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  • Win, Lose, Banana – The Best $1 You’ve Ever Spent

    Posted on November 29th, 2012 Brian No comments

    Win, Lose, Banana CardsLittle pockets of downtime pepper our lives: waiting for the bus, waiting at a crosswalk, waiting for that one person in the group to come back from the bathroom again. We make smalltalk, we look at our watches, we check our phones. These moments flit away like a mote of dust passing through a sunbeam, a few seconds at at time.

    Win, Lose, Banana is a game for these moments. A typical game lasts less than ten seconds, turning that awkward silence where everyone would normally be feigning sudden extreme interest in the patterns on the tin ceiling into an awkward argument over which player has the banana.

    Win, Lose, Banana is a so-called convincing game for three players. It consists of merely three cards: Win, Lose, and Banana. Each player randomly choses a card, and the player with the Win card simply shows it and announces victory. Congratulations! The winner is then entitled to the banana.

    Ah, but who has it? The two remaining players must then convince the winner that they have the banana – and that the other player is the loser. If the winner chooses correctly, both she and the banana may smugly gloat over the loser. But if the loser  manages to be more convincing, he must mercilessly mock the other two players. The only real rule is that you may not simply show the winner your card; everything else is fair game. The lengths to which players can go to be convincing are otherwise bounded only by decorum and your imagination. And perhaps the length of time it takes that one friend to pee.

    It’s hard to describe how much fun I’ve had with this game. Passing moments on the street with friends would sudden turn rowdy as we argued over possession of the banana. And at only $1, it’s a no-brainer that you ought to buy it. In fact, buy a dozen and give them away to friends. This may be the single best value in gaming – ever – and quite possibly the best $1 you’ve ever spent.

    Publisher: Asmadi Games
    Price: $1
    Rating: 5 Tacos
    Available in DC at: Labyrinth Game Shop, 645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE

  • Wii Downloading

    Posted on December 22nd, 2006 Brian No comments

    The throbbing blue slit when I woke up tipped me off that the Opera beta for the Wii was released this morning. I downloaded it this morning, and it’s an interesting concept. The ridiculous intuitiveness of the Wiimote has the potential to finally make the web a living room activity, accessible to even the most Luddite grandmother.

    There is a ways to go, however, mostly because of the content. The mental vision in our brain for how the web is supposed to work has been deeply tainted by a mouse/keyboard paradigm, perhaps irrevocably so. Televisions – even with so-called high definition – are very low-resolution, and tend to be viewed from tens of feet away rather than tens of inches. The information density on such a display has to be lower in order to not overwhelm the senses.

    However, this post is really about the Wii download screen, specifically the progress meter. It seems that, in an attempt to be funny or clever, some user interface numskull has replaced the normal filling bar with Mario collecting coins and hitting blocks. I could try and describe how it works, but it will be faster if you just watch the video.

    As you can see, this is a terrible idea, in both idea and execution.

    1. It is almost impossible to figure out what’s going on.
    2. Even if you figure out what’s going on, the information portrayed is inaccurate, at best.
    3. There are whole generations of people who have never even seen the original Super Mario Bros, and will be utterly confused.
    4. It is so freaking annoying! The urge to put my face into a box with glue and nails is almost overwhelming.

    Please, Nintendo, fix the Wii download screen.

  • Nintendo Replacing Wii Remote Straps

    Posted on December 15th, 2006 Brian No comments

    In some games, playing the Wii can be very physical. Wii sports, for example, takes its cue from real sports: The harder you play, the better you’ll do. However, to the shock of its Japanese designers, we Americans have been taking things to the extreme. As usual. There have been many reports of Wii remotes flying out of sweaty hands, breaking their protective wrist straps (meant just for this purpose), and wreaking all sorts of havoc – ranging from smashed television to dented walls and broken light bulbs.

    You don’t need to swing that hard, people!

    Despite us, Nintendo is doing the right thing and freely replacing the straps. They have an online Wii strap replacement form, and they even allow you to obtain more than one strap – in case you have managed to wrestle another Wiimote from a mobbed store. You will probably want to order four no matter what, in case you are planning on buying more controllers in the future, and they happen to come with old, crappy straps.

  • Wii Remote Uses Bluetooth – Simple Hack Controls Your Mouse

    Posted on December 10th, 2006 Brian No comments

    I accidentally discovered that the Wiimote uses Bluetooth for its wireless capabilities. Way cool! Using some instructions I discovered online, it was possible to control my mouse cursor by tilting the remote in various directions.

    With the Wiimote using standards-based communications mechanisms, there are so many awesome possibilities suddenly open. Can you imagine MythTV using the Wiimote for on-screen manipulation?

