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Random thoughts and news in the world of video games.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thoughts on The Art of Video Games exhibit in Toledo

I recently stopped by The Art of Video Games exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, which is currently on display until Sept. 28. The Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition heavily explores how far video games have come as an artistic medium, from 1980's Space Invaders to 2009's Flower.

It's a small exhibit, taking patrons on a brief history through the different eras of video games. Each era is separated into four different genres for each console - Target, Adventure, Action, and Tactics - with one game representing each genre. Prior to its creation, the public was invited to vote on their favorite games to be featured, and I think they mostly got it right. There's a wonderful variety of game's showcased, like Pac-Man (Era 1), The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. 3 (Era 2), Earthworm Jim and SimCity (Era 3), Shenmue and Fallout (Era 4), and Okami and Pikmin 2 (Era 5). At each console stop, patrons can select a genre to watch a short video about the game.

Of course, a video game exhibit needs to have playable games, and five are available to play: Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower. Both kids and adults were having fun here.

However, I wasn't inside it for very long. As a lifelong gamer, I didn't really learn or see anything new, and you'll likely find most of what's on display on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet. Still, it's a fun and colorful exhibit that's set up wonderfully for those who don't follow the video game scene. It was crowded, and the kids were enjoying themselves. I constantly heard the older crowd comment how how "cool" Pitfall graphics were back in the day. For that, the exhibit did its job.

Now that we're in a new generation with Wii U, Xbox One and PS4, the exhibit could be updated in the future to show the likes of these newer games. If this is done, Transistor definitely has to be in it.

For those not wanting to travel to Toledo to see The Art of Video Games, the Flint Institute of Arts will showcase it Oct. 26, 2014 through Jan. 18, 2015. It is located at 1120 E. Kearsley St. in Flint.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Super Smash Bros., Amiibo, Zelda highlight Nintendo Digital Event

Once again, Nintendo opted to do a digital event like at last year's E3. It was much better this time around with some funny Robot Chicken sketches featuring Nintendo characters.

* Miis will be featured prominently in the new Super Smash Bros., with three different attack types: swordsman, brawler and gunner. A wide variety of moves were displayed. Gameplay for the 3DS version was also shown off. A new character, Palutena from the Kid Icarus series, looks very powerful.
* Amiibo is the official name of Nintendo's character figurines. Mario was featured, and other characters like Link and Kirby will be available as well. It's been a long time coming, but I don't think it's too late to join the Skylanders and Disney Infinity party. For Super Smash Bros on the Wii U, the characters can join battles. Other games like Mario Party 10 and the recently released Mario Kart 8 will support them as well. This could be another cash cow for Nintendo.
* Yoshi is getting the Kirby's Epic Yarn treatment in the very charming Yoshi's Woolly World, set for release in 2015. It looks to be a little more challenging and plays like the Yoshi's Island games, minus Baby Mario.
* Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a full-blown Wii U game based on the mini-game from Super Mario 3D World. There were some interesting level designs shown. It should be a fun one to play.
* Bayonetta 2 featured Zelda and Samus costumes. The game will also come with the original Bayonetta, which is awesome. Even more awesome, it will release in October.
* Two Zelda games were shown off. The already-known Hyrule Warriors will have large maps with lots of enemies to dispatch. Zelda, Link, Midna and other characters will be playable. It releases Sept. 26. A brief look at the beautiful open world of a new Zelda was also shown. It promises to be a change from the familiar formula other games in the franchise follow.
* Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, a sequel to Kirby: Canvas Curse, will release in 2015.
* Xenoblade Chronicles will also release in 2015. This sci-fi thriller features exciting mech action.
* Splatoon is a 4v4 online action game where you shoot ink everywhere to claim territory. The team with the most covered wins the match. Turning into squids lets player swim in their ink and move around the map quicker. It was refreshing to see something original.
* Mario Maker is officially real. Levels can be made the NES way or the modern NSMB. It looks like there's plenty of options to choose from, and it should be great for creative minds. It's expected to release in 2015.

Overall, it was a fun digital event, and it looks like Nintendo still has it despite recent struggles selling hardware. We'll be waiting a while for most of these games, but hopefully it'll be worth it.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Long Sony E3 2014 press conference packed with a little bit of everything

Sony covered a lot of bases in their E3 2014 press conference, from games to hardware and services.

