Vita Sunday Brunch

Lots of random stuff, most centered around Gamescom 2012 news and announcements, so let’s get started straight away …

PSOne Compatibility in Sight
Finally! The long awaited feature to play PSOne games on our Vita is almost launched. No idea what took so long, but hopefully Sony pulls this off without a hitch.

Why play 15+ year old games on the Vita? Why not – there are a ton of classics just waiting to be found and enjoyed. As part of the launch, it would be nice if Sony features some sort of PSN PSOne sale to coincide with the firmware update, and certainly throwing in a couple of classics as part of the PS+ update would be appreciated.

Vita Gets PS+
Speaking of PS+, the Vita finally gets some love.

We will also deliver PlayStation Plus, which is currently available for PS3 users, to PS Vita users this year. By purchasing a membership to PlayStation Plus, PS Vita users will be able to enjoy various services which will become available exclusively for members.

I really expected Sony to push PS+ as part of E3, but they waited until Gamescon to final admit they have a wonderful system that needs some TLC. Depending on how they position PS+ for the Vita (hopefully not just the “services” part), Sony should have a compelling offering on their hands. Even if Sony only provides occasional PSOne, PSP, and minis (OK, I don’t really care about the Minis), PS+ on the Vita should be well received.

If nothing else, precious memory card space could be freed up by transferring occasionally played game saves to the Cloud Game Save service.

I love the stylistic look of Tearaway; fantastic looking game.

Hopefully this one progresses nicely, and the Vita’s features do not get in the way of the fun or come across as mere gimmicks.

Gravity Rush DLC Articles
I’m not very far into Gravity Rush, but at some point I intend to pick up the Maid Pack and Special Forces Pack DLC. One of these days. At any rate, I thought the reviewer did a good job of providing some decent commentary on the merits of the DLC.

COD: Black Ops Declassified
I’m not a fan of military shooters so I don’t intend to pick up COD: Black Ops Declassified. According to EDGE, it looks to be a train-wreck, while the official’ish Sony Blog makes it sound spectacular. Unless the release is delayed, I see this one falling flat and living COD fans disappointed; not the system seller Sony needs to push the Vita.

Ragnarok Odyssey Gets Delayed
Technically it’s not a delay if a release date was never set for August 21, which was the case at the time of my original pre-order. Amazon now estimated an October 19 arrival date, which may or may not be “official” but certainly this could be too close to the November 20 P4G release.

Ragnarok Odyssey has been on my radar for a while; starved JRPG fans get sort of desperate that way.

Speaking Of JRPGs
Ys Celceta: Sea of Trees [There is no way that title doesn’t get changed in the localization process; assuming the game makes it to NA.] continues to look impressive, but P4G is the real prize and now you can get a preorder bonus. I don’t really care for the skin, but I’m sure some Persona nuts will get all teary eyed over for this one.

Vita Should Go Digital Only?
I don’t think so, but this article from Game Insider makes a case for revamping the Vita to include physical memory, digital only gaming (even though the PSP Go was a miserable failure), and removing 3G support. I disagree with these points, but physical memory is an issue. The article is well written and worth a read.

Cross Buy
Sony looks to be pushing Cross Buy with games like Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault.

Not only will the game feature cross-play and cross-save, but it’s also part of a super-cool promotional offer where anyone who purchases Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault for PS3 via PlayStation Network will be able to download the PS Vita version of the game from PSN at no additional cost and vice versa.

No complaints from this gamer. This approach can only help the Vita. It should be interesting to see if any Third Party partners offer something similar; doubtful, but worth watching.

Happy Sunday!


WipEout 2048 – Vita DLC Packs

A couple of weeks ago I picked up WipEout 2048 (Vita) after passing on the latest iteration of WipEout during the February Vita launch. It’s not as if I don’t like WipEout – the series has an awesome pedigree which originated on the PSOne (I still own the first two releases).

More recently, I played WipEout Pure extensively on my PSP; after trying several different flavors of portable racing, Pure ended up being my racing game in my PSP library and remains in my collection today.

With all that said, I had no intentions of picking up WipEout 2048. I figured that I already had too many games in my Vita library, albeit none of which were racing games. Then something crazy and unexpected happened. Sony provided some Cross Play action that pushed me over the edge.

Almost two years ago (June 28, 2010), initial PS+ subscribers were treated with WipEout HD (PS3) as part of their day one PS+ subscription. A year or so later, I picked up full digital ownership of the game as part of Sony’s “Welcome Back” package. WipEout HD + Fury DLC to be more precise.

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t spent more than 10 minutes with the WipEout HD. I just have too many other gaming distractions. So what happened?

As I said, Cross Play arrived.

To make this deal even sweeter, we’ve got a special promotion that will let you experience WipEout’s exhilarating crossplay action on both PS3 and PS Vita. For those of you who already own WipEout HD or WipEout HD Fury on your PS3, you can automatically download the PS Vita versions for free! And the same works vice-versa as well: Anyone who purchases these new WipEout HD expansion packs from PlayStation Store on their PS Vita can download the packs for free on their PS3.

I decided to pick up WipEout 2048 because it was discounted, and because of the added value of getting WipEout HD + Fury DLCs for “free” – Sony really needs to push this sort of Cross Play connectivity across more titles.

WipEout 2048 is great on the Vita; I’ve played a couple of rounds of online multiplayer, which was OK – no lag or the like. I have also finished up the 2048 single player campaign mode, although I haven’t earned Elite passes in everything. WipEout 2048 has a ton of replay value, and when you add in the bonus HD + Fury DLC, I can see 2048 carrying my Vita racing needs forward for a long time to come.


The Long Delayed Road To Nowhere

It’s been a while since my last update, which is kind of similar to my free time for gaming. While often limited, my random gaming sessions have been all over the place. The theme of this post has to be ‘backlog’ – as in I could not purchase a game for the next couple of years and still have something new to experience.