  • Trade Wii Codes With Me

    Posted on December 10th, 2006 Brian No comments

    I finally got my grubby little hands on a Wii, thanks to Chris and Katie. It’s pretty sweet, but I’ll save my thoughts for later.

    For now, are there any of my friends out there who have one yet? Drop me a note so we can exchange Wii Codes!

  • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

    Posted on September 18th, 2006 Brian No comments

    After a couple of of months of Metro time, and a few weekend hours here and there, I’ve finally beaten Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time for the DS. It was recommended to me by Greg as a pretty good RPG for the DS.

    I partially agree. In many areas, the game makes some neat innovations, but in others it falls short. Let’s start with the good.

    The graphics are good. Nothing spectacular, but an RPG’s graphics don’t have to be. They get the point across, and there are some fun niche animations that are used to good effect throughout the story. The sound is not much more than bleeps and bloops, leaving much to be desired.

    The gameplay is an interesting twist on the standard Mario bop-the-enemy-on-the-head fare. The map is strewn with question blocks to be hit. These blocks usually yield coins, but also offer power ups and items for battle. A neat feature is the ability to get the drop on almost any enemy (except for ones with spikes sticking up) by jumping on them as the wander around world screen. When battle initiates, Mario drops in from above with a pre-emptive hit.

    The battle is where this game really shines. Every attack in battle requires some form of interaction. To begin with, each of the four party members – Mario, Luigi, Baby Mario, and Baby Luigi – are assigned one of the four buttons on the DS. Successfully attacking requires hitting the appropriate character’s button at the right time based on the on-screen action. For example, imagine Mario is to make a standard attack. The basic attack is, of course, a bop-on-the-head. In order to successfully execute the attack, you must hit the Mario’s button (the A button) as he stomps on the head of the enemy. Failure to do so will do significantly less damage, and Mario will bounce to the floor in an embarassing display.

    More advanced attacks are accomplished similarly. Utilizing the special Bros. Items, so called because they require the brothers to work together, can often demand great concentration and timing to rack up big damage. For example, Mario and Luigi can kick a green shell back-and-forth against an enemy. Whenever the shell reaches one of the brothers, you are required to hit the button for the character. Failure to do so sends the shell spinning off the screen, but success allows for massive damage to be accumulated. The catch is that the shell speeds up slightly with each successive hit, thus becoming consistently more difficult.

    Enemy attacks tend to be rather basic, from simply running into a character to spitting a fireball, but in another fun twist the brothers can defend and counter-attack. Each enemy gives some slight indication of how and who they are about to attack just before doing so, and a well-timed jump can not only repel the attack, but deal some damage in return. It’s a lot of fun trying to figure out the patterns to the different enemies throughout the game.

    Overall, the combat system is very clever, and is the highlight of the game. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the old Final Fantasy VIII combat system, except that in Partners in Time it doesn’t suck.

    What does suck is the story. The initial plot hook is not completely terrible, but it’s executed poorly from thereon. Most of the plot devices come out of nowhere, for no reason. More often than not, you head to a newly opened world simply because you’re told to. The maps are horribly linear, meaning most of your wandering serves no purpose but to kill time. Sure, there are the aforementioned blocks found throughout, but the rewards from those blocks rarely graduates beyond some additional Bros. Items; so it loses its luster after the forty-third time. And clocking in at just over fifteen hours, all the mindlessness previously mentioned makes the game even shorter in reality.

    Also, the dialouge is simply terrible. Clearly this game was written for a young audience. Much of it is silly, and there is a ton of drawn-out slapstick that ends up being almost painful to watch after the ninth time. One particular highlight, though, is a scene where the Hammer Brothers get Shroob implants in them, and end up talking in l33t speak. I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

    So overall, is this worth playing? Probably not for a seasoned gamer. There are some neat things done, but the pain required to enjoy those moments makes it a game I just cannot recommend. It might be worth it for a younger player who is just getting into RPGs, but not for many others.

  • GenCon 2006

    Posted on August 18th, 2006 Brian No comments

    Were you wondering where I was? Me, neither.

    In case you were, however, I was on holiday with Hedda. Ostensibly the Great Midwest Family Tour of 2006, the only part anybody beyond my immediate family might care about was GenCon 2006. Like previous years, we crashed the homes of various friends who live in Indianapolis. Extra-double thanks to Nate & Kathie for putting up with all of us!

    So, what were the highlights?

