Tuesday, March 29, 2005

More Monkey Madness

Another day, another review. This time for GameSpy. It's Ape Escape: On The Loose for the PSP. Cool game, even with its flaws. Check the review and tell me what you think. Also, tomorrow I'm picking up NARC on the Xbox and PS2 to review. Oooo ... more drugs and guns. The game also has the original arcade classic on the disc. Should be fun to try.

So ... I've had my PSP for a few days now. Yes, that piece of machinery lives up to all its hype. I LOVE this thing. I'll go into more details later, but at the moments, I'm fighting off a slight bug and am going to get some rest.

Oh ... look for more reviews from me this week over at Electric Playground, and be sure to get EGM's June Preview issue for even more of my writing.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

PSP vs. DS

I was at the forums over on Tommy Tallarico's website when I saw a post asking for opinions on both the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS. While I haven't picked up my OWN PSP just yet (later today), I have put in considerable time with both systems and decided to put my two cents' worth in. Here's what I wrote:
"Due to my work as a journalist, I have to have both systems for the purposes of writing new game reviews and previews. I've already spent ample time with both, and personally I have to say that (in my opinion) the PSP is the better machine. Graphically, the PSP beats the DS like a red-headed stepchild. The PSP also has more available functions out of the box than the DS does.

A prime example of this is with the wireless play. Currently, the DS uses a proprietary wi-fi connection to allow the systems to play together, while the PS uses the standard 802.11 protocols. This means that I could play games like Darkstalkers over my home network in Florida against someone in California. Now, Nintendo has recently announced that it will be sending new dev kits to developers which will allow them to alter the DS wi-fi to run over a standard 802.11 network, but it's a little too late at this point. Nintendo is also releasing an adapter for around $50 US that will allow the DS to play MP3's and MPEG-4's like the PSP, but adding that adapter to the current MSRP for the DS puts it in the same price range as the PSP. For the record, the MSRP on the PSP system BY ITSELF is $199 US. In Japan, the system was available by itself OR in the Value Pack (with all the extra accessories). For the US launch though, Sony is only shipping the Value Pack. You can expect to buy the stand-alone unit later this year.

The next issue is clearly the software library. As of today's launch, the PSP library already has a number of titles on shelves comparable to that of the DS, and the DS has had a four month head start. Sure, the DS is backwards compatible with the GBA, but you can't really count the GBA titles as part of the DS library simply because they AREN'T specifically for the DS. Plus, the you can't play multiplayer GBA titles on the DS because there's no place for a link cable to connect. And keep in mind that there is no earlier system for the PSP to be backwards compatible with.

Keeping with the theme of software titles, I've played a fair chunk of the games for both systems and the PSP titles are just more entertaining as a whole. That's not to say the DS doesn't have some good games. Super Mario 64 DS is a great game. Sure, it's a remake of the original N64 game, but it's been polished up and revamped enough to still feel fresh. And it has all those mini-games to boot. But on the other end of the spectrum, there are games like Rayman DS. Rayman DS is nothing more than a remake of Rayman 2 for the N64 but using the touch screen to control movement. And there was absolutely NO polish to that game. Then there's Ping Pals ... which in essence is nothing more than a more stylized version of the Picochat that comes installed on the DS. Mr. DRILLER: Drill Spirits, while fun, it a game that could have just as easily been released as a GBA title. Try playing that game with the touch screen and it's likely you'll never make any real progress. Pokemon Dash seemed like a good idea when it was announced, but in reality it's nothing more than simply swiping your stylus on the touch screen as fast as you can. That works great as a mini-game, but NOT as a full length title. Although, something I do find cool is the interaction that can take place between the DS and the GBA titles. In Pokemon Dash, for example, if you pop in your GBA Pokemon game, the DS will create a host of new tracks based on the Pokemon you've caught in the GBA game. And on Feel the Magic, if you put in a Sega GBA game, it will unlock Ulala's costume from Space Channel 5. Unfortunately, most of the DS titles feel less like actual games and more like presentations meant to show off the DS features. It feels like developers just forced themselves to do something with the DS touch screen instead of focusing on making games fun.