With that said, let’s jump into a whirlwind tour of random gaming bliss …

The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest
I picked this one up a month ago, once the price fell below $20. I just started in the last couple of days. It is pretty much what I expected – LotR, with poorly implemented Move support (i.e. probably a Wii Remote straight port), but very family friendly.

So far I am enjoying it, but probably only because I am a huge LotR geek.

Days of Thunder: NASCAR
This morning I picked up Days of Thunder, along with Star Trek DAC, and Top Gun via a 50% off PS+ sale. While I have not played the other two games in this Paramount bundle, $7.50 looks like a steal of a deal for all three games. If nothing else, Days of Thunder is shaping up to be easily worth ~$2.50. Yes, it is arcade racing, and only loosely based on the movie with the same name, but so far my boys (along with day) are having a blast playing this one.

The game feature rubber band racing to the extreme, but that is OK, when the experience is still fun. I was shocked once I made it to the ‘Sprint’ circuit – Daytona became total hell on wheels, but in a fun way.

Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest
I cannot exactly put my finger on the reason, but I am very much looking forward to Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest, which is due a few days (November 15 to be exact) shy of Thanksgiving. What’s not to like? Family friendly, Move compatible, and based on lessons learned from Sports Champions.

PixelJunk Shooter
Let’s put this one in the looking forward to category, which will just add further to my backlog, but with a PS+ 20% off discount, who can complain?

Some people reckon PixelJunk games are a little tough, and well… yes, they are a little because I think games should be a challenge. However, what we’ve done this time is scattered loads of checkpoints so even if you do die, you’ll restart really close, and we also give you the option to downgrade your difficulty setting if you get a Game Over too. We’ve created 4 difficulty levels so everyone is catered for (I hope!).

For an old man gamer, I am giddy over frequent checkpoints and multiple difficulty levels for a shoot-em-up. Not to digress too much, but the October PS+ offering has been butt-nut crazy.

While Afrika may not be the greatest ‘game’ around, it holds a special place in my heart. First, I love the experience. It is different, and I sometimes blow my wad over games that are a little off the beaten path. Of course it is hard to call Afrika a ‘game’ … at least not a proper game. Second, Afrika was my first Platinum. Your first is always special, and all that jazz. At any rate, this article was a fond remembrance of picture grabbing animals and insects in my romp through Africa.

When I first read about the GT5 2.0 update, I started longing for the game again, and when the F1 Championship winning Sebastian Vettel Red Bull was on offer a couple of weeks ago, I (briefly) jumped back in for the first time in a while.

Getting the $1 million credits was a nice bonus. I made the Bronze in-game trophy without too much difficulty, but didn’t spend much time trying to place higher. I now have some much needed money to burn, which should help me push forward in the game without having to stop for a short term grind.

I will be picking up the upcoming DLC, but I am far from maximizing the current DLC free version (that backlog thing again).

We are confirming that the Gran Turismo 5 DLC update will be available to download on 10/25. We apologize for the delay in the content however as a gift to our eager fans we are offering free bonus content. For those who purchase the “Complete Pack” by November 7, we will throw in a unique GT Academy dynamic theme as well the Honda NSX GT500 Stealth Model. Just to be clear, both the dynamic theme and the car are free with purchase of the Complete Pack. Again we are sorry for the delay and hope that fans will enjoy all of the fantastic new content to come for GT5.

It is not like I have ants in my pants or anything, so I am happy to wait another week and pick up a couple of free throw-ins by Sony for putting up the DLC one week later than originally planned.

Ico – The No Update, Update
I haven’t started on Ico collection; same song and dance. Never enough hours in the day. I guess my appetite for gaming is bigger than the time I have to appreciate the games.


Used Games and Heavy Rain

For years game developers and publishers have been trying to come up with a way to gimp the second-hand gaming market. PlayStation LifeStyle has an interesting article where the Quantic Dream’s CEO (Heavy Rain) asserts that the used game market cost the developer over a million units in missed royalties.

This is all according to Quantic Dream CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière, who said that, by judging PS3 trophy stats, they can see that a million people who didn’t pay, played the game.

From a pure black and white perspective, that is true. You could also assert that in general gamers didn’t appreciate the game even with all the critical acclaim Heavy Rain received with the majority of mega sites. Look at the Metacritic score and you will find the user rating is significantly less than the critic rating: 6.7 (1300+ user ratings) to 87 (100+ critic reviews).

I could guess what happened next, but it would be just a guess. While I did buy the game on release day, I may not have without all the pre-hype buzz that showed Heavy Rain as a potentially different experience, which as I have written many times, draws me into a game. I want new and different experiences.

For many gamers, and I put myself in this category, it all comes down to value – if I am on the fence, I will wait until a price drop. If I don’t think a game is worth the full original MSRP (usually $49-60 depending on the publisher, with some Move games starting at $39 and Greatest Hits titles clocking in at $29.99), I wait until the inevitable price drop.

I will disclose that I never by second-hand games for currently support consoles. This is a personal preference, and it also has to do with my software development background. Like I said, personal choice, but I also wait for sales, price drops, etc.

PSN Pass – Embrace The Trend
EA and now Sony (PSN Pass) are now offering one-off use codes for online play. I believe this trend will be adopted by more and more publishers as a way to curb second-hand sales.

One possible side effect may be the return (or at least the demand for) better single player experiences. This console generation has certainly seen the rise of online gameplay focus, which is fine if you have a ton of gaming buddies, join clans (or whatever the cool kids call clubs these days), or do not mind playing against random opponents. Color me different. I am an older gamer and really do not enjoy random gaming jaunts and the vast majority of my friends gave up on gaming long ago to concentrate on family and career aspects of their life. Yes, growing old sucks on a lot of different levels, but I refuse to grow up and I am starting to digress.

