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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For March, 2006

Depeche Mode's Simlish Strut Gets Video

March 12, 2006 3:38 AM | Simon Carless

depechemode.jpg You may have heard the news, earlier in the week, that Depeche Mode had been signed for a Sims 2 song, with 'Suffer Well' "re-recorded by the band and lead singer David Gahan into Simlish, the fake language created for the Sims universe."

Well, Vedrashko's 'Brands In Games' blog has spotted that the machinima-style music video for the song, previously just available on EA's official The Sims 2 site, has appeared on YouTube for easier watching, complete with a tragic story of a robot spurned by its own, and Gahan's characteristic baritone a little more garbled than normal.

The original story also has great info on Simlish itself, which "...was formed out of a synthesis of Ukranian and the Filipino language of Tagalog. Series creator Will Wright also experimented with using the native Navajo language, which had utility in World War II as a language very few people on Earth knew, making it resistant to enemy interception."

The Shroud Goes GPS Gaga With U.S. Mobile Users

March 11, 2006 9:16 PM | Simon Carless

shroud.jpg Over at U.S. handheld site Modojo, which we referenced the other day, they have a look at the GPS functionality for U.S.-aimed mobile RPG title The Shroud, and it's very interesting stuff.

Your World Games VP Robert Sprogis explains the GPS-related concept for the Harvest Moon-ish mobile RPG, which actually includes farming challenges for its other major online mode: "Players with GPS compatible phones will be alerted to breaches during their gameplay. A compass will point them in the direction they need to go, and they will have to physically move themselves to these breach spots in order to embark in these GPS challenges."

And where might these be? According to Sprogis: "All the obvious landmarks would make great choices for breaches, anything from the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge. It would be pretty cool to see a whole bunch of Shroud players standing out in the middle of the Golden Gate competing in a GPS challenge." As long as the authorities think they're going to stay on the bridge, of course, yikes.

When Game Music Gets 'Dangerous'

March 11, 2006 2:11 PM | Simon Carless

lotr.jpg A little old, perhaps, but not spotted by many - Science Blogs' 'Cognitive Daily' blog took a look at how in-game music affects video games last month, citing a study in which researchers made volunteers "play three different segments from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers."

Apparently, the volunteers "rated the game/music experience along 21 different dimensions", presumably into parallel universes, and science-blogger Dave Munger suggets: "Perhaps the most interesting result of this experiment had to do with the gender of participants. Males rated the game as significantly less "dangerous" when music was not being played compared to when music was played, but women found it equally dangerous in either case."

So... music is kinda important to the whole gaming experience, right? Or do you guys all put Cat Power or Mantovani on when jamming to God Of War? [via Fort90.]

'Video Game Art' Author On... Video Game Art

March 11, 2006 9:07 AM | Simon Carless

videogameart.jpg After somewhat of a hiatus, the LA Weekly's Joshuah Bearman has returned with an interview with Nic Kelman, editor of the book Video Game Art, which we previously mentioned on GSW back in December.

Kelman seems positive as an advocate for games as art since he's, well, not in the game industry, but still points out: "Look at some of the best design in video games — the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus, or the character design in Psychonauts — that you’re not seeing anywhere else. One of the points of the book is that we’re on the verge of games coming into their own as a medium. Breakthroughs are happening. It’s one game in 50, yes, but that ratio exists in any art form."

Also rather wonderfully overwrought, but arguably correct, is Kelman's commentary on the MMO: "And in MMOs the gameplay itself is often boring. But people are addicted. It’s this constantly unfolding drama with a giant cast of complex characters. They’re complex because they’re real people. And that’s the tip of the iceberg for real emotional connection. I mean, people are dying from dehydration playing these games. When was the last time anyone died from being so engrossed with Proust? Never." So... WoW is the new Proust?

Pocket Gamer Gives UK Gamers Portable Peeks

March 11, 2006 3:48 AM | Simon Carless

pockgam.jpg So, it looks like it's been in vague stealth mode for a while, but an attractively slick new portable-oriented (mobile/DS/PSP/GBA) UK consumer site called Pocket Gamer officially launched today - and it looks both reasonable and readable.

The site (not to be confused with Ziff Davis' U.S. print property Pocket Games) seems to be staffed by journos including current contributors to the UK's B2B-centric Develop magazine, including ex-Edge editor Joao Diniz Sanches and current Develop editor Owain Bennallack, but doesn't appear to be a product of Develop parent Intent Media, rather a spare-time and/or freelance project for those involved.

