Friday, July 29, 2011

Jumping Around with My Tongue Hanging Out

One of the things that has bothered me since getting the PS3 is the serious lack of games for more than one player. After watching The Bride become mindlessly addicted to Portal and listening to that machine voice taunt her about cake repeatedly for four to five hours at a time, I became even more bothered by this fact.

My friend Crystal, trying lighten the tension of the Portal-divided household, mentioned that Little BIG Planet 2 was a game we could all play. I jumped up and immediately said (as loudly as I could over more electronic cake teasing), "Let's play that!"

I'm really not sure what the point of the game is. You get to play a creepy little crochet/canvas doll that looks like it escaped from a Jan Svankmajer movie and then you run around. Yeah, at first glance, that's about it. There's also the peculiar factor of dressing up your canvas doll. Then you run around these various worlds and play various games within the game, like racing mice or shooting cakes for instance. You are accompanied on these treks by bad disco music most of the time.

Little BIG Planet 2 should have all the charm of other no-rules-just-play games like the Grand Theft Auto games, and it does to a point, but it feels more like an acid trip than anything else. Trying to hold on to what sanity I had left, I made the most bizarre outfit for myself, and stuck my tongue out as far as it would go - mostly so I could differentiate myself from The Bride and Crystal.

In a group, you have to have first multiple controllers, and second you have to catch up with each other. No stragglers, or you'll die when the others leave you behind. You kinda all have to either be at the same skill level, or have a pro like Crystal telling you what you need to know and do. But then again, that's what all PS3 games need apparently. Perhaps there's a PS3 mentoring program?

So I spent an afternoon and a night of running around with my tongue hanging out. What it means, I still don't know. What I accomplished, I still don't know. If I can get them to eject this disc though, I want to shoot something, preferably zombies - because isn't that what videogames are all about anyway?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sing It

I mentioned before that my first solo purchase for the PS3 was Marvel Ultimate Alliance, but I haven't talked about The Bride's. Whereas my obsessions run toward comics and monsters and the like, hers tend in other directions - Disney and singing just to name two. So it's no wonder that her first purchase was Disney Sing It Family Hits.

This 'game' came with a microphone and from all indications was no more than a glorified karaoke machine - or at least it seemed like it turned the PS3 into one. But it's more than that. Yes, it is essentially karaoke, with at least two dozen animated videos of songs direct from the Disney features along with sing-along lyrics onscreen.

That's not all it is however. You also get warm ups and lessons and tips from Anika Noni Rose, Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, so you'll be able to sing and enjoy these songs better. And there are other editions, including High School Musical and Pop Hits with more songs available, among others. Each edition also features singing lessons from other Disney singers.

It's great fun for the family and kids of all ages, especially Disney fans. I know The Bride enjoyed/enjoys it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

After These Messages, We'll Be Right Back…

Writers are a brotherhood. And by brotherhood, I mean brotherhood and sisterhood. I don't want to leave the ladies out by virtue of the wrong word, cuz I know too well that the best writers are often women, as exampled by female writers I know personally. Wow, how's that for a tangent?

Anyway, as I was saying, in simpler language, writers stick together. When one of us is in trouble we band together to help them. Well, a friend of mine, a fellow writer who I admire, am grateful to know, and has helped me untold times in my day-to-day endeavors - is in trouble. For some time Kevin Tipple has been in medical and financial crisis, and it seems to be coming to a head now. The man's in trouble and needs your help. Please help in any way.

I've got a unique way to help with this particular blog. Kevin's son Karl runs an online business specializing in, yeah, you guessed it, videogames and videogaming equipment. The family is trying to keep afloat, and you can help out by shopping at his Amazon storefront if you're looking for gaming stuff. Karl says if you don't see a game, he can get it, and he does special orders on request. He's a good guy, and it's for a good cause. I trust Karl as much as I trust Kevin, so check him out.

The site again is Thanks, folks!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Okay, so my buddy Ray, in order to indoctrinate me into the highly addictive world of the PS3, lent me a stack of games he thought I might be into. There were a lot of comic book based games in that stack as we are both comic book fanboys. Of course those are the games I gravitated toward first.

I had tried Marvel Super Hero Squad first as I liked the cartoon and Ray had told me it was ridiculously easy. It wasn't. So I placed a call to my friend to ask how it worked, how I could get through a certain sequence and to bitch at him for saying it was so easy - especially since I couldn't figure it out. Ray was out, and I gave up quickly on the game.

