect Adventures" I reckon I'd get a kick out of (providing it is more fun than frustration to play).

I came across THIS interview on Eurogamer the other day (that although quite long, is worth reading). After reading that it seems clear that Kinect is before it's time. The motion tracking camera itself has a weak resolution, and thus this is definitely going to limit it's ability to keep up with games that require precise inputs. More importantly, this means the precision Microsoft led us all to believe Kinect doesn't have.

Some games have already acknowledged this issue.

For example...
"Joyride" basically has you on training wheels so you can't be THAT bad at the game.

Sonic Free Riders is an example of a game that gives you no assistance and leaves you too it, and [Click Here] if you're interested to see how that went :\

Kinect as it stands doesn't look like it will be able to give you the 1:1 control for a more serious game. Especially since they took out the extra processing power that was once in it during the development stage (to keep the cost down). Another issue with this is that Kinect is controller free. It was speculated pre-launch that there could be hands free FPS games with Kinect, but any that did it would have to be 'dumbed down' drastically.

With the Wii and now also Move...those FPS games are about replicating real life aiming and shooting, with perhaps a few gestures thrown in to simulate a re-load or grenade throw etc, you still do all the moving around in game with an analogue stick, as that method is still very much king when it comes to in-game character movement. I'm getting the impression anything on Kinect is going to have to put your character movement 'on-rails', and if a controller was to be used along with Kinect, then that will mean losing the freedom to do things with either 1 or both your hands, and having your hands free is integral to what Kinect uses to differentiate itself from Wii and Move.

Still, the limitations of Kinect aside, I will be picking up Kinect at some point as I like to be able to try new things like this out for myself, it's just a case of fingers crossed that game developers find ways of utilising the peripheral for fun, and keeping the product alive.

Kinect is still somewhat new to developers, and things may improve a bit once smaller developers are able to release some quick XBLA/ indie game type stuff that use it. It's my personal opinion that if and when you can download things via Xbox Live Arcade that use Kinect, you can then potentially get some quick fun games that use it without making you take the risk of spending £40 on a full fledged game, and generally the sort of games you'd enjoy playing using Kinect are shorter attention span type games (which Xbox Live Arcade embraces).

My Final thoughts:
  • Early Kinect adopters, it's a case of hoping the product you (and 2.5 million others) have backed will get the support and creativity it needs to go the distance.

  • Those on the fence, make that seat as comfy as possible, and give it a few more months to see what games get announced, and keep your eyes on the reviews the release games get.

  • Those whom hate motion controls, yet read this article. Try opening your mind, you might find yourself having some fun outside of the latest Fifa and Call of Duty >_>.

Getting Myself Kinected

So lucky little me, I went and got myself a Kinect (along with yet another 360, since they have a terrible tendency to blow themselves up). Microsoft say they've sold more than 2.5 million units of this bad boy since it was launched, and I can tell you that it's like magic. Actually, better than magic - it's like Minority Report.

Kind of.

Y'see, you have to get used to it. It does work straight away, but you have to tune it for the ideal experience. You have to teach it who you are, a tortuous process that involves assuming all manner of undignified positions. It's a bit like an invasive airport search, or being measured for trousers in a way that seems just a little too invasive. It's so Kinect can recognise you in different lighting positions and angles. So they SAY.

Navigation in the Kinect system (once it's rolling) is like a trip to Hogwarts. Just wave, or use voice commands "XBOX KINECT" - the thing responds immediately, dropping you into the Kinect Hub, the menu system for all the Kinect based McGubbins. Hold up your hand, and your position is tracked with a hand cursor and you just pause briefly over your selection to fire that selection up.

So far, I've only had a chance to play Kinect Adventures, which is surprisingly a lot of fun - even for a crutch-bound fatty with little to no agility to speak of. In fact, I'd go as far as to say the Kinect may show potential as a rehabilitation tool - you don't get to omit the leg motions from the games on account of some weak excuse like "oh well I don't have any legs".* The games are simple and accessible, perfect casual gamer fodder.

It's easy to get carried away with the Kinect's mystical powers, and it is lovely to not have to put up with any irritating controller at all (especially one with a glowing ball on the top). There are some disappointments, though. First of all is the amount of space required. You need a LOT, and most regular folks don't have a lot of space. Second, and this really chaps my crack, is that the voice commands are not in play universally across the xbox platform. Apparently you can use voice to control videos that you play via Zune and Microsoft's downloads - but you can't use them to control videos you might be streaming over your network in your video library. You can't voice control DVD's either. I'm hoping that future dashboard updates will fix these glaring omissions.