At any rate, embrace for more and more one-off included codes for special content, including online play, some of which may be required to complete a game.


Did I just do that?

Did I really just preorder Madden 12 Hall of Fame Edition with free guaranteed release day arrival? Yep; amazon must love me.

I tried to convince myself that I would skip Madden this year. I swore that I could not play NCAA Football and Madden titles in the same year; time has moved on … too old for dual football games, not enough hours in the day, and all that jazz.

I guess I was just fooling myself …

The nice thing about the pre-order special is that $20 credit, which makes this Hall of Fame Edition a $10 MSRP premium over the standard version. Please amazon offered up the following bonus:

… receive the Amazon exclusive All Rookies Team and All Sophomores Team.

[… coupled with the Hall of Fame bonuses …]

Madden Ultimate Team – Receive the most prestigious Platinum Pack yet, featuring a combination of 13 NFL Hall of Famers and former Madden NFL cover athletes. All cards feature ratings from each player’s most productive season in the NFL.

I loved the concept of Ultimate Team in Madden 10, but did not touch it in Madden 11 because I was worried about wasting too much money on virtual packs of cards, and I did not think there was any possible way for me to keep up with all the school age and college kids. To be fair, I did not really check out Madden 11 Ultimate Team to see if it had any substantial improvements over Madden 11.

It looks like I will be checking out Ultimate Team in Madden 12; if nothing else, my day one packs should be on par with all the kids that invest money straight away on special packs and cards, and have time to burn flipping decks.

EA Sports Season Ticket
Of course the next question you may be asking, is this dumb bloke going to do the needful and pony up $24.99 for EA Sports Season Ticket service?

Right now the answer is no. There was once a time and a place, where I would have done so, but I think that moment has passed me by.

Then again, before the days of amazon, I would shell out an extra $9.99 (or whatever) for release day arrival, and as mentioned above, I did pay premium for the Hall of Fame version of Madden 12. So I have shown signs of hopelessness before.

I don’t normally pay for extra sports DLC, so it would take a lot of spending to make up for that $25, even at a 20% discount rate. In fact, I did not pay for any DLC in Madden 10 (other than maybe $5-7 on Ultimate Team Packs) or Madden 11.

I think the introduction of EA Sports Season Ticket also implies to me that Sony’s PS+ service will be offering fewer EA Sports DLC discounts. How many monthly services can one subscribe to and receive a modest ROI?


Mel B Kicked My Ass (Well, Sort Of …)

Several months ago, on a whim, I picked up Get Fit With Mel B. After all, why not use my PS3 + Move + enjoy Scary Spice doing her level best to get me fit? Like I said, it was an impulse purchase, and the game set on a shelf until I realized that I picked up 5 unwelcome pounds during the miserably hot summer months when I only run once a week at best.

I gave up reviewing games a long time ago, so it is fair play for me to say up front that I have only completed day three with the lovely Mel B. What follows are some random thoughts for your reading amusement, and to give you a decent idea of what Mel B may have to offer.

Let’s be honest; Get Fit With Mel B (Get Fit; or sometimes Mel B as strikes my fancy) is very much geared towards the female audience. Just do a google blog search to see where I am coming from. Besides, what self-respecting guy (much less gamer) is going to get all sweaty with Mel B? Bottom line for any female readers that happen upon this article; I’ll try to refrain from talking about Mel B’s spectacular ta tas and overall great looking body, while at the same time you have to appreciate that I know diddlysquat about aerobics.

Thanks to those unwanted pounds, and because curiosity got the better of me, I finally got brave and fired up Get Fit. You just knew I would sniff the dandelions at some point, right? In the end, I always do.

Get Fit prompts you to enter some basic info – weight, height, DOB, along with your body type (skinny, not as skinny, and overweight). My wife said the not as skinny option was perfect for me, thank you very much, although I think she mistook it for buff, broad shoulders, and overall hunk; not just a little bit chubby around the midsection. Did I ever tell you my wife is too kind?

Next up, Get Fit presents you with a selection of background locations for your workout preference; if Get Fit sells at a decent clip, I could see more backgrounds being added in future DLC packs. I picked a nice yacht club background; beautiful water … picturesque for my viewing pleasure.

Mel B also offers a dietary plan of sorts; at least you can look at a daily menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and deserts, complete with recipes and preparations instructions. To this end you are given the opportunity to enter some items you don’t eat. I started to put in lamb; I love lamb, but it is not as if I can find any around here … just not a common staple.

Next up you get to pick an overall diet goal – weight loss, detox (i.e. junk food; I thought it meant no more drinking, which would suck), lower cholesterol, and finally healthy heart.

While all the selections make sense, and are good ideas for healthy living, the reality for me is that I am not going to follow the actual diet instructions. My wife is a great cook and while she may get some ideas from the various selections presented to get you healthy, I doubt she would ever be constrained by the 150 or so recipes (yet another DLC opportunity). In the end I picked weight loss, although if I stick with Get Fit beyond August, I may switch at some point just to see if I am right about these being more diet focused.

After selecting your overall goal, you are prompted to select one or two goal categories. I believe these goals will ultimately drive the types of exercise presented during each workout. You get to select from general health, lifestyle, special occasions, sports and activities, and shape. While I did not play around with all the options to see if this applied for each goal category, shape had several amusing subcategories – pecs, butt, shoulder, belly, upper body, lower body & core, and just Plain Jane looking good. If you decide to pick two goal categories, you can also setup the percentage to dedicate to each one.

