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PlatypusPlatoon Blog

Sad face.

I don't want to be dramatic, but I don't know if I can visit GameSpot in good conscience anymore, after reading this account, supposedly from a current member of the editorial team. Thanks to bryehngeocef for making me aware of it.

It's sounding more and more like the Kane & Lynch review had nothing to do with situation, and happens to be the scapegoat by way of bad timing. The problem, unfortunately, runs much deeper, and has little to do with Jeff's reviews at all. He just happened to be the head of the editorial operation.

This quote from the commenter shows the particularly despicable nature of CNET's actions:

Also, despite the fact that [the review] occured two weeks ago, there was no way they were going to fire him then; the last big games didn't come out until just before Thanksgiving, and there was no doubt that management knew that the rest of the reviewers would refuse to write any reviews after his termination, which is indeed what is happening. After thanksgiving nothing major comes out in games; everything is either before thanksgiving or comes out in January. They waited to fire him until they knew that any strike or walkout by the rest of the staff wouldn't have much of an effect.

I hadn't realized reviews stopped pouring out on Wednesday, but indeed, the only ones posted since that date are from freelancers. That more or less proves the story has some truth to it, and that editors are revolting in support of Jeff. That, or they're scared senseless to post a review with a score of anything less than ninety-nine point eleventy.

Lost and Found: Integrity

"Attention all shoppers. CNET appears to have misplaced their journalistic integrity. If you happen upon it, please return it to the Lost & Found. Thank you for shopping."

What's that, sir? You found it, but it's been destroyed? Broken into a hundred pieces, you say. Oh, dear.

Perhaps CNET can buy another, then. I hear they're doing quite well for themselves. Revenue from advertising, or somesuch.

Oh? You mean you can't BUY this "journalistic integrity"?

...well, then. Isn't that a pickle.

Misadventures in WoW, #1

It's amazing how much you can play WoW, and still come across new experiences. Here's the story of how I managed to get my RL friend, who's just starting out in WoW (we'll call him J), killed over and over last night.

In three days, J had already hit level 15, and pushed through to the Redridge zone - typically suitable for level 18 and up. I wanted to help him, but my 11 warlock was too low to be of any use, so I took my 29 pally to Redridge. The first order of business was to run around and kill some gnolls for his quest. He cashed the quest in, then said he needed to kill Yowler, the gnoll boss in the hills behind the Redridge town.

While we're in town, a gnome mage approaches me and says "can you take me to incentite?" I had no idea what he meant, so I just replied with a "?". Anyways, I lead the way, and take the road on the east, going north up to the hills. The gnome follows us even though I haven't really said anything to him.

I go ahead on the road a bit, and to my surprise see J's life bar has dropped to zero. As it turns out, there's a few level 20 orcs on that road lurking behind the trees and boulders. Because of the game's aggro rules, they ignore me (I'm a healthy 9 levels higher than them), but have a field day with J (an unfortunate 5 levels lower). So apparently these three orcs had jumped out and ambushed him to a pulp. By the time I turned around and got back, J was dead on the floor, and the little gnome was getting whaled on like no tomorrow. I desperately started a heal, but before it finished he died too. I admit there's not much more comical than seeing a tiny gnome getting rained on by three angry orcs, so my reaction time here may have been unfavourable.

The dust settles as I assess the casualties. J asks "can you res?" Sure, I reply as I ressurect him, and next try to res the gnome too. But I had forgotten about the orcs. Mere moments after J comes back to life, the orcs pounce all over him like hungry lions on a wheezing gazelle. He was left staring face down at the earth before I could blink.

Sheepishly I say, "Lemme kill these guys before I res you :P". I hunt down the two orcs that have been causing J so much grief and show them the business end of my mace. Going back to J's body, I res him thinking the worst was over. Alas, I had missed a third orc from further away. This last marauding orc storms in, and a few axe blows to the head later, J is splattered on the the floor again. Whoops. At this point, J says "Not good, not good, all my armor is broken." (You get a 10% durability penalty to your equipment each time you die.)

I "LOL"ed.

What are your best co-op gaming memories?

Disconnectors ARRGH

Nintendo, please fix your Wi-Fi service so that Mario Kart disconnects count as a loss.

Please?

Other than that, I love everything about Wi-Fi. Seriously. This is the most fun I've had gaming online since, maybe, ever.

Now, where's my online Mario sports games? Get cracking, already!

That thing about DS reaching new markets.. I think I'm starting to believe it.