By the time Ray got a chance to call me back, I had ejected MSHS and put in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Compared to the previous game, B:AA is very realistic, and add to that, it's also rather frightening. The graphics and the characters are pretty scary here, as an Arkham game probably should be. I should mention that some of the game is also in 3-D so I'm sure it's even scarier that way. This certainly isn't the Lego game. The intro is totally crazy town, but exactly what you would expect every time the Batman returns the Joker to Arkham. We get an inside look at something rarely seen in the comics, but we know happens on a fairly regular basis.

This game, should I ever get farther than the intro (which seems unlikely honestly, I'm not too good at this), should be a treat for me as a fan of "Batman: The Animated Series." This game features one of the last times those voice actors have worked together. Not only does Kevin Conroy reprise Batman, Mark Hamill is the Joker, and Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn in a story written by Paul Dini. A treat indeed.

The phone rings, and it's Ray. Okay, now this is important, picture this: I have put the controller down, I'm chatting with Ray on the phone, and the Batman menu is on and running. The image on the television is a shot of Batman, a close-up shot of Batman, from the neck down, the camera slowly panning up from his boots. As the camera slowly pans up, Batman is breathing heavily and flexing his muscles. No face, only the same visual cruise up his flexing sinewy body, with a bit too much lingering at the groin area. Yeah. Got it?

I look up and notice this. All I can think is "Oh my God, what the hell am I watching?" and then the real hammer hits me, "Oh my God, I'm watching Bat-pr0n!" At least there aren't any Bat-nipples in this game... that I know of...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Marvel, Big and Little

My first game purchase for the PlayStation 3 was via Amazon, and the choice was made because of what a big comic geek I am. I bought Marvel Ultimate Alliance at a pretty fair price. And I was thrilled when it arrived in the mail. I was going to get to play some superhero action on this here PS3 thing.

I first learned here something that will continue to haunt me for the rest of my PS3 experience. It's complicated, and the controllers are nuts with buttons and choices. It came with a sizable instruction book, but I ignored it, as I wanted to play. I popped in the disc and was mesmerized by the graphics. Yar's Revenge, this was not.

What the instruction manual doesn't tell you is what the story actually is. This is a sore point for someone like me with a writer's brain. It's all about which buttons to push, etc. It doesn't matter, I like the pretty colors, and hope that the introduction will give me something. It does. Nick Fury, the real one, not the Ultimate version or Samuel J. Jackson, shows up and apparently, we, the four player characters have to find him on the SHIELD Helicarrier which is under attack by what look like Ultrons.

The funny thing is, while Fury is not Ultimate, the player characters are - Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Thor. Interesting. You get to pick one, and the others are dragged along, until they die, or you switch out to one of them. It's a lot of smash and guess until then. Wolverine and Thor seem the easiest to play, but in over an hour of play, I was never able to either clear the Helicarrier or find Fury. I will need help with this one. And I found the whole concept of collecting coins, like in Mario Bros., completely hilarious.

When I was tired of Ultimate Alliance I tried Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet. Despite the subtitle which refers to the Jim Starlin Thanos vs. the Marvel Universe comics, this is actually a simpler kids version of the Marvel heroes - based on the hysterical cartoon for kids of all ages, and the strange (strange because I can't imagine the Punisher or Wolverine ever smiling) action figure line. I thought this would be a better choice. It's cartoony vs. realistic graphics, but it still looked great.

While it has the fun voices and the wink-wink humor of the cartoon, the controller continues to irritate me, and it's just not as easy as my buddy Ray has claimed. I seem to remember him saying this took him, like twenty minutes to finish. I think I spent twenty minutes trying to decipher the instructions.

The best part for me was not playing, and letting the characters on screen hold conversations. Come on now, you can't tell me it's not funny when Iron Man says to the Hulk, "You're very green, you know that?" or when Hulk counters with "This ship ugly!" For that alone, this game rocks. I didn't get far, but at least with this one, I kinda understood what was going on.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Power of Portal

This should answer any questions you have about the difference between my gaming experience and The Bride's. About a week after we got the PS3 we hit a place right here in Marlton called Play N Trade. It was local and less expensive than a Gamefly subscription, and the staff was friendly and helpful - even to me.

The Bride picked up The Orange Box, featuring Portal and Half-Life among a few other games. I got two older PS1 games (still compatible with the PS3) of old Atari 2600 game compilations. Specifically, I got Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Midway Collection 2 and A Collection of Activision Classic Games for the Atari 2600. Yep, that's about my speed. I feel so old. Even the guys behind the counter felt bad for me.