Mel B will also allow you to make use of certain exercise equipment: aerobic step, fit ball, resistance band, wrist weights, and ankle weights. Since I don’t have any of these devices, I am not sure if I am missing out on any interesting fitness routines. I could see me getting an aerobic step, although I have plenty of steps on my front porch that I make use of after runs. I have never been into weights. Resistance band? No idea. I thought fit balls were used to break your back …

I decided to go with weight loss, general health and shape (belly focus), opting for a 50/50 split between general health and the dreaded belly fat.

Get Fit is nice enough to allow you to go with a pre-assigned workout routine, allow you to customize your own program, and you can pick the amount of time you wish to work out. You can also practice any of the exercises and there are tutorials where Mel B gives you the run down on exactly how to perform an exercise.

Day 1
30 minutes of torture. I have a whole new respect for aerobics; no coordination. So much for enjoying Mel B’s ta tas.

Good Lord; I’m out of shape … haven’t run in a couple of weeks, but I haven’t done aerobics since a junior high school physical education class. Let me be honest and admit that I was really dying at the 20 minute mark, but thankfully I finally hit the cool down exercises without hurting myself.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get to do any sit ups (I thought we were going to fix my belly fat), and I did not really enjoy waving around a Move controller. Interesting enough, Mel B never held a Move, so I am not sure what that is about.

While I was huffing and puffing at the end of my 30 minutes, when prompted, I was ashamed to tell Mel B that the advance cardio workout was too hard, so I went with just right. Probably; Mel B just kicked my ass.

For my efforts I did pick up five Trophies. I am afraid to really look and see what is required to platinum the one. Dance aerobics? Probably not going to happen. Back in “real” life Mel B informed me that I burned 196 calories, which just shows you how much good food sucks – Trophies for burning off a chocolate bar, a pizza and Christmas dinner.

Day 2
I decided to go with a 25 minute workout. For whatever reason, Mel B decided to throw some dance aerobics at me. If I thought I was wasted on regular aerobics, the dancing was a little over the top.

My wife unmercifully made fun of me, which was well deserved. I can’t dance; give me some sit-ups, pushups, park running … anything but clunky uncoordinated fumbling around on the screen dancing.

During the workouts, Mel B would encourage me to let me know I am doing the exercise correctly, or offer up some advice – twist your hips, lift your legs higher, follow the beat, not so fast, take it easy, etc. At some point I am going to have to experiment to see if this is Move related, or just camera tracking technology. Either way, I thought it was pretty cool (a tad repetitive) that Get Fit picks up your mistakes and tells you what needs to happen in order to nail the exercises.

By the end of the workout, I burned 130+ calories, and picked up another three or four Trophies. This “game” is a Trophy whore’s best friend or worst nightmare; really depends on your desire to exercise while earning virtual goodies.

The overall workout was OK at best; worked up a decent sweat, but I also know that I didn’t perform the exercises (dances) correctly. In the end I felt dissatisfied and a little silly, so I told Mel B that the workout was too easy. I then decided to go for a quick run around the park to help me burn off the rest of my energy.

Day 3
This time I went back to a 30 minute workout. Mel B kicked my ass ten ways to Sunday with her fitness routine. 204 calories, three more Trophies, and spaghetti arms (I’m push-up’ed out).

For some reason the camera or Move had trouble counting some of my sit up variations; will probably have to experiment with camera and move placement later.

Day 4 and Beyond
My short term goal is to make a sold week of working out with Mel B using the default (suggested) exercise routines. If I can make it into week two, I will probably play around some with custom workouts so I can pick things I actually enjoy; I will probably cry every time Mel B makes me dance.

The question is will I stick with Mel B? Really depends. If burning an additional 130-200 calories a day helps me lose weight, I am all for it despite looking perfectly silly in the process.


Welcome Back Choices

Today is the last day to claim any “welcome back” games. When Sony’s package went live in early June, I picked up the free PS3 theme and LittleBigPlanet (LBP) for the PSP. I still have not made my other PSP selection; will probably settle on ModNation Racers as Pursuit Force and Killzone Liberation are not my typical fare for PSP gaming.

From a PS3 standpoint, I already purchased the PSN titles Dead Nation and Super Stardust HD. I also own LBP (although the Game of the Year Edition), and inFAMOUS. While I do not technically “own” Wipeout HD, I do have it available to my library as part of the initial PS+ offering. I also took advantage of a PS+ discount last September to pick up the Fury DLC for $7.99, which also renders this option as semi-worthless.

In other words, my PS3 choices are rather limited. I decided on Wipeout HD just because I would now “own” the game; not that I am planning on letting my PS+ subscription expire anytime soon.

I also decided on inFAMOUS; was there really any other choice? inFAMOUS was packed in with my PS3 Slim that I purchased around this time last year as a replacement to my original PS3 60GB system. Would you believe that I never actually played inFAMOUS, much less opened the game? I know; I suck. Figured I would get to it at some point down the road as I work my way through my backlog of games.

By going with inFAMOUS, I figure I can at least flip my copy for a few bucks on eBay or via some sort of trade in down the road, although the value has to be pennies on the dollar due to the game being offered in the “welcome back” package.

Yesterday I attempted to add inFAMOUS as my second game, however it was not offered as an available “welcome back” choice. After a lot of pain and suffering (i.e. research), I realized that because I never deleted and never played the free trial I received last year as part of PS+, I needed to download the trail again, play it, and let it expire.

That is a hell of a lot of work to try to get some value from the “welcome back” package. It fact it was way more work than I anticipated. For some reason the game took impossibly long to download; maybe hordes of other gamers were also making last minute “welcome back” selections.

At any rate, the download completed and installed just before midnight last night. I played it for about 30 minutes before crashing for the night. When I checked the available “welcome back” options this morning, there sat inFAMOUS. So happy days; I am currently downloading the full game now.

I know I should not look a gift horse in the mouth …

[July 4th Update:] If you failed to collect your free “welcome back” games, Sony has extended the offer: “The Welcome Back offer has been extended until 9am Pacific on Tuesday, July 5th. If you haven’t had a chance to download the offerings, please do so before then.”

