Water-TempleOne of the funniest things I can say to people who know I want to write about games for a living is “I’ve never played Ocarina of Time.” Apparently, that’s some kind of slight against the gaming Gods and I’m generally a bad person.

When I was growing up, I never had the opportunity to play it. I didn’t have a Nintendo 64 and none of my friends actually owned the game. In fact, the only Nintendo consoles I’ve ever owned at GameBoy handheld consoles.

It wasn’t until I was preparing to fly halfway around the world that I picked up Ocarina of Time when I was buying my 3DS. Even now, I haven’t finished it, despite being heavily encouraged by a friend of mine.

A lot of people encourage me to play it and the only reason they ever actually give me is “It’s the best game of all time!” That’s it. Nothing else matters except that it’s the best game of all time.

I guess I can’t argue since I’ve never played it the whole way through; I can’t say they’re wrong. But when you’re trying to convince someone to play something, shouldn’t you say WHY it’s the greatest great ever. What makes it great? So far, I’m failing to see it. Maybe I don’t see the appeal because I don’t have the gleam of nostalgia in my eye and remembering the gameplay fondly.

As a responsible writer who shouldn’t discount the opinions of others, I should just endure how bored I am of it and finish it. Maybe once I’ve discovered the Hell that is the Water Temple, I’ll see it in a new light, but right now, it’s just not my cup of tea.

 

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I remember when I was a kid and my Mum got us our first computer. It was a giant cream coloured beast. I was so excited because I could play the copy of “Age of Empires” that was the prize in a box of Corn Flakes.

I’m pretty sure I still have it somewhere.

After installing it and starting a new Blue civilisation, everything went downhill. I was so happy hoarding resources, I forgot I had an opponent to defeat.

Within a few ages, the Reds descended upon me. It was a massacre. Luckily, a few innocent Blues managed to escape the carnage. With all the food, wood, gold and stone I’d collected before the first downfall of my empire I rebuilt stronger and with new determination. My new purpose was to crush my foe.

This was difficult with a population cap of just 50, but my small legion of builders made me an army that made my Red opposition tremble.

With a tide of horses and archers, I rained fiery Blue vengeance on those tiny red pixel people.

“You Are Victorious” flashed on to the screen, and I had my first taste of video game victory. This innocuous silver disc, pulled from a box of cereal is what I remember as my first real video game.

It started a love affair not only with the RTS genre of gaming, but could be responsible for my drive to write about games. I have fond memories of other games, but none have the nostalgia that AoE does.

I’ve got AoE games that follow that first game, but none draw me in like Age of Empires 1. They’re still fun, but they don’t hold a candle to the woo-loo-looo of AoE 1.

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sodState of Decay is one of those games I’d heard great things about but already felt burnt out on. The zombie genre is a favourite with developers and the market is flooded with hoards (puns!) of them. But when my lovely friend gifted me the base game and the DLC, I decided to have a go at it.

At the time of writing, I’d played almost 10 hours straight without realising it. Thank GOD for days off, right?

State of Decay is a third-person zombie shooter with elements of stealth, resource management and base building thrown in. These gameplay elements help add extra depth to the immersion for the player. You need to make sure that all your characters are at full health, that there’s ammo available and you have an escape plan to get out of any sticky situations. My problem with a lot of zombie/survival games is that it’s run and gun; there’s no strategy. But State of Decay almost encourages you to have a strategy.

As you gather up more survivors to play as, they have mood swings and rely on other members of your group to help them through. The characters have enough personality to give you someone to pick as a favourite, but are plain enough so that you can put yourself in their shoes. Although, the way I’m playing, it’s a bit like an episode of Game of Thrones; I get attached to one particular character and then BAM! Eaten by a zombie. It’s a little tragic.

Gameplay and mission can lull from time to time, making things feel a little boring and repetitive. There’s a lot of potential for a variety of missions, but it’s mostly: go here, clear out this, come back.  I’ve currently found myself going around trying to find resources, waiting for missions to spawn because I’ve completed all the available missions. The missions I have completed have a good learning curve. You can do them on your own comfortably, or take along a fellow survivor to watch your back. Although, the AI can be a little… backwards when it comes to watching out for zombies; either super helpful or a major hindrance. The more you use a particular character, the better their stats get and the more helpful they can be.

