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Gxgear Blog

Review - Catherine

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Catherine is unlike anything you've played. To be honest, I was quite skeptical about Catherine, from its initial announcement; a game where the bulk of the action involves climbing stairs in a Q*bert like fashion just didn't sound all that exciting. However, any doubts vanished as soon as I started playing Catherine for the first time, and began to ascend those steps myself. The action requires quick thinking and quicker fingers, requiring you to strategize a little as you work your way up. When you're not climbing for your survival, you'll be engaged in a compelling story of love, betrayal, and even murder. Catherine is definitely not for everyone, but it's so fresh and different from everything else out there that you just might fall in love with it.

In Catherine, you'll be stepping into the shoes of one Vincent Brooks, a typical blue-collar man in his early 30s, with the lone remarkable trait being a pretty unremarkable guy all-around. Vincent is in an extended relationship of 5 years with a woman named Katherine, and even at first glance it's quite clear who's wearing the pants between the two. While Vincent is content with the current arrangements in their romance, Katherine is already looking ahead to the future: marriage, starting a family, the works. And as luck would have it, this pivotal moment in their lives becomes more complicated as Vincent wakes up with a girl named Catherine (not to be confused with Katherine) in his arms after a night of debauchery fueled by alcohol.

Sexy, fun-loving, and with a bit of a wild streak, Catherine is everything Vincent envisioned in the perfect girl for him. Over the week-long journey, Vincent's commitment to Katherine will be truly tested against the temptations of this wanton sex goddess, and the stress of the situation boils over to the night-time to induce vivid nightmares. Meanwhile, reports of strange deaths have been popping up all over the news, of unfaithful men found dead on their beds. Are there any connections between the seemingly random events? The plot in Catherine touches on subjects that people come across in real life, and is undoubtedly head and shoulders above anything we've come to expect from video games.

When playing Catherine, you'll be dividing your time between Vincent's nightmares and the Stray Sheep. Vincent's nightmares are a manifestation of his psyche based on his real life situation, and are where you'll find all the frantic action sequences. Every night when Vincent goes to sleep, he'll wake up donning nothing except a pair of boxers, armed with a pillow, and be forced to climb a tower of blocks that is continuously falling apart. Failure to reach the top in time spells certain doom for Vincent, and you'll be forced to either restart from the beginning or the last checkpoint. Scaling the tower is a lot more difficult than it sounds, since the way is littered with hazards and obstacles, with rarely a clear path towards the finish line. Heavy and unmovable blocks will impede your progression, and icy, cracked and exploding blocks threaten your footing at every step. To navigate the tower successfully you'll have to arrange the blocks, by either pulling or pushing them, and carve out a route one step at a time. At the end of each night you'll encounter a boss stage containing one gigantic abomination of a creature, each with its special abilities that alter the playing field as you scramble your way up.

There's a lot of trial and error when trying to scale the towers, where a single misstep or wrong move would send you plummeting to your doom and the subsequent restart. This might be frustrating for some people, but the game does offer several features that help alleviate the issue: checkpoints are spaced out across the stages so a death will set you back a reasonable distance, and an undo option on normal or lower difficulty that enables you to erase the last action. The game also does a good job of easing you into the action by slowly increasing the difficulty of the levels, and offers tips in between each stage to help you along. There's a huge thrill involved in this mad dash to the top, knowing that you're racing against time. And when you finally do reach the end of the stage, the sense of accomplishment that follows is a feeling like no other. It may not look it, but the nightmare mode is definitely the highlight of Catherine.

Stray Sheep, a local bar that Vincent and his friends frequent on a daily basis, constitutes the other half of the game. Inside Stray Sheep is where the bulk of the story plays out. You'll be spending time talking with other patrons over drinks, as they share their own personal issues and inner turmoil. By interacting with the other customers, you can influence the outcomes of the side plots by offering words of encouragement, which in turn shifts your morality alignment depending on the choice of words. In addition to chatting up the patrons, you'll also be able to keep in touch with the various people in Vincent's life through his cell phone, via texts and the occasional phone call. You can reply to texts in different ways, and the game allows you to mix and match the options to construct your message. Choose your words carefully though, because the responses sent will influence the way the recipients feel about Vincent.

