Friday, July 31, 2009

Banner Update

The new banner is from some concept art released for the game -- code named -- Epic Mickey. This game and art is from Warren Spector's Junction Point Studios and Disney.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: Halo Wars: Historic Battles - 7.5

Halo Wars: Historic Battles comes with four new multiplayer maps along with individual achievements for each one. The maps range from specific 1 vs. 1 game play up to 3 vs. 3. Each map looks quite different and are set up to make any a good choice to play on. The four maps are Barrens, Blood River, Glacial Ravine and Memorial Basin.

Barrens is the first of the four maps and is probably one of the best. It’s specifically a 1 vs. 1 map and sets you and the opponent on the opposite ends of a winding path. The path causes you to have to keep your troupes tight and close together. This can lead to some very risky business when encountering the opponent. Also, you will encounter small none-player controlled enemies throughout the map that when defeated can be used to create new bases for you. Along with several gunner outposts and a facility for restoring health located directly in the center, this is a great map. Having it designed so well for strict 1 vs. 1 play is great and it comes through quite well.

Memorial Basin is the only 2 vs. 2 map and it is constructed to look almost like a huge letter X with a thick center. Each player starts on a different corner and has access to an addition base location a little farther out. This is a great set up for a four person game due to the layout. Your teammate will be positioned beside you (as opposed to diagonally across from you) so they can help you gain control of one entire half of the map. Separating the teams could have left you weak when being attacked and not having an ally to come to your aid. Though Memorial Basin does work for the 2 vs. 2 style of play, it does feel a little dull since it`s essentially a big open area. It would have been nice to have a bit more corridors and sections around the outer area so that there could have been more strategizing involved.

Blood River is the second 1 vs. 1 map and my personal favourite. It is set up by positioning both you and the opponent on opposite cliffs. You must work your way down them and then across either of the two small bridges before proceeding up the opposing cliff to the enemy. There are also several field generators and resourcing harvesting facilities you can take over to use. Along with the inclusion of an extra base on each side of the bridges, you can get quite an army going before ever having to cross onto the enemy’s side. This map is set up very well for the 1 vs. 1 style of play and is quite a lot of fun.

The last of the maps is the huge, snow covered Glacial Ravine. This is the only 3 vs. 3 map to come in the Historic Battles content. Each team is set up on one side of the map as huge mountain ranges split the field in two. There is only one opening in the very center to use in order to reach the enemy. There are also energy shields you can get a hold of in the center to hold off some of the enemy’s advances. This map can be very fun when having to cram your entire army through the narrow entrance. There are also non-player teams stationed around the map that you can destroy in order to obtain more base locations. Overall the map is great and the mountain ranges really give it some character. It was nice to see this map not just become one giant open area.

The content as a whole feels great and each stage is different enough from the next to lead to some great times. You can really tell the developers but some thought into each one when landscaping each stage. Though there isn’t really anything that stands out about them so buying the content pack isn’t a necessity if you’re looking for something drastically different. Though the maps are new, they still follow the same basic arrangement as the previous stages and offer nothing incredibly special or fresh.

One big downside is that you can’t choose to only play on these maps when doing an online game. Searching for a game will result in a random map being selected depending on which content packs each player has purchased. This means that you will most likely end up playing a stage that came with the disc since there are more of them and less people have bought each piece of downloadable content. This is a shame since you won’t be able to use your content as much as possible. It would have been much nicer to see some sort of option to only search for games that use specific content packs.

The Halo Wars: Historic Battles downloadable content is a good and solid addition to the game. The majority of the maps feel varied and fun. Each one is set up to allow for the strengths and weakness of the game type it was designed for. The only downside to the content is that there is no way to filter out other maps when playing online. This means you must play either private games or local games to ensure you’re playing with some new content. The Halo Wars: Historic Wars map pack is a good deal but can be passed if you’re not a die hard fan of the game.

When it comes to my verdict, it completely depends on how much you like the game and how often you play. If you just come to Halo Wars casually now and then I wouldn’t recommend it. It doesn’t add anything new enough to warrant the purchase. However, if you play the game regularly then this new set of maps is a great buy and you’ll be in for a lot of fun.

Overall: 7.5/10

Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection - 9

The Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection is a downloadable content pack that contains every map pack released and an all new deleted scene from the original campaign. The collection is broken up into five parts: the Flashback, Combustible and Snowblind map packs and the all new Dark Corners map pack along with the Road to Ruins deleted scene.

Each of the map packs can be used for online competitive multiplayer or you can take on Horde mode with a group of up to five people cooperatively. Along with new maps to play on, each piece of content comes with its own set of achievements to work towards.

The Flashback Map Pack is the first of the four pieces of content and features five maps that were originally in the first Gears of War game. The maps have also been updated with new textures and color to change the overall aesthetics quite a bit. For example, the Gridlock map that was quite grey and empty in the first game but now has been tons of vegetation and moss covering the map with much more green color to it. Along with changes such as the Mansion no longer being rained on and Canals being completely covered in snow really make the maps feel more alive and look better.

