September Gaming Closeout

The ridiculousness continues. Next week (Sep 20) sees the release of F1 2011, while the following week (Sep 27) gives us FIFA 12, ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection, and Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny, and Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland.

F1 2011
I’ll be honest; I love F1 games, but I didn’t really get enough out of 2010. No particular reason other than I suck or something. F1 2011 looks to be the perfect F1 gaming experience:

After watching the promo videos all these months I had the feeling that F1 2011 will be strictly for the hardcore, people who are gamers and who also follow F1 races every year. After playing a solid 2 hours with the preview build I believe that this game will only attract fans, resulting in to low accessibility.

Let’s hope that there are enough F1 fans who appreciate racing sims to support F1 2011 and continue to push the series forward.

One of the top sports franchises; the Madden development team could learn a thing or two from the FIFA guys. I cannot say enough good things about this series – tons of replay value; I played the snot out of FIFA 10 and to some extent FIFA 11. The newest yearly release should not be any different. Platinum be damned; I’ll never get it due to the various online requires.

Thanks to Amazon, this one comes with a nice $20 credit, some sort of MLS Fathead (for the kids) and of course release day delivery.

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection
I’ve written about this one a little over the last couple of months, so I am not going to go very deep here. I’ll just say that I have had this one on pre-order since Thanksgiving last year, so I am eagerly anticipating giving both of these classics a go.

Another Amazon release day arrival. I expect this one to go to the top of the play heap; let’s see if that actually happens.

Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny
In a weak moment, I pre-ordered this one site unseen. Mostly for the Move support, partly out of curiosity, and ultimately because I probably had one too many cold ones that night, which resulted in an Amazon clicking frenzy.

Tides of Destiny is coming out later this year in North America for the PlayStation 3 and Wii, which isn’t a combination of release platforms you see very often. I’m not complaining, especially when the PlayStation 3 version ends up looking this pretty. I can’t wait to buy this game, play it for a few hours, get bored, and move on to other things!

Replace bored with distracted and that will be me. Too many other gems in my gaming treasure trove waiting to be caressed and loved, and whored for Trophies.

Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland
Of course I had to get the ‘Premium’ version bundle complete with art book and CD soundtrack. This one has niche written all over it, but I expect Atelier Totori to be fun based on my typical enjoyment of quirky games and deep down love for JRPGs.

Unfortunately I’m usually constrained with limited clock cycles to burn on gaming, which means that I may not get around to this one for a while. I did promise myself (sort of) that I would attempt Atelier Totori’s predecessor first, Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland. Will it happen? That’s another article. Seriously, tackling a JRPG is an upcoming article.

The one thing nice about JRPGs, is that historically I have always been able to get my money back from any expensive collector’s edition should I decide to sell them down the road. For that matter, I can usually get my money back from regular editions. That is the beauty of niche gaming; of course you have to pre-order these games or you are the one paying a premium over MSRP.

Happy Saturday!


Mel B – Hat Trick Time

I haven’t rolled in the hay with Mel B this week, so Sunday morning I wanted to get in a couple of 15 minute quickie workouts.

The exercise is actually good for me; between the previous weeks with Mel B and helping to run soccer practices, I am actually feeling rather sprightly for old dad gamer rapidly closing in on 41. Ouch. As an added bonus, going with two 15 minute workouts continues to push me forward towards the various Bronze 20 minute workout Trophies.

Besides knocking off ~225 calories, I was pleasantly surprised after the Silver ‘Hat Trick’ Trophy popped (Trophy Ding!!!) for reaching Step Level 80. Nice! Too bad after my Fitness workout, I am still stuck with a Fitness Level of 55.

I am now at 56% complete, and I think within the next 4-6 workouts, the Silver ‘25 Levels Up’ (Raised any category’s Fitness Level by 25) and Silver ‘Professional’ (Reach level 90 in any category) are real possibilities for the next unlocks.

I have no idea how far I am from the 1000 rep Trophies for sit-ups and push-ups. I’ll probably get those at some point, but since Mel B does not keep up with individual reps, I am really not sure when these buggers will pop.


