video games

Quick Game Review – Portal 2

Why I loved Portal 2: First of all, it’s the tone – weird, dark humor pulled from a made-up-yet-plausible history of creepy scientific research funded by shadowy organizations – and then it’s the setting – a gorgeous, stunning, massive set of worlds that had me stopping to marvel at the epic industrial complexes built in the name of make-believe science and also left my head spinning as I flew across them like a tennis ball in a tumble dryer. The physics match the mood – lighthearted yet challenging – and the goofball characters, both AI and avatar, add to the wacky fun. The puzzles at times are so frustrating it can incite you to controller-throwing violence but the sweet rush of victory when the most obvious solution finally presents itself to you and a level is unlocked more than balance out the earlier vitriol with heady endorphins and sweaty-palmed desire for the next challenge. Played through on single player and co-op, one of the few games I’ve ever finished both ways because it was that engaging.

Portal 2 on GamerDNA

Quick Game Review – Stoked: Big Air Edition

Good game, gets me in the mood to go ride for real, but it’s just 1) too realistic – tricks are not epic enough, air is not insane enough, speed is not ludicrous enough and 2) all the challenges are about doing specific tricks, there is no sense of creativity or personal style. Maybe it’s my fault, because I want so bad for this to be SSX Tricky and it just isn’t.

Stoked: Big Air Edition on GamerDNA

Quick Game Review – Dirt 2

After 1 hour of Dirt 2, I logged into Gamefly and hit KEEP. I was literally cheering at the screen when I’d nail a 1st place win, and if there had been champagne handy I would have sprayed it all over. I love hearing Travis Pastrana address me by name, I love the driving dynamics, I love the music, I love the smooth transitions between racing, menus, and replays with no giant block of loading/wait time, and I love winning and hearing real drivers tell me I’m a badass behind the wheel. Dirt 2 is a genius game that’s really well put together and I’m going to love playing it through. I haven’t even touched MMO yet and I’m already convinced this game is a keeper.

Dirt 2 on GamerDNA

Quick Game Review – Saints Row 2

I love so many things about this game – the gang-leader story arc, the cool add-ons to this genre (running a gang, territory management), the dark and comic nature – that it’s very disappointing how painful online play is. Online play is buggy, confusing, crashy, and frustrating. I was really looking forward to an awesome sandbox/co-op after playing solo and was left really, really disappointed. In solo mode, however, it’s an excellent diversion, especially if you’ve already finished GTA4 and are longing for more.

Saints Row 2 on GamerDNA

Quick Game Review – Stoked

What I really wanted was SSX Tricky. Stoked is visually impressive but too “real” – I play a video game (especially a snowboarding one) for better-than-reality tricks, stunts, and visuals. The music and characters are funny but get repetitive, but none of that would register if the gameplay were as epic and outrageous as I had hoped. But it’s just not SSX and I can’t help but pine for my PS2 and Elise, Kaori, Mac, Moby, Psymon and Zoe.

Stoked on GamerDNA

I am a video game addict (this week)

No sense bothering with an intelligent introduction; let’s just jump right in. Gran Turismo 4 is super. After making it home yesterday, i took just a moment to switch cars (it was only appropriate to drive the Z to the mall to pick up the quintessential racing game – plus it was 60 degrees and i’m getting started on my tan early this season) and raced (not quite literally) to the mall to rescue my preordered copy from the confines of EB Games’ locked display case. In keeping with the theme of today’s blather, i took yet another second on the way out the door to stuff the GBA in my pocket – playing Mario Cart while waiting in line helped keep me in a driving state of mind.

Despite boring Danielle – she was over for the evening – i of course had to pop in the GT4 disc right away. Some small snafus finding enough space on a memory card for the new game save, but once that hassle was behind me, the ooh’s and aah’s could begin. The game is very pretty, and sounds very nice, and is just generally about as shiny and appealing as a Porsche showroom dipped in chocolate sauce. 700 cars, beautiful scenery, and so much realism to the tuning and tweaking of your cars that it makes my head spin.

Now although the online play feature didn’t make it into the release, there is a LAN play feature that would let you play against another PS2 in your home network. Neat, you say. But what if your home network were to, say, span the entire globe? Do tell. Sounds crazy but totally possible, thanks to XLink Kai, some crazy brits that are experts at network routing trickery and the foolery of console LAN games. Not to leave anyone out, their software will support XBox and GameCube networking, too – and even the PSP (for the true early adopters). It basically uses your computer as a software router and grants you access to an international group of, in this case, fellow GT4 release-day junkies. Def going to try that out. Oh, and as all good things to be found on the internet are either ridiculously expensive or free… this is free.

In between retina-burning marathons behind the wheel of my highly-modified green 89 virtual 300ZX 2+0, sometimes it’s good to work something out on paper. Like maybe an artisitic interpretation of 8-bit Super Mario created with post-it notes in honor of Engineering Week. Very cool, kudos to those kids at UCSC, and to 3M for making black post-its for just such an occasion. For my celebration, i’ll be giving my opponens pollicis a heavy workout.