The second released map pack to be included in the All Fronts Collection is the Combustible Map Pack. This is probably the weakest of the downloadable content since it only comes with three new maps. Each of them is quite different than the others. The Flood map will have you playing on the ruins of a broken bridge as you are surrounded by Imulsion. This once again shows off some great vibrant color that was so rare in the first Gears of War game. The other two maps, Gold Rush and Fuel Station, are more of the fan favorites since the areas aren’t so tight and there’s more places to run around in. A very cool thing about the Fuel Station map is that is has areas specifically designed to use when playing on Horde mode. This is great since the developers are now designing maps more suited towards some of new additions to Gears of War 2.

The Snowblind Map Pack is the third released map pack and is one of the best. It comes with three all new maps and one returning from the original Gears of War. Each is very different from one another. Maps like Underhill will have you playing inside with tons of places to hide, while the Courtyard map – which is huge in size – is filled with wide open spaces and area to run. The greatest thing about these maps is that they all have an area that is secluded enough to be used in Horde mode. The Grindyard map is probably the fan favorite for this since it contains a central tower with tons of vantage points and only one entrance. As stated before, it’s great to see levels being developed not only for some fast paced competitive games but some intense and defense-focused Horde games.

The fourth map pack is Dark Corners and comes with a massive seven stages. Each is very different in layout and presentation. Maps like Allfathers Garden are rich with lush vegetation and vibrant green and blue textures, while Highway is quite red with dirty brown architecture all around. Not only are the maps different but they are all very big. Some feel like mazes with the number of passages and walkways you will be able to use. And though each map is big, some still focus on tight and narrow corridors to fight in. For example, maps like Way Station and War Machine have tons of cover and places to hide. Also, there are several maps that feature great secluded areas perfect for the Horde gameplay mode. One in particular is Nowhere. In here you can choose either the inside of several houses or the on top of the central building. To make things even better – every few minutes you will be hit with a dust storm that lowers your vision significantly. This adds another level to the thought process of how to take on the enemy and makes the map that much more enjoyable to play. A nice feature about this pack’s specific achievements is that they have you play certain waves of Horde on certain maps in comparison to which maps work better on this mode than others. For example, you need to be level 50 and complete all 1-50 waves of Horde on the Nowhere map – which is conveniently the best map for this game type; whereas you only need to be level 8 and complete waves 1-10 on War Machine – a map with no great secluded areas.

The last piece of content you will receive is the Road to Ruins deleted scene from the main campaign. What’s interesting about this is that you get the chance to try out the new stealth mode or play through it normally in guns blazing. The stealth mode has you sneak past each enemy and avoid being detected. However, it comes up as a bit weak. Since no new gameplay elements were really used, it ends up just being you walking by when an enemy turns its back to you. The game does change this a bit by making you create diversions by dropping creates every now and then but you still end up just slowly walking through. It comes off as a bit shallow.

The overall length of the chapter is relatively short as well. It’ll take around 20 minutes to finish it but this does increase if you play through it both ways or try a harder difficulty. The guns blazing mode feels much nicer since it allows you to fight an addition boss during the chapter. It also lasts longer than the stealth side since you must fight off each enemy instead of bypassing them completely.

Overall the deleted scene is a nice addition and when packaged with seven multiplayer maps, the Dark Corners downloadable content is a great deal. Dark Corners can be purchased by itself for 1,200 Microsoft Points but if you missed out on some of the previous map packs you may want to buy the All Fronts Collection. Priced at 1,600 Microsoft Points it’s a steal for getting every bit of content, especially when compared to the individual pricing of each one.

Overall: 9/10

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gamerscore Update: 19/07/09

This week didn't have much in terms of the 360 for me. Most of my time was spent finishing The Conduit and getting my review up. However, I did receive some DLC codes in my email yesterday and have been doing a bit more.

Tales of Vesperia
As my quest to finish this game never seems to end, I did earn a significant amount of points in it this week. Normally I would obtain around five points for two hours of work, however this week 205. I did this by finally beating the second main boss of the game, that alone got me 150 points. Vesperia awards huge achievements for each significant boss you beat. I also got five points for beating this boss and doing the secret mission involved with that battle. Lastly, I got the 50 point achievement for uncovering every piece of the game. This was annoying since the area I was missing was very small and took a great deal of time just staring at the map looking for blank areas. I currently have 23 out of 50 of the achievements - 445 of 1000.

Gears of War 2
I received a download code yesterday for the All Fronts Collection for review purposes. This gave me the Flashback Map Pack (which I already had), the Combustible Map Pack, the Snow Blind Map Pack and the new Dark Corners Map Pack and deleted scene. So as you can see, many achievement possibilities have opened themselves to me. Currently I have gotten eight achievements - 150 points - since downloading the content and have quite a bit more I can get relatively easily. I did all the "play a multiplayer match on each stage" achievement and now need to find some people to go through Horde mode a bunch of times with me. I have 53 out of the 79 possible achievements which translates to 795 out of 1750.

Overall Gamerscore: 40 570

Monday, July 20, 2009

First Impressions: Gears of War 2: Dark Corners

Here is my current thoughts on the Dark Corners pack for Gears of War 2.

  • The stealth mode is a nice addition though it feels odd. Nothing really stealthy about it besides 'don't shoot the bad guys'.
  • Guns blazin' is much more fun and lasts a bit longer. There are also more twists and turns to this track and it fits in with the story better.
  • The length isn't that long but since it's only one section to a mission, it doesn't have to be very long.
  • Not being able to start from the last check point you reached really sucks.
  • 7 different maps is a great number and offers a lot of content.
  • Each map is quite different.
  • The maps are huge which is great.
  • They look great as well. Tons of color in these.