Kung Fu Rider – Falls Flat

I knew what I was getting into when I order Kung Fu Rider from Amazon on the cheap a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to try to the game when it was originally released; seemed like an original and innovative gaming experience. Move support was a bonus.

Unfortunately the game was panned. When you see a Metritic score of 36 (45 Critic Reviews) you know there are some issues with a game. Not only was Kung Fu Rider considered awful, it was considered an extremely poor use of the Move controller, which was sort of the point.

You may be asking yourself, WTF is wrong with me? Why did this poor bloke pick up such a piece of shit for a game? Well, I have never been one to have my opinion formed by the pundits, and I go back to that previously mentioned original and innovative gaming experience. I like different games. Not necessarily different games that suck, but in this case the price point was low enough that I figured I would see if I could get some enjoyment from Kung Fu Riders with the kids.

Let’s get this out of the way – the concept is brilliant; however the execution with the Move controller is extremely poor. The game is repetitive (a real grind if you are after some of the Trophies). The graphics are best described as on par with the Dreamcast. In fact, I would say Kung Fu Rider is akin to Crazy Taxi or even Space Channel 5 (Dreamcast – i.e. Kung Fu Rider is very much off the beaten path).

Some of the motion controls with the Move are a pain in the ass to pull off, mostly because of button placement and unresponsiveness. Collection detection is poor; I would say more than 50% of my crashes are due to WTF experiences, leaving me scratching my head wondering what I did wrong.

Except for the language, this play-through video series (I think there are 11) was similar to my experience playing with two of my three boys. The oldest refuses to play – not sure if he has decided the game is too cartoonish (he likes Crazy Taxi so maybe that is not it) or he looked those Metacritic scores and decided to let the score form his opinion (too bad; need to break him of that).

The Trophy list is one of the worst I can remember seeing in a game. Some of the Trophies feel like outright luck, while some of the others are going to require a ton grinding.

I’m currently sitting at 47% complete, with four Trophies left.

CHAIRMASTER (hidden – Gold): Attain S rank on all missions. I’m currently going for this one using the co-op mode with my 9 year old son. My 4.5 year old also ‘plays’ but not really; as long as he is having fun, and he is, that is sort of the point.

I’m flabbergasted there is not a Trophy for completing all the levels. My guess is that we will give up on this one before we manage S ranks in all the levels. Really depends on how long I can refrain from cussing, and how long it takes for my boys to give up on the game, moving along to something else more interesting.

BUSINESS NUISANCE (Silver): Destroy 100 red signs. Major grind. I think I have somewhere between 25-35; have not bothered to check my records.

MEDAL COLLECTOR (Silver): Obtain all collectible medals. To me this one is going to be a major grind, and maybe not worth the effort. On the first bonus level, there is a medal on top of a van. Only problem is that for me, it looks impossible to reach. I have wasted at least 20-30 minutes of my life trying to get that 20th medal. Then there are the other bonus medal levels to tackle. I hear ‘screw that’ in my head as I am writing this article.

CHAIN MASTER (Bronze): Achieve a 30 chain. I may be able to eventually get this one, but the controls are so frustrating and the collision detection is so substandard, that it feels like it will take a minor miracle to earn this one. Due to all the issues with the game, this one could have easily have been a Silver.

Is the game as poor as the ratings indicate? Yes. Is it a hopeless cause? Nope; if you can get past some of the issues, you may be able to find some enjoyment. As I said, the kids are having fun, which is the real point to me.

Kung Fu Rider should have been a PSN title, not a full retail rump. If you pick it up, expect the worst, hope for the best, and look for it as cheap as possible. I actually ‘completed’ the game (i.e. received Rank D or higher in all the main levels) at the 3 hour and 11 minute mark, and that was probably after spending 30-45 minutes in the medal free play levels.


