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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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PlayStation 2

The Future Of PS2 - Konami Kids Playground?

October 2, 2007 12:08 AM |

- As gaming get more and more mainstream, we'll continue to see family-oriented games rise to the surface - especially on those platforms that have a massive installed base, such as the PlayStation 2. And wandering around Fry's Electronics today, I noticed an interesting one I haven't seen talked about too much - 'Konami Kids Playground: Frogger Hop, Skip & Jumpin' Fun'.

This title, which was developed by Foundation 9's, MA-based educational game subsidiary Imaginengine, comes bundled with a 'dance mat' with 3 different colored and shaped DDR-style foot buttons to stomp on, and "...turns learning into a fun, full-body activity for your preschooler. Kids, aged 2 to 5, will love to jump, stomp and learn their way through each of these fun and educational games!"

There are also multiple add-on games to the initial bundle, including Dinosaurs Shapes & Colors and Alphabet Circus, and you know, I can't find obvious previews or reviews of these early September-released titles online (see Metacritic's blank, for example.) Hey, looks like John Davison's family-friendly game info site is, abstractly, a great idea, with 120 million PS2s out there, and plenty in the hands of adults with small children.

GameCareerGuide Vs. Fumito Ueda Vs. NeoGAF - Fight!

August 27, 2007 12:04 AM |

- Something posted late last week to relatively little fanfare was Eric-Jon Waugh's 'Rock in His Pocket: Reading Shadow of the Colossus' - the latest in his series on our GameCareerGuide.com, which follows similar critiques for Viva Pinata and for Dead Rising, as well as an earlier look at Animal Crossing.

Waugh starts by suggesting, perhaps a little provokingly: "Paired with a more down-to-earth design team to translate his ideas (someone with a Valve mentality, perhaps) Ueda could change the world of games. But so far, he's been the master of the golden arrow. His ideas are so poignant yet so tediously executed that they create a certain cognitive dissonance in the player, inspiring not so much awe as transcendence, a deep need to puzzle over what went wrong and how to better it."

More fun still, the dangerous leprechauns at NeoGAF have been poking at the feature, group-tussle style, and I really appreciated the synopsis from Lemming_JRS: "What I took away from the article was this: SotC is a brilliant game that prevented itself from gaining a wider audience through design decisions that, while they might have served Ueda's vision, did not serve the player. Frame rate issues aside, SotC is not a game that most people, non-hardcore gamers especially, can just pick up and "get" right away. Does that make it a bad game? No. Does that prevent more people from seeing the entirety of Ueda's interesting ideas and vision? Yes." I never got into SotC, actually, and agree with the above.

Everyone's Perfect Action Game, Part Deux

June 6, 2007 8:29 PM |

x.jpg Over at GameSpy, they've posted the second in the 'Dream Game' column series, discussing "...what a couple of developers had to say about some of the most popular action games in history" - specifically using Ninja Gaiden's Yousuke Hayashi and God Of War II's Cory Barlog as a stepping-off point to talk about vital features that all great action games have to get right.

During the piece, GameSpy's Gabe Graziani discusses variety of combat moves as particularly vital, though he does choose a bit of a repetitive fighting game to prove his point: "The reason that an action game needs to have combos implemented into the combat system is that you have to keep the "action" that we're continually engaging in fresh and exciting. I mean, Double Dragon II is a great game, but a part of that is because you occasionally get to knee dudes in the face instead of just punching them -- because if all you had to do was punch, it would get old pretty quick."

He also discusses contextual actions with some maturity: "Some games are already doing this sort of thing, in fact, the upcoming Tenchu Z gives you a variety of extermination options once you've grabbed a renegade samurai by the throat. A slightly more popular franchise from which to draw an example could be Splinter Cell: Double Agent, where super spy Sam Fisher can elect to interrogate foes once he has them in a choke hold. Still, both of these examples are from a similar but different genre of stealth games... [but] contextual actions have already stealthily infiltrated many games without us even noticing." This is an odd angle for a column, but I like it precisely because it's alternative.

Simple 2000: The Schoolgirl Vs. Bugs!

April 19, 2007 3:11 PM |

- Over at Namako Team, Jiji has reviewed 'Simple 2000 Series vol. 113: The Tairyou Jigoku' for the PlayStation 2, the latest budget-priced Japanese title from the ever-dependable D3, and it seems like it's only borderline awful, yay.

He explains in the intro: "What makes a Simple 2000 release worthwhile? Does the concept need to be original? Does the game have to be "good?" Or simply playable? There are roughly three grades of Simple 2000 games out there: those that are terrible and unplayable, those that are terrible and playable, and those that are not terrible. I had fully expected this game to fall into the first category, but I found something that just barely sneaks into the second."

