November 2005

Tricked out Xbox 360

November 30, 2005

I am sure a few people caught [url=]this[/url] on [url=]Joystiq[/url] yesterday, but that is one cool looking 360.

For those of you with 360s I would recommend checking it out as it discusses hooking up additional storage space via USB. Very handy indeed.

Podcast will be late

November 29, 2005

Crap I forgot to mention our podcast will be up later this week. My main man Pretz is currently moving, and you know how that is. Expect it here in the next few days, and of course a Lifestyles the week after. Holla!

Metroid Prime Pinball

November 28, 2005

Pinball is something that most of our parents grew up with, and probably very few of us have had the pleasure of playing a truly great pinball game. My closest interaction to pinball in recent years has been purchasing the backlit film to a [i]Super Mario Brothers[/i] pinball game off eBay. The game of pinball is an ingeniously simple yet addicting one. Throw in one of Nintendo’s most successful and loved franchises, and you are sure to have a winner on your hands.

Fans of the [i]Metroid franchise[/i] are undoubtedly aware of their heroine’s ability to turn into a Morph Ball. This unique ability was a perfect fit for the [i]Metroid[/i] franchise to make the jump to pinball. [i]Metroid Prime Pinball[/i] has a few different game modes: multi-mission, single mission, and multiplayer. Multi-mission is where the bulk of gameplay occurs. It allows you to choose from two starting tables and then gradually transition to additional tables. These additional tables are then unlocked in the single-mission gameplay. Multiplayer is a mere score competition between up to eight people and requires only one gamecard, which is a nice feature.

[i]Metroid Prime Pinball[/i] really excels in its [i]Metroid[/i] theme. The music, visuals, and even special effects are spot on for the franchise. Enemies from the [i]Metroid[/i] games also rear their ugly faces. Throughout the tables, you will be able to activate short minigames that bring Samus out of Morph Ball form and pit you against a bevy of nasty enemies. Lucky for you, Samus is packing a gun. Completion of these ‘mini-modes’ results in lots of points to boost your score. Things like force field and multi-ball also show up to aid your pursuit of an ever-growing high score.

Boss fights also appear on various tables. These boss fights typically result in you hitting the ball into the boss to defeat them. Your Morph Ball also packs a life meter, so be careful.

[i]Metroid Prime Pinball[/i] sports a number of different methods to control the various flippers. You can use the shoulder buttons, Left and Right, or Left and A. My favorite was the Left and A combination. You can also use the touch screen to bump the table. Since [i]Metroid Prime Pinball[/i] makes use of both screens on the DS, there can be a slight adjustment to make when keeping track of the ball’s position as it travels between the two screens. This should be a relatively quick adjustment for most people.

A neat bonus included with [i]Metroid Prime Pinball[/i] is the rumble pak. The rumble pak looks like a black GBA cartridge and fits into the GBA slot of the DS. It gives a nice amount of force feedback when the ball hits bumpers. It adds to the realism of the pinball experience. If you don’t want to play with vibration, you can remove the pak or disable it in the game options.

[i]Metroid Prime Pinball[/i] is an extremely fun game that really could have benefited from additional tables. The game is addictive enough that even the limited number of tables will keep you coming back for more. [i]Metroid Prime Pinball[/i] is definitely a must-own game for any DS owner, and even more so for [i]Metroid[/i] fans.

The concept of an adult male over the age of 21 that has a child attempting to play [i]Dance Dance Revolution[/i] anywhere other than the comfort of his own living room is a terrifying thought for me. This is probably the reason that I have never played a [i]DDR[/i] game prior to this weekend. On Friday, [i]DDR: Mario Mix[/i] arrived at my doorstep, and a little part of me was excited. [i]DDR[/i] has been a craze in the gaming world since it first debuted in the arcades. Very high-priced pads soon made their way into homes around the globe. My home was noticeably devoid of any such device and still is since I wouldn’t consider the Nintendo pad ‘high priced’ but rather durable and rugged.

The day after Thanksgiving is normally a day for leftovers and football, but this year that all changed when we spent far too much time bouncing around the living room on a [i]DDR[/i] pad. [i]DDR: Mario Mix[/i] is the latest game to get the [i]Mario[/i] treatment, but how does it hold up? Having never played a [i]DDR[/i] game puts me at a slight disadvantage here because I can’t draw a comparison between prior versions of the game or even the quality of the pad. On the other hand, it may give a fresh perspective from a [i]DDR[/i] rookie.