If you're not in the mood to mingle with the crowd or answer the cell, there are several distractions inside Stray Sheep to occupy your time. Drinking offers cool trivia information on the type of alcohol you sample (and provides a nice speed bonus in nightmare mode), an arcade machine sitting in the corner of the bar lets you play a variant of the nightmare mode, and the jukebox lets you to enjoy the music in Catherine. The Stray Sheep section is pretty cut and dry, but necessary to propel the story along; the intriguing story is the focus here, and easily overshadows the minor shortcomings of Stray Sheep. Couple a compelling story with the anime-****graphics and cut-scenes, and the resulting outcome is actually quite a treat.

Clocking in at roughly a dozen hours, Catherine is a unique gaming experience that few should pass up. The game engages you in more ways than just the frantic action, but also with an interesting story that involves a cast of characters, each with their significant parts that to add to the overall plot. Morality isn't a coin toss between good and evil, and Catherine has successfully introduced a dynamic one that many games have failed to do. If you're going to plan on purchasing only one game this summer, make it Catherine.

Review - Alien Zombie Megadeath

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Somewhere along the line, gamers have come to expect video games to carry a certain level of depth and sophistication, along with the enjoyment of the game itself. But not all games adhere to that mould, and Alien Zombie Megadeath is an example of that. Despite being a very minimalist-looking game with a simple concept, it offers satisfying gameplay and a health supply of game modes. Even with the levels designed around quick plays and short game sessions, you're more than likely to lose yourself in Alien Zombie Megadeath playing "just 1 more level".

As a sequel to Alien Zombie Death, a Playstation Portable title as part of the Minis collections, Alien Zombie Megadeath is as self-explanatory a game as they come. Like the name suggests, you'll be fending off hordes of zombified aliens as an astronaut, in the form of a 2D shooter. Time in-game will be spent playing through the 70 stages, which all consists of a rectangular arena filled with horizontal platforms. The space man that you control can traverse along these platforms at will, dodging projectiles fired by alien zombies as they spawn all over the place. To defend against these extraterrestrial menaces, you're equipped with a trusty blaster and a small arsenal of power-ups. Power-ups gives you're a boost in fire power for a few precious seconds and contain the usual suspects: rockets, lasers, 3-way shot, time lapse, and the occasional health pack. The score is the ultimate objective here as medals will be earned based on your performance in each stage, which is required to unlock subsequent stages.

Besides throwing waves of enemies at you to mow down, Alien Zombie Megadeath mixes things up with different objectives to keep things interesting. There are stages where the arena will be littered with hazards that you'll have to navigate around, on top of the alien zombies you'll have to contend with. Survival stages involves endless waves of enemies that becomes more numerous and increasingly difficult over time. Bosses will make a few appearances on some stages where you'll have to fight a much stronger alien zombie in addition to its minions. Escort stage is surely a fan favorite among those who's tried Alien Zombie Megadeath, where the goal is to protect space babies (?) waddling from one end of the stage to the other. A variation of the escort mission involves bombs that have to be disposed, but while carrying them leaves you unable to fire your weapon. The amount of variety in the game is almost surprised, but surely enough there's more than enough there to keep you constantly engaged.

As fun as Alien Zombie Megadeath is, there are a few complaints to be had with the game. Graphically it is serviceable but far from impressive, featuring bare-bones menu options and colorful yet bland interfaces. There's not much to look at, but thankfully there's rarely a need for that when the focus is centered on the action.

The inclusion of a multiplayer option is a nice touch, if only there was somebody, anybody, to play with. Any multiplayer experience with the game will have to be done exclusively in offline mode, for better or worse, with a friend in your living room. Lastly, as you progress through the game, the stages become more and more difficult. Since unlocking stages requires earning medals from the previous ones, at some point in the game you'll be forced to replay stages and perfect them before moving on. Most of these are minor annoyances, and is a result of a game more suitable for portable gaming spreading itself too thinly on the PS3 console.

Available for $7.99, Alien Zombie Megadeath is an easy sell to anyone who enjoys simple games along the veins of Angry Birds or Pac-Man. It would have been a perfect game to play on-the-go on the Playstation Portable as its predecessor was, but has found a nice home on the Playstation 3 via PSN.