Coming Up: 20/07/09 - 27/07/09

Here's what I'll be posting sometime this week:
  • The Gamerscore update for last week's play.
  • A First Impressions on the Gears of War 2 All Fronts Collection
  • A First Impressions of the Historic Battles DLC for Halo Wars

EA Sports Active Vs. Wii Fit Part 3

Here we are now with the last installment to my comparison article between the Nintendo Wii fitness games: EA Sports Active and Wii Fit. Up till this point I have covered each game separately, describing how the game works overall and noting/listing the aspects I enjoyed the most or thought could use some work. This will be the main comparsion part of this three part article. I will talk about what each game has that works better than the other. I will mention places that each of them fall in comparison to the other game. And I will point out parts of each game that were great ideas and should be in any fitness game.

As I stated before, the best feature about Wii Fit was its accuracy when tracking the movements and positions I was in. And as I mentioned with EA Sports Active, the tracking was off in some places. Now to be fair, there are only a few exercises that had me having to repeat the action in EA Sports Active, but it happened enough to really bug me. What also happened in some cases was that it made me hold the pose longer when working one side of my body and very short on the other. This could be looked at as the game wanting me to strengthen and use my muscles more in that particular leg but when the game never did this to my opposite side. This causes me to think that the game just didn't pick up that I had moved until a few moments later. Wii Fit always tracked me properly. This is most likely because it has a huge piece of hardware to use but even when EA Sports Active used the balance board, it still felt slow. Overall, I give the tracking and precision over to Wii Fit.

Now keeping up with your original exercise and workout plan can be hard. Many people can end up getting bored with their routines very quickly. EA Sports Active does a good job of trying to keep you coming back as much as possible. First, with the inclusion of a calendar system you can see exactly which days you are to be returning and which days you can get off. By not just relying on yourself to return and actually having the game tell you what you'll be doing the next day, returning becomes more of a priority in your life. The best part is probably that the game tells you, at the end of each days workout, what you'll be focusing on tomorrow when you come back. This not only gets you working on different muscle groups in your body, but keeps your routine moving and changing. Not only will this work your full body but it will keep you from becoming bored.

Now with Wii Fit, there is no in place routine system. EA Sports Active sets up specific routines for each day, Wii Fit just lets you pick and choose. This can be bad for several reasons. It allows you to neglect certain muscle groups and you can quit more easily. Since EA Sports Active keeps you in the workout screens and doesn't return to any menu till you're finish, it feels more put together. Wii Fit makes you return to a menu every single time you want move on. This can allow the player to stop working out more easily than if they are constantly moving on to the next workout and seeing how many they have left to do. So overall EA Sports Active is set up in a nicer way and ensures your entire body gets worked with its constantly changing routines. Wii Fit gives the player too much freedom and without enough encouragement and systems in place to keep the users attention, they may just give up.

Now along with the way each game is set up, we can look at the user interfaces. And as this may not be a big deal for someone truly dedicated to working out, someone not being able to navigate the game easily can begin to feel overwhelmed and give up early. For starts, Wii Fit is very simple, the entire game is only exercises and finding an activity to do is quick and easy. Even setting up a profile is fast since most people using it will already have a custom Mii character saved away from before. What's also nice about Wii Fit is that it shows you and tells you exactly which muscle groups you will be working in each exercise. The inclusion of pictures with highlighted areas on the virtual person make it easy to know if you're going to be working your abs, or your thighs. This can help if someone is only trying to strengthen or tone a specific muscle group in their body.

Now the EA Sports Active interface is much more complicated. Since there is so much to this game, there's a lot you need to absorb before you even begin working out. This means that you need to take some time to read and try out every little thing. What's bad about this is that not everyone going into this game wants a whole journal of activity references and surveys to look at. The majority of people purchasing a fitness game just want to do the workout and be done. Also, with no way of telling you how you did at each exercise and giving you an overall score, you never know if you're improving. Wii Fit gives you a score after each workout and even gives you the Wii Fit Age so you know if you're getting more fit. EA Sports Active just wants you to keep working.

So what does EA Sports Active have that Wii Fit doesn't? There are several things that I would recommend any fitness game use and even try to improve on. The first is the calendar system. Telling the user when to be back and what they're doing is great motivation. To add the motivation, EA Sports Active has trophies. These are a great idea that act as mini achievements and I would highly recommend them be used in any game. By rewarding the player for working harder, longer and more often is a great way to keep them coming back. Everyone likes being able to have something to work towards unlocking and I constantly wish there was more trophies. Granted there are quite a bit, the more the merrier as unlocking these is a great feeling. Lastly, EA Sports Active tells you how many calories you are burning. This is good for anyone trying to lose weight as they can determine how much longer and how much harder they need to exercise. And the fact that the calories burned meter is always on screen during your workout just motivates the person that much more.

Now what does Wii Fit have that EA Sports Active doesn't? Well not much actually. As I stated before, it has a lot harder of workouts. The strength training is great and can really work even some of the more physically fit people out there. Also, each exercise will show you exactly where to be applying pressure and how to be standing. Along with this, performing well will give you a higher score and the inclusion of leader boards can be a great motivation when competing with other users of the game. And lastly, the game does a better job of showing you if you're improving. It constantly tells you your weight and body mass index (or BMI) and the Wii Fit Age is a good representation of how physically fit you are.

