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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 November, 2006

GameTunnel Drills Into November's Best Indies

November 22, 2006 9:12 PM | Simon Carless

- Those smarties at GameTunnel are at it again, presenting their review of the Top 10 independent games for November 2006, and it's helpful as always!

As they explain: "This month we renamed the article from the 'Monthly Round-Up' to 'The 10 Independent Games of the Month' as we decided to put the games in an ordered list! (Pretty brilliant eh? Not everyone can arrange a list of games by their score!) Twelve indie titles were considered including the 'cool vehicles' strategy game Naked War, the RPG in 30 minutes FastCrawl and the rag-doll physics 'fighting' simulator Toribash."

I guess it's giving it away a leetle, but the Pickford Bros' Naked War wins out as Game Of The Month, with Brian Clair from TotalGaming.net commenting: "Naked War is an unusual release for a number of reasons and I could probably write a full review for it if I had space. For starters, it’s pretty much a PBEM online multiplayer game. While you can play on a single PC, Naked Wars was clearly designed with online in mind and does a great job at making it painless." I wonder if it's XBLA-able?

GSW Impressions: Every Extend Extra, Lumines II For PSP

November 22, 2006 4:10 PM | Simon Carless

The threatened GameSetWatch game impressions mini-feature has returned, and this time, we're sizing up the other two Q Entertainment games released this holiday season, after checking out Gunpey for the PSP and DS last time round. This iteration, our steely, synaestastic (not a word!) gaze falls upon Every Extend Extra and Lumines II for the PSP, both published by Buena Vista in the States as part of a multi-title deal with Tetsuya Mizuguchi's company.

Every Extend Extra (PSP)

Every Extend Extra is my kind of game, just like Jeff Minter is my kind of indie developer and Mutant Storm Reloaded is my favorite XBLA game of all time. Hopefully, that's a good frame of reference for you - if you're a fan of psychedelic, abstract shooters that verge on the frenetic, then the game, which is based on Omega's free-to-download PC dojin title, is probably your cup of tea.

Of course, EEE isn't quite a shooter - it's more of a 'detonator', in that the gameplay revolves around exploding your ship in the correct place to set off chain reactions among the objects drifting around on screen. (Omega's original site calls it: 'Suicidal explodion' game with new feelings. Blow up self to involve enemies!') It's a smart, original idea, and once your eyes decipher exactly what's going on in any given level, it plays out intuitively and very enjoyably.

Why is it fun? Well, the game feels so natural, and then there's the fact that the gameplay revolves around maximizing your score by keeping the countdown as high as possible while still blowing up things (you can also pick up add-ons which usher enemies onscreen faster, making your potential chain reactions even more vicious), before a diverse, generally good-looking boss fight kicks in.

Mind you, a couple of EEE caveats - I had terrible trouble beating the first boss when starting out, because the game requires you to hit him at the end of a 12-hit reaction, all the while dodging some pretty intense cover fire that he's laying down. And there are a number of effects onscreen which you don't get killed by, like the first boss' floodlights, but can confuse your synapses. Plus, you can lose either by running out of time on the boss or running out of ships through bad flying, even though you blow up your ships regularly and they regenerate - which takes a while to get your head round.

So - I guess what I'm saying is that Every Extend Extra is a little bit complicated, and there's a lot to take in. But when you've worked everything out and 'get it', and you can breeze past the first boss, there's a number of fun modes to play through, a branching level path to encourage replay, and a whole lot of depth to the gameplay. It's not for everyone, but if you tend toward Tempest or the hardcore shooter, you owe it to yourself to check this out - I'd put it in my Top 5 PSP games released thus far. [PS - why wasn't Omega credited for 'original game design' in the credits, Q Entertainment guys? Or did I miss his credit?]

Lumines II (PSP)

I'm presuming that most/all of you have played Q's signature puzzle game in one form or another - whether it be the original PSP version, the actually rather good, if horribly mismarketed Xbox 360 SKU, or in any number of PC clones. [It's definitely one of the more cunning puzzle games of the last 10 years, in my book.]

Well, Lumines II for the PSP is the original Lumines, with plenty of extra modes and levels, and some Western pop stars wandering into the mix alongside Mizuguchi's normal motley collection of Japanese techno chancers. And... that's basically that. The gameplay is still stellar (minus some overactive backgrounds interfering with your puzzling from time to time, and brief pauses between skins). And really, you can probably gauge how much you will appreciate Gwen Stefani and the Black-Eyed Peas (and, OK, Beck and The Chemical Brothers) rubbing up on your puzzle action.

