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Pointing the Adventure in the Right Direction

Got a few thousand Wii Points to spend? It’s worth investing them in the enchantingly odd (and odd-titled) Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People. The first two episodes of the game series that defines acronymic awkwardness are now available on WiiWare, and provide welcome resuscitation for the sporadically dead genre of yore: the Point and Click Adventure.

Based on the long running online animated cartoon Homestar Runner, S.B’s.C.G.F.A.P focuses on the Macho Libre figure of Strong Bad and his frequent attempts to make Homestar’s life a misery. The first episode sees him, among other things, ruining Homestar’s attempt to win The Free Country Tri-Annual Race to the End of the Race, using a metal detector to find buried treasure, and chain-sawing bushes to death in order to gather their precious branches. It’s all madly surreal stuff, brilliantly written and spoken in wonderfully self-mocking internet idiom. And it might remind you of such classics as…such classics as…DAY OF THE TENTACLE!

Has Lara Croft revealed the awful truth?

Is Tomb Raider: Underworld as good as some sources claim? According to blog site Twitter, one of its reviewers was asked to postpone a review if the game was expected to score less than 8 out of 10. While the PR firm accused, Barrington Harvey, has firmly denied any tampering, it raises the obvious question; who can you trust?
It's certainly a fine line. I was once asked hypothetically in an interview what I would do if a games company told me I couldn't review a game unless I gave it a high score. I said that as a staff writer, or someone even further down the pecking order, I'd have to run such a decision past the editor. But it appears lack of a game to review would be the least of my worries. My interviewer told me that sometimes such "requests" could be backed up by suggestions that certain advertising would be removed and that future releases would be more difficult to come by.
It's certainly true that exclusive reviews are often handed to magazines based on the amount of coverage they are given, even if that means trying to fill nine pages of one official magazine with just four or five fairly boring screenshots (you know who you are!). And in the cut-throat world of games magazines, getting your hands on a game first may put you in the sort of mood to add an extra mark or two to a game's score.

Don’t buy a PS3 this Christmas...

...wait until Easter - the price is set to go down. According to rumours surrounding the Sony Computer Entertainment Staff Annual Briefing yesterday, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe head David Reeves said the pricing of the PlayStation 3 is set to get "more competitive" from Easter 2009. In some crazy, mixed-up world, that may mean that the pounds and the pence are going to have a race to see who's better. In our normal, mundane world though, that means a price cut.
According to PS3 fansite D+pad (http://www.dpadmagazine.com/2008/11/22/huge-sony-info-blowout/), Sony's console is outselling Microsoft's Xbox 360 in PAL territories, with a bigger installed user base. SCEE is currently the darling of Sony's games division, eclipsing SCEJ and SCEA in terms of sales. D+Pad's source added that sales of the PS3 in Europe have put the accounts ‘into the black'.
No exact date was leaked for the PS3 price drop but seeing as how the eagerly-awaited Killzone 2 is slated for a March release, don't be surprised if the two go hand in hand. Sony had better pray that there's a quick turnaround in the world economy or, price drop or no, there are going to be less and less people with money burning a hole in their pocket by the time we're tucking into chocolate eggs. And those hard-up parents who shelled out on a PS3 this Christmas in the vain hope of silencing their whingeing offspring are going to be plenty mad that they could have waited three months and saved some dough. Plus, the lure of a £130 360 may still prove too much for some, particularly in these economically tight times.

Square's New Partership

Square Enix Inc., the creator of huge franchises such as Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest, has announced that they have entered a new partnership with another company. Gas Powered Games Corp. and Square Enix are entering what they are calling a "strategic partnership".
To consummate their joining, the companies are working on a sequel to the Supreme Commander, an award winning strategy-based series. The partnership is one of the first steps in hopes to increase western development efforts for the global market. Considering how Enix has exclusively worked with only Japanese based companies before this, a location outside of Japan comes as a bit of a shock. However, working with western companies is the going to be one of the "cornerstones" in creating games geared toward North American and European markets.
"We see great opportunities in North American and European markets, both of which are expected to be maintaining sustainable growth over these coming years," said Yoichi Wada, president and a representative of Square Enix Ltd. "Therefore, it is crucial we create alliances with proven developers such as Gas Powered Games in order to serve these significant markets better by providing products and services in tune with customer tastes."
John Yamamoto, president and chief executive officer of Square Enix and Square Enix Ltd., Square Enix's sister company in U.K., says that, "We are extremely excited to begin working with Gas Powered Games' talented personnel and see this strategic partnership as a significant step in our efforts to bring Square Enix titles to a broader global audience."

See, the problem with gamertags.....

“Cool, add me as a friend”
“Sure, whats your gamertag?”
“Its Renegade Bill”
“Renegade Bill, no problem, will do that now-”
“But the e's are 3's instead”
“Instead of e's use 3's yeah?”
“Yup, the number 3”
“Any particular reason for this?”
“Well no....but everyones doing it”
“Ok, 3's it is then, just add you now as-”
“And for the B use an 8”
“An 8?”
“Yeah, the Bill starts with an 8”
“But that doesn't look right”
“I know, but everyones doing it”
“Right. 3's for e's and and 8 for B. Got it. Just add you-”
“And for the last l use a 1.”
“You use a 1 for an l? Don't tell me, everyones doing it?”
“Yup, they are”