* The Destiny beta will release July 17 on the PlayStation first. When the game actually releases on Sept. 9, there will be a white PS4 bundle with the game.
* The Order: 1886 featured a man being chased down by a zombie/werewolf creature and what looked like gameplay. Shots were fired at the creature by the player, but it looked like it didn't really matter in this segment of the game.
* DLC is coming to Infamous: Second Son in August. It's called First Light and no gameplay was shown.
* Entwined is an artsy rhythm game that is now out for the PS4. Could be fun.
* A nice surprise was Little Big Planet 3 featuring new characters like one who can shrink and grow in size while a bird can lift other players up. Multiplayer looks fun here, and the visuals are charming.
* There was more Far Cry 4 -- this time gameplay where we saw the crossbow in action. A vehicle got hijacked and we saw some familiar driving action before going over a cliff and flying with a wingsuit. Another player joined a mission to wreak havoc on everyone, and it was funny to see an elephant take down enemies. Apparently PS4 gamers will be able to invite others to join in on the fun online even if they don't own the game. There's got to be a catch to that since sales numbers are so important these days. Maybe they'll be able to play certain sections.
* Project Beast turned out to be Bloodborne from developer From Software, a gothic title.
* Dead Island 2 got a funny trailer of a runner turning into a zombie, and someone else taking his shoes.
* Magicka 2 is coming, as well as a remastered Grim Fandango for the PS4 and PS Vita.
* Indie titles like Hotline Miami 2 and Titan Souls are coming. They look fun. Abzu is a beautiful looking underwater game from the makers of Journey.
* Let It Die will be a PS4 exclusive Suda 51 game. It will release in 2015.
* The Last of Us Remastered releases July 29 for the PS4.
* No Man's Sky got some major play. The procedurally generated game lets players explore planets seamlessly and features some combat elements. This could be the next big game, or it could turn into another Spore. Hopefully the former happens.
* Mortal Kombat X looks pleasing. Some fight footage was shown with gruesome fatalities.
* The Metal Gear Solid V trailer people already saw yesterday was shown. Could have been huge, but we were already spoiled.
* Batman: Arkham Knight showed off a stunning overworld and driving around with the Batmobile, which can turn into tank mode that allows for strafing. The Scarecrow is a spooky villain.
* The big finale featured a short trailer for Uncharted 4, which looked amazing. A Thief's End will come out next year, and I would suspect the holidays. This could be another gem from Naughty Dog.

Free-to-play games are coming, too, and July 31 marks the start of the PlayStation Now beta for the PS4. Vita titles are in development, which I guess is good if you own the struggling handheld. PlayStation TV is finally coming to America for $99. The VR-related Project Morpheus also got a mention.

Familiar games showcased in Ubisoft E3 2014 press conference

After Microsoft and EA, Ubisoft took the stage to show off some familiar games in their press conference.

* Far Cry 4 kicked things off and gave us a look at the likely villain who loves to kill people who don't take orders correctly. The opening cinematic looked great.
* Just Dance 2015 brought to the stage many dancers who danced a little too good. Using smartphones as the controller is an interesting idea. This should be another hot seller.
* We got another look at Tom Clancy's The Division in a CGI trailer. Yep, still looks amazing.
* Locations from New York, Las Vegas and the Rockies were shown in The Crew, the multiplayer-focused racing game. Teamwork is key here.
* Assassin's Creed Unity again showcased the overworld populated with many, many people. You'll be able to see which online friends are doing a mission as you pass by one.
* The most awkward moment of E3 so far belongs to the Shape Up presentation, a fitness game exclusively for the Xbox One. Piano dancing looks awfully like Dance Dance Revolution, and doing push-ups in rhythm with the game looks very, very tiring. I can't expect it to work perfectly on the Kinect at home like it did during the presentation.
* The most interesting game of the conference was the World War I themed Valiant Hearts: The Great War, even though we had no gameplay to judge it by. Looks like a 2D side-scroller.
* Rainbow Six: Siege showed players breaching through walls and floors in a house to rescue a hostage. This featured more fake online banter you'll never hear in real life.

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Battlefield: Hardline, sports games highlight EA's E3 2014 press conference

After Microsoft, it was EA's turn in the E3 2014 spotlight. Here's a brief summary of what was shown off.