My major problem with the game are a few rather annoying bugs I’ve come across when it comes to starting or closing the game. I found the game would crash when the music was muted, and I’m not sure what’s causing my game to bug out and crash when I’m trying to close the game from the main menu. The developer forums are helpful for finding work-around solutions for these bugs, but patching them hasn’t worked as of yet. From some Googling, my problems seem to be fairly common, so I’m hoping the developers are working to patch these out.

The music and graphics aren’t astounding, but it’s not a major drawback. In a world where everyone focuses on lifelike graphics and Oscar-worthy music, it’s kind of refreshing to have something that’s “not up to scratch”. The animation is a little buggy when zombies look like they’re outside, but are actually just clipping through a wall. I’ve wasted many a bullet hitting a wall where I thought I was aiming perfectly at a zombie’s face.

For a fairly generic zombie survival game, I’m sinking a disgusting amount of time into it. It’s got its claws right in and doesn’t really want to let go. The Lifeline and Breakdown DLC have great reviews online and the friend who gifted these to me raved about them when he bought them originally on Xbox Live. If you’re looking for a time sink, some good old fashion violence and nothing too complicated, State of Decay is perfect.

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e3-2014

E3 is like Christmas in June for the video games industry and gaming fans everywhere. With the new generation of consoles being launched, purchased and firmly ingrained in households, Microsoft and Sony came out with a new line up of games and console attachments for their next gen consoles and some great stuff for their current gen consoles. Let’s talk about what Microsoft and Sony had to say at this year’s conference.

Let’s start with Microsoft, since they were the first off the mark.

The thing that got me the most foaming-at-the-mouth excited this year was the announcement of Halo Master Chief Collection. Microsoft reminded us that Halo 2 is 10-years-old this year (anyone else feel old?) and for the anniversary, they were going to combine Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 on ONE disc for all your intergalactic, space needs. Bringing back Halo 2 multiplayer and rendering it to current generation specifications. Seriously, you guys, they announced this and I stopped paying attention. Along with the Master Chief collection being released, there’s also a Halo 5 beta you can get in on. Reason 1 why I now need an Xbox One is because Halo. Yes, I am a fan girl.

Another series that made everyone terribly excited was further offerings from Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed: Unity which includes up to 4-play co-operative mode. Set during the French Revolution, you form your own brotherhood of Assassins and get stabby with it. While separate from the single-player mode, this was the main showcase of the Assassin’s Creed presentation.

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series any more. After everything that Ubisoft continues to bring out, I gave up on having a good story in lieu of being used as a cash cow. It’s disappointing because the new multiplayer aspect looks terribly well done. Unity continues the tradition of looking gorgeous, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s enough. It seems to be for fans of the series.

Fans of the Tomb Raider series will be happy to hear that there’s a new Tomb Raider gaming coming to Xbox One. Set after the end of the last game, Lara appears to be going through therapy, trying to work through the events of the island she was stranded on. She’s definitely becoming the Lara we’re used to: ass-kicking, strong and won’t take crap from anyone. Like the last game, this trailer looks full of promise.

There was also stuff about Call of Duty…

Sony is up next with what was a fairly… mediocre presentation but had some excellent games and hardware to show off.

The biggest surprise for the crowd was the announcement of Grim Fandango being remastered and bought to PS4 consoles around the world. Everyone I know holds Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango in their hearts with loving nostalgia. I’d never played Grim Fandango, but last year at PAX Australia there was some excellent cosplay and listening to Ron Gilbert’s keynote speech reminded me of why those games mean so much to people. This would definitely be a good reason for me to pick up a PS4.

Another reason to pick up a PS4 would be Little Big Planet 3. Three new characters to help you get around more player-made levels and new levels of depth, why wouldn’t you pre-order this now? Little Big Planet is the game I show my non-gamer friends who want something easy to play, but you can spend hours being terribly entertained. Also, Stephen Fry.

Sony didn’t focus solely on the games. They announced a white PS4 coming to North America in September. It looks stunning and it’ll definitely give me enough time to wait for all the games I want to come out and drop in price. Although, the Australian time frame hasn’t been confirmed, hopefully a global release is in our future and some awesome bundles come along with it.

It’s hard to decide a “winner” from the battle of Microsoft and Sony but, personally, I think Microsoft won it. Out of the two conferences, Microsoft had the best offering of games that interested me. Sony has some great ideas coming up for Sony branded TVs, for the Vita and Playstation TV (which sounds AWESOME), but a lot of their non-game related stuff didn’t really grab my attention. However, this is just my opinion.

