February 2009

This week’s question: What game is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Kyle Orland

Ask the Game Trust: Your Guilty Gaming PleasureKyle Orland: Bejeweled Twist

What’s to be guilty about? Come on, it’s freaking Bejeweled — the game that’s come to symbolize casual gaming and all that is wrong with the industry from a “hardcore” standpoint. Plus it’s super-popular, so whatever indie cred I earned by playing Mighty Jill Off goes right away every time I fire it up.

Why do you play it anyway? There’s just enough strategy to keep me from getting bored, but not so much that I feel like I’m actually, y’know, thinking. Plus, it’s just incredibly relaxing to watch those gems twist into place and explode in a beautiful burst of light and color. After a long, hard day in the word mines, there’s no better way to unwind than turning on a truly mindless television show and firing up Bejeweled Twist on my laptop.

(full article)

Kyle Orland

Kyle Orland: “I think the developers are almost too close to their own creation when they’re reading reviews. The critics might seem detached to them…”


Street Fighter IV merits, at best, an afternoon rental.” (1) “In some respects, the game feels too old school for its own good.” (6) “This is essentially the same game most of us played nearly two decades ago. … It’s still This Guy vs. That Guy.” (1) “If the Street Fighter scene (or perhaps, more precisely, the fighting game scene) has bored you as of late, I don’t see you finding a revolution in this one.” (9) “Once fans have relived their virtual-martial-arts glory days … once the patina of nostalgia has worn off, most will wonder whether they needed to spend $60 on a game they already own.” (1)

It Ain't Perfect: Street Fighter IV

The “anime cutscenes are a bit incongruous … and lame.” (3) “The animation quality is Saturday-morning-cartoon-level bad” (2) and “the quality of the cartoons is uncomfortably close to bad early-90s anime.” (8) “The cringe-worthy English voice acting … won’t be to everyone’s liking” (5) as “the various characters spout their idiotic dialogue” (1) and “many nonsensical, we-don’t-need-no-stinking-writers taunts [are] uttered.” (1)

(full article)

This week’s question: What’s the best-known game you’ve never played?

Kyle Orland

Ask the Game Trust: Your Guilty Gaming GapKyle Orland: World of Warcraft

Why haven’t you played it? I’ve seen first-hand what World of Warcraft has done to some of my grade-school friends. Specifically, it’s turned them into terrible bores who can only talk about World of Warcraft! Yes, there is a part of me that wants to understand the secret language they all seem to be speaking, but there’s a larger part of me that thinks I, too, will become a 12-hour-per-day addict playing WoW in excess and to the exclusion of other games. Of course, that means that I wouldn’t be able to review those other games, so I’d lose my job and then my home and end up living under a bridge somewhere, getting my WoW fix with a hand-crank laptop charger and municipal WiMAX connection. So you see my predicament.

How do friends/col leagues react when they find out? The non-WoW players completely understand, and usually identify with my reasoning. The WoW players, of course, try to recruit me. “Oh, it’s real casual,” they’ll say. “You can have fun playing just a few hours a week.” But I know they’re just trying to lure me into their sordid little world of addiction. The first taste is always free, right?

Any guilt about this gap in your gaming knowledge? A little … the game has gotten so big and dominates such a large part of gaming subculture at this point that I feel like an outsider looking in a lot of the time. Why couldn’t SubSpace have been the hot MMO everyone was still playing? What? You don’t remember SubSpace? My point exactly!

What would it take to get you to play it? I’d probably have to be retired … or at least in a different line of work.

(full article)

Street Fighter IV for Xbox 360 reviewUpdating a fighting game series, especially a well-regarded one, is always a delicate proposition. Ideally, the game you’re starting with is already a well-balanced rock-paper-scissors battle, where every character, move and tactic can be countered by someone skilled and/or quick enough. Adding new content onto this framework, as sequels must to stay fresh, could potentially topple the entire house of cards, making the original game unrecognizable to fans and inaccessible to newcomers.

This is arguably what’s happened to the Street Fighter series over the past 15 years. After achieving popularity with the seminal Street Fighter II and perfecting the balance and roster with the still-popular Super Street Fighter II Turbo (SSF2T), a chain of reinventions erased most, if not all, of that familiar fighting system that the developers had worked so hard to achieve. Sure, there were a few memorable gameplay additions amongst the cavalcade of new characters, moves and mechanics introduced in the Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter Ex, Capcom Vs. and Street Fighter III series, but all these new layers introduced unnecessary complexity and overly technical emphasis to the near-perfect balance of the original SSF2T.