On the PSP side of things, you've got games like Darkstalkers and Metal Gear Ac!d. These titles are banking on the success of their respective franchises, but still manage to feel original. And while Twisted Metal: Head On and Wipeout Pure don't add anything really new, they still feel like genuine extensions of the franchise, as opposed to just a rehash of old material (ahem ... Rayman DS? I'm talking to you). All three of these games look amazing and are a blast to play. And Lumines is so addicting and mesmerizing that it could end up being for the PS what Tetris was to the original Game Boy. Of course the PSP library has its clunkers too. Spider-Man 2 ( the game based on the movie) feels like it was dumbed down considerably from the console versions. It's something to stay far FAR away from.

So, its now four months after the DS launch and other than Super Mario 64 DS, Yoshi Touch and Go, and perhaps Warioware Touched, there aren't any titles that really stand out as "must-haves". But on the PSP, right off the bat you've got at least four titles that should be a part of your PSP's collection. And before anyone shoots down my statement by mentioning games like Castlevania DS or the recently announced Katamari Damacy DS title both of which look like they'll be excellent games, try to remember that I'm talking about CURRENT DS and PSP titles.

Also, before anyone thinks I'm calling the PSP flawless, I do have issues with it as well. First off is the battery life. While it's not nearly as bad as it was initially made out to be, the PSP's battery life still can't come anywhere CLOSE to the life of the DS battery. For now, if you plan on watching a couple of movies or playing a deeply involving game (especially with the Wi-Fi on), expect yourself to be tethered down by the AC cord. Also, I'm not completely sold on the UMD's just yet. The plastic cases which house the discs are what I've got a gripe about. Sure, it helps keep the disc form getting scrtched up, but if dust or such gets in there, it's a pain in the neck to try and clean. Also, as far as movies go, until more manufacturers add UMD functions to their home theatre equipment, the ONLY place you can watch the UMD versions of recent movies is on the PSP. The thing is, you can expect to pay about $20-$25 for a UMD movie which has little to no special features included ... OR you can pay $5 less for the actual DVD version which usually has all sorts of added goodies. Since I usually have my laptop on me, on trips I'd rather just pop a regular DVD into it and watch everything on its 15" monitor. And as slick as the PSP's high gloss finish makes it look, it also makes the thing virtually impossible to play in bright daylight due to the glare/reflection. This may be good for making sure no one sneaks up on you, but it's terrible for gaming. Also, and this is something I'm compulsive about, that surface pickes up dust, dirt, and fingerprints like noboby's business. I get frustrated enough having to constantly clean the touch screen on my DS every few days, but I have to clean the PSP after every use or it starts to look "worn in". And finally, some of the games for the PSP seem to take a lot longer than they should to load. I think this is more of a developer issue than a hardware issue, and I'm sure it will improve significantly in the future ... but that's the future. Again, I'm talking about the here and now.

Personally, I'm disappointed in the Nintendo DS. I was hoping it would be something great, and instead it feels like a marketing gimmick thats just one step above a Virtual Boy. The PSP on the other hand seems to be a pretty impressive piece of machinery so far. If I had to choose one over the other, I'd pick the PSP in a heartbeat."

Post your impressions and comments about both systems. I want to know what you guys think.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

New stuff

Sorry I haven't updated in a bit. Been keeping busy with my writing. Last week, I wrote up six previews that will show up in the June issue of EGM, and this week I had two reviews for GameSpy. Plus, I'm getting over a bug thatg knocked me on my ass for a couple of days and stole my voice. But today is a new day, right?

The two GameSpy reviews I did went live tonight. The first was for Phantom Dust (Xbox) and the second was for Rayman DS. Here's a funny bit of irony. I expected Rayman to be pretty good, because the franchise has never let me down, and I expected absolutely nothing from Phantom Dust. Take a peek at the reviews and you'll see just how wrong my initial expectations were.

