Friday, January 28, 2011

My Apologies

I believed I had posted this already. But I AM putting the Growing N Gaming blog on Hiatus. I am not working full time and was accepted to a Software Engineering Major so my time will be completely drained by both work and school work.

To anyone that has been be waiting for a new post I apologize for not posting this sooner. Have a wonderful time until we meet again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Starcraft II

I'm going to be attempting to work full time and then pursue a degree in Software Engineering So I'm contemplating cutting back on my posting. Possibly even putting the blog on hiatus. If you want to weigh in on the subject post a comment please.

Concept: 3/5

There was no real amazing concept behind Starcraft II. Make a blockbuster sequel to a hit Real Time Strategy Game that has captured the attention of nations. I'm a huge fan of the original game and was incredibly excited when they announced the sequel but I have to admit. The concept wasn't exactly lightning striking the brain.

Graphics: 2/5*

Unfortunately I have just recently moved so I only have my laptop working at the moment and it's so weak that the graphics are running on the lowest settings. This makes the game quite ugly I have to admit. It still works and the cinematics are still pretty, but during the game the graphics are only tolerable at best. I'm willing to assume that the problem is because I'm running the graphics at the lowest setting so when I can get my desktop up and running again I'll revise this section of the review.

Sound: 4/5

The sound is sound. Everything works the way it should plus it's good to just hear Raynor, Mengsk, and Kerrigan's voices again. The humor of the units saying silly things if you click on them enough is also a point in favor of the audio. Making the sound of this game not just solid but good as well.

Playability: 5/5

This is probably one of the best playing games of this style of RTS. A lot of modern RTS games have moved towards Morale of the units and cover. There aren't that many twitch quick button RTSes anymore like what Starcraft came to embody. But this is probably the best fine tuned game of this style to ever come out and probably ever will come out in this style since the rest of the genre has moved on to a different style.

Entertainment: 5/5

If you're a fan of the first game you will love to see what has happened to your beloved characters. The story is great and continues the saga of Raynor and crew well. The multiplayer is another great entertaining experience. Especially with the new system Blizzard has set up that lets the community create new maps and sell them to make the online community grow and expand beyond just the RTS genre.

X-Factor: 4/5

I was never really big on competitive online playing of Starcraft. I would enjoy a good comp stomp every now and then and really enjoyed the custom maps, especially the Diplomacy maps. But I definitely feel like the comp stomp nature of the online game is gone completely. You can go toe to toe in a 2 human versus 2 computer player match or even a 3v3 match as well. But you can't out number the players or outnumber the computers. It will always be "fair." And while I was singing the praises of the custom maps earlier, something feels wrong. When I go to the custom maps screen it feels like there's only half a dozen maps to choose from when in the original there were dozens if not more. I'm sure there are more but it feels like there's less. I'm sure the fact that the game is so new doesn't help the lack of variety of custom maps. But I know if I keep playing the game online it will only get better and better.

Total: 23/30 Very Good

The game is still a great example of RTS and should be bought by anyone who is a fan of the genre. If you're wondering if you would like RTS games, buy this one to understand how great the past of the genre was and get Dawn of War II or Company of Heroes to understand how good the RTS genre has become.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin for the Nintendo DS

Now that I'm also posting these game reviews for I have to try and keep the word count a little limited. So sorry for the length. If my readers ask for more details I can start doing a more detailed version here and a simpler version for if people want.

Concept: 4/5

Take an established franchise with its own characters that the fans of the series have known for years and chuck it all out the window. Then keeping the same play mechanics reinvent the story and artistic style. This is the concept that formed Advance Wars: Days of Ruin and make it stand apart from the rest of the series.

Graphics: 4/5

The graphics are great no doubt about it. The developers chucked the cartoony anime style of the past and replaced it with a more serious anime style. It definitely works too because it would be jarring than seeing the old comedic cartoony characters talking about serious and depressing things, that are central to this game’s plot.

