Windows App Store is still a wretched hive of scum and villainy

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There’s been a tiny flurry of stuff happening with Windows 8 lately and that always leads me back to the ex-Metro, tiled start screen and eventually deep into the Windows Store. I found this gem among the Flappy Bird clones and recipe apps and had to share it based on the name alone.

Real Speed: Need for Asphalt Race – Shift to Underground CSR Addiction 14

It’s like some kind of sentient SEO robot spewed out a game title and it looks about like what you’d expect. It wants to be Gameloft’s Asphalt or EA’s Real Racing but from the sound of the reviews it’s barely controllable and filled with in-app purchases. It also allegedly has no desktop support so I’m not even going to try; the title alone is more than enough for me.

This Week on YouTube: It’s RAINing Soup

I didn’t get up to much this week with Katy’s birthday and work picking up. I did get to check out the latest from Nom Nom Galaxy’s Revision 55304 update and then another Body Harvest went up as we continue on to the triumphant conclusion of the Java level.

Katy’s channel has more of our playthrough of Earth Defense Force 2025 as well as a fun look back at Rain Wonder Trip (plus some outtakes) for the PSP. I came across the oddball “game” while checking up on iNiS and just had to take a look. I picked up one of my favorite indie games, NEO Scavenger, in a Humble Bundle and thought I’d sit Katy down with it for a bit. And there’s a new video of me reacting (overreacting?) to more K-pop music videos.

Worth Watching
I haven’t had much time this week to dig into old games but I did manage to hit a few. Team Innocent for the PC-FX is a crazy anime adventure game with outstanding production value for the time. From the intro to the extensive recorded dialog and even the Dragon’s Lair style death scenes, it’s a class act. Too bad it’s all in Japanese. I never had an arcade with Rad Mobile when I was growing up so the game was a complete mystery to me. I watched someone’s perfect run though and, wow, it looks even better than Outrun… except for the music. Then I had to know what the difference was between Rad Mobile and the Saturn “port”, Gale Racer. Gale Racer seems pretty lame in comparison.

Done Playing: Open Me! (Vita)

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The concept of Augmented Reality games always grabs me but seeing sharp 3D visuals overlaid on grainy, laggy camera feeds usually proves too jarring to be fun. Open Me! has had to fight those expectations as well as coming out of the PlayStation C.A.M.P. program whose past efforts disappointed me. Knowing this going in I tried to ease that expectant sting by grabbing the game on sale and promising to play just a little bit at a time. It worked, and I’ve come out the other side wishing there were more boxes to open and more people who gave this game a chance.

AR comes with a lot of caveats before you even get to the game itself. The Vita’s camera just isn’t that good and you have to search for your own personal space for it to work well. Having played through it I picture the ideal location as a bright, empty art gallery with the AR card attached to a black, waist-high pedestal. My best bet was our chest-high kitchen counter under a heavy fluorescent light. The brightness kept the lag at bay but the glare on the glazed surface frequently made the Vita lose track of the card. The kitchen also made it hard to get all the way around the boxes and there were plenty of times I was leaning over the sink or past the drying rack to find a crucial, hidden clue.

But again, Open Me’s charms won out. Presented with only a screen or two of explanation you’re flung at 51 puzzle cubes and expected to figure them out on your own. A sense of exploration and experimentation will do you well here as you poke and swipe while skittering around; one hand holding the Vita, the other scratching your head. Here’s a hot tip from me: sometimes you just need to move on. By figuring out other boxes — some are tricky while others require more logical thinking — you will come to discover things that will help you progress. The Vita, it turns out, can track way more than just two fingers.

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It’s one of those games where you don’t want to say too much because the fun is in discovering the solution, but I’ll go ahead and spoil a few of my favorites. The Super Stealth Box is covered in spikes that are tough to discern from the one random button as the whole thing is Predator-style transparent. I ended up moving a pair of cards that were sitting on the counter in and out of view, looking at the distortion until I spotted the smooth, curved button. The Surveillance Box is equipped with a motion tracking camera that won’t let you sneak behind it to pull the shiny handle. I tried to figure it out for ten minutes when, in frustration, I smashed my fat thumb over the stupid camera and… oh come on, I can’t believe that was the solution! Late in the game there’s a fantastically complex washing machine that needs three cycles run just to find the owner’s manual.