Now probably the most important thing we need to think about is just how well do these work your body? Let's say you're going into this as a relatively unhealthy person, you don't have much muscle and your stamina is low. For this person, which is the main audience for anything fitness related, I can't recommend Wii Fit. Sure he'll get some exercise with the yoga, aerobics and balance games, but none of those work your muscles that well. The only time you will really be getting some muscle mass is the strength training and it can be hard, especially for a somewhat unfit person. So when it comes to a workout that you can ease into, EA Sports Active wins easily. It has far more cardio workouts and doesn't start hard. However, if you are someone who is normally healthy and at a good fitness level, I wouldn't recommend EA Sports Active. The game's workouts and exercises are just too easy to give any huge muscle building benefit. I would say that you can still lose weight with it and keep your body healthy, but for any real muscle workouts you are going to want to use Wii Fit.

Overall, both games are a good option to go with and it depends on what your fitness goal is exactly. If you're trying to lose weight, build a small amount of muscle and generally keep your body fit - then I recommend EA Sports Active. It feels like a more complete game for the average person trying to lose some weight and burn today's calories. However, the exercises aren't very hard if you're already fit. Someone trying to build some muscle or just keep their body hard and tight would probably benefit from the strength training in Wii Fit. The yoga will also keep you flexible and strengthen some key muscle areas. So when it comes down to it, I can recommend both, it just completely depends on your level of physical fitness before going into these game and what you want to achieve coming out.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

EA Sports Active Vs. Wii Fit Part 2

Continuing my 3 part comparison between EA Sports active and Wii Fit, we now come to my segment completely on:

EA Sports Active

EA Sports Active is a more recently released fitness game - compared to Wii Fit - for the Nintendo Wii. This game tries to act as your own personal - and virtual - fitness trainer by setting up specific workout routines and schedules.

You begin by creating a profile. This involves entering your age, weight and height. You also get to create a character to represent you and to replicate your actions when working out. After creating your profile you can start the 30 Day Challenge. In this you are given a schedule that shows which days you are to return to work and which will be for resting. Each day will be different than the last as the game sets up specific workouts each routine. Some days you will be focusing on your arms, some day will be lower body.

You also get to input your goal that you wish to reach. The goal is broken down into three categories: calories burned, time spent working out, number of workouts complete. For each, you select the amount and in how many days you want to complete it. As you progress through the 30 Day Challenge, your time, workouts and burned calories will be added up towards your goal. You are shown your progress after each daily session.

Exclusive to EA Sports Active is the leg strap and resistance band. The leg strap acts as a pocket for the Wii controller's nunchuck so that the game can monitor your right leg's movement. Along with tracking the wii remote in your right hand, the game can get a general reading of how your body is positioned. The resistance band is just what it sounds like, this will be used for arm and back exercises like bicep curls and tricep rows. The balance board can also be used in this game but it is not required, there are also only a few exercises that work with it.

Along with completing the daily session in the 30 Day Challenge, you can take nutrition and extra physical activity surveys. In the nutrition survey, you must answer a number of questions ranging from how many full fruit/vegetable portions you ate yesterday to how many hours of TV you watched yesterday. The extra activity survey is a list of other possible activities you may have done. This can be things like swimming, running or even household chores. You must enter in how long you did them for and the intensity of the work on a scale of 1-10. The game then marks these down on its calendar so that the "player" can reference back to to see how they are doing.

Doing both the surveys and the daily workout session will add to your daily work out medal. This is a percentage reading that shows how fit you were recently. The higher the percentage - the more fit your daily activities are. The workout session will add 50% to the meter (earning you bronze), while the two surveys and any other workout sessions you partake in will fill the remaining 50% (earning silver and then gold).

