Monthly Archives: September 2012

Steam’s Big Picture Has Some Big Problems

When I first heard about Steam’s “Big Picture” mode, I was intrigued. I might have even been excited, and, as a fairly console-exclusive gamer, that’s no easy task for me when talking about PC games. Sure, the rock-bottom Steam sale prices have encouraged me to buy my share of low-cost digital entertainment every summer, but I grew up with my games on my TV. The PC was just for homework, stealing music, and porn. Could Big Picture finally change that?

It promises a lot: controller-based menu navigation and chat, Steam friends, and a huge screen enabling you to finally see what The Binding of Isaac looks like when he’s 42″ wide. After spending an afternoon with the beta, however, I’ve been left wanting. If anything, it’s proven to me that the stumbling blocks and hurdles that the average PC gamer has to endure just to get your game to work simply aren’t worth the hassle when the ready-to-go console gaming experience is just sitting there on the shelf, licking its lips and eye-humping me as it awaits my silky caress. Continue reading

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Nintendo Should Just Stop Making Tutorials

Bad luck, Brian!

For me, the hardest part about motivating myself to start a new game is actually the process of starting a new game. There’s a whole new set of mechanics to learn and a new set of controls to master. That’s probably one of the reason sequels do so well, honestly – there’s far less of a learning curve. It’s less scary.

Games nowadays – what with all those buttons! – can be daunting. And that’s coming from me; I’ve been playing games since around the time I first learned how to walk. I can only imagine how bad it is for a newcomer. Now that the traditional instruction manual is a relic of the past (if you get more than a black-and-white controller diagram in your game box, you’re doing pretty well for yourself in 2012), tutorials combine with the “How to Play” section of the Options menu to teach us exactly how to get started with our new purchase. But some developers just don’t do tutorials well. I’m looking at you, Nintendo.

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Dissecting the Wall Street Journal Borderlands 2 Review

Borderlands 2 came out in North America on Tuesday, September 18. That same day, plenty of reviews for the game were published, but one stuck out more than the rest – this one, from Wall Street Journal‘s Adam Najberg. It didn’t stand out because Adam gave the game a score that was far removed from the MetaCritic average. On the contrary, there was no score attached to it at all. It stood out because, in a rare showcase of solidarity across the gaming public, nearly everyone on the entire internet agreed that it is one of the worst reviews ever seen in a professional publication.

This gives me hope for the future. It gives me hope because it shows that we gamers are actually (finally!) expecting more out of the people that write about games. Quality can only go up if we utterly destroy those who don’t live up to our lofty expectations. It’s time to watch the world burn. Continue reading

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Seriously, How Unimportant Is Sound in Handheld Games?

I’ve been playing my shiny new 3DS (well, it’s new to me) long enough to determine that, at its heart, it’s really just a better DS. It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel; Nintendo just stuck with what worked, and gave it better graphics, a simply terrific analog stick, and some 3D-ness. One thing in particular I had hoped they would improve, however, is the audio. The speakers are much better, for sure (have a listen on Nintendo Video or Netflix and compare it to any DS game if you don’t believe me), but I still have exactly zero qualms about playing nearly any game with the sound off. When I think back to some of the incredibly catchy melodies from the original NES – over 25 years ago – this lack of advancement in the sound department is simply unacceptable.

This is one area in which Sony has always excelled – the PSP and the Vita have some pretty great speakers, and the games on those systems recognized that fact, so much so that investing in a decent pair of headphones to play games is actually recommended. (I’d expect nothing less from the creators of the Walkman.) The higher-capacity UMD format helped too, I think, as did the ability to play PSOne Classics on the systems. The CD format and the original PlayStation is when game technology finally made it possible to do sound design, spoken dialogue, and full orchestral soundtracks by real full orchestras justice, and the disc format has helped every console since do more with their games’ sound and music. But the 3DS and DS aren’t disc-based. Continue reading

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What the Crap Is Super Hexagon?

“Hey, come look at this!” I yell at my lady, who is sitting across the room. She takes a look over my shoulder at my tiny iPhone screen for roughly sixty seconds – about three lives – before getting dizzy and having to leave. The thing is: I have some bad seasick vertigo as well (perpetual spinning and falling will do that to you), but I just can’t stop. This is Super Hexagon, the latest minimalist action game from indie god Terry Cavanagh. Continue reading

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The Mumbles Problem

Hey everyone this is Mumbles on NICK’S BLOG!!

Well, I guess the cat is out of the bag. I’ve started my new video series that we’re hosting here on Digital Gumballs. It’s about video games. And the problems they can have. I made my first video about Skyrim because the complete lack of what I want in a roleplaying game really got under my skin. It’s funny because I played the game a lot, even if the whole time I knew my choices didn’t totally matter as much as I wanted them to.

Anyhow. Watch, share, subscribe. Thank you so much to everyone who has already watched it and commented. You guys are awesome.

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Review: Super Mario 3D Land: A Tale of Two Marios

I’ve never had a gaming experience like Super Mario 3D Land before. I’ve never before been so disappointed in a game, for hours upon hours, only to then have it perform a complete 180, destroy every negative feeling I was having before, and deliver a second act so wildly superior, so vastly, incredibly better in every conceivable way, that it was like it was made by a completely different studio. That’s Super Mario 3D Land in a nutshell: a first half of just complete, utter dredge, and a second half that reminds us all why Mario is the single most recognizable character in the world. Continue reading

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