Blog: Game Junkie

What have you been playing?

11:00am 19 Aug 2013

Brothers3blogIf I was paid for writing this blog, then last week's pay packet would have been very light indeed, given that I managed only one post. I apologise.

Last week was a particularly poor period for a harmonious work/life balance and it seemed it was pretty much work, work, work with little time to devote to personal interests.

Anyway, I bought Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Xbox 360, PS3, coming for Steam) last week from Xbox Live Arcade and though it's a short game - you'll finish it easily in one sitting as it's only three or so hours long - it pushes the boundaries a little and isn't afraid to tug at the old heartstrings while it does it.

The game opens with the younger of the titular brothers mourning the death of his mother - and loss is a theme the pervades the game. Brothers tasks the siblings with undertaking a perilous journey to find a magical cure to heal their ailing father, almost travelling through a world ripped straight out of a Grimm fairy tale: They'll visit a wintry village, see rock trolls mining underground and walk through the remains of a battle among giants.

Brothers, too, is one one of those games where quiet, contemplative moments are common (there are benches dotted around the environment where one or both of the brothers can sit and soak up the stunning vistas, and they truly are stunning) but probably the most interesting aspect about Brothers is its control scheme, which is not the usual you'll find in games.

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Digital Nationz deserves to succeed

11:00am 12 Aug 2013

DigitalNationzblogOver a weekend next month, Auckland's Vector Arena is hosting Digital Nationz, a dedicated video game and digital technology expo - and I'm really hoping Kiwi video gamers, both in Auckland and around the country, get out and support it: something like this that showcases everything that is great about video games and the industry deserves to succeed.

It's about time New Zealand had a dedicated video games and digital technology expo that we can call our own and one that also showcases the strength of New Zealand's video game development industry - something that Digital Nationz is doing with its Homegrown area where New Zealand game makers can show off their wares.

It's hardly a chore heading across the ditch to attend things like the EB Games expo in Sydney, as I did last year, but I've always hoped for a locally produced games expo that had a homegrown feel to it. And with the strong video game development industry we have in New Zealand, I'm hoping Digital Nationz gets the support from the industry it needs to grow and become of one of Australasia's best technology expos. I'm sure it will.

Peter Hall, the man behind Digital Nationz, told me last week that he found it perplexing that no one had attempted a purely video-games-focused expo like this before. Yes, New Zealand has things like Armageddon but video games aren't the focus there: pop culture is.

''As a punter, as someone who loves to go to shows, I've found it really strange," Hall told me. "There are shows out there that cover parts of it [video games] but gaming is mainstream and the fact that it is tacked on to something else as a bit of a niche, which is how it has always been done in New Zealand, has always perplexed me. New Zealand is no different from the rest of the world in terms of gaming and the age of the average gamer, so why aren't we focusing on it? Why isn't there a tech show?''

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Super Meat Boy: Genius or just frustrating?

11:15am 07 Aug 2013

I watched Indie Game the movie again last night.

SuperMeatboyThat's the one that follows the progress of independent games makers Ed McMillen and Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy), Phil Fish (Fez) and Jonathan Blow (Braid) as they struggle as game makers without the backing of huge publishers. If you haven't seen it, track it down: it's a wonderful insight into independent game making.

Now, I love Fez (I've got it on Xbox and on PC, which I'm making my way through now), it's got a wonderful art style and the fact that you can rotate around the game's objects is inspired, but I didn't gel with Fish as a person. I much preferred the story of McMillen and Refenes, who sacrificed just everything to get Super Meat Boy out on time - then faced the crushing disappointment of it not being on the Xbox Live Arcade storefront as promised by Microsoft on launch day. When Super Meat Boy finally appeared on XBLA is sold amazingly well but still ...

So last night, after watching Indie Game the movie, I went back and started playing Super Meat Boy on XBLA (1200 Microsoft points). I'd played it before on PC but gave up because of its addictive yet frustrating game play where I always seemed to mistime jumps and get chomped by those frequent rotating saw blades.

And that's the beauty of Super Meat Boy: it's a game that revels in its addictive yet frustrating game play and I know of people who have just given up on the game altogether because they get so frustrated with it. I understand where they're coming from.

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Monday funday: DLC done right

12:30pm 05 Aug 2013


Sometimes downloadable content for video games seems just a blatant grab for cash by the developer (or publisher) wanting to milk their game franchise a little bit more (horse armour, anyone?) but The Missing Link DLC for Deus Ex Human Revolution,

which I'm playing at the moment after picking up the full game (which included the DLC) in the recent Steam sale, doesn't feel like that.

It feels like a worthwhile add-on to an already good game and provides context to a period that wasn't fleshed out in the main game. And to me that's what story-based DLC should do: add something new to the experience while retaining some of the familiar. As an aside, I don't tend to do new weapon or abilities DLC. I don't see the point myself.

The Missing Link fills in the pieces of what happens when Human Revolution's protagonist, Adam Jensen, after he travels from Heng Sha to Singapore. The DLC opens with Jensen stripped of all his equipment and augmentations - and his first task is to get all his stuff back. What I liked about The Missing Link was that presenting Jensen in this way meant I approached enemies and situations differently from how I had in Human Revolution: starting with no weapons meant I was a forced to be a lot more stealthy, and The Missing Link's environments are such that they allow for a lot of vent crawling and stealthy takedowns.

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A review of sorts: Pro Cycling Manager 2013

03:00pm 01 Aug 2013

I've never been one for sports simulation games.

I know people who are religiously obsessed with the Football Manager series and just adore micromanaging their club and watching how things play out but up until recently, sports sims have never really done it for me.

It's probably all the managing and behind the scenes work that as a manager you have to do that has put me off but recently I've played quite a bit of Pro Cycling Manager Le Tour de France 2013, and it's a strangely flawed but addictive experience.

ProcyclingblogAs many of you will know, I have two passions outside my family: video games and cycling, so I guess playing a game like PCM means I've managed to do both things at the same time. Success.

I watched a lot of the recent Tour de France, regularly staying up till stupid o'clock most nights during the three-week cycling event, watching the stages live online. Pro Cycling Manager puts me in a position where I could replay those stages on my computer and see if I could come up with a different result.

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