    • Apples to Apples was a huge hit with me, and everybody else. I bought the party box and the second expansion, to add some currently-relevant cards like “Gas Prices” and “Iraq.”
    • Once again, we hung out with Jeff, the creator of Killer Bunnies, and the Quest for the Magic Carrot. Of course, I also came home with the Perfectly Pink and Wacky Khaki expansions, as well as the sub-game Kinder Bunnies, which can be mixed in with the original game. Also, we got to playtest Jeff’s newest super-secret game. I can’t say much more than that.
    • The big surprise was Gloom. In this game, you control a family of five misfits, and the point is to make them as unhappy as possible and then kill them. Whoever’s family is most depressed wins the game. Of course, you also spend plenty of time trying to make your opponents’ families as happy as possible. The game is cleverly printed on transparent playing cards, and although there are some issues with the ink sticking and ripping off onto other cards, it really is cool to be able to play bonuses on top of other cards and just have them show through appropriately.
    • To my dismay, the latest expansion to Munchkin sold out before I could buy it. I’ll be ordering The Need for Steed online, I guess.
    • There were some really great costumes this year. My favorite without a doubt, though, was the Ghostbuster. His proton pack looked so awesome, and he even had a trap! The Star Wars slave costume was a close second, though.
    • We took a little side-trip to the Ratskeller for some beer and live music. Nate and I drank a lot of Poorter.
    • I played Evil Stevie’s Pirate Game for the first time. There were too many people playing, but with a smaller group it would be an awesome game.

    If you’d like, feel free to browse all of the photos in my GenCon 2006 Flickr set. Also, here are some highlights in case you’d rather not wade through them all.

    The rest of the trip was spent with Hedda’s family in Mishawaka, and with my Mom at her vacation spot in Michigan.

  • Draw a dragon? That’s easy!

    Posted on July 13th, 2006 Brian No comments

    In Brain Age, one of the things you are asked to do is draw things from memory without any reference. You’re just up and asked to draw a giraffe or chainsaw or rhinoceros from memory, and then you can compare what you’ve drawn with a real drawing of the item. It’s supposed to activate your pre-frontal cortex or some such.

    Anyway, this morning, I was asked to draw a dragon. A dragon? That’s easy! First draw an S. Then, draw a more different S. Close it up real nice, and then add some teeth using consummate Vs. Add some legs and some wings, and …

    A Dragon!

    Apparantly, that’s not what they had in mind.

  • Nintendo DS Surprises Me

    Posted on July 13th, 2006 Brian No comments

    Our good friends Greg & Kat came to visit us this past weekend. Greg is a video game junkie, and works for Cranky Pants Games.

    So naturally, I seek his opinion on what’s hot and what’s not in the video game world. His answer? His favorite system on the market right now is the Nintendo DS.

    I had always been a little leery of the DS. It felt gimmicky to me, with the two screens and the stylus. My gut reaction made me think of the infamous Virtual Boy. But Greg offered me a whirl free of charge on some of the best games the system has to offer.

    Was I ever surprised! The graphics are far superior to any of the other Nintendo handhelds, probably on part with something the PSP has to offer. What was truly shocking, though, was how naturally the two screens and touch screen fit into the gameplay. For example, in many games, like the fantastic New Super Mario Brothers, the second screen isn’t really used for much other than a map. However, there is a spot on the second screen where you can store an extra power up which can be intuitively retrieved by simply tapping at it with your thumb. In other games, like Brain Age, the stylus is the primary input mechanism for the entire game.

    Greg had just bought a new, shinier DS Lite, so he sold me his old one for cheap. He didn’t have to work hard.

  • Galactic Civilizations 2

    Posted on March 12th, 2006 Brian No comments

    I was a big fan of the original Galactic Civilizations. It was everything that Masters of Orion 3 wanted to be, and was an amazing example of how gameplay is more important than graphics. In the 3D-everything era, GalCiv was using sprites, but it didn’t matter because the game was so good.

    There has been a bit of a story on digg today (here and here) about the publisher’s decision to not protect their game with any DRM. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank them personally for it. I’m a paying customer, and it infuriates me when the company I patronize treats me as a criminal. It happened to me with Half-Life 2, and I won’t be playing any more Valve games because of it.

    It is very clear from their forum post that Stardock gets it. Software gets stolen, and there isn’t much you can do about it. Rather than annoy your customers and lose sales, reward them for purchasing your work with updates and content. On top of that, the GalCiv2 license is wonderfully fair, allowing users to install the software on multiple machines for convenience. As the author says, “How many sales are lost because people want to have a game on their laptop and desktop and don’t want to drag CDs around so choose not to buy the game?”

    Oh, and this game is crack. I have stayed up until 4:00 a couple of times already because I simply lost track of time.