Sound: 4/5

The sound is great in this game. It does what is necessary of sound and then goes above and beyond that to actually make the player focus on playing. The soundtrack is one of those musical masterpieces that energize the player into a rhythm which is conducive to playing the game.

Playability: 3/5

The missions are challenging but not too difficult. It is usually possible to beat a mission on either the first try or the second try once some element of gameplay has been revealed and shows the player one strategy is the key to winning on this battlefield. The fact that it sometimes takes two attempts is a little disheartening but not overall game breaking and the mechanics of the turn based strategy game are so tight that it makes the game worth buying.

Experience: 4/5

The characters and the story of what has happened are enthralling, if you let it be. If you’re willing to dive into the story and care about the characters then you’re in for an emotional experience and you’ll love it. If you’re a type of player that doesn’t care about story and thinks it gets in the way than you’re missing out.

X-Factor: 4/5

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin definitely has the X-Factor to make you want to keep on playing. Whether it’s to play through the campaign and follow the story, try some of the challenge missions in the campaign, or to play with friends and see who the better commander is. The game will suck you in and make you want to keep playing.

Total: 23/30 Very Good

This is a great Turn Based Strategy Game. If you like Strategy games in general give it a try. If you don’t, who knows this game may change your opinion about the genre but don’t hold your breath on that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Back to the Job Hunt AND "The Simple Truth of the 'Are Video Games Art?' Debate"

So I'm giving up on the QA Job in Montreal. Trying to figure out visas just proved to be to much of a hassle for me. I was feeling the urge to hit my head on the desk every time I attempted to work on it so I gave up. I'm now back to the job hunt.

I posted this as a sample article for and they want to "hire" me because of it so I thought I'd share it with all of you. I usually stay out of the "Are Video Games Art?" debate but I figured I'd weigh in on it for to see if they'd like to hire me and hey it worked so here's the sample article for you to enjoy:

Can Video Games be considered art? There is a lot of debate surrounding this subject both for the “Yes it is art” side as well as the “No it is not and never will be” counter argument. There are a lot of experts and celebrities weighing in on the subject, from Roger Ebert the film critic to Samoa Joe the wrestler. It is impossible to say who is right and who is wrong at the moment because the debate is so heated and could sway in either direction at the moment.

However, there is one thing that could definitely help the “Yes it is art” side. And that is, surprisingly enough, History. Many years ago the motion picture was invented. It didn’t do anything of any real artistic value. It was used to record two people sharing a kiss or a man sneezing. By modern standards these movies would hardly warrant being posted on YouTube, unless the two people were considered incredibly attractive or the man sneezed milk out of his nose. But even still they probably wouldn’t get many hits.

Time went on and movies became more complicated and eventually were considered art. Then came Rock n’ Roll. When Rock n’ Roll first debuted it wasn’t considered art. It was considered the Devil’s music and a travesty to music as it was known around the world. Then in the 90’s the same thing happened with Rap music. But they have both, more or less, become respected art forms now.

Video Games are at the same precipice. Hated by the older, more conservative, art aficionados and loved by the younger generations. If History repeats itself than Video Games will be considered art eventually. If for no other reason than the younger generation will outlive the aficionados.

I hope you enjoyed that little sample article. I could have written much more about this topic but the article was supposed to be 200-300 words and I was pushing 300 as it was. Who knows maybe this examiner job will turn out to be so rewarding that I'll become a professional blogger about Video Games. You can do that and earn a decent wage right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Assassin's Creed for the PS3

Perhaps I should apologize for all the PS3 games I've been reviewing recently. However, I'm currently in the process of moving and the PS3 is the only system I have hooked up and have games to review with. So on with the review!

Concept: 5/5

This has been one of the more refreshing game concepts I have seen in a while. The game is set in the crusades but my first thought for a crusades based game would be to have it be an RTS or a hack and slash 3rd Person action game. And while Assassin's Creed is a 3rd Person action game it's not a hack and slash game. It's a, more or less, stealth game. I enjoy this concept because I do not think of subtlety or stealth when I think of the Crusades I just think of big massive armies. Then you take the game idea a step further when you add the concept of the main character is actually "reliving" his ancestor's memories that have been stored in his genes.