The first thing I thought when I unpacked the box was ‘Power Pad.’ The Power Pad is the NES accessory made popular by the [i]Track and Field[/i] games from way back when. The Nintendo [i]DDR[/i] Pad has a non-slip surface on the underside to keep it from moving during intense sessions. Its layout is identical to a standard [i]DDR[/i] pad with A and B buttons in the upper corners. Start and Z find their places near the top of the mat. The surface of the mat is a thick plastic with diagonal ridges. It gets slightly damp if your feet sweat during gameplay or if your son happens to toss some scrambled eggs under your feet. Either way, it is easily cleaned with a wet cloth. Just make sure you dry it off before proceeding. It is advisable to only play barefoot as the use of socks will surely cause slippage. With this being the case, you may want to score some antibacterial wipes to clean the pad between gamers.

The actual game features a storyline and also the ability to free-play any of the tracks. In the story mode, Waluigi has stolen the magical Music Keys. These keys maintain rhythm in the Kingdom and must be reclaimed. You will dance your way through five short worlds with many familiar Nintendo-based songs, as well as remixed versions of classical pieces. In addition to dancing, you will find yourself enduring extensive obstacles such as ice spikes and koopa troopas. Penalties are assessed to your momentum meter if you step on the ice spikes, and koopa troopas require two hits to dispose of them. The Boss fights in [i]Mario Mix[/i] were cleverly designed and typically directly engage you with the boss by stomping items back and forth.

[i]DDR: MM[/i] has a few difficulty levels available to play ranging from normal to super-hard. I have been told that super-hard is the equivalent to a standard [i]DDR[/i] game, so [i]DDR[/i] vets will probably find themselves bored with the difficulty options. Each higher level is playable after unlocking the previous difficulty.

Like many [i]Mario[/i] games, [i]MM[/i] sports a series of minigames. You will encounter these minigames during the story mode and will be able to play them at your leisure upon completion.

[i]DDR: MM[/i] is, without a doubt, a beginner’s [i]DDR[/i] game. It sports some features that may attract veteran [i]DDR[/i] players, but I doubt it will ultimately appeal to that crowd. [i]DDR: Mario Mix[/i] is for the casual ‘dancer’ looking to have some fun here and there, alone or with a few friends. Since I happen to fit that description, I have really enjoyed [i]MM[/i]. Since I doubt anyone will be renting out [i]DDR:MM[/i], you should find a friend with a copy, or you could always take a chance on this one if you think you might be into [i]DDR[/i]. Just don’t blame me if this is your gateway into a plethora of [i]DDR[/i] games.

Call of Duty 2

November 28, 2005

[floatleft][/floatleft][i]Call of Duty 2[/i] is one of the few launch titles for the Xbox 360 that I was looking forward to. Besides the sports titles, there are only a handful of games that are actually out right now on the 360. There are a couple of other big-name titles out, such as [i]Quake 4[/i] and [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i], but I decided to pick up [i]COD 2[/i].

The ‘realistic war’ genre has really blossomed in the past couple of years, and Activison’s [i]Call of Duty[/i] series has really done well. It started back on the PC and now this is the second time around on the consoles. The main point of the game is to defeat the Nazi’s throughout all of World War II. You play as several different characters along the way, including Russians, Brits, and Americans. Playing as different people in different lands breaks up the monotony of playing in the same location and allows the developers to change up the scenery, which is always nice.

[floatright][/floatright]The game itself is very fast paced with non-stop action. There really isn’t a slowdown at all. When you get thrown into a mission, it is a non-stop firefight from beginning to end. There was never a point when I stopped and wondered what I should be doing. All the missions are clear, and they give you a compass which allows you to always keep track of your objectives.

There are a lot of things I really like about the way this game is set up. There are plenty of different guns throughout the story which keeps it interesting, and there is never a real short supply of ammo. Your character has the ability to jump, crouch, crawl, and get in and out of many different environments. This may seem elementary, but there have been plenty of games out there that lack these basic concepts. The controls are standard for a first-person shooter, so you should have no problem adapting to this game. There is no health bar, which I really like. It is kind of like [i]Halo[/i] to the extent that your health regenerates when you’re not getting shot. It makes the game really worry-free and allows you to play without feeling tied down, worrying about health kits and what not.

[floatleft][/floatleft]There are, however, a few drawbacks that I really don’t like. When you aim a gun, it really doesn’t ‘feel’ right, which makes it a little tough to pick people off from a distance. Second, it seems that the game is made for the running-around firefight, which can get kind of hectic-especially since the characters look really similar and you sometimes end up shooting your own guys and walking right past the enemies. Also, the main menu setup is a little silly too and really doesn’t make sense.

[i]COD 2[/i] has an Xbox Live feature that I have yet to check out. They have slayer, team slayer, and CTF. The online experience will definitely make me keep this game and not trade it in once I beat it. Overall, I have really enjoyed playing [i]Call of Duty 2[/i]. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed game to pick up for the new Xbox 360, I definitely suggest [i]COD 2[/i]. The graphics and computer AI are great, and there are enough missions to really keep your attention. I’m glad that I decided to pick up this game as my first 360 game.