Something Old, Something New

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 4:27 pm June 29, 2010

The Playstation Network finally posted a demo for the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island, titled “Launch of the Screaming Narwhal“. I didn’t play the Monkey Island games in the early 90′s when they were released for PC as another addition to your point and click adventure catalog. Seeing as how a 3D remake like this relies heavily on nostalgia (not unlike the Sam & Max series), I wasn’t overly excited to fire this one up. In fact, I didn’t play it at all. I sat in the living room playing another game while my wife played through this week’s demo. Her summary: “I would like it more if the guy didn’t talk so much.”  Though I was playing a different game at the time, I have to agree. The banter in Monkey Island wasn’t nearly as clever or entertaining when compared to Sam & Max, but I suppose it might be slightly more appropriate for a younger crowd as there isn’t as much “bodily humor” in Monkey Island – at least in the demo. “Launch of the Screaming Narwhal” is a pretty straight-forward puzzle/adventure game, where your goal is to find the stuff to put in the thing that will lower the bridge to let you get from point A to point B. If you want to try the PC demo, there is a link on the game’s homepage.

The more important part of this update is the mention of a great iPhone/iPad app called Tiki Towers. You have to build bridges, archways, ladders, and other types of scaffolding in order to get five monkeys from the beginning of the stage to the end, while gathering all of the available bananas. I didn’t do well in high school Physics, nor do I have any sort of background in construction and I think this combination is what made Tiki Towers so much fun. Instead of an actual problem solving game that would test my building know-how, I approach the game with a childish ignorance that results in a lot of trial and error and yelling at pixelated monkeys who tear up my bridges. You see, they’re monkeys. More than that, they’re video game monkeys. These little apes don’t just walk across bridges, they swing, jump, hoot, and holler their way across whatever it is you’ve built, destroying it unless it is structurally sound (see above comment about high school Physics). It’s original price was eight bucks, then it spent a week on the “Free List”, and now will only set you back a dollar. Simply put, this is the best bridge building game with monkeys in it that I’ve ever played.

Planet Minigolf

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 3:01 am June 15, 2010

Imagine that you’re eight years old. Your days revolve around nothing more than waking up, eating a bowl (or two) of cereal, and playing video games. You have video game characters on your notebooks, folders, bed sheets, and pajamas – you love video games. Got it? Now imagine that all of the video games in the world have somehow been erased from existence, save one: Planet Minigolf. Your schedule now has two items written in pencil: Cereal and Planet Minigolf. Now, and this is important, imagine an eraser and remove anything from your schedule that doesn’t say “cereal”.

The demo for Planet Minigolf promises all sorts of good things for the full version of the game like “over 100 challenging courses”,  “create your own mini-golfcourse”, and something revolving around the word “fun”. The demo itself only lets you do two things, customize one of around six goofy pre-made characters and play a pirate-themed 9 holes of frustrating putt putt golf. There are three different control schemes, one is actually called “easy”: push X, hold it until the swing meter reaches the desired point, and release. There is another “3 point” control scheme: Push X once to start the swing, again at the top of your swing, and a third time to actually connect with the ball. The third control scheme has you use the left thumbstick to pull back and push forward, mimicking some sort of a faux swing. I chose “easy”.

I was pretty much through with this game by the fourth hole, and not because I was losing, either. I manged to get 7 over par (not good) by the third hole and was only in second place. Once I got the hang of the swing meter, Planet Minigolf became an exercise in repetitive annoyance and frustration as inevitably some crab or seagull or something would wander into the path of the ball and interrupt my shot. I suppose I’d rather play this game as opposed to playing nine holes of actual golf, but that’s not saying much. I’d rather do a lot of horrendously tedious tasks before putting myself through that kind of torture. So if you wake up one morning and find yourself to be the above mentioned eight year old, get out the milk because you’re going to be eating a lot of cereal.

A Story, A Vacation, and A Poll

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 3:38 am June 8, 2010

The school year was drawing to a close and several of my students realized that they needed to find some way to get on my good side, and fast. Among their offerings were Mt. Dew, homemade cookies, Drumsticks (delicious ice cream cone treat), and other sugar-infused goodies. One gift - because bribe is such an ugly word – stood out above the rest this year.  I received my first video game from a student: God of War 3. For those of you paying attention, this is a very nice way to end the school year.

Summer break started with a four day marathon of graduation and going away parties before I was able to settle in and really enjoy all of the sugary goodness and bloody carnage (high calorie snacks and God of War, respectively). With a little bit of yard work out of the way and a couple months to catch up on some games and books ahead of me, I find myself at a loss for this week’s PSN installment. I’ve been too busy playing God of War, ModNation Racers, and finishing up Stephen King’s Dark Tower series to really get into what the Playstation Network has to offer.

With the story and vacation explained, we find ourselves staring pointblank at the poll. I’ve compiled a list of all of the demos that have surfaced on the PSN since my last real update and provided links to videos and reviews for each. The premise is simple: take a look at what’s available, then leave a comment with  your vote for which demo I should review for next week. If there is a tie, I’ll pull double duty and cover both. If nobody replies, I’ll stop spending so much time on these weekly posts.  Let the polling commence! Click more to find the polling information.