Now what does the Kinect mean to the serious gamer? Right now, roughly two points shy of diddly-squat, if I'm any judge. It's too new, and developers haven't had the time to find ways to really put it to use. I imagine the motion detection will remain firmly entrenched in the world of casual and family games - although it does seem very precise, I can't see it being precise enough to use in an FPS - though I suspect that it would be fun to shoot folks with your fingers. However, the voice recognition could prove very useful, in games like Rainbow Six being able to give your squad voice commands instead of pressing stupid button combinations would clearly lead to more fluid and immersive gameplay.

Really, we'll have to wait and see what the world's game developers come up with to make use of this astonishing bit of technology. It's cool, it's friendly, but will it become an essential? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I'll wait for my copy of Dance Central to arrive and see how easy it is with a cripply leg. It says something for the Kinect that it makes me WANT to try to dance to hits of Lady Gaga with a broken ankle.

* Now I'm curious to find out how the thing responds to amputees. If there are any Gainboy readers out there with less than the regular complement of limbs, do feel free to get in touch. Or if you have more than the regular complement of limbs, come to think of it. Usual address, of course.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Retro Monday: Psycho (Film)

It's been a while since I've written anything about film, but I feel there's no better excuse than with what is, in my opinion, the finest horror film ever. I studied Alfred's Hitchcock's masterpiece at high school, so my insight to the film is juvenile at best, but I still aim to stumble along, and try and make some sense out of it.

I think the best way to understand Psycho, however, is to study it. The first time I saw it was in A-Level Film Studies, and my love affair began. The film is so clever in it's approach that it deserves looking at properly, and deserves a bit of hype behind it. My babbling over the next few paragraphs is simply a few pointers of everything I love about this film. I could, and indeed have, write essays about it, but it's boring to read, and certainly not as much fun as looking into it yourself. If you've ever considered yourself a fan of Horror, then it makes for an incredible Sunday afternoon, trawling through Wiki archives, and reading about this masterpiece.

Everyone knows Psycho, whether you actually know it or not. I personally guarantee that everyone one amongst us has done the 'shower' sound effects and stabbing motion, and everyone has heard of the Bates Motel, even if they don't know where from. I think it's a testament to the impact it's had on popular culture, and how much it's affected the world at the time. In a cinema landscape where it was all about aliens from the future, or giant lizards from the past, here's a film which was a dark and brooding film, filled with tension and genuine horror.

It's when you look into the plot of Psycho really shines. Down to the combination of the original novel by Robert Bloch and Hitchcock's brilliant storytelling, this film contains within the best twist I've ever witnessed. A film that was billed as a thriller, and spends almost an hour of it's playtime as a thriller, then shifts straight into what we now know as the 'slasher' genre. It's how it should be. It still gets me now, but I can't imagine what it would of been like 50 years ago. Imagine going to a cinema to watch some sort of Denzel-esque thriller. It's all getting a bit much for Denzel who's acting his heart out. It's getting a bit psychological and tense, then from nowhere Denzel dies, and it turns into a horror film. It's so unique, and so unsettling, it's what's given the film a lasting appeal, and is the reason the film is a cut above most horror films.

EVERYTHING about this film is completely ground-breaking. From the strings-only score, to Perkins' flawless performance, Every single part of Psycho is astounding. If you haven't seen it yet, then I honestly have no idea why. You should rectify it as soon as possible, and watch one of cinema's finest moments.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Gainboy Gets Art- 3

It's been a while, but we're back! Gainboy gets ART. We've teamed up with our good friend and ferocious graphic designer Heartbox, to bring you some delightful computer games-based art. We've done enough talking anyway, hope you enjoy it. We'll the fourth one next week, and if you click the link below, it'll get bigger.

That's what she said.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Retro Monday: Blackpool Retro Games Expo (EVERYTHING!)

I've been a bit quiet recently. Mainly because of the new release schedule. I've been so buried in games upon games, I've found it hard to do little else. I've had COD-itis since it dropped, racking up some silly statistics on multiplayer and enjoying the single-player campaign. Transformers is on it's way, I've got Undead Nightmare and New Vegas waiting in the wings, and this is all before the new Assassin's Creed drops this week. But in amongst it all, I broke free.

One bleary Sunday, 3 very hungover Gainboy writers made a trip to Blackpool, to the Retro Games Expo.

I had the brilliant/stupid idea of filming it on my phone, and these are some of the best bits. Hope you enjoy it:

Youtube loves cutting off bits of our video, so to see the full version, go HERE.