What did you guys think? Who was the big winner for you and what grabbed you the most?

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a massive handheld or mobile gamer. After being spoiled for choice with my PC and consoles, it feels like a bit of a downgrade playing stuff on my Nintendo 3DS or my phone. When Chris from MobileZap emailed me last week saying that he had a nifty toy for my phone that I could play with, it definitely grabbed my interest.IMG_0036[1]

What crossed my desk is called the Gamehook. It looks like a phone cradle you’d find in any car, but you can attach a PS3 controller into the bottom and play Android (Sorry iOS users) games wired, or wirelessly.

(Entirely off-topic: While downloading a game to demo for this review, I spent several giddy minutes controlling my phone with the PS3 controller. The integration between the controller and the Android software is seamless. Whether this is because my phone is ALSO a Sony product is unknown, but it’s done rather well.)

IMG_0037[1]The Gamehook is designed to work with any Android device under 5.5 inches. The part of the Gamehook that holds your phone expands with the push of a button to hold phones on the higher end of that 5.5 inch scale. With my being just under 5.5 inches (5.47 inches to be exact), my Xperia needed all the room it could get! The phone dock should still hold a phone with a case and there’s enough room for bulker phones to sit comfortably in the dock.

The cradle isn’t anything special to look at from the front. “Gamehook™” is displayed on the bottom of the phone cradle and the whole product is black. The back has a nice carbon fibre pattern on the back, which is a nice style touch, but when you’re working with something so simple, there isn’t much you can do with the looks. I wouldn’t mind seeing it in other colours like red, purple or green but again, these are just small style choices.

Putting the PS3 controller was a little confusing to start with, but once I played around with it for a while, getting the controller in and out of the cradle is pretty easy.

The only problem I had with the entire time I review the product was trying to find mobile games that had gamepad support without resorting to a Google search. Most of the popular game choices aren’t compatible with gamepads and the couple of games I tried weren’t either, which was surprising with games like Sonic Racing Transformed and other racing-themed games.IMG_0038[1]

The Gamehook is definitely something I didn’t think I’d use, but with the right games, it’s the perfect way to introduce a PC or console gamer into the world of mobile gaming. The device can be a little top heavy, but that’s par for the course when you’re using a whole phone just for the screen. It’s going to sit happily with the rest of my gaming peripherals and I’m happy to add it to the collection.

Thanks to MobileZap for sending me out this genius little product for me to play with.

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Video game channels on YouTube are a lucrative and profitable business… if you can do it right and that appears to be exactly what the guys over at Maker Studios’ have done, with Disney buying the network for $500 million.

That’s not even all the money on offer, either. A performance-based payout of $450 million could raise this deal to be worth $950 million! That’s a lot of numbers…

Creators like TotalBiscuit have come out and said that they’re going to keep making the same content that they’ve always made, and if they’re asked to change it, they’ll leave.

It remains to be seen what approach Disney is going to take with its newly acquired channel, but the injection of money can only mean good things for YouTube creators who aren’t as well known as TotalBiscuit and PewDiePew.

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So the year before last, I wrote a thing about music and how it influences us while we play games. Sometimes though, the soundtrack that comes with the game just doesn’t cut it and I wanna crank some of my own tunes.28476.max1024 I thought it might be an interesting idea to see what you guys listen to when you game!

Whether you have it on your iPod, computer or gramophone (because you kick it truly old school), what makes you work harder, shoot better, run faster and be stronger?

I’ve created a Spotify playlist that you can all add too. The first link will open the Spotify PC application, if you want the browser click here!

Anything goes: Rock, Metal, Electronica, whatever floats your boat. I’ve added a few songs on there to get things going but add anything that you think will get other gamers pumped! I’ll check back in a few weeks and see what you’ve all come up with.

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Before I start, this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t finished the game, click here and be redirected.

Spoilers

South Park: The Stick of Truth (TSoT) had a development story akin to that of Duke Nukem Forever; developer issues, bankrupt companies and constant setbacks. However, with the help of Ubisoft, TSoT was finally released this March and to my surprise, it’s hilariously good. And this comes from someone who isn’t a South Park fan (there are dozens of us! DOZENS!)

Set in a Dungeons and Dragons style adventure game, the turn based RPG sees you, The New Kid (Sir Douchebag) go roaming around the neighbourhoods of South Park in search of The Stick of Truth after it was stolen by the Elves from the humans at Kupa Keep.