My dad saw Brain Age sitting on my bookshelf, and commented he'd like to try it. (I don't have a DS yet, but I've been buying games for it in anticipation of the Lite.) He said that he's seen the ads for it on TV, with middle-aged women playing the game to keep their minds sharp. He mentioned it looks easy to play, what with using only a stylus and pointing at things, and no messy gamepad to muck things up. (I didn't stop him to point out that there's still a d-pad and 6 buttons, cause why stop a good thing?) Being retired, I guess he considers himself somebody who needs some "mental exercises" to keep the juices in the brain flowing. He even asked why I would bother with Brain Age at my age. I consider it a game, of course - the whole idea of using a portable game to "activate hidden powers in your pre-frontal cortex" or some junk sounds kind of ridiculous. But it sure looks like fun.

My dad has never shown much of an interest in games. The last one he played was a PC game called Frac, which was a 3-D variation on Tetris. That was well over 10 years ago. I get the feeling he's tolerated my gaming over the years, but on the inside thinks it's all a jolly waste of time. If Nintendo can pull someone like him, a mere decade away from senior citizenship, and never touched a console or portable game, into gaming now - bravo. I've always been a Nintendo fanboy at heart, but this kind of thing deserves a whole new level of respect.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether he'll actually like it once I hand him my DS Lite. My money's on him playing it for ten minutes, tossing it away in frustration over some complicated control scheme, and mumbling something about how games are supposed to be for little kids anyways. But at least Nintendo's trying.

Beat the last two GH songs on Expert!! My life's goals are now complete.

The title pretty much says it all. I finally passed Cowboys from Hell and Bark at the Moon on Expert, something that had eluded me for the last five months. I can now die a happy man.

Guitar Hero has been fun since the first day I started strumming away, and it's since grown into one of my all-time favourites. The best part about it is how anyone can pick it up and play, and feel like they're really rocking out. Friends who normally would never come within ten feet of a controller get a total kick out of playing familiar songs on Easy. Not to say that the game doesn't leave anything for the hardcore gamer. A lot of the tracks on Expert are fiendishly difficult. It's because of this challenge that beating these songs is so immensely satisfying. There's no luck involved here, no random enemy spawns, no fortunate critical hits - only you versus the track. So when you pull off a particularly tough solo, you know that it came down your Guitar Heroism.

I can't wait for Guitar Hero 2. The gameplay movie here on GS has me salivating at the mouth - I watch it almost daily in fevered anticipation. Lead, rhythm, and bass guitar? With two player co-op?? There is most definitely a God out there.

DS [Lite] Don't Be Late

(Sung to the tune of the Chipmunk Song)

DS, DS, hope it's May
Give me Mario today
Crystal White would do the trick
Hurry DS, hurry quick
Want a handheld that feels Lite
Me, I want a Phoenix Wright
We admire that it's shed weight
Please DS, don't be late!

A tad late to the party.. but still within the realm of fashion.

Among the gifts my brother found under the tree this year was a GameCube. So while everyone in the sane world is getting their hands on an Xbox 360, DS, or PSP, we are just getting acquainted with a four year old console. Not that that really matters. I haven't felt this enthused about games in a while. I was in a bit of a funk over video games in general - call it a moderate case of sequel-itis. My interest was waning and I was finding new ways to spend my free time. It took Nintendo and a handful of their unceasing dollops of charm to snap me back to my senses. (Them, and Guitar Hero.)

Allow me to make the following random observations, most of which have been observed years ago but I'll still try to pass off as fresh.
- Wind Waker is completely awesome. The visual style is executed so well and so naturally that it almost seems like a shame it won't be used in Twilight Princess. Link's facial expressions, especially, are worth the price of admission alone. But did playing songs on the wind waker and then watching the ensuing animation really need to take 20 seconds.. every single time?
- Animal Crossing is delightfully charming. And oddly addictive. I'm still not completely sure why I keep coming back. But there I am plugging away, planting exotic fruit and trying not to offend villagers when I refuse their trade offer of steel flooring for my rare stegosaurus torso. Scam artists don't usually take the form of adorable little blue ducks.
- Double Dash is.. how do I put this nicely. There seems to be some missed opportunities here. The two driver thing comes off as gimmicky and the track design lacks some serious punch. Maybe it's just because we haven't gotten in a four-player session yet. I have played this with a full line-up of living, breathing opponents before, and I remember it being a good deal more fun.
- Paper Mario will (hopefully) own. I am so going to devour this game when Wind Waker is done.
- Metroid Prime cannot arrive soon enough. It has been on my Amazon.ca "Will Be Shipped" list for weeks. If they cancel it now, there will be minor injury to some small wildlife.
- I need to play Mario Power Tennis and Mario Strikers at some point. And Pikmin 2 - anything that Miyamoto worked on must be gold.
I'm gonna disappear back into my little hole now. Join me once more in the year 2011, when I finally go and purchase a Revolution.

