Internet, I’m not dead!

So, a strange thing has occurred with this blog: I’ve gotten more views since I stopped writing than when I was! How strange. Anyways, I feel sorry to those who are clearly checking this blog, because nothing’s showing up. Let me explain.

At the height of my blogging, I was spending about an hour and half every day thinking of something to write, writing it, editing it, finding pictures, the stuff that goes along with writing for a blog. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I am a high-school student that is very committed to several things that I can’t exactly give up, such as schoolwork, my actual (and way less fun) writing job, and church (yes, I’m one of those people). Trying to play video games as much as I want to can be a challenge, which is why even though I’ve had Mass Effect 3 for like 2 weeks, I’m only 13 hours into it; I just don’t have a lot of free time. This writing about video games was taking away from my time actually playing video games, so I decided to stop. Of course, I decided to stop during finals, when my schoolwork was most prevalent, but I never thought to return to this blog. However, recently, this blog keeps weighing on my mind, and for that reason, I’ve returned.

Content won’t be as regular as it was at its prime (expect 2 to 3 posts a week), but I’ll definitely be writing again. Sure, it will dip at occasional points, but once summer break rolls around, you can expect me to be both playing and writing a lot more.

Since I quit, I’ve been playing some more games. Here are just some of them:

Mass Effect 2 and all of its DLC (a full Paragon playthrough and half a Renegade)

13 Hours of Mass Effect 3 (finishing this is my top priority)

All of Resistance 2

4/5 of Resistance 3 (I plan to return as soon as I’m done with ME3 and then play Journey)

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars (it was free on Playstation Plus, and surprisingly fun)

I spend a surprising amount of time playing iOS games, such as Where’s My Water, Mass Effect: Infiltrator (which is surprisingly good), League of Evil 2, Flight Control and its sequel Flight Control Rocket, Cut the Rope and Cut the Rope: Experiments, and Angry Birds Space, which is surprising because I HATED the other Angry Birds games.

I’ll return soon with posts on anticipated games, my backlog, and hopefully a Journey review.

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Quickie: Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes HD

To start off, yes, I know what a quickie is, and that’s part of the reason I chose the name. A quickie is a new type of post in which I shortly describe one game that I’m currently playing, usually a PSN game, and whether or not you should play it. The first one is one a game that I loved very much on the Nintendo DS, but will it stay as good on consoles?

At its core, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is a match 3 puzzle game, but in actuality, it’s so much more. First off: YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MIGHT & MAGIC TO PLAY THIS GAME! This is the very first Might & Magic game I’ve ever played, and unless they make a Clash of Heroes 2, there’s a very high likelihood it will be the ONLY Might & Magic game I ever play (I don’t have a decent gaming PC).

Clash of Heroes is played on what’s basically a grid split in half down the screen; each player has 42 squares (7 across, 6 vertical) in which to organize units, creating battle formations and walls to attack and defend yourself from your opponent. At the beginning of a battle, a set number of units fill your side of the screen, but they’re not organized in any way; that’s your job. A wall is formed by placing 3 units of the same color in a row, and a battle formation is created by placing 3 units of the same color in a column. Each battle formation has a charge time and a number indicating its strength; when the charge time reaches 0, that unit attacks the opponent in the same column that it was placed, hopefully reaching your opponent, depleting some of their health. You win or lose when either you or your opponent runs out of health.

A typical battlefield in Clash of Heroes

If that was all Clash of Heroes was, it would be good, but not as nearly as good as it is. Each faction (there are 5 in the game, and at one point or another in the Campaign you’ll play as each one of them) has unique Elite and Champion units that are shaped differently, Elites take up 2 vertical spaces and require 2 units of the same color behind them; Champions take up a 2 by 2 square and require 4 units of the same color behind them, making the battlefield a diverse place with units of all shapes and sizes, with each side launching its attacks at the beginning of each turn.

The game has several modes, including a 20 hour campaign, a Skirmish mode (I don’t think that’s the name, but that’s basically what it is), and an online multiplayer mode. Battles in the campaign are connected by what looks almost like a Mario party board, where you complete quests, earn bounties, and find treasures and units for your army.

The game is tied by together by a beatiful hand-drawn art style that almost looks a bit like an anime at times, providing constant movement of units that aren’t even doing anything and making what’s basically a grid look like so much more.

Overall, for 15 dollars, Clash of Heroes HD is full of value, and it’s something you should pick up if you appreciate puzzle games like Bejeweled or Tetris but want more action in your games.

