long overdue

Once again, I apologize for the lack of posts of late.  There’s a good reason for that, though – we were finally going to be launching the first-ever CouchCast this past week, and I wanted to have some stuff to talk about there.  Alas, we got held up at the last minute, and since I’m not sure when we’re going to be able to reconnect, I might as well get some of this stuff out of my brain.  Consider this a transcript of a solo podcast.

[cue “What Have You Been Playing?” music]

Old Republic:  My bounty hunter finally hit level 40.  And I was all excited to FINALLY start using my custom-build speeder, after spending hours and hours power-leveling my crafting skills just to be able to gather the materials to make it, only to find that the cost of training to use the damned thing is more money than I’ve ever had over the entire course of my playtime.  So, that was a little discouraging.  Also, Hoth is very white and boring to walk around in.  I ended up revisiting my level 3 Jedi, who I’d abandoned in the Jedi Temple for almost a full month – I quickly got him halfway to level 8, but I’d forgotten how goddamned SLOW the default walk speed is in that game.  Good grief.

Twisted Metal:  Does nostalgia matter?  And is it fair to judge a game based on your first 5 minutes with it?  I’ve never played the original games, and the only other David Jaffe game I played was God of War, and I preferred God of War 2 (and wasn’t he off to other things by that point?).  In any event, the game isn’t for me.  I watched the opening cutscenes (which looked like Sin City outtakes), and for someone new to the series, it felt a little distasteful for me to be excited about playing as a homicidal maniac.  I finally got into some actual playtime, and fought with the controls for 5-10 minutes, and turned it off and sent it back to Gamefly.  I will admit that I probably should’ve spent a little time getting used to the controls before writing it off completely, but it also would’ve been nice for the controls to have made sense (and also to have been in any way related to the way most driving games have been controlled for the last 5 years).  I also gather that the game is a lot more fun playing either online or with friends on the couch, but since I was renting it I didn’t have a code for an online pass, and there’s absolutely no way that my wife would be interested in playing with me.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning:  I am trying very hard to give a shit about this game, but it’s just not doing anything for me.  Everything about it feels borrowed and unoriginal.  I can’t get over how much it looks like Fable – but it should also be noted that Fable hasn’t looked good in years.  The inventory UI is bulky and cumbersome, which is a pain in the ass since there’s a TON of loot that needs to be dealt with.  I don’t really give a shit about the story, and the quests feel generic and contrived.  The best thing about the game is the combat, but if that’s all there is to this game, then, well, ugh.

Final Fantasy XIII-2:  It’s not like I can take FFXIII-2’s story seriously, either, since it’s completely insane.  A more interesting question to me, though, is wondering if it has any idea how ridiculous it is.  It goes out of its way to have the characters emote over every little plot development, but then it has Mog, one of the most annoying characters ever created by man – possibly more annoying than Jar-Jar Binks, for fuck’s sake – this flying little marshmellow beast who incessantly adds “Kupo” after every sentence like a nervous tic.  And I’ll be honest – one of my new favorite things to do in the game, now that I’ve unlocked this ability, is to throw this little thing off of every cliff I can find.   So, yes, it’s completely batshit insane and I have no idea what’s going on or why any of it matters, even though the characters go out of their way to explain what’s happening in every cutscene (of which there are dozens) – and yet there’s something utterly compelling about it, and I find it hard to stop playing.  The combat system is still as engaging as it ever was, and considering how much of it there is, that’s a good thing.  I’m a little stuck in the story right now, though, and as such I’ve found my attention wandering.

The Darkness II:  I’ll be honest – I liked the first Darkness game well enough, but didn’t really have any plans on playing this sequel.  I’m not even sure why I put it on my rental queue, to be honest.  And yet I did, and I got my copy on Friday, and while I’m only 2 hours in, I’m totally hooked.  The art style is fantastic – I don’t recall the original game having this quasi-cel-shaded look to it, but it looks great.  The gameplay is fun, fast and sometimes frantic – I’m fighting with the controls a little bit, but (to be fair) it’s a bit more complicated than just running and gunning.

Oh, and I gave the Mass Effect 3 demo a spin, which was maybe not the best idea.  I think I’d rather just wait for the full, final experience.

Most of what I’ve been playing lately, though, is on my iPhone – which is especially handy now that my gadget lust fot the Vita is peaking.  I’m way overdue for a Subway Gamer column, so let me just quickly run down some of what I’ve been playing:

  • Triple Town
  • Zen Pinball
  • Pinball Arcade
  • Fairway Solitaire
  • Ghost Trick

Those deserve a column of their own, but the short version is – yes, you should be playing them.  All of them.  Both pinball games in particular are outstanding, although they make me want an iPad because the iPhone screen is very small.

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