In any case, some fun PocketGamer articles thus far include an in-depth review of Flitzer, a soccer streaking title (!) in which "In just 90 seconds of streaking, your aim is to achieve as high a score as possible without getting caught by the fuzz (so to speak)", as well as, wait for it, how to play online with N-Gage Arena, a subject rarely broached on other sites. Overall, if you can split your gaming up into portable and non-portable flavors (something that we personally don't always do), this site, or comparative U.S. newcomer Modojo, which has the same concept, may just be for you.

Steambot Chronicles Gets Toot Toot Pre-Order

March 10, 2006 10:46 PM | Simon Carless

harm.jpg OK, we have a winner for the 'wackiest pre-order of the year' award already. That would be, as pointed out by Gaming-Age.com, the mini-harmonica pre-order for Atlus/Irem's Steambot Chronicles for the PlayStation 2, now available at all major U.S. game retailers, apparently.

Of note in relation to this, 1UP's (and sister site Gamasutra's) very own Nich Maragos interviewed Steambot Chronicles creator Kazuma Kujo recently, and also has Atlus localizer Tom Hulett chat about the change of name from Bumpy Trot, the odd Japanese title: "At one point, when we were trying to come up with a name that described the game, I think we had the main title Relaxing Non-Linear Adventure, subtitled Be A Bad Guy If You Want. We almost went with that one, right until the end, when someone suggested Steambot Chronicles."

In fact, some earlier 1UP import impressions explain the game further, defining the game aptly as "a cel-shaded Miyazaki-esque mech action game that marries Misadventures of Tron Bonne to Amplitude", and then noting: "don't expect to see... [the game] translated anytime soon. Its whimsical atmosphere and cartoonish vibe don't really fit into the marketing plans of publishers hoping to ride the coattails of God of War or Grand Theft Auto. But hey, you never know." And yay, Atlus saved the day!

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - No One Can Stop Mr. Domino

March 10, 2006 4:26 PM | Danny Cowan

mrdomino1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column features PlayStation game No One Can Stop Mr. Domino!, published by Artdink in Japan in January 1998, and released by Acclaim in the U.S. in October 1998.]

No one, I tell you. NO ONE!

It's easy to hate a company like Artdink. In years past, the Japanese development house has covered genres that vary from the niche (Oh boy! Train simulators!) to the hopelessly obtuse (Oh boy! Uh, aquatic reef simulators!), with many of their titles further hampered by the fact that they aren't very much fun to play.

No One Can Stop Mr. Domino, on the other hand, was one of Artdink's few games that successfully combined an interesting concept with compelling gameplay. Put out in America by Acclaim (of all people) back in 1998, most gamers never gave the title a second look, resulting in a quick and unceremonious trip to bargain bin obscurity for Mr. Domino.

mrdomino2.jpgGrandpa's in the house.

The game stars a little domino man out to use his domino powers to create havoc in the human world. Despite his mighty aspirations, Mr. Domino's powers are limited to placing a series of dominoes behind him as he runs a circular path around each level. Once a level is lapped at least once, Mr. Domino can run into previously-placed dominoes in order to cause chain reactions and trigger traps that will teach those filthy humans a lesson for ever taking him so lightly.

Make no mistake: Mr. Domino is the jerk to end all jerks. The game begins with him performing various acts of benign mischief against inanimate objects, but once you get to level three, the gloves come off. In this level, Mr. Domino attacks an innocent family by using dominoes to trigger traps around their house. Dad gets punched in the genitals. Mom gets caught in an explosion. At the end of the level, grandpa is crushed by a giant bell. Through all this, Mr. Domino never stops smiling.

mrdomino3.jpgSeriously, don't even try to stop him.

A level is completed whenever the required number of traps are triggered by falling dominoes. These traps can be set off one by one, but ideally, the player wants to trigger them all in succession in order to earn the highest scores. This is made difficult and occasionally frustrating thanks to the fact that Mr. Domino marches continually forward (no one can stop him, remember?) during each level, and the slightest misstep can ruin what was once a perfect domino setup. Skillfully dodging the obstacles in Mr. Domino's way and then watching a well-placed series of dominoes trigger several traps in a row offers the kind of satisfaction that makes it all worthwhile, however.

It's rare to see a puzzle game strive to accomplish something beyond the geometric shape dropping/matching/clearing archetype, and Mr. Domino does so with style and an inexplicable sense of humor. Don't let the terrifying prospect of an Acclaim and Artdink collaboration throw you; No One Can Stop Mr. Domino will only set you back a few bucks for a used copy, and it could very well be the most important story ever told about a domino man's struggle against humankind.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com , and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]

Game Print Publications, Doing The Different Dance

March 10, 2006 11:41 AM | Simon Carless

cgw.jpg So, video game magazines - reeling a little from all that crazy online competition, right? Well, yes, but it's interesting to note that recent circulation numbers in the UK for game mags show stabilization or even increases for those magazines that try to run classier, longer-form content, such as PC Gamer and Edge.