'Playstation Addiction' Forces Child into Hospital

A 13 year old Italian boy, Lorenzo Amato, was admitted into a local hospital after showing stroke-like symptoms, Ananova has reported. The doctors at Italy's Lecce hospital said Amato couldn't speak. They thought he could have had a severe brain disorder after the youngster didn't understand anything that was going on around him.
Later the medics learnt that he'd been playing on his Sony Playstation for an unbelievable amount of time; a "marathon session" in fact.
The news travelled fast and a local politician, Antonio Buccoliero, was concerned for the boy. After speaking to the doctors Buccoliero said "They eventually managed to take care of him once they understood that this was a strange kind of mental detachment connected to his Playstation."Nevertheless, the teenager, Amato, told his father to throw out the console and games, and stated "If I even think about it I want to throw up."
It's a sad time when children are being affected mentally by video games. They are supposed to be seen as a source of entertainment, pleasure, and nowadays even education (video games not children). What would happen to the industry if this changed and we started to see video games as an addictive influence like smoking or alcohol?
Back in 2006, a clinic for addicted gamers was opened in the Netherlands. An eight week program was started by the ‘Smith and Jones' addiction consultancy, with the knowledge of around 20% of gamers, including some children, could develop a dependency on their gaming habits. They say that this compulsion resembles symptoms of gambling addicts and risk damaging relationships, health, education and their careers. One patient said "I have no social life; I have no friends - only cyber-friends"

And Wrath of the Lich King sells...

In their latest press release, Blizzard has announced that they broken the sales record for a PC game once again, a title that they already held. Wrath of the Lich King sold 2.8 million copies in its first twenty-four hours of availability. This number crushes the number the last World of Warcraft expansion, The Burning Crusade, set in January 2007 of 2.4 million.
The latest expansion was released in North America, Europe, Chile, Argentina and Russia on November 13th. On November 14th, citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were able to purchase Lich King, then on the 18th in South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. More than 15,000 stores around the world had midnight releases in celebration of the game for the thousands of gamers in wait. Several of these locations had surprise appearances by Blizzard representatives, who signed copies for gamers.
"We're grateful for the incredible support that players around the world have continued to show for World of Warcraft," says Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "Wrath of the Lich King contains some of the best content we've created for the game so far, and we look forward to seeing even more players log in to experience it in the days ahead."
Blizzard's success obviously comes from their dedication to players to give them the best they have to offer. From first hand experience, Blizzard has top notch customer service as well as an easy user interface. The massively popular MMO had over eleven million subscribers prior to the release of the Wrath of the Lich King, a number that is expected to grow. WoW is easily the most popular MMO right now, if not of all time. Blizzard is by far one of the biggest companies in the industry, becoming a worldwide gaming powerhouse.
More on the latest expansion can be found at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/wrath, or on blizzard.com.

Games rating debate rumbles on

While PEGI's new traffic-light games-rating system looks to be getting rolled out in Europe by next spring, debate in the UK still rages on over who knows best. A report into the rating of games by Dr Tanya Byron, which concluded its consultation review yesterday, suggested that the current PEGI symbol system is too confusing for parents, with some believing the black and white age suggestions referred to the difficulty of the game, rather than whether or not they'd be exposing their little cherubs to a screenful of violent laser death.
PEGI (Pan European Game Information) has come up with a traffic-light solution, where the age ratings would be displayed in colour-coded circles. ELSPA, the UK's governing body, seems to think this is a good idea and has submitted a report to the Government suggesting that the PEGI system should be adopted and become legally enforceable. But the British Board of Film Classification disagrees. It sees itself as the arbiter of taste and decency, especially when it comes to those little round symbols. "We have challenged a number of organisations who have come up with symbols that look very close to BBFC symbols," said David Cooke, the BBFC's director.
So the argument looks set to continue. As games reach new heights of photorealism, and gamers lust after more violent, bloodthirsty titles - or simply ones where the violence and bloodthirsty-ness appear more realistic - there obviously needs to be a system in place which monitors and advises on the suitability of a game for a certain age range. What this does not need to boil down to is an arm-wrestling contest between the BBFC and PEGI over who owns the rights to put numbers in coloured circles. Maybe squares, or some other, more imaginative shapes, are the way forward?

Splitting Screams, not Splitting Screens: The Death of Console Multiplayer Gaming?

“Pistols on Licence to Kill! No Oddjob! Isn’t there an option to disable the body armour?”

Hear that? That’s the sound of gamers talking. And not through a headset which sounds like they’re holding an angry bee in their mouth as they do so. About which game? Goldeneye 007. Granted, Rare’s masterpiece/fluke is now a jerky and unplayable mess, but at its time of release, it laid down both the technical and social foundations of split-screen multiplayer gaming. So why have these foundations been abandoned, and why has nobody returned to build a party house upon them?


To hardcore or not to hardcore.

Have you ever played Call of Duty 4 online? Then you'll instantly be at home with World at War multiplayer. In fact, its pretty much identical except for the World War Two setting – different maps, Seelow, Makin, Berlin etc and authentic World War Two weapons. You begin life as a bog standard private and must gain four ranks before you unlock the create a class option. Here you can choose to create classes with different weapons and perks; skills that increase your effectiveness on the battlefield, from flak jackets to protect you to making your chosen weapon more dangerous with Deep Impact and Stopping Power and similar perks. Also like Call of Duty 4, the more kills you rack up unlocks weapon challenges which in turn gives you extra experience points and weapon upgrades such as suppressors, sights, bipods etc....as you rank up through the levels, you unlock more weapons and more perks. Like I said, very similar to Modern Warfare.