* Early in-game footage from Star Wars: Battlefront was shown. Developers explained how they went to actual locations where the movies were shot. Unfortunately, more information is coming Spring 2015, and that doesn't sound like a release date.
* A musician performed on stage while Dragon Age: Inquisition was shown off. Large, open areas and combat were highlighted. It looks nice.
* Very, very early conceptual prototypes were shown for a new Mass Effect and new IP from BioWare. Sadly, it looks like we won't be seeing these for a while.
* The Sims 4 (people still play these games?) has emotional states to keep track off. Doesn't look too much different from past games, but there was an Obama look-alike that I'm sure angered Republicans.
* Sports titles include EA Sports UFC with Bruce Lee, NHL 15, Madden 15 and Fifa 15. Once you've seen one trailer, you've seen them all. It looks like EA ran out of ideas for the next PGA Tour golf game. There are "extreme fantasy courses" with battleships and explosions to golf through. I guess that's cool?
* Criterion will have a new game featuring cars, wingsuits, ATVs, boats, planes and more. Not much else to say here.
* Dawngate will be another MOBA I don't plan on playing. But if done right, they can rake in the dough.
* Some very early footage of Mirror's Edge 2 was shown. This should be another fun and exciting game.
* Battlefield: Hardline features cops versus crooks with lots of explosions and mayhem. There's helicopters, miniguns, a construction crane falling onto buildings -- all while trying to hold onto some sort of loot. Those who own a copy of Battlefield 4 on PC and PS4 can sign up for beta starting today. The game is scheduled for release Oct. 21.

Overall, a pretty typical EA conference.

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Microsoft's 2014 E3 press conference all about the games

Microsoft needed a rebound after last year's underwhelming E3 press conference and falling behind Sony and the PS4 for next-gen dominance. Their press conference at E3 2014 was solid with the main focus on games.

* No surprise, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare kicked things off with lots of explosions and shooting things. It looks great and should please CoD fans.
* Forza Horizon 2 will launch Sept. 30. Again, the cars look shiny and cool.
* Four-player co-op was shown off in Assassin's Creed: Unity. Players teamed up very well to take out their target, but I expect it won't be so organized when playing with random strangers online.
* Sunset Overdrive was my favorite game shown off. It's a mix of Borderlands, Dead Rising and Tony Hawk, with lots of colors and action.
* Dead Rising 3 is getting DLC with a bunch of Capcom costumes. It's hilariously called Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha Prime. Good luck putting that in a headline.
* Co-op in Fable: Legends was played. Sadly the game still looks boring to me. Was never a Fable fan.
* Conker returns in Project Spark.
* Playdead Studios, creators of the critically acclaimed Limbo, showed off footage of their newest title, Inside. It kind of looks like a Limbo 2
* Rise of the Tomb Raider had a trailer, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt showed Geralt hunting a griffin.
* More gameplay from Tom Clancy's The Division was shown featuring great graphics and scripted online banter.
* Scalebound will be an Xbox One exclusive from Platinum Games and features giant monsters and craziness.
* A new Crackdown game was announced, although it was just a CGI trailer. Phantom Dust had another CGI trailer. Ori and the Blind Forest had a short trailer as well.
* A bunch of indie games were shown in a montage.
* The biggest announcement was Halo related, with the announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection that includes the first four numbered Halo games for the Xbox One. Multiplayer for Halo 2 will remain unchanged from 10 years ago. With the game comes beta access for Halo 5: Guardians.

While there weren't a ton of megaton reveals, I liked the focus on games. One thing I took away from it is the future of the Kinect doesn't look promising. But I don't think anyone is really complaining about that.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Quick thoughts on Mario Kart 8

I've been racing around colorful tracks in Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. Here are some thoughts on the game.

Nintendo went above and beyond to create some of the best tracks in the series. Planes flying around in Sunshine Airport, and a giant lava Bowser lashing at racers in his castle are just a small taste of the experience that'll have you playing them over and over again.

Battle mode is the weakest link of the game. Instead of battle arenas like the ever-popular Block Fort, you're just duking it out on existing tracks. Once the participants dwindle down, it becomes a bore to finish the match.

Check out my full review at

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