Review - Magic The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012

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Magic: The Gathering, the card game, is a hobby not for the faint of heart. It is a game that's built upon 2 decades of existing and new mechanics, constantly evolving and dynamic. Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, like the original, is yet another attempt by Wizards of the Coast in bringing its most successful franchise onto the video gaming medium. On some level, DOTP 2012 accomplishes the task of streamlining the experience, and offers enjoyable glimpses into the card-based pastime; however, there are enough flaws in this game to put off veterans of Magic the Gathering, and covers too little in the way of basic MTG knowledge to attract newcomers as well.

In a nutshell, DOTP 2012 is a card game in which you battle one another in duels of a magical nature. Each player picks out a pre-made deck of cards, taken from the 13th core set of Magic: The Gathering, filled with creatures, spells, and lands. Lands are your general source for mana, which powers the rest of your deck. Creatures act as both your main point of assault, and the last line of defense. Spells provides a variety of instant or permanent augmentations to either players, other spells that are in play, or even beyond the playing field to your hand and library. A victory can be reached by meeting one of the following criteria: depleting the opponent's health to zero, being the last person to run out of cards to draw, or through fulfilling special conditions of certain spells. Coming from someone who's tinkered with the world of Magic for several years, this may not make a lot of sense to someone who's completely new to the game. But to fully describe the game within a paragraph would make it criminally long, not to mention darn well impossible.

DOTP 2012 offers both a modest selection of both single player and multiplayer modes. In the single player campaign, there are 3 modes available to play through: Campaign, Archenemy, and Revenge. In campaign you'll be up against opponent using basic decks, and by defeating them the decks are unlocked and made available for use. There are a total of 10 decks to unlock, each with 16 hidden cards that can be inserted into corresponding decks as you gain proficiency with them. Archenemy allows you to gang up on a single adversary with 2 other archmages, but with a twist: the lone combatant has very powerful arsenal of cards that will greatly enhance his play while severely handicap the other 3 players'. In Revenge, you simply revisit the campaign mode, this time with the NPCs making use of the unlocked cards as well. Out of all 3 modes, Archenemy is by far the most interesting one. You'll have to fight tooth and nail for the slightest advantage against an overpowered opponent, and the team dynamic adds a whole new dimension to the game itself. Archenemy is also available for play in multiplayer, accompanied by a 2 vs 2 format called "Two Headed Giant", and a Free-For-All mode where the gloves come off, and anything goes.

It would be unfair to call DOTP 2012 an ugly game, but uninspiring menu designs and poor table layout choices have produced a similar overall result. The main menu consists of what appears to be deck covers with a backdrop of a plains landscape featured in one of the land cards. While in-game, the space isn't very well managed on the playing field; as you're dueling, most of the time is spent staring at a virtual table splattered with shrunk-down versions of the playing cards. The cards themselves are the highlight of the game, with beautifully-drawn artwork on every card taken from the real life versions of them. Problems arise because, as previously mentioned, the cards are on-screen as a fraction of their original dimensions. You're essentially forced to zoom in on every card in order to appreciate the art, and more importantly, to be able to make out the writings to even know what they do. Navigating the board is a chore in itself because while the right analog allows you to target each card, it's not very intuitive in which card it will select next. An on-screen cursor would have done wonders here, but you'll have to settle with something that's a lot more jumpy.

When it comes to gameplay, Wizards have done a commendable job at bringing the tabletop experience to within the confines of your gaming systems. The game flows well, allowing you to stop at any time in order to play a spell whenever able. The NPCs are very competent and offers a healthy challenge, so there's always some fun to be had even if you don't feel like hopping online. The starting tutorials offer a quick crash course, but the game also offers plenty of tips the rest of the way. The deck manager allows for limited customization of the pre-made decks, but not allowing the players to build a deck from scratch really stifles the endless possibilities in play **** The streamlining of the game also caused some confusion as to when phases are declared and when spells are resolved from the stack, from personal experiences. It's almost for certain that new players will be scratching their heads from time to time as the game progresses on, wondering what exactly has happened as one action leads to a number of outcomes. DOTP 2012 should not be placed at fault for some of these issues, because sacrifices obviously had to be made to accommodate the depth of the original game.

Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 serves as a good entry point to get familiarized with the card game. Priced at a reasonable price of $9.99 or 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox 360, DOTP 2012 lets you sample a lot more than what would have easily cost you several times more by buying the actual cards. For long-time Magic players, the experience may not be enough to duplicate the real thing, but it's still worth looking into if you're only just looking for a way to play at home by yourself.