Even more teen-oriented mags in the U.S. are trying to switch things up - IDG Entertainment just sent us a short release mentioning that: "The April issue of GamePro (on stands March 14) debuts the new "HyperCritical" section- it features aggregate review scores from GamePro and competitors like EGM, Game Informer, IGN, and Official Playstation Magazine, pointing out must-have titles across the board." Citing even competitors' scores, GameRankings-stylee, in a print mag? Interesting, to say the least.

But that's not all - Ziff's Computer Gaming World PC game magazine has recently revealed that it's dropping review scores, though as QT3's Tom Chick points out: "the idea is that 1UP.com will do the conventional review, which will appear online, and CGW will do more extended coverage to complement that review."

In fact, CGW's Jeff Green, recently the subject of an above-averagely interesting GameCloud interview, turns up in the forums to chat about the concept, noting admirably: "We're expecting both positive and negative feedback, of course.
Just like we did with the no "game of the year" awards thing, which was done for a similar reason - to function less as an arm of the publishers' marketing depts, and more as a resource for the gaming community." Jeff, now you've angered them, please watch out for the marketing mafia with their earpieces and their dark glasses and their 'Mr. Anderson'? Nobody can help you, not even Bubsy.

The Fascination Of The Rogers

March 10, 2006 6:12 AM | Simon Carless

rempers.jpg It's really odd how much the Internet is fixated on Tim Rogers, considering that the Internet claims to hate one of the alleged progenitors of 'New Games Journalism'. The latest prime example of this is Something Awful's newly penned spoof Sonic Riders review, apparently authored by a 'Tomithy Rempers', and starting out: 'As I ride the JR Sobu line back to my apartment, I clutch Sonic Riders in my anticipatory little hands.'

As a few messageboard commenters have pointed out, the problem with pastiching Rogers (who we at GSW know reasonably well through IC and occasional Sobu line rides, and who is currently doing marginally more reined-in work for biz site Next-Gen), is that he already acts at almost Liberace-like levels of self-referencing, whether conscious or not.

Still, we hadn't spotted a 2003 Tokyopia post by Wired Games' Chris Kohler doing the Rogers-pastiche much more adeptly than perhaps even the man himself, and get particularly tickled by this prime rib: "All internet cafes have one girl. She sat next to me a mess of keitai straps and clashing, layered tops. I stopped counting at five. I looked over at her computer. She was looking at pictures of Aerosmith. In a sofa booth across the way, a salaryman read a MiniMoni photo book and attempted to obscure his erection. It was not difficult." Dude, that's totally Roger-ian.

Really, a tremendously serious GameSpot article on the concept of 'New Games Journalism' back in 2005 sums it all up neatly: "GameSpot made repeated inquiries to Electronic Arts, Midway Games, Lionhead Studios, and other publishers and developers, and not one was familiar enough with NGJ to make a comment." So really, nobody cares. Which is why we wrote a long, well-thought out post on the whole thing and people keep talking about it.

Death Crimson Overkill With Giant Controller

March 10, 2006 1:12 AM |

kyodaicrimson.jpg An artist in Japan has taken it upon himself to create a gigantic 'controller' for Death Crimson, one of the worst games of all time.

According to the workshop blog where I found it, the game got a score of 1.0909 out of 10, in the first week of user reviews in Sega Saturn Magazine, the lowest ever for the console. The enormous controller is hard to wield, but that doesn't matter, as it's impossible to survive in the game anyway. There's a lightgun at the tip, so you could theoretically use it for other games - you could, that is, if they hadn't glued the lid of the embedded saturn shut, so your choice is Death Crimson or nothing!

kyodaicrimson2.jpgThe horrible Death Crimson was later lauded as a cult classic, even getting a PS2 re-release, which sold out instantly, as the mmcafe notes. The game was made by Ecole, which if you remember, is also putting out Melty Blood AC for PS2. The Death Crimson art controller was created by Takamasa Sumi - you can see a flash movie of his work here, subbed in English. He seems to really like girls in gothic lolita maid outfits, and you can see one playing the game on the aforementioned blog entry. Also note the impossibly tiny TV.

The exhibit was displayed at the third Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, but has now moved to Darwen, Lancashire in the UK til early April. Go give it a look! Here's the official site for the object, which he's named 'Kyodai Crimson' - aka 'huge crimson'. Also see this thing constructed for the PS2 version, and sold at Wonderfest. Thanks to Sweater Fish for the link!
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