The main point of a beta test is to let a small section of dedicated players figure out what works and what doesn’t before wider release to the general public. To that end, Beta Notes makes constructive criticism about what can and should be improved before the game goes gold.

This week: 1 vs. 100

Your basic trivia quiz with a massively-multiplayer twist, 1 vs. 100 lets players compete against each other on Xbox Live for multiple-choice supremacy. The regularly-scheduled Extended Play sessions offer a nonstop stream of canned questions, but the Live shows play out more like the show on which the game is based. In these two-hour sessions, one lucky player (“The One”) faces off against 100 randomly selected opponents (“The Mob”) to see who can last the longest without missing a question. As Mob members drop out, the prize pool of (thus-far imaginary) Microsoft Points gets bigger, until the One misses a question (letting the Mob split his winnings) or decides to stop (taking the prize for himself). Those not selected as the One or the Mob can play along as members of “The Crowd” for bragging rights.

What we like:

  • The pacing: Questions and answers come at a good clip, with 37 questions in the average half-hour Extended Play episode. Plus, the quick answer timer makes it nearly impossible to Google for answers. Good move!
  • The competition: Playing live against thousands of other players lets you revel in their ignorance when they miss an easy question en masse. Which is the whole point of trivia, after all.
  • The interface: Bravo for compressing a lot of information on scoring, Mob and Crowd performance, and statistics into an easy and pleasant-to-read format.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: David Crane’s cult NES puzzle-platformer, A Boy and His Blob, gets a long-overdue reboot on the Nintendo Wii.

1. The very first thing that strikes you about the game is the beautiful 2-D art and animation. Each area features its own hand-drawn backgrounds, complete with 10 to 12 layers of independent scrolling for a deeper look. The team estimates thousands of frames of animation have been made for an extremely smooth, rounded look reminiscent of “Winnie the Pooh,” “The Iron Giant” or, more recently, gaming’s Wario Land: Shake It!

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: Despite the continuing legal battle, the turntable-based rhythm game Scratch: The Ultimate DJ was actually playable at a party adjacent to this year’s E3, which is more than could be said for Activision’s competing DJ Hero.

1. It’s Beatmania. Seriously, if you’ve played any of Konami’s Beatmania games, you know what to expect: notes falling from the top of the screen; you tapping buttons in time as they reach the bottom (and occasionally scratching a turntable in special sections). The concept’s pretty simple, and the single row of five buttons means the challenge tops out well below that of the Beatmania games, but the well-timed note patterns and quality sound samples made good use of the thumping club music.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: The included-with-every-Wii game that brought virtual bowling and golf to nursing homes the world over returns. Wii Sports Resort includes some more action-oriented games and a new controller accessory that makes the Wii Remote more accurate.

1. It all starts with skydiving. To get players used to the Wii MotionPlus accessory, the game uses a skydiving Mii making a series of simple mid-air formations as an analogue for the Remote — leaning down to go faster, or splaying out to slow down. The added responsiveness and accuracy of the peripheral are immediately apparent from the first moment of play.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: It’s Wii Fit … plus some new stuff!

1. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. As the trailer shows, there’s a smattering of six new yoga poses and strength-trainers for those of you who like to use your Wii Balance Board for boring stuff. Wii Fit Plus also lets you arrange these training exercises into timed sets that focus on a specific part of your body (hips, legs, etc.). Zzzzzzzzz.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: This Halo 3 expansion features a new protagonist, a new urban campaign and a new multiplayer mode.

1. You are not Master Chief. Instead, Halo 3: ODST gives you control over … an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) referred to simply as “The Rookie.” Set between Halo 2 and Halo 3, you’ll explore bombed-out urban environments looking for clues to the fate of your missing teammates. These clues trigger flashbacks in the form of cut scenes and even gameplay vignettes where you control other ODSTs.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: Mario returns to his two-dimensional roots with a new focus on multiplayer mayhem in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

1. The game seems to combine the best bits from old Mario games. You can pick up fellow players and throw them, evoking Super Mario Bros. 2. There’s the idea of transformational suits from Super Mario Bros. 3 (more on those below). Mario and friends have the spin jump from Super Mario World and the butt-stomp from Super Mario 64. Yoshi can eat item-granting berries as in Super Mario World, and has his mid-air flutter jump from Yoshi’s Island. It’s like Mario’s greatest gameplay hits.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: You know Rock Band? Well, The Beatles: Rock Band has songs from the Beatles in it. I know, right?

1. Besides the new songs, the biggest gameplay addition is the option for three-part harmonies. Three color-coded bars scroll along the standard vocal track area, allowing each player to find their appropriate tone with ease. During sections without harmony, all three singers can help each other out on the single vocal track. Harmonix calls the setup “constructive harmony,” meaning, basically, “you don’t get penalized for being awful if someone is good.”

(full article)

America's Army 3

The Skinny: Seven years after the U.S. government got into the games business in a big way with the first America’s Army, the game gets a major update with a focus on realism and new technology in America’s Army 3.
1. It’s about “outreach, not recruiting.” That’s according to PR Director Lori Mezoff, who explained that there are no recruiters in the game pestering the best players to sign up, “The Last Starfighter”-style. It’s more about “telling the Army story,” Mezoff said, providing a feel for the Army life and letting that attract people. Is it working? According to Mezoff, 30 percent of young Americans have played an America’s Army game, and 30 percent of those players say they’re more likely to enlist in the Army because they played. You do the math.

(full article)

I shared my thoughts on the following anticipated games of 2009 with Crispy Gamer (click the links for out entire spiel):

  • Tekken 6: “What I would like to see is some more robust artificial intelligence — maybe something akin to Virtua Fighter‘s system of player rankings and AI characters with distinct personalities and fighting styles. As it stands, the solo play is getting a bit stale for me…”
  • Street Fighter IV: “I’m glad that Capcom’s going back to basics and paring down much of the over-designed detritus (parrying, air-blocking, double jumping, tag-teaming, etc.) that’s made most of its recent fighters way too complicated for me.”
  • Wii Sports Resort: “For me, Wii Sports Resort represents nothing less than the final fulfillment of the promise of the Wii, circa 2005.”
  • Brutal Legend: “Yeah, the Psychonauts controls did go a little button-crazy, but try and tell me that bouncing around on a thought bubble wasn’t pure fun on a bun. I’m hoping for the same basic thrill of movement from BrĂ¼tal Legend, along with some more visceral, nonstop action — a pinch of Dead Rising, if you will.”
  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game: “Based on what I’ve seen, it looks like a pretty standard, relatively clunky third-person shooter that happens to be set in the Ghostbusters universe. Even if that gameplay is fast-paced and fun, it’s unlikely to really feel like the movie, which was all about some wacky characters running around in the big city and struggling to be taken seriously.”

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