Review - Heroes of Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes HD

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With the disturbing trends of developers re-releasing their previous work as downloadable titles, it is reasonable for one to think that Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is yet another attempt for a quick cash-in at the expense of gamers. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, as Clash of Heroes is a great game that offers satisfying action, with a unique take on a well-established gaming franchise. Couple that with hours of both single player content and multiplayer modes, and you've got a role-playing puzzle game that could not be more highly recommended.

Story: Originally a DS game, Clash of Heroes has found its way on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 as downloadable ports in high definition. The story takes place in the fictional land of Ashan, a fantasy world introduced in Might & Magic V. In the campaign, the demons once again plot to pit the existing factions of Ashan against one another, in an attempt to break free of their prison realm of Sheogh. To accomplish this they seek out the Blade of Binding, a powerful artifact that binds demons to the user's will. When tragedy strikes and the blade is lost, you must play as each and one of the game's five young heroes through their respective chapters to try to foil the demons' ploy and recover the artifact.

Gameplay: As far as gameplay goes, you face off one-on-one against opponents in strategic, turn-based puzzle combat. Each fight takes place on a 12 by 8 grid, with only half of the battlefield at your disposal. In order to win, you have to deplete your opponent's health to zero by sending your past their defenses while fending off offensive advances at the same time. Units are distributed randomly on each respective side of the grid, and an attack formation is formed by arranging 3 of the same color in a vertical line. After a least 1 turn of charge phase, depending on the type of unit, the attack formation rushes to the other side of the field, and take out as much opposition in its path as allowed by its strength. Defensively, wall formations can be formed by lining up 3 or more same-colored units horizontally, which becomes vital in defending against attacks. Once a wall or attack formation is formed, they automatically shift towards the frontlines, allowing you to control the idle units. However, once that happens, the formations are locked in and can no longer be moved manually. Because of this, it is equally important to quickly set up attacks while counter the enemy's with wall defenses. The combat may seem simple at first, but there's a lot of depth here and mastering the mechanics fully will go a long way towards success.

You'll also employ the help of various elite units, which are much stronger than the core units and each comes with their own special abilities. Finally, champion units will also join your ranks, which can single-handedly turn the tide of the battle by themselves with incredible power. The elite and champion units come at a cost though, as they come in limited supply, occupy additional grid spaces, and have longer charging phases. With any attack formations, you have the option of increasing their strength via links and/or fusions; linking is created by setting up attack formations with the same charge times, and fusion is a result of lining up 2 attack formations of the same type and color. If your units are destroyed or participated in an attack, you can call in reinforcements at the cost of a move. Additionally, you can also cancel units to create more room, and if a formation is created as a result of that, an extra move is earned. It should also be mentioned that each hero gets a unique spell that can be cast once the magic gauge is filled, which accumulates during the course of the battle. There's a lot to wrap your head around on paper, but the game does an admirable job of easing you into the action.

The role-playing element of Clash of Heroes is really what sets this game apart from other puzzle titles. As you progress through the campaign, you'll earn experience and receive currency in the form of gold, ore, and crystal from vanquished foes. Resources can be used to purchase elite and champion units, to replenish the ones that have fallen on the battlefield. Experience will not only level up your heroes to give a boost in health, wall strength, and the number of units you can deploy, but it also goes towards leveling up your units. Traveling through the beautiful and lush world of Ashan, there will be a number of things to discover along the way. Magical artifacts are scattered across the land which will help you along in battle, bounties to hunt down criminals for some nice rewards, and battle puzzles to sharpen your skills in single turn, do-or-die situations. Boss battles are unique encounters sprinkled across the journey where you pit your army against a single mobile unit, complete with its own set of abilities at its disposal. The campaign is rich with content, and by the time it is completed you will have already invested dozens of hours into the game. Talk about bang for your buck.

More of a puzzle game as opposed to RPG, the M&M franchise's usual choice of genre, Clash of Heroes took also a departure in the graphics department than what you would normally expect from a Might and Magic title. The characters are beautifully hand-drawn and the colors of the environments are both bright and vibrant. The overall result is a very pleasing look that has a very cartoon, anime-like feel to it. Units are detailed and animates nicely, with one sour note being that some of the details gets lost due to the sheer amount of things crammed on-screen. It's also somewhat of a shame that you'll be spending quite a bit of time staring at the frequent loading screens instead of Ashan itself.