If you have not already done so, now is the time to do the needful.


PSN Return Imminent

Sony has announced that all PSN services will be fully restored by the end of this week. Of course it would have been nice to see the services, including the store, fully functional before the three-day Memorial Day weekend, but I digress.

Once the PSN Store returns, Sony will offer a ‘welcome back’ package. While this is a nice concession on the part of Sony, it kind of sucks for me that I already own the PS3 games on offer:

All PlayStation Network customers can select two PS3 games from the following list. The games will be available for 30 days shortly after PlayStation Store is restored and can be kept forever.
*Dead Nation [day one purchase]
*inFAMOUS [own, but have never played; yes, I suck]
*LittleBigPlanet [own the Game of the Year Edition]
*Super Stardust HD [long time ago purchase for me]
*Wipeout HD + Fury [via PlayStation Plus (PS+) service, so technically I don’t “own” this one]

My PSP situation is much better, as I do not own any of the games being offered:

For PSP owners, you will be eligible to download two PSP games from the following list. The games will be available for 30 days shortly after PlayStation Store is restored and can be kept forever.
*LittleBigPlanet (PSP)
*ModNation Racers
*Pursuit Force
*Killzone Liberation

Of course it will suck if you have to download these straight away, because I will have to pick up another memory card. Hopefully this will work like other PSN items; ‘purchase’ and download later.

Other ‘welcome back’ items of note:

A selection of “On Us” rental movie titles will be available to PlayStation Network customers over one weekend, where Video Service is available. Those titles will be announced soon.

I have never ‘rented’ a movie from the PSN store. I think Sony should offer a couple of vouchers vs. limiting this offer to one specific weekend.

Existing PlayStation Plus subscribers will receive an additional 60 days of free subscription.

This is a good deal. For my money, PS+ has been a good value; Sony should offer time lost plus an addition month.

To welcome users Home, PlayStation Home will be offering 100 free virtual items. Additional free content will be released soon, including the next addition to the Home Mansion personal space, and Ooblag’s Alien Casino, an exclusive game.

I am not really a big Home user or fan; I guess I do not have enough ‘virtual’ friends, and at my age, many of my friends and colleagues do not game. I know, I need to run in different circles. I will have fun letting my kids help me decide which free items to consume for my avatar, home space, etc.


LittleBigPlanet – Love is in the air.

I am not sure how I previously missed out on all the LittleBigPlanet fun, but stranger things have happened. I remember when the game was announced; the build-up until release was really exciting. Somewhere along the way I decided that I had better things to do, and I figured I would get sucked into the create mode way more than necessary.

So LittleBigPlanet passed me by. Circumstances dictated that my PS3 would die a painful death last summer, although my successfully YLoD repair project is an entirely different story that has already been documented for your viewing pleasure.

When I replaced my original 60GB PS3 “Fat” with a new (and debatable not so improved) PS3 “Slim” model, the bundle I purchased allowed for two Greatest Hits titles. One of the titles I selected was the LittleBigPlanet Game of the Year Edition.

And, for everyone looking for a great value, the GOTY edition includes 7 packs from the PlayStation Store. These packs feature tons of costumes, stickers, objects, [18] new levels and the “Paintinator” to amplify the fun you’ll have. Once more, these are on the disc FREE (that’s nearly a $30 value)

Content Packs include:
Metal Gear Solid Level Pack – featuring the “Paintinator” paintball gun
Metal Gear Solid Costumes
Monsters Costumes
Monsters Pack
History Costumes
History Pack
Animals Costumes

The game sat unopened in my PS3 box for the better part of 6+ months, before I finally decided to give it a go and see what the fuss was all about. That and on a whim I decided to preorder the Little Big Planet 2 Collector’s Edition; yes, it is a sickness.

So here I am to profess (or is that confess) my love for all things LittleBigPlanet. While I have yet to really tackle the create mode in either version of the game, I can say that I really love the ingenuity offered up by the LittleBigPlanet fan base.

While this is almost random and irrelevant to my newfound love for LittleBigPlanet, I will close out with a quick link to an article from the Examiner that outlines some of the details from the various LittleBigPlanet 2 DLC costume packs.

Those who purchased the collector’s edition of LittleBigPlanet 2 received all of the pre-order DLC costumes mentioned above in addition to the exclusive Jak, Daxter and The Great Gonzo (from The Muppets) outfits. As expected, the 11 costumes voucher code ended up being the most demanded of the bunch with the bids topping at $31.00.

I think it is interesting to see what “virtual” items are worth, or at least the perceived value of said items. If you consider that the standard edition of the game is $59.99, the LBP2 Collector’s Edition was a great deal: Sackboy + bookends + DLC.


Midweek Gaming Update

No sign of F1 2010 from Amazon, which currently shows the game as out of stock. While my copy has not shipped, Amazon shows an estimated arrival date of September 24; I preordered back on July 10. As much as Amazon gets it right with release day shipping, and their super cheap Prime service, when they get it wrong, they really screw the pooch. I find this sort of service unacceptable …

I have not written too much about Sony’s PlayStation Plus service, but I have been reasonably happy with the games I have gotten for free – WipEout HD and Critter Crunch have received a lot of play time. The discounts have been nice, especially on Magic Orbz, with free DLC. This month is the first time the free PSN game on offer was something already in my library – Zen Pinball, which in my opinion is worth the $9.99 price of admission, so of course making it “free” to Plus subscribers is a nice deal.

The main issues with Plus, in no particular order, have been lack of communication from the Plus team, an every changing list of what Plus subscribers will (or should) receive with each update, and a lack of follow through on the original commitment. The last one is a real kick in the nuts. Plus subscribers were told (although not exactly promised) that they would receive monthly releases of PSN and PSOne titles, avatars, dynamic themes, and an assortment of other fun stuff including discounts. And oh BTW Plus subscribers were promised an opportunity to get in limited early access beta demos.