Expect some major geekdom from me tomorrow. That's right ... I'm getting the PSP and I'll be putting it through its paces and loving every minute of it.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

"Cells" by The Servant

How many of you out there have seen the trailer for the upcoming Sin City movie? Anyone who knows me also knows I'm itching to see this movie. Well, while I was doing some digging around the website for the movie, and I found out that the music for the trailer is from a song called "Cells" by a UK group called The Servant. I'll admit that this is the first I've heard from the group, but I'm hooked now. Check out the music over at the band's official website and post your thoughts on the song.

Monday, March 07, 2005

It's about damned time

Okay, so I've been talking and talking about the development of Visionary Ink. Well, I've busted my ass today to get some stuff put together, and you guys can finally check out SOME of it over at http://www.visionaryink.com/wordpress/. Now, I've recently updated some settings for the domain, so it may not work quite right until the updates finish. Also, this is an initial test run and I'm working with new software (WordPress) ... so I'm in some unfamiliar territory. Bear with me through the growing pains and it'll be worth it.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Time and tide wait for no man ...

It's been a while, I know. A series of personal events have admittedly kept me from being able to focus on my writing. It's the classic snowball effect ... one thing gets the ball rolling, and other events build up its size and momentum until you find yourself unable to slow it down and just trying to stay out of its way. That having been said, I've decided to try and sidestep that snowball in order to get another ball rolling. With luck, it'll help. Okay, enough about that ... time to move on.

First off, what's new and in the works? Well, next week I should be talking with EGM about doing some previews for them. Originally, I was supposed to have done some work last month, but with the pending release of the PSP, things had to be cut to make way for a big feature on the launch. Anyway, this month things should be back to some semblance of normality and I should be about to contribute some material for the next issue. Next on the list is Video Game Collector. Never heard of it? No worries, it's a new magazine on the market with a very interesting concept. Video Game Collector is a quarterly magazine that features the usual news and such for the game industry. What makes VG Collector different is that it includes a price guide for various video games. Ever wonder what that old copy of Excitebike on the NES really goes for? Now you'll know. I should be talking with the guys there over the weekend, and we'll see how things develop. I'm also waiting to hear back from American McGee. I'm stoked about that interview.

And finally, construction on Visionary Ink has finally begun. The blueprints are wrapped and the site is finally under development. News, reviews, previews, columns, etc. It's something that's going to take a lot of work and coordination ... thankfully that's something I'm up for right about now. As always, I'll keep you posted.

So, moving right along, here's some news from around the industry:

  • Vivendi Universal has just announced that it's going to do more than throw its two cents worth into the action game genre ... in fact, it's throwing in 50 Cent(s). VU has just announced a collaberation with the rap star to develop a game called 50 Cent: Bulletproof. According to the press release,
    "In 50 Cent's video game, which will be revealed at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on May 18th, 2005, 50 gets caught in a web of corruption, double-crosses and shady deals that lead him on a bloody path through New York's drug underworld. Working with the unlikeliest of allies, the streets heat up as 50 Cent takes on the most dangerous crime families in the city, uncovering an international conspiracy with devastating implications. The streets are watching as 50 Cent blasts his way to the truth.

    Further blending the lines between Hollywood, music and games, Sopranos executive producer and Emmy-Award winner Terry Winter inked both the game's script as well as the screenplay for 50's forthcoming film, Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

    More information about the game can be found at http://www.the50centgame.com/."

  • Nintendo has started its next major push folr the DS system in Japan. As a part of this push, the company is setting up various kiosks which will allow DS owners to download additional game content and trial versions of popular games. The new content will be stored on the DS cartridge allowing it to be accessed at any time. The demos, however, will be stored in the system's RAM similar to the way that single-cart multiplayer games operate, meaning that the demo will be lost once the DS is turned off.

  • If any of you make your way out to the Chicago area, be sure to check out the Museum of Science and Industry. Beginning today, the museum will feature an exhibit called "Game On". The exhibit will feature all sorts of information, presentations, and yes games, from more than forty years of gaming history. From the pre-gaming days of Sony, Nintendo, and SEGA to the release of Pong and on up through the latest and greatest in gaming, the exhibit looks to be pretty cool. Admission is only $5 per person. You can find out more information at the exhibit's website.

I'll be adding more news a little later. Got to get cracking on a few extras over here first. Keep checking in, and let me know your thoughts.