Image source: http://images.eurogamer.net/articles//a/1/2/6/6/5/0/8/MMCH_HD_Battle_NECRO_02.bmp.jpg/EG11/resize/600x-1

:O The Vita has a chance in the US now!

First off, I’m really sorry for not posting in that past 2 days. Like, REALLY sorry. Time has just not been in my favor lately. So for that, I apologize. I promise you that I will give you guys my impressions of Resistance 2 in the coming days.

Everyone’s favorite upcoming handheld game system, the PlayStation Vita, has recently had a “revelaiton” (look up that for Capcom’s recent failure) about it unveiled. For the low price of $299, you will receive 3G PlayStation Vita (this was previously unveiled as the price for the 3G model), along with an 8GB memory card, a voucher for a PSN game, and a free 250MB of data for one month. Now, we don’t know exactly what that voucher there MEANS, but in all likelihood it means that you’ll be getting your choice of one PlayStation Vita game for free when you buy said Vita. Now, that would suck if you had to buy a memory card, but that’s also covered, along with a little bit of data to browse the interwebs on. What this means is that for the price I paid for my PlayStation 3DTV, I can get a brand new game system, a free game, a memory card, and a taste of what the Vita’s 3G can offer through things like Near and syncing my trophies wherever I am.

This by itself is really exciting, but I feel like it’s telling that we’re just now hearing about this. The Vita is tanking HARD in Japan, and this is Sony’s way of trying to salvage it in America. But you know what else could help the Vita? Advertising. If I walked up to a random stranger and asked them what a PlayStation Vita is, they would look at me with a blank look on their face. Even my gaming friends had no idea what the Vita was until I told them, and after I did, one of them told me they would buy it for sure. But they didn’t know about it. Think about the media blitz that happened as soon as the iPad was announced, and how well the iPad sold. Think about those commercials that you see for Droid phones, which aren’t even all that good, but they sell like hotcakes (that phrase doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Are hotcakes pancakes? Who’s selling pancakes?). Luckily for Sony, between now and the release of the Vita is one of the most-watched televised events in history, and that’s the Super Bowl. If they advertise the Vita during the Super Bowl, millions of people will know about it, which is exactly what Sony needs.

All in all, if Sony can combine this great move with an all-out marketing blitz, the Vita might become as synonymous a name as the DS or the PS2 are in American households.

Source: http://vita.ign.com/articles/121/1217392p1.html

My 2 Newest Gadgets

When I bought my 3DTV last weekend, I ordered some accessories for it on Amazon. Being as I’m incredibly cheap and live off of Super Saver Shipping, they arrived yesterday, and I’ve been having some fun with them.

1. Sony PS3/TV Remote – I was pretty surprised when I opened up the box for my new TV and I found that there was no remote in the box. Call me a fat, lazy American (and it would be totally valid), but that’s a pretty important part of having a TV, so I ordered the remote on Amazon. Guess what: it’s a remote. I didn’t have to sync it up with the TV, it just worked straight out of the box, and after syncing it up with the PS3, it worked incredibly. It functions like a really good remote, with none of that annoying “you have to point me EXACTLY at wherever the hidden IR port on TV is for me to work.” In addition, it can navigate the menus and of the PS3, but strangely enough, you can’t toggle the power of the PS3 from the remote like you can with the TV. Regardless, you CAN toggle the 3D of the TV with it, and it works seamlessly.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/B0050SX9I2/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_images_1?ie=UTF8&index=1

2. Sony Wireless Stereo Headset – My family used to have a pair of headphones that hooked up to the TV for listening without disturbing others, and I loved it, but then it broke and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it, so naturally, I decided to buy another pair. For the price of $80, it sounds incredible with its digital 7.1 Surround Sound, and its built-in microphone sounds crystal clear. Previously while playing multiplayer online, I was just using the microphone built into the pair of Bluetooth headphones that I use to listen to my iPod, and I feel really bad for anyone who was trying to listen to me, because it sounded like I was underwater speaking through one of those masks that makes your voice sound like Darth Vader.

The thing that propels THIS headset above other headsets for use with the PS3 is that it integrates seamlessly into the PS3. Whenever you try to hit one of the confusingly-placed buttons on the side of the headset to toggle something, it’ll show up on the screen in the corner, letting you know what you just hit. If it’s running out of battery, that will also show up in the corner. That brings me to a negative about this headset: the battery life. Even the manual, which always overestimates things, places the battery at only 7.5 hours, which seems low to me, and it takes 3 hours to charge. Another negative: it doesn’t come with a charging cable. Sure, it just charges using a standard mini-USB cable, which I suppose DOES come with your PS3 to charge your controller, but it just seems weird to me. Regardless, if you’re looking for a headset to game with on your PS3 at a low price, I would go with this one.

http://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Stereo-Headset-Playstation-3/dp/B0053OLY9O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327445888&sr=8-1

Review: Rayman Origins

When I first heard about Rayman Origins, I heard it was going to be a downloadable game. I thought “yeah, I’d download a 2D Rayman platformer on PSN.” Then I saw the art style and thought “I would pay any amount of money for this game.” Turns out, I had to, and I couldn’t be any happier about it.