Things I Like
  • The idea of a workout schedule is great. Showing the person which days they need to show up and which days they can rest really motivates a person. Also, by mixing the days up and not repeating the same routines over and over, the body gets a good and full workout and the player isn't left bored.
  • Probably the best inclusion to this game are the trophies that you can earn. These are like achievements that will unlock as you workout longer and harder. Some can be as easy as completing your first day or earning a gold fitness medal, while others can take a while, such as burning 10 000 calories or completing a full 30 Day Challenge. Some of the more fun ones are the workout specific ones. For example, having ran 25 laps in all the running in place workouts or doing 100 squats in total. This adds another layer to make the player feel that they should try as hard as they can and workout as often as they can. This was a wonderful idea.
  • The leg strap is a great idea to ensure the user is moving their entire body correctly. It would be very depressing if you went through several workout sessions just to find out you did the majority of them wrong and weren't achieving anything.
  • The option to workout with a friend is good. Bringing another player into the game to workout with you can add motivation and enjoyment. Though there is no way of doing the daily 30 Day Challenge session so if you plan to workout in partners, you will have to return by yourself to do your daily segment.
  • The game shows how long approximately your daily session is going to last and how many calories you will be burning. This is a great idea so people can make sure they set aside enough time to get their full workout. Along with this, the game has a timer in the corner to show how long you've been working out. It also shows how many calories you've currently lost in this one routine and it goes up each time you make a motion in the exercise. Seeing the calories burned number increase was a great idea as it adds a small reward function during the exercises.
  • The inclusion of a settable goal is good and showing it after each exercise routine is great. Allowing the player to see how close their are to their goal is good to make them feel good and want to come back.
  • The vast number of different exercises is great and can really get you moving and sweating. It's very much for cardio so I could definitely see someone losing some weight with this game.
Thing I Don't Like
  • Since the game only works by tracking the controller's movements, it's not the most accurate. There were several times when I found myself having to repeat a step because I either lowered my arm to slowly or the controller wasn't moved quick enough to sense it. This is quite disappointing since it can really throw off a person's rhythm.
  • The resistance band is far too flexible and not strong enough. For most of the exercises that require it, my muscles are hardly being worked because there just isn't enough resistance going against them. It also feels very cheap and there are many times that I'm thinking I could snap this thing any second.
  • Many of exercises that mean to replicate an actual sport (ex: basketball or tennis) just don't end up working me at all. They feel a lot like the balance games from Wii Fit and I'd rather just not do them.
  • The audio trainer that you follow doesn't give enough instructions I find. Instead of being told to do it slower or follow her pace, I'd like there to be some actual tips and more precise information. Though with the way the game tracks movement, knowing exactly what I'm doing wrong might be hard.
  • The majority of the exercises are very easy. I currently have it on the hardest difficulty and always do the full session and, even though I do work a sweat up, my muscle don't feel very sore. There just isn't much in this game for muscle building.
  • The user interface takes some time getting used to. This is mainly because there is just so much packed into this game; finding it all and knowing what to do can be a bit of a challenge.
So there is my generalized look at EA Sports Active. Now that I have talked about both Wii Fit and this game, tomorrow I will write up my comparison article between the two of them. I will mention things about each game that stand out and just work better against the other. I will also end it with my recommendation on which you should purchase.

EA Sports Active Vs. Wii Fit Part 1

EA Sports Active and Wii Fit both say that they aim to make you lose wight and live a healthier life style. After working with both for a good deal of time, I've decided to write up a comparison article on the two games. In this I will be talking about things that I liked, disliked and anything that stood out to me for each game individually. Then I will do my fine comparison on which I would choose and what I believe is the better purchase. Since this will be a somewhat long article I have decided to split it into segments. Today's part will feature:

Wii Fit

Wii Fit is a first party Nintendo game designed for the Nintendo Wii that fully utilizes the balance board add-on peripheral. Along with a simple user interface and several games to play, it can be quite enjoyable.

You start off by selecting your personalized Mii from the Wii's internal memory and begin to fill out your current age and birth day. Then the game sets up several activities that require you to balance and lean in certain ways. After this and once it has weighed you, it will present you with your "wii fit age". This age is the basis on how the game scores you and determines your progress. The lower the age, the better. It basically acts as a representation of how fit you are. Though this can sometimes be off as it scores you only on the body test games you do, which usually rely on balance as opposed to your muscle strength or personal stamina.

The game tracks you as you do each exercise and workout through the balance board. The balance board acts as a common scale but is fitted with many sensors placed throughout it. This way the game can see where you are applying more pressure or leaning. The basis of the game is all about how much pressure and the weight you are applying to the board. For exercisers such as Lunges, you will be shown a meter that relies back how much pressure you are putting on your front foot. By showing these meters and making the "player" aware of how much force they're applying and where, the game can easily tell if you're doing the workout properly.

There are four types of "game play" modes to Wii Fit: Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics and Balance Games. Yoga will have you do many different stretches and hold different positions in order to strengthen your muscles. Strength Training focuses on isolating specific muscle groups in order to work on them. Aerobics involves activities such as running in place and hula-hooping. Lastly, Balance Games will focus on your level of balance how fast you can shift weight from one leg to another in a series of games.