Personally, my dear, I don't give a damn - and you will probably work out if you loved the original enough to buy essentially the same game with some new levels and music. Oh, and there's a Sequencer Mode, much like in Gunpey DS, which gives you the ability to program 8 bars of music from scratch, including drums, synths, and so on. It's an entertaining diversion, but I think I mildly prefer Gunpey DS' version, which has a little less complexity in places, but backing tracks with chords in them to spice things up and that alluring touchscreen to mess with.

For me, then, Lumines II is a worthwhile purchase, especially if you don't have the original on the PSP and you're looking for some longlasting puzzle action. But Every Extend Extra is the game that cultish types who hang around on GameSetWatch will still be raving about in 5 years time, and for that alone, you should probably look it out to work out what the heck they're going on about.

Wii Will Romance The Ladies

November 22, 2006 11:33 AM | Simon Carless

- In times of console launch, you must rely on UK Resistance to get you through, and yet again, they calm our shattered nerves with a look at how UK women's magazines are tackling the Wii.

Well, it's actually an advertorial in Glamour magazine, but nonethless, it includes such genius elements as '5 reasons why ever girl needs a Wii', with #5 being: 'Forget a designer sofa, this is the only accessory a girl needs'. If we didn't know better, we'd swear that Zorg wrote this himself.

Also, commenter 'RoboSel' claims: "I was talking to my sister yesterday about games and I said have you seen the Nintendo Wii? She replied by saying "isn't that the new game thing for girls?" That's done it for me!" So there you have it - the Internet has spoken.

[Oh, and if you're not reading the UK Resistance spinoff gadget blog, Idiot Toys, you really should be. Looks like they stopped updating the insanely twisted My Animal Crossing blog. Still, we just found The Beppin Legacy, which is apparently about an attempt to create the Fourth Reich in Animal Crossing, and is apparently 'loosely affiliated' with UKR - there's evidence indicating that Zorg is a Beppin collaborator, if you dig deep enough. So we're waiting for the inevitable post-Beppin treason trials.]

B Intruders, In The Hizz-ouse!

November 22, 2006 7:04 AM | Simon Carless

- To be honest, there are so many great free PC indie titles being released nowadays that we just can't keep up - we leave that to folks like the Independent Gaming blog, or for shmups, to Posty at Shoot The Core, who has pointed out a great-looking new shooter, B Intruders.

It's downloadable from the B Games site, and Posty explains: "While described as a Space Invaders clone, BI goes a little beyond that - I'd throw in a dash of Centipede also, as I've encountered a snake that drops below invader level and worms through your path."

It's also noted: "The gameplay is much faster paced than your typical Invaders clone, and collecting bonuses fill a meter, storing up for a massive point addition when full. At the outset of the game, players are able to choose the starting planet from levels previously unlocked. Control is via mouse only." The same developers created the also freely downloadable Lethal Judgment 3, which has got high marks from Indy Gamer and other outlets.

Racing Games: Doing It Right!

November 22, 2006 2:01 AM | Simon Carless

- The crazed groupblog of Gamasutra news guy Jason Dobson, eToychest, has a fun story called 'Do’s and Don’ts: A Gamer’s Perspective: Racing Games' just posted - and... it's got a lot of do's and don'ts in it!

First, there's some whines: "DON’T implement absurd computer AI. This includes both forced stupidity and rubberbanding, both of which are annoying. As an example, the recent Test Drive Unlimited – otherwise a gem – suffers in that the NPC racing AI is far too conservative for it to challenge the player."

Then, there's the controversial: "DO include realistic visible steering-wheel turning and inertia in the cockpit view, if possible. Players absolutely love this. Seeing the driver realistically shift gears or at least turn the steering wheel proportional to the player’s input is worth including. In fact, anything to be done to make the cockpit view more realistic is a welcome addition." I think I completely disagree with this - but then, I love Ridge Racer's ridiculous artificiality.

Why Virtual Console Does Emulation Right

November 21, 2006 10:01 PM | Simon Carless

- For a geeky but dead-on blog post about why the Wii Virtual Console's emulation is a cut above the rest, you can't do much better than Ben '222b' Turner's in-depth analysis of the matter, as posted on his LiveJournal.

Turner notes of Sim City for the SNES, as emulated on the Wii: "Suffice it to say that, assuming you're on a regular TV (not HD), the game looks 100% exactly like it would on a real SNES. Perhaps better, if you're using the Component cable and haven't seen RGB. This is an achievement that very few recent commercially emulated games can claim."