Thanks for watching!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A Morale (Cheat) Code

Before I start, understand this. I'm going to talk about Fable 3, and Fallout: New Vegas. I have completed Fable, and I'm a considerable way into Fallout. But I'm not going to indulge in any spoilers, don't worry. The things I'm going to discuss are pretty clear from about 10 minutes into both games, and other things I discuss are pretty obvious if you haven't been living under a rock. I don't want to talk about combat, about quests or even about graphics or loot.

I want to talk about morality, and how Fallout manages it magnificently, and Fable crashes and burns. Horribly.

It seems that this season, the trend in computer games is morality, and all the subtly grey shades that this can bring. The previous incarnations of these games, Fallout 3 and Fable 2, both dealt with morality and it's implications, but with kid gloves, and in a very simple way. The sequels have made a very strong move towards taking it further, but one manages it much better. I think I'll talk about Fallout first.

New Vegas, to a large extent, knows exactly what it's doing. There is SO much choice, all with consequence, and all with repercussions that will properly affect you in-game. The choices aren't obvious, either. Often I've found myself in real dilemmas, having to choose the lesser of two evils, but real evils. Truly grey in it's moral compass, Fallout exhibits how it should be done. You feel like you're making decisions, and that some are shitty, but are necessary. Indeed, in a post-apocalyptic nuclear world, I can't really imagine there's much opportunity for making decisions that are best for everyone, all the time.

Fable tries this approach, and fails miserably.

I loved Fable 2. It was charming, funny, quirky and generally great. The morality in the game was a quirky gimmick, a different line in voiceover at the end, and the ability to get horns or a a halo. It was a little feature that never mattered, never detracted from the game, or never carried any real weight.

But the new one is clumsy incarnate. It's no secret that Peter Molyneux's grand design for the game was to split it in two, but it also seems he did this with the budget also. The first half of the game is exciting and fun, fast-paced and generally engaging. It's when you take over the kingdom that the games falls absolutely flat, it's second act being more like a tragic comedy. Again, I'm not trying to spoil anything here, so I won't talk about details, but it is very, very poorly executed.

You're faced with decisions. But these decisions are seemingly obvious. If you can't tell whether you want to build an orphanage or a brothel, the flames around one choice and the angelic aura around another put it in crystal clear perspective what path you're choosing. This isn't the problem though. I can dig this, and don't mind it at all. If it carried on in the Fable 2 ilk, I would of been happy, and indeed pleased. But it didn't.

It half-arses being morally grey. It wants that slice of the complex, grown-up pie, but it isn't quite prepared to pay the price for it. It tries to make you think about the choices you make, but the choices are so obvious, it's incredibly hard to ever make an un-biased decision. The pay-off, however, is fully ready to make you pay for your choices. With very little physical repercussion, but every piece of narrative designed to make you feel uncomfortable, the promises you make earlier in the game counting for nothing.

Fable is a game truly half-finished. An intriguing and exciting idea, falling prey to the 'Molyneux Effect'. Often known for his over-hyped self-promotion and ambitious boasts, this time he's actually built them into the game, rather than simply talking about it. He's built a game that promises so much. Not only does it fail to deliver, it also detracts from the other parts of the game. Such a shame, as it's such an easily avoidable mistake.

Morality is just like hair. If you're Mr Fantastic, a bit of grey in there is fantastic. You've just got be delicate how you handle it, or it could end up like Noel Edmonds.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

New Vegas, New Challenges.

I don't really want to say much, as I'm a bit busy playing it, but oh my lord, it's good.

You'll be hearing that everywhere, so I reckon I'll concentrate on the collectors edition, and how flabbergasted I am with it. They know their target audience, as they even came numbered. Look, here's mine:

The sheer quality of this product has astounded me. The box, the flipping box, is even mock leather. How many times have you sat and felt a box? Well when I got mine I spent at least five minutes just stroking it. I'm pretty sure that makes me a mentalist, but I don't care.

And when we open the box? It just gets better. The poker chips are so detailed, the Platinum Chip has been designed with so much care, and the cards are so, so beautiful. This is a product made for gamers. Something so lovingly created, so precise is just a joy to behold, and shows just what a special edition should be, and makes it an absolute must.

Fuck you Call of Duty, with your shallow attempt at prying more money from gamers. Fuck you bullshit downloadables, and your shitty medal. Fuck your £25 medal. THIS is what it's all about. This is the heart of the special edition, and makes the game that little bit more unforgettable.

Fable 3 next week. Let's see if that Special Edition can match it. Now if you don't mind, I'm back off to New Vegas. You dig?

Monday, 18 October 2010

Hands on with Fallout: New Vegas! Eurogamer Expo Series pt 1!

