Monday, January 28, 2008

Phantom Hourglass One Day... Phantom Menace The Next

It's official... The Phantom Menace is a really dull film. Actually, just because I say so doesn't make it officially dull. There have been way more qualified film critics before me who have declared it such.

What brings this on? Well, I've been going through the Star Wars films with my 3 year old daughter over the last few weeks. She loves the original Star Wars with Luke, Leia and Han (back when Luke and Leia were in love in a romantic way, not a creepy uncle-dad/aunty-mom sort of way).

She sat through Empire Strikes back and was entranced by Han being frozen. She even tolerated the boring set up of Return of the Jedi on Tattooine that seemed to last an eternity and ends with Boba Fett being done in by Han Solo in a piss-weak manner. Being accidentally knocked into a Sarlacc pit by a blind space pilot is second only to dying by accidentally falling over in the shower and being impaled on a jumbo size bottle of shampoo. On second thoughts that would might have been a more noble way for Boba Fett to exit the series...

Anyway, watching the Star Wars films every week or two unfettered by the Rose Colored Glasses of my youth it became painfully obvious that I was right. Star Wars is awesome, Empire is great, Return of the Jedi is kind of boring and The Phantom Menace is a snooze-fest. All this talk of trade routes and taxes and blah-blah-blah and the wooden acting and the over explanation of everything - it's just wrong. Not to mention all the fan service with the Hutts and Threepio and the introduction of Artoo - it feels like it was made by a bunch of fans with access to ILM and name actors.

Another thing that struck me about The Phantom Menace was how new everything looked. I watched the making of documentaries on the re-release of the original trilogy and everyone from Peter Jackson to Ridley Scott rave on about how the "used universe" inspired them. They seemed to have forgotten that concept in the new series - it's as if the Star Wars universe was created 40 years before the first films. Or rendered digitally on a blue screen.

Well, I'll stop ranting now. I'm only adding to the already billions of hours wasted by internet geeks on this topic. Next week we'll be tackling Attack of the Clones. From memory I enjoyed that one. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass

Well, I'm in the final stages of the new DS Zelda game and am having a blast.

Before picking it up I'd read online that it had taken a casual approach to the series. Yeah right! Maybe for the first hour or two, but after that this baby has some serious hardcore puzzles. I'm not ashamed to admit this, but GameFAQs has been a popular site with me while playing this game.

And let's not forget The Temple of the Ocean King... a dungeon you have to do over and over again, each time it gets tougher and a little more repetitive. The second last time through I had to use a walkthrough to save every second I had (it's a timed dungeon - so if you make a mistake, then you might as well start over again). I couldn't imagine a casual player surviving the Temple and continuing with game without a play through.

But apart from the occasional shelf moment (thank heavens for GameFAQs) - the game is great. I love the stylus controls, the story is fun, the graphics are beautiful, the enemies aren't too hard and the game makes good use of the microphone and clamshell design in delivering unique experiences.

My recommendation: go out and buy Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass then download a playthrough from GameFAQs. You'll need it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Phoenix Wright: Apollo Justice

The new Phoenix Wright game has a Flash demo available. This is a great way to play the game to see if it's wright for you (pun intended!) before plonking down cash for a Nintendo DS cart.

Check it out:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sony's Neat Idea

Sony Australia has an offer going at the moment where you get a "free" PS3 if you buy a HD Bravia LCD TV set. Now, I've been holding out on getting a PS3* because:
  1. At AUD $699 the thing is waaaaay to expensive for the average consumer,
  2. There haven't been any games that I've had to play on the system, and
  3. I have a standard def set and I'd have to upgrade to really appreciate the "power of the PS3".
Well, I got sucked in with this offer and will soon be the owner of a brand new 1080p TV and a PS3. And I'm not the only one. Each store we went to said they've sold out and Sony had to extend the offer from January to March.

It's strange, the PS3 just doesn't shift units because (I'm assuming) people think it's too expensive. But throw it in for "free" with a hi-def set that costs a few thousand bucks and suddenly it's a bargain! Funny how things work. I wonder if they'll do a similar deal in the US?

As for reason 2 - why I didn't get a PS3 sooner (ie. the games), there are now a bunch that I'd like to play - Uncharted, Ratchet, Burnout Paradise (not an exclusive, I know, but the PS3 has the best version). And Little Big Planet looks like fun.

I'll let you know what I think when I get everything set up.

In other news, Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame has joined Hothead Games where he is working on his new title - DeathSpank - an episodic game described as "Monkey Island meets Diablo".

Good stuff Ron, glad to see you back in the game!

* I've been holding out on getting an Xbox360 for a number of reasons too, mainly:
  1. A huuuuge amount of people I know who bought 360s have had them break. In all my years playing games I've never experienced a dud console - and I don't want to now.
  2. Not convinced by the lineup of games - they seem to be focused on the hardcore shooter market and their family friendly games just keep missing the mark - they're a poor second to the Wii's lineup and the Sony brands like SingStar, Buzz, EyeToy, etc.
  3. You have to pay extra for hi-def playback and wifi? My freakin' DS comes with wifi built in! What's up with that????

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Game Development Bling

A really cool moment in game development is when you get your first piece of bling used to promote your game.

I'm talking about the stuff that is given away to retailers and journalists to get them excited about an upcoming title.

While doing some cleaning at home I found some Amazon Queen promotion pieces. These are from around 1995 and were used to promote the game in the UK.

Amazon Queen die-cast plane model

To hold a physical version of an idea that you've created digitally is awesome. Much more exciting than a T-Shirt (although those are cool too).

The next piece is quite interesting, it's a Zippo lighter. This is a real sign of the times - the publishers we worked with were heavy smokers back then so they pushed for this (I know one of them has quit since then) plus a lot of the journalists at that time were smokers too. I'd be surprised if something like this was made today.

Amazon Queen Zippo ligher (front)

Amazon Queen Zippo lighter (back)

The back of the lighter features artwork from the amazing Pete Mullins. He did the poster and cover box art for the game and has worked with me on some casual games stuff.

I'll see if I can dig up some more stuff and post it later.