Rayman Origins has some kind of underlying story about a witch who’s mad at Rayman and his friends, but that really doesn’t matter at all for the enjoyment of Rayman Origins, so I’m just going to cut that out of the equation for reviewing Rayman Origins. What matters is a beautiful art style and incredibly tight gameplay, and Origins has both.

Any platformer can have great controls, but if the levels suck, than it doesn’t matter. Luckily, Michel Ancel’s team knew what they were doing while creating the environments of Rayman Origins. Not only are the themes creative (a musical desert and a frozen fruit iceberg!), but the actual platforms are laid out in a way that  when you get it right, you feel like a professional gamer. Unfortunately, this is one of the very few areas in which Origins misses out. In some of the levels, things go so fast and enemies appear out of nowhere in a way that it’s not exactly fair, leaving you frustrated while thinking an explicit word of your choice.

Even though there are a couple of duds in the mix, Rayman Origins has so many levels that it doesn’t really matter. Taking into account the quality of each individual level, the fact that there are at least 60 of them is incredible, giving you hours and hours of fun to experience, while giving you incentive to go back to each level to unlock new characters and levels.

If the levels are laid out well, a platformer can look as simple as N+. Luckily, that’s not an area in which Rayman Origins is lacking. Each hand-drawn frame of animation looks as good as the next beautiful frame, giving the game a smooth, popping, stunning appearance.

Origins gives you beautiful environments to play around in, either alone or with friends

Something that I haven’t really touched on yet is that not only is Origins incredibly fun when you’re playing by yourself, but you can play it with up to 3 of your friends on the couch with you. Unfortunately, they will have to be on the couch, because this game doesn’t support online co-op. I played a little bit of it, and while it was certainly better than the co-op in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I feel like it could’ve been better, and I would rather play the game solo then with friends, although it’s sure to bring on many laughs, and I would imagine that taking some intoxicating liquids before playing would only improve the laughter.

Not only is the platforming great, but fun shoot-em-up levels mix things up

An interesting feature of Origins that not a lot of people are talking about is that Rayman Origins isn’t all platforming. In each of Rayman’s 10 worlds, there’s one shoot-em-up level in which you ride what’s called a “moskito”, which as the name implies is essentially a rideable (or in Globox’s case, basically a hang glider) mosquito. These levels are kind of like a Gradius for the modern age, and they mix things up between platforming, because no matter how good the platforming is, it can get kind of monotonous at times.

Another thing that mixes up the platforming are the game’s boss levels. Each of the last 5 worlds has a boss at the end,  and their classic telegraphed attacks offer a fun challenge.

Any fun game needs a soundtrack that’s equally as good as the gameplay, and that is CERTAINLY an area in which Rayman excels. When we look back at game music 25 years from now, I can confidently tell you that Rayman: Origins will be one of the games we remember fondly. The music is fun, upbeat, and unique, all of which are qualities of music that we look back on now.

Unique boss battles, such as the fight against this fat bird, add variety to an already great game

Overall, Rayman Origins is a fantastic game, and if you enjoy having fun, it’s something you should pick up. The fact that Ubisoft released this game on the same day as its own Assassin’s Creed: Revelation was an absolutely boneheaded move, as this should definitely be the game that hardcore gamers are playing.

Graphics – 10 – A beautiful hand-drawn art style propels this game above competitors.

Story – N/A It’s like playing Mario for the story; it’s just an excuse to have fun.

Gameplay – 9.5 – It’s like classic Mario, but better.

Sound- 9 While some songs are excellent, some worlds fall a bit short.

Overall – 9.5

Editor’s Note: I can already tell what you’re thinking “Luke, this is your second review, and the second game you’ve given a 9 or above too. You’re just too forgiving!” Well, there’s a reason for that. I only pick up games that I think will be good, because I don’t like to waste my money, and as such, when I review a game that I’ve played extensively, it was probably a fun game. If you want to hear me just tear a terrible game to shreds, just let me know, because I’ll do it. I just don’t know if that’s something you guys might want.