Opening a few boxes each day and taking a break when I got to the really fiendish ones, I’d say I had a few weeks of fun with Open Me!. There are multiplayer boxes to open and a system to design and send puzzles to friends but both require knowing someone (in real life) who owns a Vita and the game. Needless to say, I didn’t get to try out either mode. You can get a feel for the game in the free version and buy individual packs for $0.99 but if you’ve read this far and are still intrigued you should buy the Full Game. It’s not as mysterious and chic as The Room but Open Me! has just as many ah-ha moments of rewarding discovery. It’s got that quirky design sensibility you only get from the Japanese on top of the (tolerably janky) novelty of using your AR cards again.

One more parting shot

One more parting shot

This Week on YouTube: More soup, Ranger-X, VideOST debut

I’ve been meaning to play through Ranger-X again for years. It’s one of those games that I’m always on the verge of playing and this time, I finally did! I love the game so much that I recorded it twice, once as a mostly-blind run on Easy Mode and again on Normal Mode at a much snappier pace; the way I remember playing the game.

Nom Nom Galaxy got its first major update so I took a little time to play through a new level, show off co-op mode with Katy and detail the new changes in Revision 55272. And on Thursday I finally pushed through Java Stage 04 in Body Harvest, the most challenging level I’ve done yet. I managed to get two videos out of the end of Java so look for the conclusion next week and a teaser of America, 1966.

The big news this week was the launch of VideOSTs. Basically, it’s a game’s soundtrack accompanied by the game itself. The debut game is Beetle Adventure Racing (here’s the playlist page, or you can watch ‘em all right on this page!) since it was already in the N64 and doesn’t have a gargantuan playlist. I turned off the HUD, turned down the sound effects and ran a 3-lap race on each track. You can watch to see some bad turns and lots of shortcuts or just use it to listen to the music. It’s an idea I’ve had for a long time and I hope to get a new series up soon-ish… sometime.

Katy’s channel has more of everything again this week; more episodes of Beautiful Katamari, EDF2025 and Infinite Undiscovery. Katy’s also got another vlog up about the girl groups she likes (are there any!?) and there’s a new video of me reacting (overreacting?) to more K-pop music videos.

Worth Watching
The Game-Fan-remind-a-thon continues with old issues of the magazine reminding me of several games. Seriously, my list of stuff to dig up continues to grow! This week I managed to catch a playthrough of Nosferatu on the SNES which I was always fascinated by. I checked out the progressive princess-saves-herself PC-FX adventure Gotzendiener here and here. And I saw a speedrun of a Lovecraft inspired Virtual Boy game I had no idea existed; Innsmouth no Yakata.

 

There are Battletoads skins for Kinect Sports Rivals?!

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Whoa, hey! When did Rare start acknowledging they created Battletoads in public again? It seems like all their work at Nintendo is very hush-hush from a marketing/PR standpoint and rarely gets mentioned by Microsoft anymore. But here we are, getting Battletoads branded outfits for Kinect Sports Rivals pre-orders.

Not being one who pre-orders or frequents GameStop, this e-mail I got this morning is the first I’d heard of it (the outfits are GameStop exclusives). So — ya know — Battletoads remake confirmed, right?

One Crazy thing the Xbox One Media Remote just won’t do

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Just a quick update today for anyone still interested or on-the-fence over the Xbox One Media Remote. STARTLING DISCOVERY! The remote works fine in every non-game app I’ve used except… for YouTube. Grrrr! The one app that probably gets the most use is the only one I’ve found that’s unsupported. Hopefully it gets an update soon-ish but given Google and Microsoft’s animosity towards one another lately it could be a while.

On the upside, that’s the only major shortcoming of the remote I’ve found after two weeks of use. Netflix, Twitch, TED, the entire dashboard, the store interfaces, Xbox Music/Videos, Crackle, Skype; all work great with the tiny remote. I do wish there were an easier way to snap and unsnap things without dumping back to the dashboard or yelling at Kinect. If it just had room for one. More. Button.