It is said whoever possesses the Stick controls the universe.

The create-a-character screen is fairly easy to use. You get a basic character and have a limited range of hair and clothes to deck your little adventurer out with. This isn’t a massive issue because along the way, you’ll look new customisation items or buy them from places around town. You also find dyes to make your costumes individual.

The game looks like an episode of South Park, which is what you’d expect. Your characters hop around when they’re walking and everyone looks like they’re made out of pieces of coloured paper. The writing is what you’d expect from a South Park game, too. The magic you’re taught from Cartman is one giant fart joke; Kenny is a princess who “charms” her (?) opponents by flashing some tits (which isn’t even the most disturbing thing in the game) and even the Aliens make an appearance. There are pop culture references a plenty and most of them refer to A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) which was spoofed in Season 17 (an episode that even I laughed in.)

Sadly, because I’m playing the Australian version, my game is censored but even that has a South Park flair. Because of the Australian Rating System, R18+ games still have strict guidelines to abide too. We’re not the only country to receive a censored version of the game, but our friends across the creek in New Zealand aren’t censored. Whether this raises discussion about adult content is yet to be seen, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone have made the censorship hilarious and a little easier to deal with.

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Like most RPG’s, TSoT gives you the option to choose a class: Fighter, Mage, Thief or Jew. (Or paladin class for those of us who aren’t Cartman.) The “Jew” class is a tricky one to master but can have massive payouts for a skilled player as you become more powerful the closer you are to death. Combat works well and requires the player to generally press a button at the right time to have the full effect of an attack. You can summon characters you’ve helped through quests to come into combat and fight on your behalf with some hilarious results. The turn-based combat works nicely and gives you time to think up a strategy to defeat harder enemies.

Controls and UI are where I start to feel like the game was ignored. From footage I’ve seen of the PC version, you’re unable to rebind keys; possibly because the game was directly ported from console, but a simple feature like that can turn people off. I know that I like to have a specific key-bind for a lot of games to make it work easier for me. Even on the console, the use of the bumper buttons doesn’t feel natural and some of the magic combinations can be difficult to master because of joystick fiddliness. The controller really doesn’t feel like it was properly utilised for anything other than combat.

The options menu, “Facebook” and inventory tabs looks completely out of place with the rest of the game, too. I’m not sure if it’s some inside joke with hardcore South Park fans, but the almost generic tabs visual is off-putting and can be annoying to use. The game uses at least seven tabs to scroll through for various uses in the game, but trying to figure out where something might be is frustrating.

It’s racist, sexist, silly and painfully self-aware. It pokes fun at Australia, the games industry and fans of the series itself but it doesn’t feel forced or ironic for irony’s sake. A lot of the time you’ll find yourself laughing until you’re crying or in a state of mortified shock that realistically only something related to South Park could get away with. The game is enough of an RPG for fans of that style of game to enjoy and so South Park that it hurts. I almost hate myself a little bit for enjoying it as much as I do. With the few complaints about controls and UI, it’s obviously not a perfect game but it’s better than a lot of games based on a TV or movie franchise. Really, it’s just like playing a very long, unedited episode of South Park and that’s the best thing about it.

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The Elder Scrolls Online has had a few closed beta weekends for the lucky people who were selected to participate. If you weren’t selected, you possibly knew someone who was. I remember talking to my friend about how the closed beta. About an hour later, she got an email with a beta key.

Dunmer elf 'Radey'

Dunmer elf ‘Radey’

Just my luck.

Thankfully, I got an invitation to the open beta Bethesda was running this weekend and if you were the lucky winner of my beta key give away, you did too!

Let’s talk about the download and the drama that came with that.

The download size is ENORMOUS. It’s between 15-20GB big and it took several hours to download; an overnight download for me. My DC: Universe Online file size tops out at 25GB and that’s a full game. I’m somewhat worried about how big the final game will be.

After the download and install phase FINALLY finished, you log in, watch a quick opening video and go into character creation. You start by choosing your faction and race. Races are restricted to factions, but you’ve got

3 different races for each faction to choose from, so there’s a nice amount of variety. The sliders have a nifty locking feature (like layers in Photoshop) so you can play around with certain elements of the body sliders without accidentally screwing up another part of your character.

The factions and races are:

The Ebonheart Pact: Argonian, Dunmer and Nord.

The Aldmeri Dominion: Altmer, Bosmer and Khajiit. (Kitty!)