Image Sources: http://www.hardwareheaven.com/gamingreviewimages/rayman-origins/rayman-origins_screen4.jpg

http://brutalgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Rayman_OriginsPyramidTeam.jpg

http://mattbrett.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/rayman-origins-boss.jpg

What I’m Playing Now

It’s all dandy to talk about the games that are coming up and the games you’ve already finished, but sometimes you just want to talk about what you’re playing right now. However, I don’t feel like I’ve done enough in the games that I’ve been playing recently to merit a whole post all by themselves, so I’m going to put the three of them into one post. I hope you enjoy it, because I feel like this might become a weekly feature of sorts.

1. Rayman Origins – Believe it or not, the game is still absolutely breathtaking. The platforming is incredibly tight, but as I get towards the end of the game, I feel like sometimes my deaths aren’t entirely my fault. Unlike other games like Super Meat Boy where if you die you know it was your fault, Rayman Origins is starting to get a little cheap, and I don’t really like that. But other than that, the game is absolutely incredible. As I thought I was nearing the end, the game suddenly opened up and introduced an entire other half of the game that I wasn’t suspecting, so not only is the game incredibly fun, but there’s a metric buttload of levels to play through. Both GameStop and Amazon have the game for $30 new right now, and for that price, I would definitely pick it up. Just one note: if you buy this game used, I will come after you. This kind of game needs to be supported, and if you cheat the developers out of money, I will be incredibly angry.

The fact that this game can sell as a retail game is something to celebrate about

2. Resistance 2 – I’m ashamed to say that I bought this Used, but it’s only because GameStop sent me a coupon for my birthday last week (my birthday’s in August, so I don’t know how THAT works), and after the coupon the game was $8, and I just couldn’t pass that up. But on to the actual game. It’s actually a really beautiful game, a giant leap over Fall of Man, and I really like where they went with the UI. After looking at the latest “Syndicate” trailers, I noticed a remarkable resemblance between the UI’s of the two games, so it probably explains why I like Resistance 2’s so much, because I’ve always thought that Syndicate’s UI looked really awesome. The  gameplay is really good, but sometimes I feel like there are giant swarms of enemies that are a bit unfair, causing me to die tons of times in a row, almost making me want to put the difficulty on Easy. One thing that bothers me about the game is that they definitely have some technology that did NOT exist in the 1950’s, like, you know, COMPUTERS. Other than that, I really like the game, and taking it to the United States was a brilliant move. Emerging from the top of a submarine and seeing an absolutely wrecked San Francisco wrenched my heart, and that’s not usually something you expect from a first person shooter. Overall, I really like the game, and I would say you don’t really need to play Fall of Man before you play Resistance 2.

Insomniac actually discovered what a color palette is this time!

3. Uncharted 3 – I haven’t played this one as much as the other two, but I’ve still been able to form an impression about Uncharted 3, and that is that Uncharted 2 is better. The story moments in Uncharted 3 are just as good as in Uncharted 2, but the combat is very inferior. In Uncharted 2, there would be lots of enemies, but I always felt like there was a way to beat the scenario, I just hadn’t discovered it yet. In Uncharted 3, this is the school of thought that Naughty Dog used while creating combat scenarios: “So, we’ll put 7 guys over there with snipers. Wait, maybe 9. And then we’ll have those giant guys that it takes about a minute to kill rush the player and flush them out from cover. And then we’ll have 15 standard grunts come in from over there and kill him. Oh, is that cover there? Take that out. We don’t want them to be able to avoid the gunshots.” It’s not just difficult: it’s poorly designed. I’ve only discovered a couple of scenes like this so far, but that’s already more than in Uncharted 2, and I’m only about 30-40% of the way through. I love Nathan Drake and his crew, but this game is just a bit of a grind through at times. I love the multiplayer, though! If you wanna play, hit me up on PSN at nccows.

These are the parts I like. The giant battles..... not so much.

It’s times like this when I love the internet

Thanks to blackouts, protests, and thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls to Congressman, Senators, and Representatives, both SOPA and PIPA have been postponed. It’s not that the government won’t come back with another way to combat piracy, which I hope they do, because piracy is a serious problem that costs independent artists large amounts of money, but it’s that the two bills, in their current states, provided not only the government, but major corporations, with a Gestapo-like control of the internet, which nobody wants. So I’d like to thank everyone reading this for doing their part in helping to fight SOPA and PIPA, even if all they did was tweet. Unless, of course, you didn’t fight SOPA at all, in which case you should be ashamed of yourself and never use the internet again.

But regardless, seeing the internet as a whole coming together to fight something as terrible as SOPA/PIPA warms my heart. Now, is there any way we can band together to help solve this bad economy?