Things I Like
  • The best thing about Wii Fit is how accurate it is when you preform each exercise. Since the balance board is there, you're always getting a one to one reading on the force and weight you're exerting towards the board.
  • Trainer feedback. As you do each one of the Yoga exercises and Strength Training workouts, your virtual trainer (who you chose when starting) will constantly remind you how you should be standing - or lying if the situation arises. Along with regular tips and encouraging statements, the trainer is a great "companion. What I liked most about this is that my trainer would tell me specifically, or close to, exactly what I was doing wrong; whether this be leaning too far forward, or putting too much weight on one particular leg.
  • I also really enjoyed the Strength Training section to the game. This is what I spent most of my time with as I - literally - felt I got the best results while working through it. What I liked so much about it is that the workouts were actually quite hard. Though the game is aimed at a more unfit audience, these workouts could be done by anyone and still feel some pain. And not only do they make you do the workout, but they make you hold them and constantly tell you how to improve and perform better.
  • Wii Fit Credits. After completing each exercise, you will be giving a number of credits. Each credit counts as one minute of working out. The fun part of this is it tracks how many you have and how many you've collected from each game type. From here you can enter your workout graph and see which exercise modes you use the most.
  • The game also gives you a score on each one of your workouts depending on how well you did. You can do well by things like doing every push up on time or keeping your pressure over the correct line in lunges. What makes this so good is that the top 10 scores will be placed on the leader board. From there, any one else who plays the game will also be shown there and you can "compete" with your fellow Wii Fit users. This helps motivate the player and make the game that much more fun.
Things I Don't Like
  • The main focus to Wii Fit is getting out of shape people into shape. Now if you're incredibly weak, it can be very hard to complete some of the Strength Training - even on the lowest number of reps. There are many people out there who can't do six push ups with a side plank in between. The reason this isn't good is by being unable to do many of the workouts, you're missing on of a good chunk of the game. And though there are very easy activities in the Yoga, Aerobics and Balance Games sections, none of them will build as much muscle as Strength Training.
  • Balance Games. I never do these, I tried each of them when I first got the game, but they do nothing for me. The only time I can see this improving anything muscle related in you, is if you're incredibly weak. If squats are very hard for you, you might be able to receive some positive results from these.
  • Not enough cardio. For a game focusing on losing weight, there isn't much cardio workouts in here. The closest thing is the running in place exercises. These can range from 3 minutes all the way to 30. And even though strengthening your muscles from Yoga and the Strength Training will slim you down slightly, cardio workouts are a must for any significant change.
  • No option to set up a whole routine. When you finish each exercise, you will be asked to either quit or try again. Quitting brings you back to the workout menu so if you want to move on then that's the option for you. From there you need to select your next exercise. It would have been nicer to fluently move from one to the next without such a long break.
So that's my general look at Wii Fit. Overall I enjoy it quite a bit, mainly due to the high difficulty to the strength training. Coming up either tonight or in the next day or so, I will have my general look at EA Sports Active. Then the main comparison to follow.

Review: The Conduit - 5

The Conduit is a first-person shooter that utilizes good controls but is riddled with bland and sometimes dull game play. It features a great control scheme by using the Wii’s motion controller in several fun ways but sometimes back fires when put against intense and fast paced sections. And though the controls may feel good for the most part, the majority of the game seems somewhat slow and plan boring.

The game centers around Mr. Ford as he battles invading alien races who wish to destroy Washington, DC and from there, take over the world. As you begin the game, you will be playing a level that is set closer to the end of the game, sort of a preview of what is to come. This does a good job of opening a lot of loose ends and causing questions to begin stirring. After which, you will find yourself set five days previous to the opening stage. From here the story begins to unfold.

You main tool (besides the game’s weapons) is the ASE, a glowing orb used to uncover secrets, hack computers, and communicate with allies. Using it will cause you to holster your weapon so you must choose wisely when it’s safe to put down your firearm. The best part of this object is there are several different kinds of secrets in each level and scanning with the ASE causes them to unlock. You will be able to find hidden doors, floating discs, hidden messages and etc. It will also act as a sensor and alarm when you come close to invisible enemies or landmines.

Finding all hidden objects in one level will unlock achievements for you. The achievements in The Conduit are a great addition to the game, especially since not many Nintendo titles feature these. Some achievements can be unlocked by simply completing a certain stage, while others will require you to rack up a certain number of kills with each weapon. This causes the game’s replay value to increase substantially as you will want to continue to search for hidden objects and use new weapons as much as possible.

The Conduit’s most unique feature when compared to the average first-person shooter is the Wii specific control scheme. Due to the console’s motion sensing capability, players are able to move their guns around as if they were holding them themselves. This works for the majority of the game but can really backfire when put up against some of The Conduit’s more intense and difficult sections. Though the movement for the gun feels nice, it sometimes feels quite slow, for example: when you need to turn around or look to the side quickly. This can become quite frustrating when having to focus on two different directions in more enemy heavy parts. Overall, the controls feel great when facing only a few enemies positioned directly in front of you, but doesn’t hold up for the harder – and far more important – segments.

There are also some controller waving controls to the game. Shaking the Wii remote quickly will have you perform a melee attack, while shaking the nunchuck will cause your character to throw a grenade forward. The grenade throws are probably the most intuitive as the angle you are looking will alter the flight path and distance completely.

The controls will probably feel the worst when playing the game’s online multiplayer. Though this can be helped by the fact that every player will be faulted by these controls, it still can be a bit of an issue. However, the multiplayer is set up nicely, allowing you to choose to play with only friends, only your region’s players or anyone around the world. This was a good option to allow for less lag and loads times if you choose a closer opponent. There are also many different modes to choose from such as the standard death match and capture the flag type modes. Added to this is a ranking system for each player. Every time you finish an online match, you will be awarded experience due to your team and personal outcome in the game. However, the one downside is that there’s no system in place to separate the high ranking players from the low ones. I found myself playing with some very skilled players on my first try to the online multiplayer; being matched with people closer to my skill level would have been much better.

The graphics also aren’t much to look at in The Conduit. The majority of the levels are quite generic and many of the textures are extremely dull to look at. There are even several areas you can see that had no extra textures, like fire marks or broken walls, at all since they weren’t reachable. Looking out the window and seeing bland and dull streets was quite disappointing. However, the enemies are quite nice to look at and though they don’t differ too much from one another, they are well detailed. This is most noticeable when fighting some of the game’s bigger boss creatures.

Along with some dull environment visuals, the games voice acting is terrible. Almost every line spoken sounds like the actors were very uncomfortable when they were recorded. This not only sets the stage up in a dull manor, but any dialogue that occurs through the mission is just a complete let down.