Wait, and he explains why, too! "Most developers choose to present old, low-res games in a high-res interlaced graphics mode which makes the images appear swimmy, blurry, and sometimes blocky. Basically, 480i sucks for old games. This is not dissimilar to presenting a classic movie in the wrong aspect ratio. An essential, if often overlooked, quality of the original presentation is lost." There's also lots of detail on the widescreen problem.

[Oh, and elsewhere, Racketboy has some overarching impressions of the service, for which two TurboGrafx games are now available, thank the Lord - though someone said the emulation might not be quite as spot on for it. Hopefully they're horribly wrong!]

GameSetCompetition: Sumo Omni Reminder

November 21, 2006 5:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Just a quick reminder that, thanks to the folks at 'urban lounge gear' firm Sumo, we've got a deluxe Sumo Omni beanbag chair in a color of your choice to give away - and the deadline for entering is tomorrow!

To win a Sumo Omni beanbag chair, which is "made from space age rip-proof nylon and filled with top quality Sumo Beads", apparently (I'm still excited by the concept of 'space age nylon'), you will need to answer the following question:

"Which popular '80s Epyx video game had you manipulating a much smaller bean bag to score points?"

Please send your answers to editors@gamesetwatch.com any time before Wednesday, November 22nd at 12 noon PST. There will be one winner randomly picked from the correct answers, the judges' decision is final, and that's that. Have fun!

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': Gundammit

November 21, 2006 1:10 PM | Ollie Barder

['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column by Ollie Barder which covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This week's column addresses the misconception about the quality of Gundam games in light of the recent PlayStation 3 launch]

amuroray_crying.jpgI had planned on talking about a developer called Sandlot for this edition of 'Roboto-chan!' but events have transpired that encourage me to postpone the aforementioned retrospective and cover a more recent matter that has come to light (though I promise to cover Sandlot in the next column).

One of the PlayStation 3's launch games, that of Gundam: Target in Sight, has drawn a fair amount of flak for being, well, rubbish. This criticism is wholly justified however but the consequent reasoning that all Gundam action games are rubbish is fallacious at best.

Like all licensed games, Gundam has had a chequered history in regards to gaming quality. There are some truly appalling entries into the gaming canon but there are also some equally fantastic entries too, it's just unfortunate that the former receive more attention than the latter. As such, I think it's only fair that the good Gundam games get their chance in the sun.

More after the jump...

So You Wanna Be An Indie Developer?

November 21, 2006 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Now here's an interesting proposition: "At 4pm GMT ish today, a hand-picked collection of game developers simultaneously blogged their thoughts on the current state of the Independent games industry", writes Gibbage indie game creator Dan Marshall - and his own post on the matter has links to all the posts discussing it.

He further explains: "The "So you want to be a Indie Developer?" project features articles of advice on the reality of making your own games from every corner of the sector; from those currently risking everything by going full-time Indie to established industry leaders such as DEFCON's Introversion via unmitigated nonsense like Lemmy and Binky."

Also excellent is advice from Democracy/Kudos' Cliffski, who comments, among other gems: "Ideas ARE worth something. In fact they are worth a lot. Common armchair-pundit wisdom is that "an idea isnt worth anything, its the implementation that matters", but I disagree. Take a look at the current 'casual' and 'indie' game markets. Lots and lots and lots of clones. An original game DOES sell better than a simple clone, all other things remaining equal. The thing is, you have to really believe in your idea, stick to your guns, and still turn out a good (as well as original) game. The great news is, that if your game is original, there is virtually ZERO competition."

Railroad Tycoon Steams Into The 'Free' Pile

November 21, 2006 3:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Look what 2K Games sent us - it's good news: "Today 2K has released the original Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon for FREE! Travel back in time to 1990 to see how Sid created an innovative new gameplay experience that has evolved into this month's release of Sid Meier's Railroads! for the PC."

Toot toot! "The 15MB Railroad Tycoon download includes the full game, manual, reference cards, etc." The press release actually says that the game is available at the official 2K Games site [EDIT: And it is now! Thanks for the update, MattC!] In addition, it's available at Playfuls.com with no wait to download right now.

As for the title itself, the MobyGames page for the classic explains: "The game is essentially a bird's-eye-view real-time strategy game with aspects of building and stock market manipulation. Each fiscal period is 2-years, which corresponds to 1-day of track time. Build different sizes of stations to take care of different local needs, create trains that switch consists at different stations and maximize throughput. Upgrade/retire/modify trains as times change. The faster the trains arrive, the more money they earn. Multiple options will keep you busy as each game is different."

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