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Summer Games Series 2014 is a GO!

There are always a bunch of games I’m on the verge of firing up but for one reason or another remain in their dusty little boxes on a shelf. With no plans for a new playthrough I decided to theme up a series of videos to scratch some of those gaming itches. And so, Summer Games Series 2014 was born into this world!

“Summer games” is a pretty loose definition and as I look over this list of games all they have in common is they’re all set outdoors in the sunlight. Maybe they all have green grass in them too. But they all evoke the summertime season in one way or another for me. Maybe it’s a game I played in the Summer, hiding in my cold air conditioned bedroom while the blinding sunlight beat through the windows. Maybe it’s just that ‘extreme sports’ and fishing remind me of Summer even though they take place year round.

I’ve got things queued up for the entire calendar season of Summer. That’s 14 videos from June 21st through September 20th that will all post on Saturdays, the Summeriest day of the week! Three have already gone up as I write this post but you can follow along each week either from my YouTube channel or this playlist that will chronicle the entire series.

KatyCraft: It’s never too late to say it with felt!

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You guys, Katy makes a lot of awesome stuff. She’s on Red Bubble, Storenvy, Etsy, and Gumroad with stickers, cross stitches, shirt designs, jewelry and more. It’s not all video game related either, she’s got your fandoms covered!

This week I was walking into the kitchen and, though it’s been hanging up for a while, this retro gamer felt art caught my eye and warmed my heart. It comes in Retro Gamer and Old School varieties and is only $9.99!

Done Playing: Strider (Xbox One)

It's not sprites but the game has a really great detailed look

It’s not sprites but the game has a really great detailed look

I finished Strider 2014 last week and overall it wasn’t great. As an homage to the arcade original I suppose that makes it a pretty accurate tribute because as much as I love that wacky old Strider it’s not much of a game. You run and jump wildly, hammering the attack button as everything explodes, you and your enemies alike. Peculiar characters come and go in a blur of flashes and there’s lots of deaths caused by wonky animations. Take away the coin slot and drag those traits out for a few hours and you’ve got Strider 2014.

As a tribute to Arcade Strider it hits every point you could list.

  • Hangglider infiltration
  • Constant shing-ing sword attacks
  • Quasi-Neo-Soviet regime
  • Grandmaster Meio
  • Dipodal Saucers, robo-hawks and panthers
  • A big mechanical gorilla
  • Super awkward gravity changes
  • The ‘Tong Pooh Three Sisters’ squad
  • Cartwheel jumps and slide kicks
  • Really annoying air skiff jumps

As a modern Metroidvania game it also ticks off the major checklist boxes.

  • Big map screen that you uncover as you play
  • New abilities guarded by bosses
  • Bosses that are defeated with the last ability you unlocked
  • Backtracking
  • Color-coded doors that require abilities to unlock
  • Hidden collectibles
  • Way fewer fast travel points than you’d like
  • Loading screen hallways
  • Upgradable health and skill meters

Combining both of those lists should result in an amazing game but in the end it’s neither a great Strider or Metroidvania game. It’s just ok and only recommended at a discount price. You’ll get just enough satisfaction from the Strider trappings by the time the frequent frustrations of actually playing the game set in. For a badass future ninja, Strider gets his ass outright stopped a lot. Being shot in the air will send you reeling to the ground, resetting the charge attack you need to deal with the frequent shield wielding enemies. Later upgrades let you bypass most enemies but then a lot of doors are locked until you kill everyone in sight anyways. This cycle alone probably added an hour to my playtime and breaks the pace at which you’d love to keep moving forward.

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There are ways to counter all this stuff but the game doesn’t require more than constant button mashing

Boss fights are not only frustrating but boring and repetitive. I routinely died in order to figure out their  patterns instead of being able to dodge or counter until I could see what was going on. Seeing what’s happening in a boss fight is made even more frustrating thanks to the subtitles that fill the lower third of the screen with big banners. These usually cover up Strider and all the lasers and shockwaves flying towards him. It is astoundingly poor design and if the accompanying voice acting was recorded to be ironically bad à la Bionic Commando ReArmed, it fails.

The best I can say is that the game does capture the Strider vibe…  and that it isn’t very long. Sometimes a game being short is a great thing; it sets the stage and lets you play with its systems just long enough to keep you enthralled. Strider offers a few encounters that feel really strategic and fun but mindlessly wailing on the attack button is the order of the day. A few thousand button presses and a minimum of concentration is all it takes to blaze through in 4 or 5 hours. It’s all flashes, explosions and wonky mechanics and while that is Strider in a nutshell, this 2014 edition isn’t as memorable as either a Strider game or a Metroidvania game.

This Week on YouTube: Summer Games, Watch Dogs, Trials Frontier

Kicking off this week was a direct-feed look at some of Trials Frontier on Android. I’ve posted about the game a few times as I continue playing it but figured out how to use ADB’s screen capture feature to record a few runs right from my phone. Virtual Hydlide on Hard Mode continued this week with Part 2 and then I uploaded a few quick clips and about an hour of screwing around with Watch Dogs.