Mel B – Week 5

Today I completed 5 weeks with Get Fit with Mel B. It’s hard for me to believe that I have accomplished 4-5 pounds of weight loss just for ‘playing’ a game. Would this work for everyone? Probably not. Will I stick to it? Good question – I’m in deep and would like to earn a few more Trophies vs. throwing Mel B to the curb.

Data, Accomplishments, Fitness Level to Date:

  • 27 Workouts
  • 8,592 Reps
  • 193 Fitness Minutes
  • 522 Aerobic Minutes
  • 94% Best Rated Workout
  • 6,375 Stars Earned
  • 5,020 Calories Burned – Thanks Mel B!
  • 53% Trophies Earned
  • Fitness Level 55
  • Step Level 75
  • Dance Level 80
  • Combat Level 75
  • Cardio Level 75
  • Advance Cardio Level 55
  • Bump ‘n’ Tone Level 85


At this point I don’t plan to write regular Mel B updates. I will sum this up by saying that I do feel a sense of pride that I knocked off 5K calories that otherwise would have turned into fat. I mean, maybe not the full 5K, but a large chunk would have settled around my belly.

Day 35
After ‘date night’ and the upsetting UGA defeat to Boise St., I really needed a strong workout, but really wasn’t in the mood. I pressed forward …

I did a 20 minute Advanced Cardio workout good for 140 calories. More importantly (to the Trophy whore in me) the workout was a solid 92%, which gave my Cardio a small increase to Level 55%.

I started feeling ‘it’ a little bit (not sure what ‘it’ is other than the mood to go after it a few more minutes), so I followed up with a 15 minute Step workout. This was another solid 92% workout, which was good for burning ~130 calories. I also received a small bump to Level 75.

Not too bad; 270 calories on the day and a couple of 5% bumps.

Day 34
Total was ‘Dance’ Challenge day; oh how I hate dancing in Mel B. Sucks for me because I have to get a gold medal, do at least 20 Dance workouts, and continue to improve my Dance Fitness level. Well, at least I have to if I want to eventually earn the Platinum Trophy.

After 155 calories spent dancing like a drunken monkey (not a pretty sight), thankfully I managed a 92% gold medal. I was a little worried because I got a 79%; my other low scores were 86% and 87% … I managed enough scores in the 90s to compensate. Trophy ding as the Silver ‘Full House’ went pop. Thank God!

I followed up with another custom Fitness workout, once again concentrating on crunches and press-ups (to use the British vernacular). I hate not knowing how many reps have been completed. I assume these 1000 rep Trophies will eventually pop.

Now to start grinding (in a good way – I am losing weight and getting fit) to earn some of the 20 workout Bronze Trophies.

Day 33
I went after the ‘Dance’ Challenge, but came up just short at 89%. The only good news is that in the process of just missing the gold medal for this challenge, I did burn ~140 calories for my efforts. I have to get a little better; two really low exercises of 66% and 77% set me back.

Next up, I decided to do the ‘Cardio Test’ Challenge, and totally kicked its ass, earning a gold medal. I had one poorly rated exercise of 73%, but obviously mastered the rest. This Challenge was worth ~45 calories, which seems low, but the Challenge was pretty short. This makes me wonder if the Challenges are based on your current Fitness level. If this is the case, anyone that happens upon this article and is trying to Trophy hunt the game needs to tackle the Challenges first before their Fitness level increases.

Just too really add in an extra calorie boost, I did a 15 minute fitness workout, which was good for 135 calories. I concentrated on sit-ups and push-ups in order to help tackle my belly fat, man boobs, and to keep grinding towards the 1000 sit-up and 1000 push-up Trophies. These should be lifetime achievement awards (i.e. Silver or Gold, not Bronze).

After burning ~320 calories, I was spent. In a good way. I have Sat, Sun, and Labor Day to see if I can finally get the Silver ‘Full House’ Trophy for getting gold medals in all the Challenges. Dancing sucks …

Day 29
After last week’s tracking mishap on the Abs Attack Challenge, I did a quick practice run and then stomped the test, earning 99%, 98%, and 94% on the three exercises, which burned ~35 calories and earned me a gold medal.