So what's it all about? "The Tairyou Jigoku, which loosely translates as "The Overwhelming Hell," puts the player in the shoes of high school student Erika Mizusaki, who at the game's outset has lost her cell phone and has returned to her school to retrieve it. Unfortunately for her, it's not where she left it, and it turns out that a very Carrollesque white rabbit has swiped it. Erika, of course, gives chase, through several nightmarish environments, covering (roughly) four stages."

So it's all a bit Fear Factor, really: "These stages are infested with all manner of creepy-crawlies, from insects to arthropods to rats to rather more supernatural creatures. It seems that they must like Erika's choice of perfume, because they have a tendency to swarm her whenever she moves near them. When she's being swarmed, Erika panics and can't move until she's shaken off all the critters... proximity to any given biomass causes Erika to be panicked, as represented by an onscreen meter consisting of the Japanese words "zowa zowa," onomatopoeia for the chills running down poor Erika's spine. If the creepy lettering reaches across the screen without being lowered, Erika will simply collapse and die of fright." Neat!

Enter... The God Of War 2 Backlash?

April 9, 2007 5:36 PM |

- So one would expect there to be a bit of negative feedback, but imagine my surprise when two negative-leaning reviews of God Of War 2 wandered along in the self-same weekend. Blimey. Firstly, we have the New Gamer's D.Riley looking quizzical, and noting: "God of War is a game that is very technically proficient, but has no heart. Its combat system is lackluster, its enemies are generic, and its story is barely even there."

His capper? "The rub is that God of War suffers from the same colossal flaw its predecessor did. It sets the bar amazingly high in its opening moments and never gets back to that high point. Would it have been a better game if they'd placed the Colossus battle at the end? Maybe, but that'd only be addressing one of the myriad of problems that stops this game from being 'great' and makes it a more solid 'average'."

What's more, Andrew Toups has a smack at the game over at ActionButton.net, commenting: "Yes, God of War 2 has meticulously rendered backdrops, skillful, inspired art direction, sweeping, breathtaking vistas, a dramatic, cinematic score, cleverly designed stage layouts, and setpiece after memorable setpiece. No, none of this matters. At the end of the day, God of War 2, though thoroughly well-designed, well-intentioned, and near impeccably well-put together, is an abject failure of videogame. The fact that it has been a success — both critically and commercially — is simple evidence of the sorry state of the medium." Grumps? Or successful spotters of prime overhyping? Let the jury decide!

The Red Star: A History In Covers

April 8, 2007 1:16 AM |

- Over at LJ, Kidfenris has a fun little post looking at the history of PS2 title The Red Star by box covers, seeing as the comic book-based shooter has been so hideously delayed. And it starts adorably: "I'm playing The Red Star demo. I still live in Ohio. And Acclaim is still in business."

Mr. Fenris continues: "It impresses me. I'm aware of the nicely illustrated and unsubtly allegorical comic on which it was based, but the game really sells me by marrying two old-fashioned gaming staples: shooting enemy soldiers and beating the crap out of legions of street punks.... A few weeks later, Acclaim goes under, and amid all the gloating of now-grown ‘80s children still bitter over Total Recall for the NES, some choose to mourn the fact that the company's gone to the grave with what might have been its best game in years."

But wait! The game lives again - maybe? Fenris notes: "I'm checking ebgames.com every month to see when The Red Star is coming out. And it’s always the next month. Always. But the new cover suggests that someone's doing something somewhere with regard to the game. Even if Makita's going to catch her death of cold." The latest, of course, is that the PS2 version of the title will come out in about 10 days. But apparently it's been like that for a good while anyhow. Doh. Good luck, The Red Star!

Woah, It's Totally Kenka Banchou 2!

March 13, 2007 6:28 AM |

-Now, we have people like Geek on Stun to remind us of the true greatness of Spike's school gang supremacy PS2 title Kenka Banchou: "We fell in love with this game the second we saw eye-beams being exchanged between our pompadoured hero and some sorry punk who can't handle a little intimidation."

Well, good news for tall haircut fans! NCSX's blog points out that Kenka Banchou 2: Full Throttle for PlayStation 2 is now out in Japan, after some surprising semi-success for the first title: "Spike went on to sell 157,000 copies of the game without much of an advertising budget or any name recognition."

Anyhow: "Fast forward two years and Yasuo's still around but no longer the hero. A young buck named Tomoya has entered the world and must earn his own badge of yankii honor. By using the mighty menchi beam to initiate encounters and fists to beat down packs of ruffians, the new protagonist slowly gains street cred, repute, and the adoration of lowly gangsters throughout the hood." Lots more info on the NCSX page - dammit, someone pick this up for the West already.

Welker's Curious George Game Outtakes, Yum

February 28, 2007 7:28 PM |

- The brand new 'Game Of The Blog' blog is coming up trumps already, as it's posted some awesome bonus video from, of all things, the Curious George video game.