Easter and UPS Tracking Numbers

I’m coming to you on this rainy tuesday from the breakfast table, racing against time to type something interesting and still eat my bowl of special K before it gets too soggy. According to ups tracking, my neato new phone is supposed to arrive today. I really just want to sit at home and play ssx tricky until it shows up, but i’ll probably go to work… ugh. I need to go visit the offices in burien (south seattle) this week, but i hate going down there almost as much as i hate driving to kent – it’s just a sucky drive, and when i get there nothing works like it’s supposed to. Plus i always seem to get in car accidents in that part of town. Well, ok, it only happened once, but i’m entirely creeped out down there now about it.

Mom, Dad and Danielle will be here thursday afternoon for a long weekend. It’ll be cool to have them here, hopefully the weather will be as nice as it was last weekend and we’ll be able to hit a bunch of the fun stuff. I already have tickets for a Mariners game saturday nite – my birthday present to myself. I still have two more nites to finish cleaning the house…

Haven’t been getting much done on the cleaning front so far cause i haven’t been home an evening since, like, march. Went to Dave’s last nite to help Matt finish up Ian’s transmission. At least, that was the plan, until we figured out a banjo bolt that connects the clutch master cylinder was missing. It’s a special order part, won’t be in for a few days, and none of the local places had anything similar enough. So it’s mostly put back together, other than the master cylinder (obviously) and a few under-hood parts (battery, supercharger piping) that would be in the way. But the pedals are all there, the tranny is in, and it shifts – although third is a little sketchy. I think it’s just stuck, nothing a running engine and moving car won’t fix. Fourth works just fine, and it’s on the same actuator. I keep telling Ian that, but he’s worried that it’s not going to work once we get it all together. In that case, i think Matt’s and my advice would be ‘take it to a transmission shop!’

Sunday was a lovely Easter lunch/dinner feast with Adam, Lindsey, Mike and Donna. My contribution was two bottles of wine, both with a story: a bottle of Rosemount shiraz that Tim and Carol introduced me to, and a Due Uve – an italian white – that my wine expert Michelle McL recommended. Both were great, i drank quite a bit of both of them…. 😉 I was up early that morning for Easter mass at a very beautiful cathedral that is only two blocks from my house – ‘so those are the church bells that keep waking me up!’ – and had breakfast with Josh downtown at the Cyclops. It was a beautiful, sunny, excellent Easter sunday!

Wednesday nite Josh, Kim and myself are headed to an animated film festival in the U district that’s supposed to be killer-funny. So that pretty much leaves tonite for me to finish my laundry and clean the house… but why do i suspect i’m going to spend all nite playing with the new phone…?

A whole bag of guacamole chips

It’s 2 am on sunday nite but i’m just not sleepy – seemed like a good time to give the weekend update. I can call it the weekend update because it’s still officially the weekend – presidents’ day is so sweet, especially when combined with company holidays!

Had a nice relaxing weekend so far, spent saturday around the house getting stuff done and doing some unpacking. Sunday did some more of the same as i was awake freakishly early. I did go to bed at a decent hour – this week at work wore me out! – but i forgot to close the curtains and i think the sunshine got the better of me. Of course, by the time i had gotten out of bed and found a shower and breakfast, any trace of sunshine had turned completely into a torrential downpour. No matter, as by noon i was in Ian’s garage again (this time in the basement, where it’s warmer. Yes, i’m a big wimp about the cold. No cracks about being from Montana, either – i’m a Seattleite now, i’ve acclimatized, 30 degrees feels cold to me!). Didn’t have much to do to my car, although i have a few ideas, mostly i just took some things apart to look and did some wiring work. Stayed less than 6 hours this time, which is my record – although this is the 5th weekend in a row that both Ian and i have spent in that garage on the business end of a wrench, which is a record, too. At least nothing was wrong this time, tho…

I booked out of there to meet Libby, so we could do her taxes at Starbucks. Okay, that sounds weird – we went there to use the internet and drink coffee and e-file her taxes. Trouble is, T-mobile was being stubborn and kept booting us off, so it took us longer than it should have and was kinda frustrating. With espresso in hand, however, we were both jovial about the whole thing and made a pretty good time of it. Dropped her off and headed up 99 to see Jason & Julia’s great new pad, and play gamecube (Timesplitters is cool!). Between Jasons’ gamecube and my PS2, i don’t foresee either of us getting a lot accomplished when we visit each other. They booted me out when bedtime hit, so it was back down 99 where i caught up with Patrick (um, on the phone) and talked him into turning around and coming back across the lake to downtown. The plan was a hip-hop show at Medusa, but cover was wicked and it was almost 1, so we walked up to Belltown Billiards for a couple drinks instead. Again, an observation at how cold it is… especially since i left my jacket in his trunk – augh! They closed early and turned on all the lights (c’mon! I know it’s sunday, but it’s a holiday weekend!) so we jetted out. I had a good time completely toasting this integra on S99 on the way home – apparently his car just looked fast, where mine looks slow and is fast 😉 – and that brings me to now, sitting up in bed enjoying wireless internet and a bag of guacamole chips (try them, seriously, they rock). And since i don’t have to work tomorrow – which as i mentioned above is totally sweet – i see no reason why i shouldn’t stay up a little longer and shop for 300ZTT’s on ebay motors… So that’s what i’m gonna do. Isn’t being an adult cool sometimes? 🙂