So I hit up this year's Eurogamer Expo in London with a few fellow nerds, and I’ve got to say it left me with a even bigger itch for all the games I got to play. It feels like I've been waiting form them for years! Im the next few months, they'll be here, but before then I’ll be posting my views on the few games that I’m excited for, and others that have now grabbed my attention more than ever before.

First and most importantly in my gaming timeline for the next few months is the amazing Fallout: New Vegas. From the brief snippet of gameplay I managed to land myself, it looked as amazing. Well, as much as you’d expect a nuclear war torn wasteland to look, but even nicer (if that’s possible).

Whilst it may initially look like a slightly improved Fallout 3, from the off it felt like the formula I loved from the original but new and improved. I tested the new faction system by opening fire on some fiendish, well-dressed ‘Powder gangers’ only to find myself bartering with the nearby settlements guards to let me in because of the murder he just saw me commit. This looks to make the game interesting enough have the player finely balance who they side with. And I didn't even get to explore the story and weapon upgrading system, but it already felt pretty deep.

The guys from Obsidian have managed to snag original members from the first two PC Fallout games, to help with the lore and overall feel of the gam. With it they definitely seem to have given the Fallout universe a new lease of life.

Bleak. Sinister. Special. I can't wait to play more.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Time to wake up and watch the good stuff...PT.1

First off, an apology, it's been a while since i graced these excellent pages with my presence. In between the holiday, change of job and my general lack of self control i admittedly found that i haven't posted in time. Everyone OK...? good.
With that now said it's time to focus on what really matters at the moment, T.V. The good Dr is here to tell you guys and gals what you SHOULD be watching and all the good stuff that's currently being shown (mostly) to our American cousins. These programmes are accessible on Sky, Cable or just a small download away. Most of the major American network sites even let you watch episodes for free so there is NO excuse. ABC, HBO, NBC, AMC and FX for example.
Before we move on to the shows, if you will, permit me a little rant.

Perhaps the strongest reason Ive chosen to post about this is the fact that these shows are good, no not good, Fucking excellent. Sublime, original, heartbreaking and funny. AND NO-ONE WATCHES THEM !! We have had (and still do) produce some of the best T.V programmes around lets not forget that, but what i don't want to see is another celebrity dance-on-ice jungle up your arse show. What I don't understand is when people ask me "Who do you think is gonna win X-factor/ Pop Idol" and my answer is "I don't fucking care, i don't watch TV." They look at me like I've got 3 heads "What do you mean you don't watch TV, you don't know who might win."
BINGO, that ladies and germs is your answer. If this is Television, shitty hand-fed-to-the masses garbage i don't want to watch, i don't need to watch. It's not challenging, not thought provoking, it doesn't make me laugh or cry, so i can't see myself getting attached to some dickhead singing his balls off to a panel of paid-off twats who already know whose going to win. It's not me being elitist or smug (well, a little) but if people like the described programmes then it's all well and good, I'm just saying there is more to T.V than just Pop factor, reality shows and crappy ITV 1 dramas.

And breathe...

This isn't a swipe at just those types of shows, its TV in general. I can't understand why my top picks aren't more popular, they're infinitely more special than any of that tripe.
So prick up your ears, here we go....
I'm currently watching on a weekly basis around 12 new shows, some brand new some with new seasons. A quick list for you and then in part 2 (coming soon) I'll get to the reasons why you NEED to view them. In no particular order -

Boardwalk Empire - Steve Buscemi starring, Terence Winter writing, Scorsese producing. Best show on T.V. 'Nuff said.

Community - The strongest riser on the comedy block, and Chevy Chase BOOM!

30 Rock - Continues to dazzle as the gorgeous Tiny Fey's show gets better and better.

Running Wilde - New show from the creators of Gainboy's fav Arrested Development.

The Office - With the news that Steve Carrell leaves this season, lets hope it stays this strong.

How I Met Your Mother - As season 6 starts, are we finally going to met the mother?

Eastbound and Down - Will ferrell and Adam Mckay produce this darkly funny baseball comedy.

Fringe - With the excellent start to season 3, will Olivia get back ?!

Dexter - Morgan's up shit creek as Season 5 blasts onto our screens, 2nd best show on TV !!

Modern Family - AMAZING disfunctional comedy from Christopher 'Doc Brown' Lloyd.

Outsourced - Brand new, still finding it's feet. Office produced Call centre comedy.

No Ordinary Family - 'The incredibles' meets 'Heroes' with The Shield's Micheal Chiklis.

Danny McBride as washed-up baller Kenny 'Fucking' Powers
in HBO's Eastbound and down.

Take a good look at that list, there are shows above that you MUST begin to watch. In part 2, after more research and episode watching I'll be back to give reasons and a healthy rundown of each show and why it's so damned good.