 

This Week on YouTube: Soup, Nuts, Remote Controls

It’s been a bit of a mixer on YouTube this week. We started out way early with a first look at PixelJunk’s Early Access Nom Nom Galaxy. The Terraria/soup mogul game made for a pretty popular video so I have a second one going up today. We finally cornered the soup market and won!!

This past weekend I also picked up the Xbox One Media Remote and we filmed a video unboxing and our filthy first hands-on impressions. Thursday’s Body Harvest upload is full of pop culture references and made for a nice change of pace as the difficulty has ramped up in 1940’s Java.

Katy’s channel has more of everything this week; more episodes of Beautiful Katamari, EDF2025, Infinite Undiscovery and Minecraft Disney World. Katy’s also got another vlog up about her random issues with Kpop which led her to sit me down with a bunch of Kpop music videos to film my reactions.

Worth Watching
Holy cow, check out this voxel-based, FX2-powered Comanche “flight sim” that never made it out for the SNES. Spry Fox finally took the wraps off of Road Not Taken so you can now make some sense of how it actually plays. This XBLA wingsuit game — Skydive: Proximity Flight — looked neat until I saw it required the 360’s clunky Kinect. Speaking of Kinect, it was revealed that my favorite Doctor (David Tennant) will be the voice of God in Kinect Sports Rivals on Xbox One.

KatyCraft: The King has Spoken

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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. This week’s featured item is that fretful father figure, that dad of doubtfulness, the King of All Cosmos. Offering the sagely advice to ‘do better’, you’ll see this shirt reflected back in the mirror and want to run home, roll up the universe and shove it down his fat throat!! So go buy one now in whichever style and color matches your favorite cousin.

The Xbox One Media Remote: Go Buy One

We were out and about this past weekend and stopped in at Best Buy for the first time in what feels like years. Amidst their disheveled Xbox One display was this tiny green box with a little black bar in the middle. As I got closer I realized it was the Media Remote which was due out… some day in March. I had already forgotten about the thing but instantly grabbed one despite its $25 price tag. You can watch the video above to see it in action but if you’re looking for a quick breakdown here’s some pros and cons:

PROS

  • Has that smooth, soft rubber feel all over
  • Totally silent compared to using the clicky controller
  • Motion sensor lights up the keys as you pick it up
  • Dedicated One Guide button to go right to TV grid
  • More responsive IR than older 360 remote
  • Playback control buttons work in apps as well as with discs

CONS

  • $25, really?
  • A little too small in my hand
  • Low profile buttons hard to tell apart at times
  • Wibbly-wobbly design, if that kind of thing bothers you
  • Has to be pointed at Kinect to adjust volume
  • Didn’t work in Xbox Fitness app which seems weird

This Week on YouTube: A different kind of bug

Sometimes you just need to unwind with some Beetle Adventure Racing! That was my exact thought as I tried for the umpteenth time to make it through the next stage in Body Harvest. That game’s gettin’ rough!

Beetle Adventure Racing is one of those games that I’m always ready to play and with the N64 set up to record it was finally easy enough to do so. I was hoping to make this another “I played all the way through” videos but I picked the wrong difficulty and it ended after 3 or 4 courses. No worries though, there’s plenty of ridiculous “shortcuts” to see here and I even boosted the video brightness through YouTube so you can see them!

I also posted the next stage in Body Harvest: Java Stage 02. This isn’t the one I’m currently stuck on, that’s Stage 04. This one is still filled with whimsy… and tanks. And more than a few of my own sound effects.

Katy’s channel rages on with more episodes of Beautiful Katamari, EDF2025, Infinite Undiscovery and Minecraft Disney World. Katy’s also got another vlog up about her experience at SM Town in Paris back in 2011.

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Worth Watching
I’ve been flipping through old issues of GameFan before bed and jotting down games I’d forgotten about or ones I never got to play. Loadstar is maybe the slickest FMV rail shooter of them all, featuring Ned Beatty and some quality emoticon gags. Ultra Vortek for the Jaguar is as painful a Mortal Kombat clone as you’d imagine. Kaze Kimi wasn’t thrilling to watch but has an almost Bushido Blade-esque strategy to its 2D ninja action.