ModNation Racers: Part 2

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 3:46 pm June 1, 2010

One week is enough time to become familiar with a game like ModNation Racers, but not hardly enough time to master it. I’ve really spent more time watching it be played than actually playing it due to my wife’s fascination with the game’s creation and customization process. There is literally no limit to the amount of personal flare you can add to your character or racer (called a Mod) and cars. There are thousands of variants to choose from or combine while making your Mod, you literally start with a blank canvas similar to a Munny doll and build from there. Similarly, when building your car you can start with the frame and start customizing from there: everything from body styles, lift/lowering kits, paint styles and colors, decals, steering wheel, etc. If you’d rather not spend your time creating your racer and car (you might consider playing a different game) you can choose from several dozen pre-made racers and cars or check out what the ModNation Racers community has come up with. You have the option of sharing your creations with the rest of the game’s community and can likewise use their cars and Mods in your game.

From a racing game’s perspective, ModNation isn’t really anything new. It feels a lot like the newer installments in the Mario Kart series with it’s item cubes, silly weapons, and speed-boosting sparks. Now imagine that there are two tracks worth of learning curve and then a spike in difficulty that jumps from 50cc to 150cc and all of the other racers seem to have unlimited blue shells. I’m not good at racing games, but some of these races are ridiculously frustrating.  In the game’s so-far predictable story mode, you play the role of an up-and-coming racer who catches the attention of a grizzled old timer who now spends his days in the garage instead of the race track. I think you can see where this is going. Every track in this story mode has three main objectives, each increasing in difficulty and each opening up a new set of customization options for making new cars and Mods. So the draw isn’t just to come in first, that would only net you the goodies from one objective – say one new hair style, sun glasses, and some outlandish new spoiler to put on your car. The goal becomes something like coming in first while making sure to blow up three competing racers (2nd objective) and get 300,000 points from drifting (3rd objective). If you can manage to do that, then you’re swimming in new stuff to use while making your Mods and cars. See the dangerous cycle this creates?

Neither my wife nor I have really done a whole lot with the tack creation mode, but it is equally as impressive. If you’ve got the time, I’d suggest taking a look at some of the work the ModNation community has done so far. Click here to see some of the most popular Mod creations and use the green buttons under “My Profile” to switch between Mods, cars, and tracks that some folks have made.

ModNation Racers: Part 1

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 8:51 pm May 25, 2010

I’ll be brief. The ModNation Racers demo was so fun, I pre-ordered the game (which was on my doorstep when I got home today.) Here’s the premise: you get to create and customize your driver from the ground up. Then you do the same for your car. After that you can build a track of your own, race on one of the pre-loaded tracks, or download a track that someone else created. The racing is fun, but the creation process is really what sells this game hook, line, and sinker.

Here’s a link to the official website.

Here’s the obligatory picture:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go start playing. See you next week.

SPLIT/SECOND: A Grammar Lesson

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 12:16 am May 18, 2010

Everyone find their seats and take out a pencil and notebook. Today you get both a snide review of a free demo from the PSN Store, as well as a complimentary grammar lesson. What culmination of astrological happenings placed you in this fortuitous position? Black Rock Studios presents us with SPLIT/SECOND. For those keeping track, this makes the second consecutive PSN demo on PBB with an unnecessarily loud title (note the lack of any lower-case letters). Let’s begin.


Wakeboarding HD

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 11:21 am May 4, 2010

Do you remember the Gamecube’s launch title Wave Race: Blue Storm? It was the one that wasn’t Luigi’s Mansion or Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rebel Leader, had something to do with racing jet skis and the really pretty water. If that’s all you remember about it, that’s okay; you’re not missing out on much. I remember playing it, saying, “Wow, this has got to be as good as video game water graphics will ever get,” and then promptly put Rebel Leader back in because it was a lot more fun. This brings me to this week’s PSN freebie demo: Wakeboarding HD. Déjà vu, friends, déjà vu.


Lost Planet^2 Multiplayer Demo

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 2:31 am April 27, 2010

Sony’s Playstation Network offered only one demo freebie this week: Lost Planet 2 (Read “Lost Planet Squared”). Having not played the first installment of what I’m pretty sure was a game whose primary focus was a single player campaign, it seemed logical to pick apart this 360 MB multiplayer demo for this week’s installment. Bearing that juicy little nugget in mind, proceed at your own risk, this could be a bumpy ride.


Sam and Max: The Devil’s Playhouse

Filed under: PSN Update — CJ @ 1:23 am April 20, 2010

Having lost track of Sam and Max for the past few years, I was excited to see Episode 1 of their new series, The Devil’s Playhouse, pop up on this week’s PSN demo list.  Try to imagine my delight when I read the title of the first installment of this five part game: “The Penal Zone”. Indeed, the cartoon free-lance police that I first met in a mid 90s point-and-click PC game haven’t lost their edge when it comes to adolescent, anatomical humor.

Unless bodily humor is a sin, don't read too much into the title.