The Daggerfall Covenant: Breton, Orc and Reguard.

You can also be an imperial who are free to join any faction.

My character is a Dunmer (Dark Elf) so she’s a part of the Ebonheart Pact.

 

After character creation, you enter the game play. That’s where my problems started. First bug that I encountered was a UI error. Which is fair enough, it’s still in beta, bugs are going to happen. But when I went to close this error, it error’d out. After having to update a secondary program that you install with the beta, it fixed it. However, it wasn’t until some Googling and asking around that I figured that out.

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2014-03-01_00002A few other graphical bugs and some pretty interesting ping issues, the experience has been pretty polished. The graphics are better looking than those in Skyrim, although some people think they look cheap.

The final debate for users is going to be whether the game is worth $15 a month (€12.99 / £8.99). Hardcore Elder Scrolls fans will willing pay as much as Bethesda charge. Others are going to be more difficult to convince. It’s a pretty standard MMO. You’re the chosen one to do something or other and save the world. With all the talk hyping this game up, it shouldn’t take long for the initial game release to make money hand over fist, but I’m yet to find something that will set it apart from other successful MMO games like WoW or Final Fantasy 14. Still fun to play, but it’s not anything special.

 

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Top 5 games, hey? This is something I’ve been asked to do a few times and something I’ve thought of doing for years but I always thought it was kind of cliché and overdone. However, after browsing the Playstation Store for some reasonably priced nostalgia, I thought I’d do a “Best Games of My Childhood” thing, so here we go!

 

#5: Tomb Raider (PSOne)tomb_raider_pal

Developer: Core Design

Publisher: Eidos Interactive

I don’t think it would be a list of (my) old school games without Tomb Raider appearing on the list. The first female video game character I can remember playing as, Lara Croft definitely a role model of mine. Her tough “take-no-prisoners” attitude from the first games, along with the supernatural side and puzzles makes this game a great memory in my mind. The recent remake of Tomb Raider really holds no comparison to the original PSOne classic.

 

psychonauts-xbox-cover-front-eu-43747

#4 Psychonauts (Xbox/PS2)

Developer: Double Fine Productions/BudCat Creations

Publisher: Majesco Entertainment/THQ

Okay, okay. So this game wasn’t released until I was 15 (2005) but it inspired a childhood giddiness that I couldn’t pass up when writing out this list. From the brilliant mind of Tim Schafer, it’s about a kid who runs away from the circus and has dreams about meat circus’, who could pass that up! Obviously the iconic part of Psychonauts is the Milkman conspiracy, but there are so many gems (characters and levels) in this game that you can’t really have a favourite.

 

#3: Crash Bandicoot (PSone)Crash-Bandicoot-1

Developer: Naughty Dog (Originally. After the franchise started to gain fandom, it was sold around to several different dev houses.)

Publisher: Sony Entertainment. (Same deal as above.)

Man, who didn’t spent countless hours playing as Crash? This game was a staple of any 90’s child’s gaming career. The levels varied from too easy to controller-crushing hard and no matter how many times you died, you went back for more. Based around a set of fictional islands in Australia, Crash has to fight his creator Dr. Cortex to save his girlfriend.

The game is one of the best-selling games Sony ever released and still stands as a classic against the platformers of today.

 

Supermariolandboxart#2 Super Mario Land (GameBoy)

Developer: Nintendo EAD.

Publisher: Nintendo.

This was one of the first handheld games I’d ever experienced. It was also my first introduction to Nintendo and a portly Italian plumber. I don’t think I ever finished it because of the lack of save feature and a knack for dying. Sadly, my Gameboy no longer works so I can’t go running world to world, jumping on Gooma and punching coin blocks, but I can remember the fun (and frustration) I had as a kid playing Super Mario Land alongside Mario.

 

#1: 40 Winks (PSone)

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Developer: Eurocom

Publisher: GT Interactive.

40 Winks came out in 1999 and is classified as a “survival horror” game. Which is kind of funny since it’s about a set of twins (about the age of 7) named Ruff and Tumble; it doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of men. The idea of the game was that Ruff or Tumble (whoever the player chose) would fight through several 3D levels to save the Winks. The Winks are little creatures that help you have sweet dreams. But then Winks go bad, they give you nightmares!

You fight as robots, ninjas and super heroes to save the Winks from Nitecap and his minion Threadbear (his teddybear).

No shit, this game ruled my childhood.

 

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