Turn off the shite-factor and tune into the good stuff
Peace and love
Dr Lucian Sanchez

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Retro Monday- Marvel vs Capcom 2 (Dreamcast/PS2)

With the character roster flowing thick and fast, Marvel vs Capcom 3 is set to be an absolute blockbuster. Everything a beat-em-up should be- Frantic, exciting and mind-blowing. The game looks like it's going to be a landmark beat-em-up, that shows off current-generation hardware to the full. 10 years ago, it's little brother was doing exactly the same, the groundbreaking Marvel vs Capcom 2.

Marvel vs Capcom 2 is a stone-cold classic, completely and utterly. It's concept is flawless. The age-old questions that have troubled mankind for decades are finally answered: Could Chun-Li beat up Rogue? Could Ryu's fireball match Cyclop's Laser Beam? The kind of schoolyard-scenarios that only teenage boys could dream up are fully realised, in a game that matches style, with outright insanity.

And it's insanity that gives this game it's brilliance, and what has secured it's place in the annals of gaming history. Never have I played a game so unashamed in it's ridiculousness, so confident in it's over-the-top bombasticness. It's this brazen confidence that makes this game truly unique.

Every.Single.Part of this game completely breaks the mould. As soon as you turn it on, you're greeted by a jazz-funk soundtrack, with some woman constantly threatening to 'take you for a ride'. Unsettling from the start, you're then confronted with a character select screen that is HUGE, and largely in darkness, with no explanation on how to unlock these characters. After that, the characters have 3 difference special moves, based on Greek letters, that offer little explanation to what they do. After this baffling selection process, the game kicks off properly, and you still have no idea really what is going on.

But do you know what? It's completely and utterly captivating. Hurtling along at a breakneck pace, the game just explodes with colours, characters bouncing all over the screens, as it erupts with flashes of light and bone-crunching sound effects. Even the crappest of players are able to pull off impressive-looking moves, some kind of witchcraft under the hood, making it not only compelling, but immense fun.

Marvel vs Capcom makes no excuses, and takes no prisoners. It's confidence is matched only by it's execution, which is utterly flawless. I think few games deliver on their promises, and here is a game that delivers on one of the greatest promises made in gaming history. If you're going to include Wolverine in a beat-em-up, you better make damn sure you get it right. Even if sometimes you're left slightly confused by the whole process, Capcom know exactly what they're doing.

If you're not already excited by the prospect of Marvel vs Capcom 3, it's because you've not played this yet. Go pick it up on the Playstation network or Xbox Live Arcade, and see why next Spring, the age-old question of 'Could Arthur from Ghouls n' Goblins beat up Thor?' will once again have the world excitedly getting the answer.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Retro Monday: Pyschonauts (Xbox,PS2,PC)

So any self respecting gamer should know about this game or at least it’s creator. Spawned from the genius mind of Tim Schafer, I'm talking about the sheer awesomeness that is 'Psychonauts'.

I was young when I was first introduced to his genius when playing Grim Fandango. To this day I can still remember being absorbed into the witty yet dark world of the undead, and how they roll on with their boring 9-to-5 jobs, and everything inbetween.

His creativeness doesn’t falter on this platforming gem either. The games' surreal setting revolves around the adventures of Rasputin or Raz, a boy who runs away from the circus to join a psychic summer camp. He soon uncovers a terrible plot that is threatening the brains and lives of all of those at the camp. Intrigued yet? You should be.

Raz becomes a rookie ‘Psychonaut’, and embarks on a journey that takes him into the mind of a variety of bizarre yet unique characters. He helps them tackle their deepest fears and memories, in order to gain their help to overcome this evil plot afoot.

Rasputin with Dogan and his tin foil hat, the best character in the game

The gameplay and combat revolves around various psychic powers Raz obtains as he helps important individuals overcome their fears.e Telekinesis, Pyrokinesis, Invisibility and Levitation are just some of his arsenal. Round every corner there's real laugh out loud moments and elements of bizarre humour that borders on outlandish genius. The game revels in it's crazy level settings, off-the-wall satirical digs, and homage to the best of pop culture. There's a level where Raz becomes Godzilla and helps the city’s rebel fish faction fight back against their corrupted fish government. What more could you want?

Schafer sculpted this game into everything a brilliant game should be. Memorable in every way, intriguing characters, unique settings and a game that doesn't ever get boring.

Stop sitting around and buy it already

It’s on the Xbox Live Arcade and Steam, so there’s no excuse for you to not pick up this piece of gaming history. I just hope he creates something more along these lines with the follow up to Brutal Legend.

Tim Schafer. Outlandish Genius. Storytelling don. DUDE.