Next up, I took the Legs of Steel Challenge, taking this one easily to earn another gold medal, and racking up ~32 calories in the process.

I only need the Cardio Test and Dance Challenges to knock off the remaining test Challenges.

I finished up my workout session by setting up a custom Fitness run of 15 minutes. I did manage to knock off ~129 calories, which means I did close to 200 calories on the morning. Nice.

Speaking of nice, I clipped the 4K calorie mark this morning. I think that is pretty cool, but I still wish the game tracked number of individual exercise reps instead of overall reps. After all, how am I to know how many more push-ups (I guess press-ups in the UK) and crunches are required to earn those 1K rep Bronze Trophies?


Now Playing – The Random Trophy Stuff Edition

I continue on my no longer so torrid tour of Mel B, but with the kids’ soccer I am only hitting one or two workouts a week.

While Mel B may not be the best Move implementation (there are a handful of exercises that will not register correctly with the camera + Move), Sports Champions seems to be really solid. After putting this one aside for a long time, I returned to it in order to get more Move satisfaction. Pretty decent game, enjoyable by the whole family; Trophies are a complete grind.

I finished up Sam and Max (episodes 4 and 5) this week. Mostly because they were sitting on my HDD waiting to be played, partially because I may let my PS+ subscription expire in a few months, sort of because the series is less stress and semi-entertaining. And I would be lying to you if I did not say the Trophies were an easy bonus. Sam and Max episodes 1 – 5 were free earlier this year for PS+ subscribers.

Pixiljunk Shooter – First one; highly addicting, fun shooter + puzzle combo. In this case I have to say that the Trophies add to the overall ‘experience’ – I could just blow through the game, but how would that be fun? I had to get some help for the ‘Coin Collector Trophy’ – for me it was much more luck than skill.

Not to digress too much, but I think Trophies are kind of like those collection JRPG games. You either are into them or you are not. When Trophies were first introduced, I could care less; however now I am card carrying Trophy whore. To me they add a little extra excitement, as in the case of Pixiljunk Shooter; these are actually fun to try to unlock. For other games, some of the Trophies are just meat grinders. These types I can pass on, and typically do.

Just got the Platinum Trophy for Madden 2011 this morning. Yes, I’m still playing the current (old) one. I have become a certified Trophy whore. I decided to ‘finish’ up the game before the new version is release on Tuesday. Technically Madden 2012 is already out for those that spent the extra cash on the EA Season Ticket crap; obviously I did not.

Speaking of those Trophies, the ‘Pick Up 6’ Trophy, which requires you to win a ‘Fight for the Fumble’ in the end zone was a major PITA. It was not going to happen for me during the course of normal games, and while I attempted some ‘cheats’ to make it easier, I just could not close off this final Trophy until I stumbled across this video. Using this technique it only took me two attempts to close off my third Platinum Trophy.

Looking Forward …
Georgia takes on Boise St. September 3 in the Georgia Dome, so I really need to jump back into NCAA Football 2012. It has been years since I was successful at getting some decent value for my money out of two football titles. With three kids plus work, I bet I am screwed.

I have several games on pre-order including the before mentioned Madden 12, F1 2011, FIFA 12, and the ICO Collection. September is awfully full.

I am also considering looking at WKC II, although I have no earthly idea why because I never got very far into WKC:I. I guess I got distracted doing the needful.

We will wrap up with Kung Fu Rider. I think this one will suck, although I hope to get a few hours of family fun out of it for my efforts.


Best Crap Money Can Buy

OK, maybe they are not all crap, not by a long shot. I did do the needful and stock up on several hundred hours of gaming pleasure (and maybe pain and suffering). Why?