Multiplayer: Once you've completed the campaign, you can jump into multiplayer and battle friends and strangers alike in online/offline skirmishes. It is possible to even dive right into multiplayer before finished single player, although it is recommended that you make some progress in the campaign in order to unlock playable multiplayer characters. You can either go head to head with a single opponent, or partner up and participate in 2v2 matches. The game has provided a health number of customizable options to create matches that caters to your liking, such as disabling the use of artifacts and hosting public/private games. An often overlooked search function is a welcome sight, and with it you can browse through open lobbies and ongoing games. The online community may be small, and matches can drag on even with the time limit enabled, but these minor details should not stop you from giving multiplayer a try.

Overall: At $14.99 (or 1200 MSP on the Live Marketplace for Xbox 360), Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a steal. It is a superb game that can be recommended to anyone, even those that don't normally dabble in puzzle games. And once you've tried it, you will almost certainly be hooked to the game for hours on end. With a single player campaign that clocks well into double digits hour-wise, and a fully-featured multiplayer mode, this jewel of a downloadable title puts many retail titles to shame.

Pros:

  • Great mix of role-playing and puzzle elements.
  • Beautiful, bright visuals.
  • Lengthy single-player campaign in addition to multiplayer modes.

Cons:

  • Difficulty spikes at certain points of the game.
  • Games can drag on due to wait times, especially in multiplayer.
  • Small online community.

'Oh my god Kinect is so cool! You can play video games WITHOUT a controller!'

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Is what one of my female co-worker said when we were chatting today. I asked her what games does she want to get on launch, the response?

"Idunno."

Enter facepalm:

Well after she did say she's interested in "that dancing game", but I think my point is made. Microsoft is selling a product based purely on novelty. And by god, they might just pull it off.

I think the biggest pitfall of the regular consumer is that they never do any research; the bulk of their purchases are impulse buys. When they're looking at Kinect, they don't think about what games are available on it that might interest them. Instead they're more focused on the fact that it's got voice recognition and the aforementioned controllerless...ness.

My favourite Kinect game.


Such was the case with the Wii and the Wiimote. While I don't own it, from what I can tell there's still very few games, with the exception of the party/sports titles and on-rail shooters, that takes full advantage of the Wiimote. Seems like the majority of its top games can be played with the traditional controller.

Wiiwantyourmoney- working title


Please realize this is not a System Wars grudge, as I believe PS3's Move is going to crash and burn (fingers crossed). Sony's not even pretending to conceal the fact that they're trying to mooch off Wii's success, as the Move controller is practically a duplicate of the Wiimote. The launch lineup is slightly better than Kinect's by just a hair, but there's not much originality beyond...Kung Fu Riders? It's even less likely to resonate with the more casual gaming demographic, as there's little to no incentive for someone who owns a Wii to shell out the dough.

Whoops, wrong picture.

Fixed. I'd still take the first one though, same results.


There's also been talks of how motion controls can improve your play at the ever popular shooter genre, but I have my doubts. Your arm is never going to move faster than your thumbs, and free look is still going to be bound by whatever sensitivity the camera is set on. Where with an analog you're going to have one smooth motion, with motion controls it can become more jittery and shakey to varying effects depending on the person. As it stands, the most likely scenario for me to pick up a motion gaming device would probably be the Wii during a slow summer. And it still won't be for Wiiplay or Wiifit.

Anyways, at the moment I'm starting on Bayonetta and working on the platinum. Roughly a quarter into the first playthrough and while it's perfectly captured the stylish presentation of the Devil May Cry franchise, it plays quite differently from DMC. There's still an emphasis on timing and dodging of attacks, but overall I feel it is easier and fear more lenient than...DMC3 (f*** DMC4).

That hasn't stopped the game from kicking my butt though.

If I had a nickel every time I see this, I'd be up $3.50.

Castle Crashers Insane mode completed! (PS3)

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Actually did it 3 days ago.