You can imagine the outrage from the Plus community as Sony has moved from weekly releases to twice a month releases, few if any dynamic themes, a PSN orPSOne title, and officially confirming that getting beta invites are not exactly a guarantee for Plus subscribers.

At this point I am taking a wait and see approach.

Move: HVB
Speaking of Plus, subscribers received an early Move patch for HVB. I gave it a quick try last night and was not exactly impressed. I am not sure if I was just dog tired after a long day, or if the controls are just not intuitive. To be fair, I did not play around with it too much last night, so maybe the new control setup just did not “click” for me, but my initial HVB Move impressions is that Move support was certainly not as intuitive as some of the Sports Champions titles.

Move: Heavy Rain
I think Heavy Rain is due to receive it’s Move patch today. I have been waiting to start over (save file did not transfer from my original PS3 to my PS3 Slim). Hopefully the added Move support adds an extra immersive element to the overall game experience.


I Moved. Initial Move Impressions.

All my Move paraphernalia arrived safely from Amazon yesterday. Move Starter Bundle (Move Controller, PlayStation Eye Camera, Sports Champions, and Demo Disk), Move Navigation Controller, extra Move Controller, and Move Charging Station. The immediate ask for a while will be if the $209 Move expense was worth the price. Obviously it is way too soon to tell; we’ll touch on this more as we head into the “Holiday Buying Season” (i.e. secular replacement of Christmas).

After opening all the sorted bits and parts (I hate those plastic blister wrap containers), I setup the PlayStation Eye on top of the Sony Bravia. The USB cable is not very long; probably 5-6 feet, which is barely enough to go from the front of the PS3 Slim, wrap around towards the back of the entertainment cabinet, and then up the back of the TV before reaching the top of the Bravia. Little to no slack may send the PlayStation Eye crashing down if I forget to unplug the PlayStation Eye before moving the Slim.

I was befuddled trying to get my PS3 Slim to recognize my two new Move controllers. My boys watched patiently; probably waiting to see if daddy was going to expand their vocabulary.

For this gamer, the end result was on display; not being able to setup the Move without a quick sneak peek at the Move Controller instruction manual shows that my better gaming days may be behind me. That really sucks; no more mad gaming skillz.

Of course this morning over coffee (and bitching about the Devil returning to GA – see previous post) I realized that the Move Starter Bundle contained a Move Quick Start guide. For those that are not inclined to guess where this story takes us, you have to connect the Move Controller to the PS3 via a USB cable to “pair” the Move Controller to the PS3.

In a move (no pun intended) to control costs, Sony went from four USB ports in the original PS3 models to two USB ports on the current production Slim models. This could quickly become an issue. I normally keep a USB cable plugged in for Dual Shock charging, and the other USB port is used by my external HDD for backups and other media. Now that the PlayStation Eye takes up a slot, I will have three devices vying for two USB ports. Planning ahead was the primary reason I decided to pick up the AC powered Move Charging Station; need more cowbell.

So before we even get started on the games, the PlayStation Eye Camera cable has little room for maneuvering, the PS3 Slim is limited by two USB ports, you have to remember to “pair” your Move Controllers to your PS3 via a USB cable, and just to kick you in the nuts, Sony does not include a USB cable. Thanks for that.

Disc Golf
My boys and I quickly jumped into a free play round of Disc Golf. For some strange reason, if you are playing with four players, you have to share a single Move Controller. I would have expected that Player 1 and 2 could use one Move Controller, while Player 3 and 4 used the other. Or some other combination; no such luck. Everyone quickly got the hang of things, but my three year-old son needed a lot of help getting the timing down for the release of the trigger button.

First impressions? Wii with HD graphics, which may not be a horrible thing to some gamers. This is not really fair comparison, and I am really just going in that direction because many gamers will dismiss the Move as nothing more than a pretty version of casual Wii gaming. At first glance I think the Move Controller is way more precise than a Wii controller. You can control the angle that you hold the disc, the angle that you release the disc, and ultimately the speed and power of the disk.

We only played the first six holes, which contained an assorted array of hazards such as water, trees, and boulders. Attempting to curve your disc around an obstacle is pretty much just like real life frisbee throwing. I hope that Sony offers some DLC courses, because my only concern with the Disc Golf is that everyone will quickly bore of the same course.

I think Disc Golf has the possibility of reinvigorating real life Disc Golf. One of our local parks just got a small course setup. After last night’s Sports Champions Disc Golf session, my two oldest boys were asking to go play a round of real life Disc Golf.

Gladiator Dual
Jumped into a quick Gladiator game. It looks like this one will/may excel with two Move Controllers, which means you have to pony up some serious coin for solid two player action ($99 Start Bundle + $150 for an additional three Move Controllers). Using two Move Controllers allows you to use a weapon with one hand while the second Move Controller allows you full control over your off-hand shield. Single player mode (at least on the easy Bronze level is remarkable straightforward).

Table Tennis
Jumped into a quick solo game of Table Tennis. I struggled with this one. Goes back to my lost skillz I guess.

I spent a good amount of time with the various Archery modes. I think this one really demands two Move Controllers to get full enjoyment out of the game. One hand (Move Controller) holds the bow, while your other hand via the second Move Controller reaches over your shoulder to grab and arrow, notch it, pull back, and of course release the arrow. There are plenty of videos to get a better idea of the play mechanics.

Archery was good clean fun. I was able to quickly grab, notch, and fire arrows. Aiming was fairly straight forward, but I still need to work on my pull to get consistent power. An Archery mode or similar hunting expansion pack would be a blast; Cabela’s North American Adventures 2011 demands Move support.