In slightly bigger news I started my Summer Games Series this past Saturday where I’ll be spending a little time with some games that remind me of the season. Golf, beaches, extreme sports, maritime racing, that sort of stuff. There’s a ton more to come but the game that really planted the idea in my head was Outlaw Golf. So check out some terrible golfing and Steve Carell’s fantastic commentary and look for a new installment tomorrow!

Katy’s channel has gotten a hot injection of Dragon Age 2 (Part 1, 2, 3) which she’s finally started playing through. It’s good timing as Dragon Age: Inquisition is coming out soon. There’s another Style Savvy Trendsetters costume design session, more Disney Magical World and another Jo’s Organic Dream Coffee.

Still Playing: Trials Frontier (Android, iOS) Pt.3

Here’s some trans-media content for ya, a little video tour of where I’m at in Trials Frontier. I’m using ADB’s screen record function here so there’s no audio and it hits the framerate a little hard in spots but mostly this is what it’s like to play; slick victories and grindy prize wheel spinning alike.

And if you just happened upon this, here’s Part 1 and Part 2 recounting my time with the game so far.

This Week on YouTube: Pong Croft, Souper Bass and much more

We got nothin’ but red hot bangers this week! Remember these car-crushing tech demos from the earliest days of the Xbox 360? How about another run through Virtual Hydlide on HARD!? Take a quick Pong break with Lara Croft and check out the mind-blowing power of the 3DO because after that we’ve got an update on Nom Nom Galaxy followed by a working copy of Big Ol’ Bass 2. That World Monster Fishing mode is fantastically bizarre, I hope to play and post much more of it soon!

Hop on over to Katy’s channel for some more Disney Magical World, Jo’s Dream Organic Coffee and another Style Savvy Trendsetters design session.

KatyCraft: Wear this advice on your sleeve, or chest

katycraft-arisenYou guys, Katy makes a lot of awesome stuff. She’s on Red Bubble, Storenvy, Etsy, and Gumroad with stickers, cross stitches, shirt designs, jewelry and more. This week’s featured item provides a constant reminder of the sagely advice of your Pawns in Dragon’s Dogma. They spout off some of the most obvious things at times.

It also reminds me of the spiritual successor to Dragon’s Dogma, Deep Down. It didn’t get much coverage at E3 this year but a new, ever-confusing trailer was released. You can watch it here.

Xbox One gets ‘Karaoke @ DAM’ service in Japan

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While I continue to wait for an Xbox One version of the 360’s Karaoke game, the new console will launch in Japan this September with a sing-along service in tow. ‘Karaoke @ DAM’ will provide an initial selection of 100,000 songs and corresponding HD videos with 200 new tracks delivered each week. A SingStar-esque scoring system called “Precision Scoring DX” is promised and videos of your performance can be recorded with Kinect. There’s even a SmartGlass app that can be used to queue up songs and playlists.

Rates start at an appreciably modest $3 for 24 hours of access or $10 for 30 days. Karaoke @ DAM sounds like some cheap fun but it sure could use a redesign based on these very tiny screenshots. Come on Microsoft, get The Karaoke Channel and iNiS on the ball and bring that Avatar-powered Karaoke to the Xbox One already!

Still Playing: Trials Frontier (Android, iOS)

nowplaying-trialsfrontier3

Quests, coins, upgrades and time sinks

In my last post about Trials Frontier I was on the verge of unlocking a new bike and a new tier of races. That much went fine but shortly after the game’s progression hit one of those trademark Trials inclines that looks impossible to ascend.

The new tier was fun to explore and the courses really feel on par with Trials Evolution. There’s even a few physics-y gimmicks I don’t remember dealing with in any previous Trials game. It was around this point, though, that bike upgrades became a necessity and not just a periodic quest line. It doesn’t look like it by the tiny sliver of top speed or acceleration that you’ll get out of a $20,000 upgrade but you can definitely feel it.

And so the grind has been on for coins and crafting materials while I continue to beat my head against an array of ghost races. At least three different quest lines have you racing AI or live player ghosts to progress; one set is literally a bunch of races against a ghost. Despite the impressive number of tracks available (I’ve got 50 unlocked so far) the game seems to favor the same seven or eight courses which makes things feel even more tedious. Adding to the slow new pace of progress is some actual slowdown. Sometimes a race will load and the framerate on my Galaxy S4 will be cut in half. The slow-mo effect has helped me win a few races by giving me time to fine tune my landings but overall it’s a bummer.

All this could instantly be rectified if I were willing to pump some money into the game. For $5 I could get enough gems to skip the crafting materials and for another $5 I could buy enough coins to pay for the next few upgrades. But the races themselves still have to be run and won so I’m taking this new pace as the game’s slower middle age.

I still play several times a day and almost every day. The slot machine continues to provide fun new challenges and doles out some nice rewards between quest victories. Just the act of playing Trials still feels great and that’s enough to keep me going for the time being.