This is a relatively quick illustration I just did for document on design usability testing. I thought it turned out pretty well. I am probably breaking some sort of nondisclosure agreement by posting this, so don’t talk about Fight Club, okay?
This is one of the first games I bought for my new iPad tablet. Puzzle Agent is essentially a clone of Professor Layton from the Nintendo DS. Like that game, it is a collection of puzzles thinly veiled as a point-and-click adventure. Also, both games sport a unique art styles and interesting storylines. However, the puzzles, which I would consider the meat of this type of game, are pretty weak. With only one or two exceptions, they are just too easy. Too often the puzzles are literal jigsaw-type puzzles that stick themselves together making solving them just a matter of shaking the pieces around. The only times I got a puzzle wrong was when the instructions were unclear on important details and, even in those cases, I could guess my way through. In Layton, the puzzles challenge assumptions and really try to trick you. That said, the Fargo meets Twin Peaks story made the game worth the 99¢ I spent on it.
A lot of people are touting the iPhone and iOS as a Nintendo DS killer. This is a bunch of baloney. This type of point-and-click adventure suits the platform okay, but just about every other genre of game is mediocre at best on iOS. The touch screen and tilt controls are just plain bad compared to a d-pad or even the stylus. If Nintendo can make their DS make phone calls they would be untouchable.
I have written about The Ocarina of Time on this Web site before. That game is considered one of the best games ever, and I don’t dispute that assertion. Twilight Princess is nearly as good. In fact, it is practically the same game… or at least that’s what it feels like. Now, lack of originality isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case. Nintendo has been able to play with the zany Zelda mechanics in their DS versions of the series, and quite frankly, they don’t work quite as well as the tried and true format laid out back on the N64.
On the Wii the formula is kept fresh with improved controls (for the most part), better visuals and a brand new story line. This isn’t Mass Effect in terms of narrative, but at least the designers took the time to develop a few primary characters and keep your over-arching goals clear. The whole Twilight dark world schtick has been done before (Metroid Prime: Echoes) but it works here too. Your ability to become a wolf and use its enhanced senses is one of the highlights of gameplay.
If I have any complaints about the game they would have to be my general dislike of the Wii waggle controls for fighting, some really ugly character designs (especially the human characters) and a lack of variation in the design of the later dungeons (they are not bad, I would have like to see the mechanics change more drastically from dungeon to dungeon. Think Super Mario Galaxy). Otherwise, it was an engaging and fun game from beginning to end. One of the best I played all year.
If you weren’t born before 1980 you may not remember this, but there was a time, early on in the CD era, when an album’s mere existence on CD was novel thing. During this early period I bought quite a few CDs just because they were there. I remembered Planet P’s video for “Why Me?”—the one where an astronaut’s head explodes into a shower of confetti—and vaguely recollected liking the song. I decided to give this CD a try. What a piece of crap. I’m guessing that Mr. P was a washed-up member of some boring 70s arena rock outfit who decided to go solo and experiment with synthesizers and other trappings of the New Wave music that the kids were hep to those days. Sure there are some theoretically interesting synth parts, but most of the disc is filled with dorky lyrics and progrock-ish bendy guitar solos. At best the songs sound like the type of cheese you would hear during a training montage in a Golan/Globus film. But, to be frank, I would much rather listen to Rob Walsh’s soundtrack to Revenge of the Ninja over this any day.
Well it’s the first day of the New Year. This day means different things to different people. For my wife it means washing off the post-New-Year’s-Eve-bash Sharpie moustache that she woke up with this morning. For me it means it’s time to assess what I thought was the best of the media I consumed this past year.
Like last year, there really wasn’t anything that truly amazed me this year. My best rated films were Moon and The Maltese Falcon. I watched more T.V. than I have in recent years, so I suppose I could add Lost, V or The Walking Dead as honorable mentions.
Towards the second half of the year I started reading a bit more than usual and found several books truly grabbed me in ways that no movie or show did this year. If I had to pick a favorite from this year it would be George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, especially if considered along side the three other books in the series that I also read and loved. At a near-tie for the number one spot is Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, which started my on my current fantasy lit kick. Finally, rounding out the top was Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. Honorable mentions would go to Mistborn books 1 & 2, Devil Born Without Horns and Racing the Beam.
I played a ton of games this year. My highest rated game was House of the Dead: Overkill for the Wii. It was stupid, crude, violent and hilarious… loved it. My runners-up would be Mass Effect and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Mass Effect further proves that the best science fiction is in video games these days, and Zelda is Zelda… ’nuff said. I am still mid-game in GTA IV and Metroid Prime Trilogy but I suspect those two titles would have made this year’s list too had I completed them in time. I also played a few casual games I liked such as Puzzle Quest and Plants vs. Zombies.
Steam just finished their massive annual game sale and I stocked up so there should be no shortage of gaming for me in the next year and beyond.