Demo Disk
I have not looked at the Demo Disk; I focused on Sports Champions last night. In fact, I actually forgot that a Demo Disk was supposed to be included in the Move Starter Bundle. I remember it this morning and had to dig the disk out of the box. It is my understanding that all the demos have to be installed on the PS3 HDD, which is a head scratcher. For those of you that already have an Eye Toy, and just picked up a Move Controller, I believe that all the demos are going to be made available on PSN.

Quick Summary
Move setup is easy as long as you are not an old fart without a clue.

The Move Controller calibration process is simple; three quick actions and button presses (shoulder, side, and belt). I could play games sitting down or standing up. Precision seems very well implemented.

Sports Champions looks pretty with several different games that showed immediate gameplay potential (really enjoyed Disc Golf and Archery). I did not try Volley Ball or Bocce, and I did not give Table Tennis a fair go. It was getting late, so I will have to come back to these today.


God of War: Ghost of Sparta – Ultimate Exclusive DLC Pack

I cannot think of the last time I actually pre-ordered a PSP game. In fact, except for pre-ordering my original PSP system, complete with some bundled games, I do not think I have ever pre-ordered a PSP game. I probably have, and am either getting too old to remember, or maybe just embarrassed to carry the shame and stigma that goes with pre-ordering PSP games. Seriously; who pre-orders PSP games? I mean it is not like there has ever been a run on PSP games, which would inspire anyone in the future to have some sort of crazy-assed dire need to get a PSP game on pre-order “just in case” there are not enough copies to go around.

Harsh? Probably, and I am really trying to have some fun and games this beautiful (and hot as hell) Sunday morning by poking fun at yours truly. I have written several times over the summer heat wave that thanks to picking up the right PSP games, I am actually getting some quality time, use, and value from my original brick.

The reality is that a pre-order everything I actually want. Why not, if I know I am going to get the game anyway? These days pre-order of “special” games usually come with some sort of incentive such as coupons for future game purchases, DLC, and special collectable items. For the most part I go for coupons; cash and saving money is king. Next up is DLC. I typically do not care that much for the special collectable items; I squirrel them away for future eBay fodder.

I decided to pre-order God of War: Ghost of Sparta from Amazon for $36.99. I was surprised not to see that Amazon was not currently offering release day shipping; I expect that to change in the future. I went with my Prime second-day shipping because I do not have to get Ghost of Sparta on release day. Thanks to the pre-order I get the ultimate exclusive DLC pack:

  • Ghost of Sparta Original Soundtrack – Be part of the legacy, and relive the emotional soundscape of defiance and rage through the original soundtrack
  • PSP® Theme – Are you the ultimate God of War fan? Prove it with the God of War® Ghost of Sparta theme
  • PS3™ Dynamic Theme – Fully animated in constant motion, personalize your ps3™ system with the official God of War® dynamic theme
  • PlayStation® Network Avatar – Be one of the few to own the exclusive Kratos Avatar only available through this pre-order
  • Legionnaire Skin – Discover the origins of the Spartan warrior as you experience God of War® Ghost of Sparta as Legionnaire Kratos
  • Exclusive Creative Directors Documentary – A full length featured piece with all the past and present Creative Directors of the God of War franchise in front of a live studio audience.


Exactly how exclusive is this DLC when everyone that pre-orders will have a new Kratos PSN avatar? All of the DLC is nice, but I wish it included a few extra in-game bonuses.

I am almost finished with God of War: Chains of Olympus; currently at The Temple of Persephone, which apparently is last area in the game. [Watch this; I am about to contradict myself. I just looked at an FAQ prior to my Ghost of Sparta pre-order because I wanted to see what percent of Chains of Olympus I had completed.]

Hint guides, cheat guides, walkthroughs, or whatever you want to call them can be covered another day. I typically avoid them, but in the case of something like Chains of Olympus, I will uses one the second time around just to make sure I do not miss anything. Chains of Olympus is the rare game that is worth a second play-through. It is that that good and has been a thoroughly enjoyably gaming experience. Longtime readers know I do not describe games as an experience very lightly; Chains of Olympus gets my highest recommendation.

I’ll put this in further context. I am now a huge God of War fan. I just pre-order Ghost of Sparta, I plan to get the PS3 God of War Collection, and I will also tackle God of War III. Yes, I am hooked on Kratos and his story.

Happy Sunday!


Plus Update – Free Games, Odds and Nuts

As we enter the second month of the Plus service I thought now would be a good time to provide a quick update. Am I sold on the service? Is it worth the $50 (annual subscription) price tag? Is there value to be found in a Plus subscription?

Today I am only going to tackle the free games. So from that perspective, as far as the price goes, as an initial subscriber, thanks to the additional three “free” bonus months, Plus only set me back $3.33. For a rental service that is not too much of a concern, which is of course one way to look at things. Another point of view is that I spent $50 straight up on a rental service that offers some free odds and ends and random discounts to go with the free games.

The first two months offered two “free” games: WipEout HD (87 – 52 critic reviews; 8.1 based on 71 votes) and Critter Crunch (87; 22 critic reviews; earning a spectacular 9.7 based on 11 dedicated, caring gamers).

Lucky for me that I did not own either game. If I did, I would probably not be very happy right now. This has to be a significant concern for heavy PSN spenders. Heck, even casual PSN spenders run the risk of having the monthly free game end up being something they have previously purchased. This is really the price you pay for having no idea what free games are going to be on offer; you are taking a gamble that more often than not, you will not own the monthly free download. This is where Sony could change things up a bit by offering an alternative free month of any PSN game you damn well please, but the alternative “rental” only lasts a month. I am not sure what sort of reaction this type of switch up would invoke, but I would be happy to have an option if I already owned the monthly free game.