When we got home, The Bride put her disc right into the PS3. As of this date, I still haven't even tried my two purchases. But from that moment on, until she actually finished Portal 2, I couldn't even use the TV. She was addicted. Thus is the power of Portal.

I don't think she even ever looked at the Half-Life portions of the disc. The Bride is not a first person shooter type person, but more of a puzzle person. And apparently, while looking like the first type of game, Portal is really the second.

In the game, you play a young girl named Chell who runs around on preposterous leg stilts to make jumping easier, and a handheld teleportation device. With this 'portal gun' you make holes in this maze complex to travel toward your objective. Your opponent in this quest is an annoying artificial intelligence named GLaDOS who keeps promising you cake. Over and over and over again.

The Bride wanted this cake bad apparently because she played day and night, she played every waking moment, she played all the time it seemed. Even in my insomnia-rattled state, she was playing when I went to bed, and she was playing when I got up. And all the time, GLaDOS never shut up about that goddamn cake.

The Bride finally beat GLaDOS and was greeted with an amusing song by Jonathan Coulton, but not surprisingly, no cake. I had noticed The Bride having symptoms of withdrawl at that point so I bought her as a gift... Portal 2...

And thus the cycle began anew… I hope there's not a Portal 3...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First Contact, First Blood, Lego Batman

The night the PS3 came into our lives, we had folks over. Friends Ray, Jeff and Crystal were there for the installation and helped with all the technical stuff. They also went to the store to pick up accessories, as well as a game or two and maybe a Blu-Ray to test out the system. They knew I wasn't thrilled with the purchase, so stealthy steps were taken to soothe me.

First they, and The Bride, got a Blu-Ray, our first Blu-Ray, Megamind, a film that I actually liked. Those of you who know me, know that's hard to find. We watched, I was amazed by the crisp, clean, clarity of the picture, and was somewhat soothed. This was close to what I wanted (a Blu-Ray player or a Roku), after all.

The second purchase was a game, one that preyed upon two of my favorite things - comics and Legos. It was Lego Batman The Videogame. We've talked about me and comics before, but Legos I have always been fascinated by. It was a toy I never had when I was a kid and was always so jealous when I saw the other kids with them, so as an adult, I became a collector of sorts. Nothing hardcore, like with comics, but I have a couple building sets, and of course all the Lego (and Lego knock-off) versions of my favorite superheroes. Sigh, it worked. Sure, what the hell, let's play this.

I love the animated Lego commercials and OnDemand has something called The Lego Channel where you can see animated shorts featuring Lego versions of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and yes, Batman. These are just darn good fun. The introduction to this game is similar to that, and quite enjoyable. The game itself is also like that, but let's face it, once you're playing - you can only do cool things if you know how to do cool things.

Like the bits on the Lego Channel, there is no dialogue so that anyone from any culture can understand what's going on. The problem is, with no English, it also makes it hard on nimrods like me to play it properly. Yes, I do know about the online instruction manuals on the PlayStation Network - and once I figure out how to navigate that, I'm sure that's a useful suggestion. And I sure hope you like the Danny Elfman theme music from the Tim Burton Batman movies or you'll have to play this one on mute.

The game itself is kinda hard once it starts. I don't know what the hell I'm doing. Why? Controllers. I think this will be a recurring theme of this blog, I just can't get my head around the controllers. I am quite honestly better acquainted with Atari joysticks, and maybe a little less so with NES controllers. To me, the PS3 controller is like giving an MP3 player to a caveman. I can push buttons, but I have little idea what they do. So I just push all the buttons and move the levers every which way and hope for the best.

I love the mime personalities of all the Bat-baddies, especially Clayface. It's a hoot, until you're actually in play. I was able to play a two-player game with The Bride that first night while Crystal was there to walk us through everything and tell us what buttons to push when. Hey, we actually got through the first level.

I have to admit though, I had more fun using my Batman to beat on The Bride's Robin. Yeah, that's pretty cool being able to fight other players. And when you 'kill' them (as much as there's a kill in Lego Batman) they just fall apart into their component Lego pieces. That always breaks me up, pun intended. When I play by myself days later, I get nowhere near as far as I did that first night, but I loved busting up Robin, over and over and over again. Too much fun.

There is hope, of course, that I will eventually learn to play correctly. As soon as I figure out how to get this disc out of the damned machine...