Gaming Bonanza

The total gaming overload continues, with a forecast for heavy single-player gaming over the next 3 to 4 weeks, along with light doses of multiplayer gaming sprinkled throughout. The warm gaming front shows no sign of slowing down, and in fact may linger and intensify over the coming period. Keep the snacks in the shelves ready nearby, there may be a major gaming storm warning issued if the downpour gets too heavy.

I finished Ratchet & Clank 3, twice. I wasn't planning on playing the game through hard mode, but the added RPG elements this time around make it no less than purely and utterly addictive. Like I said before, a total and complete blast all the way through. I can't recommend this game enough, especially if you enjoyed humourous cartoons as a kid, like Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, the Tick, and the like. Although cartoons like these might be long gone, R&C carries their over-the-top spirit to perfection. Plus, it has all of the following: Aliens. Robots. Pirates. Monkeys. Ninjas. And Ninja Gnomes, complete with long, flowing beards, grim-faced expressions, and swords twice as tall as they are. I love GameSpot's review system and all, but they really need a new rule saying that when a game has ninjas and gnomes - never mind combining the two into a smorgasbord of awesometude - it deserves a perfect 10!

Super Monkey Ball is growing on me. I'm at the point where the puzzles are starting to get downright infuriating - the game has a habit of throwing impossible layouts at you, then delighting in hurling your monkey several stories down into some boiling vat of liquid when you make the slightest miscalculation. But at the same time I'm having a lot of fun with it. It must be the patented Monkey Ball Charm, or something. As a light, fluffy arcade game that you can kill 1/2 hour in playing Challenge mode, where you only have a few lives to get through a bunch of levels, it's great. Party mode is still the real reason to play this one, though.

The real surprise for me has been Dynasty Warriors 5, and how much I love it. As the GameSpot reviews will tell you, yes, it's repetitive, and it's been done a jillion times before. But there's something about taking a fancy-dressing, sword-wielding, badly-voice-acted Chinese dude through hundreds of enemy soldiers that never gets old. Some RPG lite elements are in full effect here, like collecting experience and weapons, which gives you a compelling reason to press onwards. Although I'd be lying if I said the real appeal isn't in its mindless approach to fun - not much thinking required here, folks, just keep mashing till the bad guys fall over. I can't believe I missed out on all the DW entries until this one, but now I'm a True Believer - count me in for the inevitable expansions and sequels!

I started on my small backlog as well, getting a few hours each into Metal Gear Solid 3, Silent Hill 2, and Ico. First on deck, MGS3, and.. well, I'm not much of a stealth guy. I avoided the second one, cause I didn't think the genre was my cup of tea, but after reading pretty much universal praise for the third one's story, I decided to get my feet wet. The results were not pretty. After about two hours, I'm still in the tutorial mission, which I messed up in pretty much every way possible. Running right in front of the guards; firing at them and missing; taking one out in plain view of another; or just forgetting they were even there - I did it all. I finally got through a section by alerting every single guard I came across, and then taking him out along with the 5 reinforcements that he would bring along - totalling about 20 enemies subdued instead of the 4 or 5 that were actually patrolling. I'm sure Snake hates me by now for all the bullets I've made him take as a result of my patience-free, charge-straight-in approach to being a spy. Oh well, I can only get better at this stealth thing, right?

I'm too early into the others to pass judgment, but so far I'm really liking them both. Silent Hill has got the whole creepy atmosphere thing down pat.. I'm a scaredy-cat so I play during the daytime with all the lights on. :P

Also, WarioWare Twisted can't come out soon enough.. it's been far too long since I played a good GBA game. As much as I love portable gaming, though, this is one I don't see myself playing on the subway or in a restaurant. ;)

Gaming Nirvana

My last university exam was two weeks ago today, and I don't start my full-time job until June. In between, there's been plenty of time for gaming, like I've never quite known before. I usually manage 10 hours of game time a week, if I'm lucky. But these last two weeks, I've averaged about 3 hours a day, with three 6+ hour days, at my last count. I was afraid that this overdose of gaming would cause me to get sick of the whole thing, but luckily that hasn't been the case at all. Instead, I'm in absolute gaming heaven. :)