Graphics: 4/5

The graphics are pretty good. I have two complaints about them and one is more of a personal issue that I'm sure other people had no problem with and in fact I'm not even sure how I feel about it. It's such a strange nit pick that it's sort of in limbo for me when it comes to my opinions. This "complaint" is that the HUD that the player uses is all very technical and futuristic looking. Which does make sense, considering that the main character is using a sci-fi machine to "relive" his ancestor's memories. But when playing through his ancestor's memories I get so immersed in the crusade era that when I see the futuristic HUD it kind of jars me and reminds me of all these other things about the game taking me out of my little circle of the crusades. So yeah that's a pet peeve, maybe others share that maybe they don't I don't know. My other complaint is clipping issues. On a number of occasions when climbing a wall Altair's arm would stick straight through his body to hold onto a handhold. When it first happened I thought his arm had been chopped off in a sword fight and I didn't notice. But I quickly realized what had actually happened and put it down to complain about later.

Sound: 4/5

The sound like most games to me, is the sound. I do not find the sound to be amazing or terrible. It simply is. So I give it a slightly more than average rating to signify that the sound designers did a good job on the immersion of it all without distracting me.

Playability: 4/5

The climbing walls mechanic is great, I absolutely love it. I've played a few other games that have wall climbing and they didn't do it well to the point where it became annoying to climb walls. But in Assassin's Creed I found myself preferring to climb walls and go in a straight line rather than try to navigate the city streets.

Now the gameplay does get a little repetitive. But if you find this to be particularly annoying to you than you can actually avoid most of the repetition. This is because you have to go to a section of the city and do certain deeds before you can assassinate your target. But you only have to do these deeds, which are the same every time basically, 2 or 3 times. If you want to 100% complete the game and do everything there is to do in the game than you have to do it 6 or so times in each area of the city you unlock. So if the repetitive nature of the game is getting to you don't try and 100% it. I actually found doing all of the tasks over and over again a bit relaxing and therapeutic.

Now the combat is a little less likable than some of the other parts of the game. To make the importance of staying secretive when assassinating people and to not just hack and slash through the entire population of the cities the developers actually gave the guards brains so that they know how to use their swords and actually fight. This is true enough to the extent that I quickly stopped attacked and relied on the one move that the guards didn't have. Counter-Attack. All my little battles and skirmishes quickly became, "wait for it... wait for it... wait for it... There! He's attacking me press the counter-attack button! Oh it didn't kill him, just knocked him down... oh well maybe next time... wait for it..." I think you get the picture.

This made the combat a bit simplistic and a little boring. I mean the developers gave me a sword, a dagger, throwing knives, a hidden blade, and the ability to punch people. But when in combat all I ended up doing was pulling out my dagger or sword and waiting for someone attacking me to make the first move so I could use their own attacking against them. Basically waiting for an opening. Now this is probably a great way to fight in the real world. But it's a pretty dull way to play a game.

Entertainment: 4/5

Regardless of any complaints I have made about the playability. This game is quite entertaining. Learning the secret plans of the Templar and finding little clues and things to interact with and decode through out the game was quite entertaining and brought me back to when I was a kid and love to try and decode things and solve puzzles. This is probably the first game in a long while that has gotten me to pull out a pad of paper and decode a secret message or jot down some passcodes, which was not necessary but I did it anyway. It made me feel young and giddy again.

Plus I had some people that would come and watch the game for a bit, intrigued by the secret plans and stories that the game was telling. If you want to know if a game is entertaining, getting people to watch you play even though you're the one playing not them, is a great way to tell.

X-Factor: 4/5

Assassin's Creed definitely has an X-Factor. Even now I want to go back and perhaps not play through the whole game again but take a look at some of the clues, puzzles, or perhaps it's gibberish, and try and figure out if there's a code or hidden message. Try and find some new little bit of knowledge that I can learn. The X-factor is so strong that it makes me just want to walk around in the game not just play it again.