I have always been a casual fan of the WipEout series, so while it is nice to get a quality game for free, I doubt it will be huge entertainment sink for me. Critter Crunch has been a welcome surprise; this is one of the better puzzle games I have played in a while!

While Magic Orbz (66 – 13 critic reviews, although the masses rate the game a solid 8.4 based on 11 votes) was not offered as a free download, I took a flyer on this one because Plus subscribers were offered two of the expansion packs for free, and the base game was offered at a discounted price. While Magic Orbz is far from a classic, it is an interesting diversion and a nice take on breakout.

I have not bothered with the free minis; I did download them to my PSP to give them a go on my next road trip. Same for the two free PSOne Classics. Rally Cross was OK back in the day, but I seriously doubt that it can hold up. The controls were always a little bit f’up on the PlayStation, so I cannot imagine that they work worth a darn on the PSP. If I remember correctly, Syphon Filter had a cult following, so maybe this one will be decent once I can be bothered to give it a few minutes.

If I take the $3.33 per month view, I am satisfied with the initial Plus offerings, although I am still reluctant to recommend the service.  Plus I like getting a variety of games each month; sort of fulfills my gaming ADD.  Certainly the $50 I applied to my Plus subscription could have been spent on a new PS3 game, which at some point could be traded in for another game or parlayed into cash to be used towards another purchase. This of course is the advantage of physical ownership of a game.


Digital Content, Summer Sales, and Plus

I thought this was a brilliant article from TheSixthAxis on spending money on PSN digital content. Brilliant as in the article is a good jumping off point that would provide some conversational value. Seriously? This guy has spent a boat load of money on digital content. I am nowhere near £700 (~ $1150) in total purchases; good grief that is a lot of content!

I love the concept of this article: Sony via PSN makes it too damn easy to purchase digital content. For the longest time I was a hold out (kind of like that earlier Facebook post), rallying against digital content, monthly subscriptions, micro-transactions, and the like. Sure I did purchase the occasional title such as Super Startdust HD, 1943, and Flow, but for the most part I steered clear of digital content cooties.

That being said, over the last few months I have really capitulated, including purchasing the Plus service. I guess you could say that I have become what I fought against so long. On that note, I am actually planning on throwing a more dollars Sony’s way during their PSN Summer Sale deals.

I will probably pick up Fat Princess ($7.49 sale; $14.99 reg.) and PixelJunk Shooter ($4.99 sale; $9.99 reg.) two games that I have been watching, but did not really want to pony up for full price.

I am not sure about the PSP games or even if I want to “invest” any more digital dollars into my PSP. I may pick up echoshift ($7.49 sale; $14.99 reg.), and will think about Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars ($14.99 sale; $29.99 reg.) after doing some general research, checking out some reviews, and blog articles. I have not finished Vice City, so I doubt I will throw $14.99 to chase after another GTA title. Lunar Silver Star Harmony ($14.99 sale; $29.99 reg.) is also tempting, but right now I really do not need another RPG; too far behind on the ones I already own!

I am really not that interested in the minis. I would probably pick up Tetris ($4.99 sale; $9.99 reg.) if it were $1.99 just because Tetris is a good way to pass the time, but there are so many other puzzlers available for the PSP that are far superior. Lumines, I chose you!

Speaking of Plus, I think the verdict is still out. I am going to write more about Plus, Wipeout HD and Critter Crunch later.


Home? Not Impressed Yet …

I decided to “try” Home yesterday just to see if there was any reason to log in daily, weekly; am I missing out?

Before jumping in [Home and this article] I think it is worth quoting two Home articles from the official’ish blog, which pretty much summed up my prior opinion of Home.

Midway games will be available on a pay-to-play model, but will also have free “timed plays.” And as you master each game (meaning: you pass level 10), you in turn unlock unlimited plays for that game. Add into this the 100 + rewards (one reward for each level of each game that you beat – including a free personal space), and we think you’ll find the Midway a great value. [source: Home blog]

Like a real arcade at a fair or on a midway, right? Micro transactions are a good way to slowly let your cash slip away.

“Andy’s Room” transports players to the world of Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and the other toys owned by Andy Davis. Packed with mini-games and fun interactives, Andy’s Room is a must-have addition to your personal space collection. Pick yours up this Thursday from the Estates store in the PlayStation Home Mall. [source: Home blog]

Ah, another micro transaction.

After jumping into Home, I made a virtual avatar, and decked him out with my minimal choices in my wardrobe. If I do not want a “bland” online presence, it looks like I need to play to play; rather shop to add some personality. Same for my virtual home space, which was virtually empty.

I walked around and explored a little while in the main meeting area, played a fireworks mini game and won a sparkler, and walked around in the midway space (play to play, no thanks) and poked around in the mall.

One thing struck me over and over. In a MMORP such as WoW you are paying a monthly fee, which enables you to upgrade your character’s (avatar) appearance by earning new levels, items, etc. The best I can tell, in the world of Home, you get in for free, but in general you do not earn anything to change your avatar’s appearance. I could be wrong on this one; instead you use micro transactions to do the needful.

Maybe there are free game spaces, and options to earn free items, but I did not stick around long enough to see if I could uncover anything useful. I just cannot see myself paying $0.11 for a “cactus in a pot” decoration for my apartment. Forget about paying $1.99 (and probably a lot lower and much higher) for a new jacket for my avatar.

Good for Sony for striking gold. I could not believe the number of avatars that I saw running around that must have spent a decent amount of money in the mall. Every one of these clowns has given Sony some real money for an upgraded virtual appearance. I wonder how much they have spent decorating their home space?

With all that said, maybe I am being unduly harsh. If you are use to throwing money fees at an online service, this is really the same thing, assuming there is some value to be found in Home over and beyond playing dress up. I have yet to find it, but I admit that I did not look too hard yesterday. I’ll try again later.