Overall The Conduit comes across as unfinished but this isn’t to say it isn’t a fun game. Some of its parts will feel great to play through and you will feel quite powerful as your character’s suit gets more upgrades and you find new weapons. The number of weapons in the game is great and with the inclusion or weapon specific achievements you will want to try them all out. And though the controls do feel slow and awkward in places, the game makes up for it by not throwing too many difficult moments towards you. The online multiplayer is a good addition to the game but with no proper format to its matchmaking and rank system, it can become tedious and overwhelming when faced against high level players. The Conduit feels like quite the average game, but in a time where great first-person shooters aren’t hard to come by, it doesn’t hold its own.

Overall: 5/10

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Level 5 announces an announcement

I am a huge Level 5 fan. The first Professor Layton game on the DS is my all time favorite for the system and I loved Jeanne D'Arc on the PSP. The gameplay in these games wasn't the only great part either, the art in each was great. In fact, Jeanne D'Arc has one of my all time favorite box arts.

Now Level 5 is announcing an announcement (stay with me) for three new games. They plan to unviel the 3 games at their Level 5 Vision 2009 event. You can see their main website here.

For more news and the names of some titles Level 5 is currently working on, you can check Kotaku's article on this here.

Xbox Live update

So this Monday there will be an update to the Xbox Live service on the Xbox 360. From the list of new additions and features I find myself quite excited. Here are the things I'm looking forward to the most:

Avatar Marketplace
Now I don't expect myself to buy ANYTHING from the store they're setting up but I like the fact that they're doing more with avatars. Hopefully this will lead into more game achievement freebies for our avatars.

User Ratings
I can see this being used by not many of the "casual gamers" out there. I will most likely use it though, this is probably due to my interest in rating games and such.

Xbox LIVE Parties
Even though they aren't changing how they work (and they shouldn't), I like the fact that they're just streamlining them more. I love Xbox Parties and hated how often me or my friends would randomly be dropped out of it so the fact that they're adding an automatic reconnect is great.

Video Display Options - Display Discovery
This is a GREAT idea. As someone who isn't exactly where he should be on TV resolution knowledge, I can relate to the guy who has even less. This will be a great new feature for anyone without the crazy level of knowledge needed for TVs today.

Gold Member Veterans
I always love more options to show off new profile additions. Though the downside is mine will be low since I haven't had my 360 as long as most people.

Achievement Browser & Achievements Tracking
Anything to do with 360 achievements is good with me.

So those are the main features I'm looking forward to, hopefully I can get into the update this Monday.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

EA Sports Active vs. Wii Fit

Today I got hold of a copy of EA Sports Active. For the past few months I've been doing Wii Fit so I'm familiar with workout/exercise games. After a week or so of trying EA Sports Active, I'll most likely write up a comparison article on here between the two of them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Review: Bit. Trip Core - 8

Bit. Trip Core is the second game in the Bit. Trip series and changes the control style completely from the original Bit. Trip Beat. Like the first game, Bit. Trip Core features fast-paced and catchy chip tune music along with an old 8-bit feel to the graphics. It presents itself nicely but like its predecessor Bit. Trip Core comes off as very difficult and doesn’t have enough explanations.

In the first Bit. Trip game you controlled a Pong-like paddle and reflected incoming blocks by tilting the Wii remote. Bit. Trip Core changes this dramatically by now having you work completely with the D-pad and the 2 button (and occasionally the 1 button). The game remains in the music and rhythm genre by having you hitting blocks in time with the beat and in doing so will add more notes to the song playing. You control a red plus-sign-looking object in the center of the screen and when colored blocks fly past you, you must press the button in their direction (if the block is above you – press up) and hit the 2 button when they reach the line you have created. Each time you hit a block it plays a note and thus adds to the background music. Hitting enough of these will cause the music to become more complex and that much nicer.

This brings forward the biggest downfall to the game: the difficulty. The controls are easy to get used to, but the game has no form of tutorials so you’re left figuring things out for yourself. This causes the learning curve to become quite high. And with the level of difficulty the game can ramp up to, more explanations would have been a good idea. Though, once you do master the controls and begin to understand what all the meters mean, you will have a great time. It’s just a matter of struggling through your first few plays of the game as you face the difficult challenges while learning how to play.

Though the game does offer two player co-op for each of the three levels (and once again, it doesn’t ever explain this or even hint at it). In this you will both control the center plus-sign-object so that you can send out more lines and hit more blocks as they are shot around you. This does a great job of causing the game’s high difficulty to be a bit less of a challenge and can be quite a fun mode with your friend. The inclusion of a second player makes those crazy screen filling patterns much easier as you can now break down the sequence for two players. However, it would have been nice to see some sort of competitive mode added in this. Seeing how many more blocks and points I earn compared to my partner would have been nice.

The music in Bit. Trip Core is probably its biggest feature. Each of the three levels has their own unique song and the better you play – the greater the music. Playing poorly will cause the music to revert back to its original, basic tune; while playing well will add new tracks to the song and make it much more complex. Bit. Trip Core also keeps the black and white failing sections in it. These are parts where if you begin to miss too many blocks the screen loses its color and you’re left with a black background and white blocks to hit. At this point the music no longer plays and the only audio will come from your controller each time you hit a block. This adds another layer to the audio in the game as the Wii remote’s built in speaker is used in a great way.