  • Cabela’s North American Adventures ($25.45): I’m a sucker for these hunting games. I probably over paid. OK, I did. I should have waited until this one hit the sub $20 mark, but in the back of my mind I was thinking that there will probably be a new Cabela title this fall, and I may miss out on this one. Doubt that would happen, but you never know.
  • NIER ($14.99): Backordered 2-4 weeks. Not sure what to say about this action RPG, except that it looks interesting.
  • Captain America: Super Soldier ($29.99): Backordered 2-3 weeks. My youngest son loves Captain America (and in general, super heroes). This one may be too hard for him, but I’m sure there will be some points where he can just button mash the heck out of the bad guys.
  • Iron Man 2 ($14.99): Certifiable crap. See Captain America comments. I did read that for my efforts there are some easy Trophies, so there is that thrown in for good measure.
  • Kung Fu Rider ($12.80): Certifiable crap; however Kung Fu rider is something for the Move and something that the kids can enjoy. This one is one of the first Move games; it was panned – highest score on Metacritic is 65. Ouch.
  • Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom ($14.99): I’ve always been a little interested in this one, but not for MSRP. For a tick under $15, I’m happy.
  • Tomb Raider Trilogy ($19.99): Backordered 2-4 weeks. I wanted to get in some Laura before the re-boot hits.
  • PS3 Eye Camera Mounting Clip ($6.68): For good measure, I picked up one of these mounting clips. Not really sure why as I have lived without one since the Move was released.

With the exception of Captain America, I am not sure if I will actually get any of the titles on backorder. Maybe Amazon has a slow boat to China (or elsewhere) where these older discounted titles are being pressed for a fresh batch of suckers.

My gaming needs are stocked for the foreseeable future. Well, at least until all my stuff on pre-order is released, but that is another article.


Gaming News and Notes

Over the last three weeks, starting right before the Thanksgiving break, I have been on a torrid (for me) gaming rampage. I think I have logged more hours on my PS3 (and even a few on the oft forgotten PSP – Ghost of Sparta) than I did in total January through October.

I have to say it has been fun. Almost like a kid in a candy store. Gaming nirvana if you please. I have found this latest zone has helped me decompress and even get in some quality time with the kids. These days I don’t question how long this ride will last; I just keep on plugging, enjoying it until I put down the controllers.

Crazy Taxi
After pickup up my PS3 Slim for Father’s Day, I flipped Crazy Taxi on eBay. Not because I no longer enjoyed the game; I consider it one of the ultimate pick and play titles. It is just a damn good arcade gaming experience, which blends the perfect elements of short bursts of gaming excitement and the pursuit of high scores.

Besides, the PS3 Slim more or less forced my hand, since it is not PS2 backwards compatible. Of course in my back pocket I knew Crazy Taxi would be headed towards the PSN.

The PSN edition seems to be the same game, minus the licenses (Levi’s, KFC, music, etc), with slightly harder controls compared to the PS2 and Dreamcast versions. Crazy Taxi is still a fun arcade experience; one that the boys enjoy playing with dad. As an added bonus, the PSN version also provides the pleasure (or frustration – take your pick) of pursuing Trophies.

Shame on me for not playing this one more over the past year. FIFA 10 is a fantastic sports game, and the virtual pro feature being balls out fun. In my dotage, I have a hard time pulling off decent skill moves, so my pro still seems a little stiff and rough around the edges. As a striker, I am all offense, with almost no defensive skills. I think my rating is currently 72 and climbing.

Rumor has it Santa is bringing me FIFA 11 ($29.99 during one of the Thanksgiving deals), so I figured I better maximize my FIFA 10 experience before Christmas so I will not feel so guilty when I trade in or eBay FIFA 10. And maximize I have; in fact I have probably spent more time with FIFA 10 than any other game in this article. Fun and highly addicting!

Gran Turismo 5
After waiting an eternity (at least it seemed that way), we finally have a proper Gran Turismo on the PS3. I picked up the Gran Turismo 5 Collector’s Edition – I love the series, even if it is not the best pure “racing” experience around.