So we come to Street Fighter IV, a game that adds to the heritage of the series by taking away most of these distracting layers and coming close to recapturing the nostalgic ideal of the old SSF2T.

(full article)

“My wife was watching me play Portal and I picked up [the Weighted Companion Cube]. When I was told to drop it in the fire at the end of the level, she insisted that I walk around for at least 10 minutes and try and find a way to get out of the level with it, without putting it into the fire.”


This week’s question: What videogame franchise would you like to break up with?

Kyle Orland

Kyle Orland: Sonic the Hedgehog

The good old days: I’ll never forget the first time I saw you, at a Toys “R” Us demo kiosk, your color depth and carnal sense of speed putting the NES I had at home to shame. Of course, I’d had a steady, four-year relationship with the Mario series at that point, but I think we were both looking for a little more variety in our lives. Mario would always be my first love, but his slow-paced 2-D adventures never turned me head-over-heels like your acrobatic loop-de-loops.

The beginning of the end: I guess you thought you were “getting more mature” when you made the jump to 3-D in Sonic Adventure. All I saw, though, was a series that had given up rock-solid 2-D platforming for confusing camera angles, slow-paced role-playing sections and an odd character named “Big the Cat.” I guess we just had different ideas about what “maturity” meant…

I knew it was over when: You turned into a werewolf in Sonic Unleashed. At that point you were, quite literally, not the Hedgehog I fell in love with all those years ago.

(full article)

The Videogame News is a Lie

In this week’s issue:

  • Valve announces Wii version of Left 4 Dead.
  • Area man is the new publisher of Electronic Gaming Monthly
  • Latest round of layoffs leaves only five employees at EA

(full article)


Search around a bit on the Internet and you’ll find plenty of treatises on videogame box art, be it good, bad, strange, or, um, “most awesome.” But no one seems to pay attention to the art that actually gets printed on the disc itself.

This isn’t all that surprising. Most players barely glance at the disc before shoving it into their game system, and most publishers just end up shoving a smaller version of the box art on there anyway. But there are a few games that seem to take pride in that last bit of imagery the player gets before starting up a game.

These are just some of those games, culled from hundreds of examples of disc art that ranged from atrocious to merely generic. For this list, I was looking for examples of disc art that was:

  • Artistic: Pretty and/or interesting to look at.
  • Original: Not just a copy of the box art or the standard waist-up shot of the main character.
  • Twisted: A familiar scene shown from a different angle or zoom level.
  • Shape-appropriate: I’m an unapologetic sucker for art that fills the disc with a round object.
  • Title-less: So iconic that the game is immediately identifiable, despite the title not being included.

Enjoy the list, and please share your thoughts and favorites in the comments

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This week’s question: What was the first game you bought with your own money?
Ask the Game Trust: The First Game You Bought
Kyle Orland: Mickey Mousecapade (NES)

When did you buy it? The fall of 1989. I was 7 years old.

Why did you choose that particular game? After playing Super Mario Bros. for about one bazillion hours during my first three months of NES ownership (and spending roughly 10 minutes on Duck Hunt), I was eager to get another game — any other game. So I convinced my mom to truck me to Toys “R” Us with the $50 I had saved up from my $2.50/week allowance (including $20 I had gotten as a birthday gift from Grandma). Back then, I didn’t have access to Nintendo Power or GamePro, so I was entirely at the mercy of the box art to make my purchase decisions (You have to admit: That’s some nice box art). I was also at the mercy of my mother, who gently nudged me towards Mickey Mousecapade because of 1) the friendly Disney characters and 2) the discount price of $20, which, she pointed out, would leave more money for future games!

Did it live up to your expectations? Well, it was bright and colorful, and you could jump, and I could get to Level 3 pretty consistently after playing for a while, so I’ll have to say yes. I never understood why Mickey had a gun that shot tiny white stars, though.

Do you still own the game? No; it was lost in the great FuncoLand NES Game Purge of ’93 to help pay for some worthless SNES game — a decision I still regret.

Would you buy it again (at the original price)? No, but I might plunk down a fiver on a Virtual Console re-release down the road to relive the memories.

(full article)

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