The next best feature to the game is the style of graphics used to showcase it. As opposed to highly detailed areas and realistic filters that are seen in a lot of today’s video games Bit. Trip Core has a classic 8-bit look to it. Everything is made out of blocks (or “bits”) of solid and bright colors. The only complex display of images to be found in the game are the images playing in the background. Even then, upon a closer inspection, you will notice that they’ve just combined many blocks together to make a more detailed picture and to keep a retro feel to the game. The better you play, the more colors will be added to your screen. What was once a black background with a few images here and there will now be a screen flashing a rainbow of colors as new and more complex patterns of blocks are shot around.

The length of the game is also something of a double-edge sword. It only has three levels to it and thus – only three songs to play. It also has no support for online leader boards, which is quite odd considering the game is all about achieving new high scores. On the other hand, each song will last around fifteen minutes and the amount of diversity to each level’s block patterns is nice. This along with the ability to play with a friend can add a good level of replay value.

Overall Bit. Trip Core is a great successor to the Bit. Trip franchise and differs enough from the previous installment to warrant a purchase. Along with the lower price point and the choice for two player co-op, the game becomes that much more enjoyable. And though you may have to tackle a steep learning curve, once you’re accustomed to it, it becomes fun and easy. Bit. Trip Core is a great looking and sounding game and can be a fun way to kill fifteen minutes.

Overall 8/10

Monday, July 6, 2009

First Impressions: Bit. Trip Core

This is the sequel to the WiiWare game Bit. Trip Beat. It involves 8-bit graphics along with catchy rhythmic chip tune music. It is a Rhythm game on the WiiWare downloadable service and goes for 600 points.
  • As with the first game, the music is great.
  • It is hard as hell! Exponentially harder than Beat - and if you played Beat, you know that's a big deal.
  • Once again it does a bad job of telling you how to play.
  • I love how it's 2 player co-op, but the game never mentions that; I had to find out online.
  • The inclusion of a "BOMB" option is nice if you find yourself at a incredibly hard part.
  • Once again I like how the screen turns black and white and only your Wii remote makes noise when you're about to lose.
  • Boss endings are back and they're as great as always.
  • Enjoyable little animations are back.
So that's my general look so far at Bit. Trip Core. Expect a review soon.

Later tonight...or this week

I plan to play some more Gears of War 2 this week in preparation for the All Fronts pack coming out in about three weeks. The Conduit showed up in my mail box today. And last but not least, Bit. Trip Core is now out!

This may be a good time to throw up a video. As crappy as the idea of filming my TV monitor sounds, maybe I'll try that, who knows. If I do film something, it'll probably be The Conduit or Bit. Trip Core.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tip for 3 Army of Two achievements

For anyone who has Army of Two or plans to play it in the future on the 360, here's a tip for getting the 3 money based achievements.

Whenever you buy something that relates to an achievement, buy them all at once and when the achievement unlocks turn your system off. This way you will have the achievement and your money back.

This works for the two achievements: Say Hello to my Little Friends and Man of Many Masks. By doing this, you can buy everything you need and then turn the machine off so that your money is intact as you work towards If I Were a Rich Man.

Gamerscore Update: 05/07/09

My weekly gamerscore update is now returning from a long hiatus. In these I will talk about the latest games I've been getting some Xbox 360 Achievement Points in. Though I haven't done one of these in a while, I still only plan to talk about the previous week (in other words: I won't be recapping everything since my last update).

The picture I'll have at the top of each of these posts will be from the game I either enjoyed the most of collected the most points from.

This week will be reletively short since I was away for most of it and have only gotten about two days worth of play time in. Expect a much longer post next time.

One thing I would like to note is that I finally broke the 40k mark!

Army of Two
I have achieved 20 of the 47 achievements in this game so far which has gotten me 500 out of the total 1250 points in the game. In no means will I even attempt getting the 100% on this game. This is partially due to the requirement of buying some DLC but mainly because this game isn't really that fun. With that said, playing through it was a pain and I put far too much time into this game for what I got back. I beat it last night (I guess technically it was this morning) and now I plan to repeat the first two minutes of mission five another twelve times so I can easily obtain $1 000 000. Once I'm done, I will have the last achievement that I am playing for and I will be done.

Fable 2
I have gotten 41 of the 66 possible achievements which translates to 850 out of 1350 points. All of these are from the main quest and side missions found in the main game. However, I recently bought Knothole Island when it went on sale this week and that is why I have returned to this game.

My first impressions of the island is that I will be done it pretty quickly. I spent about an hour to two o with it and I already have two out of three of the main missions done. I'm assuming there is more to do afterwards since this DLC pack usually retains for 800 MS points. We shall see.

I'm not sure if I will be going for all three of the possible Knothole Island achievements; I am going for the main one for sure. So there will be a definite increase of 50 points for me. I might try for the book collecting as well, haven't quite decided.

Scene It? Box Office Smash!
I only put this in yesterday to play when I had some company over and luckily I got 40 points from it. I now have 31 out of 58 of the achievements - 560 out of 1250 of the points.

That was all for this weekend. Coming soon I plan to, as always, continue on the everlasting quest that is Tales of Vesperia. I also will finally claw my way through Bioshock. And if I enjoy Knothole Island, I may pick up the See the Future pack.

Overall Gamerscore: 40 065