Total: 25/30

Amazing. Assassin's Creed is definitely a game to pick up. You may not love this game but it's definitely one of those games that if you on a PS3 or an Xbox 360 you need to get this game, if for no other reason than to have it in your library. Because it's going to be considered a classic of the current generation of consoles.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I "Have" a Job!

Last month I posted talking about the difficulties of getting a job. But now from my job hunt I have a job in the industry. It's working for Babel Media in Montreal. It's an outsourcing QA company that other companies said their games to, to be tested.

Since QA has been one of my passions while working at Champlain College I was very happy to get this job. Unfortunately, I need a couple visas to work there. And the process is being a bit of a pain in the butt. So while they have said they want to hire me and are willing in such. I'm waiting for paperwork to grant me access to work in Montreal. Which is being a bit of a hassle. Oh well. I'm sure working in HR, we'll be able to figure it all out.

That's all I've got for now, so enjoy your life until next we speak folks!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Backbreaker for the PS3

This month I am reviewing the new American Football game out on the market.

Concept: 3/5

Unfortunately I can not rate the concept of this game particularly high. It was a simple concept. The people making the game wanted to make a football videogame. Unfortunately, the Madden Franchise owns exclusive rights to the NFL teams, logos, etc. So faced with the fact that they were going to have to come up with all new teams they decided to run with that aspect and make the game very customizable. They also built the engine from scratch, I believe, and wanted to show off that they have a better engine than Madden.

Graphics: 4/5

Other than two things about the visual asthetic of the game I love the visuals. One thing is the players. They all look the same. The linemen look like the guys in the backfield, the kickers look like linebackers, it's just effed up. Other than changing a guy's socks or his skin color they all look like cookie cutter copies of each other. Then there's also their pads. I understand the need to make them look different but they pads have plastic muscles chiseled into the "armor" that they wear making it feel like the whole field is filled with the left overs from an old batman movie.

Now that I've ranted a bit about the players it's time to complain about the other thing which is the stadiums. From the looks of it, unless there's hidden unlockables, there's only a handful of stadiums. Now don't think I'm complaining about the lack of diversity in stadiums. I'm fine with them all looking the same cause I don't look at the stands that much. I focus more on the field. BUT, I do have a problem with the idea of only having 6-10 stadiums when you blatently label some of them. At one point I was facing off against the Oklahoma Stampede in their hometown and the stadium clearly said "DALLAS" everywhere... If you're going to only be making a couple stadiums please don't brand them to specific locations. Unless I am mistaken and there's a Dallas, Oklahoma I didn't know about.

Sound: 1/5

The sound is probably the worst part of the game. EVERY time there's a kick off in a match, the game plays POD's "Here Comes the Boom," then every replay of the kickoff it starts with the same guitar riff and these are the only two songs you will seemingly hear until the game is over. Also since there's no famous announcer in real life associated with this made up league the developers seemed to just say "We don't need one" Which is wrong because not having an announcer, other than the one in the stadium that tells the crowd what just happened, is boring and lack luster. It makes the game devoid of character and personality. There's also a lack of booing or even silence from the crowd. I was destroying a team in THEIR stadium 45 to 10 and the crowd was still cheering as loudly as when I beat a team by a similar landslide in my stadium.

Playability: 3/5

There's a few golden nuggets in the playability of the game and then there's also a number of things that just make you do a double take. One of the nuggets is when you play the quarterback and you're looking for a receiver. The up close looking over his shoulder technique they did in Backbreaker makes me wish that they had done it this way in Madden rather than the pass cone. Then when you want to pass to a player you can either throw it like a bullet or lob it to them. I will not lie to you, even though I did the training and "succeeded" eventually at trying to lob it... I have no clue how to do it. Juking is delayed or something so that it feels like it waits for you to release the thumbstick after entering the command for it rather than doing it immediately which leads to a lot of failed jukes. I sort of figured out how to do a spin but like the lobbing don't ask me to explain how.