Did it with another friend in 3 gaming sessions, with me as red knight and him as blue knight. Definitely challenging at certain points (desert and marsh specifically), but once you're at a high enough level it's quite reasonable. The key is to always keep your potions stocked and use a good pet (hawkster, giraffey for lvling, etc).

The default knights are good choices as they each possess potent magic abilities, as effective crowd control is important for victory as I found the regular mob of enemies to be more dangerous than the bosses themselves.

There's a contest going on at the moment by The Behemoth by sending in proof that you've beaten the game (insane and normal) with different characters. There's only a few characters left that hasn't been used to beat insane, so if you're interested get cracking! The prize pack is pretty amazing, containg tons of Castle Crasher goodies including a king figurine.

Really wished this game had a platinum though, there's definitely enough content and playable characters to justify one. I mean, Trine got one, and that wasn't an extremely long game.

Here's a picture that I made in paint for a Castle Crasher SWAG contest that I missed the deadline on...thought I'd at least share it with someone instead of letting it go to waste.:cry: But I did win a $20 PSN card so that takes some of the sting off. These contests are like crack to me.

Look I made a funny.

Knights in the Nightmare comes with Yggdra Union! (PSP release)

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2 PSP games for the price of one. Woot!

As luck would have it, I got rid of my copy of Yggdra Union a while back. Pretty unique RPG with its own take on the battle system, now I'm regretting deleting all my save files.

I tried Knights in the Nightmare on the DS before, loved it but just couldn't get past how bad the controls are. Some of the commands simply won't register on the edge of the screens. The stylus and the touchscreen just does do it for me at all, and don't get me started on the unwieldy D-pad.

All in all really looking foward to this port, GTA Chinatown Wars has made a remarkably smooth transition to the PSP so I have high hopes for this one.

Every copy of PSP game purchase should come with its PSN version

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Picked up P3P, VC2, and BBS in the last month or two which is mainly the reason that made me think about this.

While I like to buy hard copies of games and keep my shelf of game collection growing, it's really inconvient to juggle between titles when you're playing a handheld. I use my PSP mostly during commutes so it's somewhat irritating that I can't switch between any UMD game that I own unless I'm lugging them around.

It would be nice if Sony offered something like a one time use voucher that allows a single PSN account access to the download copy. Still waiting on that promise of being able to turn your old hardcopy games into digital copies though when PSPGo was announced...

My victory against Gamestop

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Or otherwise known as EBGames in Vancouver (where I live) and across Canada.

Let me get this straight: I absolutely hate them. Gamestop claims to be a gamers' store, by gamers for gamers; but the fact of the matter is they're just a business like any other store. Their trade/sell used games model has been adopted by competitors across the board, which essentially exploits game companies and consumers alike.

Buying used games from kids allows them to avoid paying royalties to the publishers, and it doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that the trade in values they offer are a complete joke. Parents shells out the money to buy their children the video games, and the kids trade them in for a couple bucks and at the same time feeling good about themselves for being so "clever". Bloody brilliant.

Oh and let's not forget EBGames also hike the prices up on new games by a little bit too, this is especially true for the Canadian branch due to the differences in US/Canada currencies.

The only things that makes Gamestop acceptable is that new games are guaranteed to be in stock on release dates, provided that pre-orders don't take every single copy. There's another thing that I like about them which started this whole rant in the first place.

Once in a blue moon, Gamestop does introduce these really great gaming deals. Not because they're grateful for your patronage, mind you, but because they're too dumb to see that the deal is too good because of the loopholes in the abomination that is the used game market (that they've singlehandedly created themselves). Case in point: a common problem is that the trade in values aren't synchronized between different stores, and hoarders are usually keen on pouncing on those price difference by purchasing new copies at one store and trading it in another.

As you may or may not know, the arcade model of the Xbox 360 has received a temporary promotional price of $129.99 recently. And to add the cherry on top, EBGames is offering several deals on trading your old consoles in for a new one, there are 6 in total but the 2 involving a Xbox 360 would be the following:

1. Trade console in and receive $75 additional credit towards a new console

2. Trade console in + 2 eligible titles (in this case eligible titles would be games with a trade in value over $8 ) and receive $150 credit total towards a new console

The first offer essentially translates to this - trade in your old Xbox and get a new Xbox. Xbox 360 has a trade in value of $50 dollars (before they changed it recently due to this incident), and if you add 75 dollars of trade credit it adds up to $125. Chip in $5 more and you get a spanking new console. Additionally only basic cables and a controller is required, so all your other accessories including your HDD (which is the most important thing here) you can keep.