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is the game I've been spending the most time with. After thoroughly enjoying the last one, I knew I had to get this one too, and it doesn't disappoint. It's one of the funniest games around, and everything, from the characters to the plot to the selection of zany weapons, feels like it comes straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. The weapons themselves are as original and comical as ever. There's the Suck Cannon, which vacuums up small enemies and spits them back out with explosive force, complete with a satisfying "thwoom" cork-popping noise. You can summon forth four Agents of Doom, pint sized robots with oversized laser guns and a healthy appetite for destruction. And, in fine R&C tradition, there's a weapon to turn nasty villains into friendly animals - this time, it's cute waddling ducks that flap around and lay exploding eggs. It's a total blast to experiment with all of the weapons and come up with new ways to fry your robotic assailants. Definitely check this one out if you've ever been a fan of cartoons, 3-D platformers, or just blowing stuff up good. I'll put up a full review once I'm finished.

Next on the list is Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, something I've wanted to get my hands on ever since the first one came out for the GameCube in 2001. The multiplayer is an absolute hoot, and while it's not quite on the level of a Mario Party, a bunch of the minigames are quite addictive. Monkey Billiards, in particular, is a nice slower-paced affair, as is Monkey Bowling. But nothing causes more ruckus than a heated round of Monkey Fight or Monkey Boat (which, by the way, is impossible). There's a ton of variety to be had in each of the twelve party games and their variations, and I know I've finally found the game I can bring out at gatherings when things start getting slow. By comparison, the single-player mode is alright, and maybe I just haven't gotten far enough yet, but it's not very compelling. Some of the stages require a lot more finesse than I'm used to in my gaming, so it's been slow going. I think this is why I've avoided stealth games almost completely - I hate having a game build up too much tension without any good cathartic release. I need to put more time in the single player here before I can make a real verdict, but it definitely won't be stealing any precious minutes away from Ratchet.

The next two weren't really on my radar, until my ex suggested that we have some games that we can play together. We still see each other, and it's a bit of an awkward situation right now, but that's probably best left to talk about another day. Anyways, I've had a PS2 since 2002 and somehow managed never to touch a Dynasty Warriors game before, but I'd read they were good, mindless hack-n-slashes, so I gave Dynasty Warriors 5 a try. It was exactly what I was expecting - instantly accessible combat, lots of mashing the same button, and the feeling that you're an invincible god on the combat field. I can now see why these games are so popular - being able to swipe your sword and clear the 20 bad guys around you gives you an awesome feeling of power. The over-the-top costumes and weapons add to the flair, and the fact that there always seems to be fifty guys on screen at once is enough to pump you up. It's a ton of fun, and is made better by having a friend to help with beating down the enemy army. Although, again, I don't think it's something I would play through extensively on my own.

Last is Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. The ex saw an ad for Playboy: The Mansion in one of my old EGMs and wanted to try that out, but she finds the Sims boring, so I suggested this instead. I wasn't expecting this to be very good, but I've been pleasantly surprised. The gameplay is pretty shallow - instead of following the tried and true PC adventure game formula, complete with item hunting and puzzle solving, every encounter with a member of the more attractive sex becomes a minigame. A chat turns into a sperm-navigating minigame; a drink at the bar turns into a press-the-button-as-it-comes-up minigame; and Quarters turns into, well, Quarters. But at least they're all decent fun. The real highlight of the game is the goofy dialogue between Larry and the people he comes across. It's nothing short of hilarious, and we started to go around finding more people to bug just so we could hear him get rejected in one of dozens of different ways. When he actually wins a girl over and gets her back into his room, something inevitably goes wrong, and these twists are both totally ridiculous and totally funny. The downer on the whole thing, though, is the atrocious loading times. Each area in the game is generally pretty small, but somehow it gets the PS2 chugging away for 20 seconds before the poor machine can cough it up. When you need to navigate through three of these areas, and endure more than a minute of waiting, to meet a character and play a 30-second minigame - it kills the buzz. So, as laugh-out-loud funny as this one is, I'm pretty sure we'll eventually get sick of staring at the not-quite-enticing character models displayed on the loading screens for the fiftieth time.

So that's about it. I'm thinking of taking the plunge and starting World of Warcraft, too, and now is probably as good a time as any. I won't get to sleep in till 12 everyday and then spend all afternoon playing games forever! 8)
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