As blogger Joel reveals: "In the recent Curious George platformer by Namco based on the 2006 film (probably the last feature length cel animated film that will ever be made) the requisite collectible is, of course, bananas. Collecting at a certain percentage of these per level unlocks videos and hats(!) in the gift shop. These are then paid for with "curious points" which are are garnered by interacting with certain objects, usually resulting in George f*cking shit up as he is well known for."

He continues, grinning happily: "Most of the videos to be unlocked are clips from the film that are interspersed throughout the game to aid the plot, but there are also 6 clips of voice actors recording lines for the game. it's interesting to see, but each is really only good for one viewing as it's a bit repetitive watching them say each line 5 times. The best clip is of Frank Welker(who is closing in on 600 IMDb credits) making monkey noises for two and a half straight minutes, as seen below." Completely awesome, and all from the voice of Futurama's Nibbler and a zillion more.

Gordon Rennie On Game Writing, Och Aye?

January 30, 2007 2:11 AM |

- Brian Baglow of Indoctrimat pinged me with a neat item on his ScottishGames blog: "I've just posted an interview with Gordon Rennie, noted comics author and the BAFTA nominated writer behind Rebellion's Rogue Trooper game. It touches on comics, games, writing in games and why so much of it sucks."

And it's fun reading! Here's Rennie on his introduction to game scripts: "Someone at Lost Boys Games - now Guerrilla - really liked this nasty future war comic strip called Glimmer Rats that I'd written, and tracked me down on the interweb thingy to ask me if I was interested in working on the script for Killzone, which was still in early development then. That experience ended slightly unhappily - I was one of the thousands crushed beneath the wheels of the Killzone juggernaut as it slowly inched its way along the road to completion - but I did get to hang out in Amsterdam, meet Rutger Hauer and get a peek behind the curtain at the surprisingly half-arsed way some games are put together."

He also talks about his perfect game licenses - a lot of which revolve around the rich 2000AD universe, handily owned by Rebellion, of course: "Sticking close to home, I think there's a lot of IP potential in the 2000AD stable of characters. Rebellion's initial Dredd game was a misfire, but Rogue Trooper benifited from the learning curve on Dredd - hiring a professional writer being part of that curve, and paid off by getting them a Best Screenplay BAFTA nomination - and from having more love and attention lavished on it."

He concludes of the 200AD experience: "Classic series like Strontium Dog, Nemesis the Warlock, ABC Warriors, Robohunter and perhaps more recent ones like Nicolai Dante and Sinister-Dexter could all make great games, having distinct, visually-interesting lead characters and an immense amount of backstory and strongly-realised fictional universe concepts to draw on." Heartily agreed.

GameSetLinks: Rampant Sunday Miscellany

January 21, 2007 7:14 AM |

- Having finally got round to doing the first half of a massive Bloglines crawl, here are some of the most interesting random gaming links I ran into, as pasted all over the blogosphere over the past few days:

- Posty at Shoot The Core has spotted a new PlayStation 2 shooter - "Ocean Commander from BigFishGames will be reaching a whole new audience of shmuppers this May thanks to Phoenix Games. Phoenix is a European Budget game publisher, which means this game probably won't be ported to the US, and will also be dirt cheap." Interesting! Phoenix also do the recently NeoGAF obsessed-over White Van Racer, among other ultra-budget oddities, of course.

- Treyarch exec. producer Stuart Roch (who is currently working on the Activision Bond game, his LinkedIn profile says!) has posted his favorite games of 2006 on his blog, and they're perky and interestingly categorized, so I pass them out. For one, 'Best Game Nobody Played' was Condemned ("OK, of course I am inferring here that Condemned was “sell-through challenged,” but I think through my straw poll of speaking to one person or another that not many people played Condemned. Like many Monolith titles over recent years, I think you have a case of a great game here that just didn’t generate buzz for one reason or another.") And he liked Saints Row, too.

- An extremely miscellaneous post at the Dreamcast Junkyward is interesting to me because of his pic of a third-party 'Uno' joypad for the DC that I'd never seen before - "One last Dreamcast thing I did actually pick up was a fighting controller for $15. It's third party, but the only time I had seen a controller like this for the DC was one released in Japan by ASCII, which sells for a lotta money. This one is pretty much the same thing, but a lot cheaper. Score!" I own the ASCII Dreamcast pad, and it's _excellent_ for fighters.

- Finally, there's a preview of Pocketwatch Games' PC indie title Venture Arctic over at GameTunnel, and the ecosystem simulator sequel to 2006 IGF finalist Venture Africa is looking agreeably sharp, also sporting some really _alternative_ gameplay mechanisms: "In Venture Arctic, inhabitants pass on after their material form has ceased functioning, one way or another. Each inhabitant comes back in a spirit form that players can capture and re-use to further change or alter the ecosystem." Sorta Sim Safari meets Ghostbusters, then!