Initially, Gamestop is apparently oblivious to the implications of this offer, which means any Xbox owner with an older chipset than Jasper (and knows about it) is going to swarm in like flies to a pile of manure. They quickly responded to the increase of used 360s being traded in by dropping the trade in value from 50 to 35 dollars, still none the wiser about just how crazy this deal remains.

I read about this offer at a website, where people posted this in conjunction with the $99 refurbished 360s at various stores which saves you even more money. While hoarding isn't something I'd encourage, I didn't see any reason not to trade in my Falcon for the newer Jasper which is supposedly "RROD-free".

Knowing that EBGames would soon run out of arcade models if I dont hurry, I quickly called several locations and located one with a single unit remaing. After asking them to hold it for me until I get there, I hopped in my car and tore across 2 cities...where they refused to honor the deal.

Apparently, as the not-so-nice EB employee explained it, each store is able to make their own judgement on what the deal actually means. They spent 30 minutes inspecting my console, and another 30 minutes calling other stores before informing me that they're not going to do it. His reasoning was because I'm trading in an Arcade unit, which was really a 360 Pro with the HDD removed, a new 360 Arcade would therefore not be considered "new"; It would have to be at least an Elite model or another type of console to be new in his bizarro world logic.

WTF?! A EB employee arguing over semantics? Never in my life I would imagine something as bizarre as this happening, and yet there it was.

Anyways, I wasn't about to go home emptyhanded, so I called around and found one that will actually follow through with the deal for me. I knew I was pressed for time too, because the store that refused to do it informed me that they are having a conference call within several hours, as some of the dimwits finally realized what's happening and it has been brought to the attention of the higher-ups. Luckily I made it out of there, with my new Jasper model in hand, and a big smile on my face.

*EDIT*

Here's the rundown for those who were confused:

- First store refused to do it, and tells me that they're having a conference call about this issue at 2pm (it was 12pm at the time), my guess is that a lot of hoarders have been picking up a refurbished model for cheaper and trading it in for a brand new one.

- Since there's little chance of them overlooking how bad this deal is for them (the guy admitted that he won't do it because the store would be taking it at a loss), I essentially had under 2 hours to find a store that has not wise up to it yet and will do the "exchange".

- I'd like to thank the douchebags at the first location for that because if I hadn't known that the offer may be terminated as early as 2pm I probably would have gone home and tried again another day...and fail.

- The manager that gave me the O.K. was actually in the back room having the said conference call as another person was ringing up my new 360. Talk about a close call.

PSN vs XBL

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Both function well for their main purpose, but I'd have to give the nod to PSN since I've experienced lag even with a wired connection to my 360. In terms of content XBL blows PSN away hands down, as most will agree so I don't have to get into that topic.

For arcade games though I think the PSN actually has a slight edge over the 360, which actually surprised me. If you're just talking volume, the 360 has the PSN beat in its sheer number of available arcade titles counting the community library. However, I discovered that a lot of the titles are just direct ports of ancient titles with a brand new price tag, the community games are hit and miss, and the pain of adding Microsoft points. The saving grace for this problem is the fact that all the games comes with a playable demo so you can better decide which games are purchase-worthy.

The Xbox 360 interface is pretty much perfect. It's intuitive, simple to navigate, and includes all the bells and whistles that one might expect from a premium paid service. I find this especially true when comparing the save system of both systems; the XMB just feels sluggish when compared to the dashboard. I mention this because this helps to illustrate my previous point. For a console system that has such an intuitive design (achievements, cross-game chat/invites, etc), the fund addition system for the 360 just feels out of place;the system is rigid, unforgiving, and totally awkward. With PSN, you add how much you want to spend on the fly, and then you spend it; with Microsoft points, you have to purchase predetermined set amount of points, which pretty much guarantees that you overspend on every purchase, and then it lures you into using/buying more points by playing jigsaw with the 500, 1000, 2000 options. By the time it's all over, expect to be a little lighter in the wallet,and perhaps some purchases that you didn't want to begin with.

Come to think of it, Microsoft points share a lot of similarities with DLCs....coincidence? Or some evil genius' master plan?

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