I did appreciate the fact that wind seemed to actually affect kicks and such where as in Madden I knew I could overcome it with a couple twitches in the aiming I really had to plan and adjust in Backbreaker which I appreciated. The passing game is also kind of rediculous. It is so easy for interceptions and fumbles, now that I think about it, in this game that it's off putting. If they didn't name the game for the tackling aspect of the new engine they could have just named it "Interception City" and told you what you were going to be getting into. Now don't think I was intercepted on a lot and am now bitter. While a good deal of my passes were intercepted my defense did it a lot too. When I was making my team, which you have to do for "Road to Backbreaker" mode, I decided to make my team Offense oriented. But for 2 or 3 games I spent the whole first half only scoring on Defense cause someone on my defense intercepted it.

In fact it became a joke between my friends and I that my Offense would collapse under the redzone pressure so much that my game strategy was to have my offense get the ball into the redzone lose it to the other team and then score via an interception on defense. Also the playbook is the same for every team and the game will only show you a couple at a time if you're playing in Arcade mode. So if you do get this game do yourself a favor and play in Pro mode. You won't miss anything and it'll be an experience you can control more.

Ending on a positive note. I did like the fact that in interceptions and such it wouldn't autoswitch me to the ball carrier. Strangely enough I liked the ability to be the guy next to the one with the ball and blocking for him so he made it to the endzone and scored. It was strangely gratifying.

Entertainment: 3/5

You can see in some of the team logos that some teams have been around forever, some are fresh new teams, and some have possibly been having bad press so they reinvented their logo and such. All good and cool but other than some hints from how the logos have been designed you get no real understanding of the backstory of the league. I know in sports games stories are usually frowned upon and I'm not saying to include one, all thought it would have been cool in "Road to Backbreaker" mode to have included one since you're forced to be a new team. I would have loved a story about your team being a young upstart team that rises up through the minor leagues to eventually take on the champions in the Backbreaker Bowl. They could have perhaps included some short little history quips about the league in loading screens or something. I get the sense that there was a story behind the league and it's not shared.

It is fun watching the tackles seeing as no two seem to be the same thanks to the game engine. But the Instant Replay of the game was kind of terrible since it only allows you to see what your camera was looking at while you were playing the game. Which is HORRIBLE considering the fun of HAVING an Instant Replay ability is to zoom in and out and rotate the camera to see all those really cool plays that make you want to use the Instant Replay in cool angles. This is especially bad when something happens off camera so you want to use the Instant Replay to see what happened and you can't!

Also even though you can customize your logo and jersey for your team to an exponential degree, I was unable to find a create a player feature, which was again like the lack of an announcer, it made the game feel characterless and without personality. In this case without my own personality and characters as opposed to the lack of an announcer being a lack of the game's own character and personality.

X-Factor: 0/5

Unfortunately there's no X-Factor to this game. After playing it enough for a review I returned the game to get my money back. I can tell that they started with a cool idea and a good engine but it's not polished and defined in the direction they want to go enough. It's like Saint's Row vs. Saint's Row 2. The first one was just a GTA clone that kinda flopped. It wasn't all that great commercially or necessarily even as its own game. However, when Saint's Row 2 came out the hype was extraordinarily great for a bleh original game. But the hype was worth it as the second game turned out to be an awesome game.

I can easily see this happening for Backbreaker. They have the ground work for the game. It's an all right football game right now. But if they make a sequel I can easily see them focusing their work on what people say is a problem with this game and making an amazing sequeal. I can see this so easily in fact that I actually hope they make a sequel so I can get that better version of the game.

Total: 14/30

Well there you have it folks. That's my review of Backbreaker. It's an ok game. If you absolutely adore all forms of football games you should enjoy this one. But for the average Football Video Gamer... You can pass on this one and just wait for the sequel which should be better. I got this one thinking the areas they focused on would make up for the areas they didn't as I cared more about the areas they did focus on. But the truth is it wasn't enough. They need to strengthen their lack luster sections to make the game worth playing. Let's hope Backbreaker 2 comes out and it's good.