After starting off with one of the 25+ versions (or whatever) of a Toyota Corolla, I have been slowly making my way through the game. Due to so many other games in my rotation (or call it my gaming backlog) I have not started the long slow GT grind. I have picked up my B and A licenses, and while I could keep on trying to progress, I have been working on locking up all B and A license Gold trophies, which seems damn near impossible for some.  I actually find this pursuit more relaxing than frustrating; I get in a zone and keep plugging away, slowly decreasing my times until I strike Gold.

The only GT game that I managed to “complete” at 100% was the first release – Gran Turismo for the PSOne.  It has been a long time since those days!  I doubt I have that much spare time to really go after that mark with GT5; however I am sure I will maximize my value (gaming dollar).

I think the game has already been patched 3 times, so the developers did end up rushing the game, which is a bit of a surprise considering the long delay. Over ambitious? Probably.  At least the developers are supporting the game and trying to make things right by the fans.

Sports Champions
My family has discovered the joy of playing Bocce. At least we are enjoying Sports Champions version of Bocce, and we are having a blast learning the rules and associated skills.  My mother is giving my oldest son a Bocce set for the backyard. I love it when videogames cross pollinate real life!

I think my kids’ favorite is volley ball, closely followed by disc golf. My favorites are archery and disc golf, and I also find gladiator duel an interesting diversion. Ping pong is the favorite of my 3.11 year old, but I find it damn near impossible.

On a side note, I need to get two more Move controllers for some serious volley ball and archery dual Move head-to-head action. What would that investment be? Almost $325? I have already “invested” $100 camera + Move controller, $50 second move controller, $35 Navigation controller, $30 Move charge station. Ouch. Archery is a blast with two controllers, so I can only imagine how much fun it would be to have a two-player archery duel with 4 Move controllers!

On more side note. The Navigation controller seems poorly supported. I think the only Move game I have that takes advantage of it is Heavy Rain. Need to come back to Heavy Rain in a future article.

My Aquarium
Did I really buy this one? Just for the hell of it I downloaded My Aquarium. It is a great concept, with extremely poor execution. The graphics are not acceptable; in fact I was not even sure this was an HD title, but from what I have read, My Aquarium is in fact presented in HD … just without the normal eye popping graphical glory. It really is a damn shame that this virtual screensaver does not look nicer, and to make matters worse, the interface is unbelievable clunky, complete with unresponsive controls.

If a “game” begged for updated graphics with Move support, this is the one. To the good, Trophy whores will find a few almost freebies on offer; apparently you can cheat to get them quickly, however I am earning my Trophies the old fashion way. It will probably be a year before all the fish unlock, giving me a cheap Gold Trophy.

I dismissed this one out of hand when it was previously released, however I did pick it up on sale for $0.99. It is OK at best … I mean it is Uno. I have played a few games online, but I disappointed that a couple of disconnects in the “lobby” counted as game discounts. That or someone figured out a way to hack a couple of wins against me; I am not enough of a junkie at this game to try to follow my statistics to see why the game thinks I have abandon a couple of gaming sessions.

I think you have to really love Uno in order to pick this one up. Not bad for $0.99, but not worth a whole lot more than a single ducket. Then again, this could be a nice diversion if someone wants to get their wife into videogames.

Hustle Kings!
Plus continues to deliver interesting content and discounts. I picked up Hustle Kings! a couple of weeks ago when it was discounted to just under $6. I have only played a few times, but the game seems to offer a really nice pool experience. The bar locations have great aesthetics – music, presentation, and graphics.

I’ll comment more on this one in the future. I picked it up mainly because I suck at pool in real life, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that playing a virtual game will actually help me in real life. To a certain degree it already has, at least when it comes to adding some backspin on pocket shots. In real life I would scratch, following the ball into the pocket, but I am getting the hang of how to avoid this mistake. Hope it carries over!

Hustle Kings! also supports the Move. I am not sure how it compares to playing with a DS controller because I have only used the Move. The game appears to do a good job of supporting the Move, however I have to admit that my poor old fingers and hand gets a little cramped trying to line up fine precession shots. As I said, more on this one later.

Did I just do that? Good grief; that is a lot of gaming playing!

Happy Sunday!