Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Friday, September 04, 2009

For Sunday: The Amazing Dogoo Girl

According to Topless Robot, from which this was found, this is replacing Ultraman. In primetime.

So remember this is a kids' show. From the people who brought you Machine Girl. You gotta love Japan.

I think my favorite part is where her lack of armor magically transforms into a set of slightly-less-lack-of-armor. Awesome.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

MMS on iPhone - September 25th, says AT&T

We know many of our iPhone customers are eager for an update on our rollout schedule for Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). We've been working for the past several months to prepare our systems and network to ensure the best possible experience with MMS when it launches – and that launch date is: September 25 for iPhone 3G and 3GS customers. MMS will be enabled through a software update on that day.
-- AT&T Launches iPhone MMS September 25 (Gizmodo)

About freakin' time. As someone else noted, welcome to 2006.

31 Second Apple Heist

Via Wired. Summary for the video inclined - five guys smash the Apple store's window, grab all the hardware on the tables and run out in less than a minute.

The video, though, is worth it if only for the over the top news reporting. I mean these guys were "savvy enough to wear masks" - as if that's some kind of tip only professional thieves know. I guess I haven't been to an Apple store in a bit, but I thought all the hardware was tethered the last time I was there.

Another interesting angle is the iPhones. Is it possible to know on activation that it was one of the stolen ones?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Threadless announces "Threadless Loves Geeks" design challenge

Indie t-shirt shop Threadless opened up a new contest, Threadless Loves Geeks, sponsored by Microsoft. Being sponsored by Microsoft, you're up for a bunch of 360 swag (console, Xbox Live subscription) plus cash and Threadless credit. Good through October 1st, will be interesting to see what the geek design community comes up with...

iVerse Comic App Released For iPhone

The previously mentioned iPhone app from iVerse, which is more or less an answer to all my also previously mentioned complaints has been released and to bribe/tempt you - iVerse is giving away iTunes gift cards for downloading the 99 cent app.

I've tried it, it seems to do what was needed, although only a portion of the library is there right now and I don't think you can download your previous comics into it (which makes technical sense). They did, however, have a new issue of Hexed.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Game Play: The Secret of Monkey Island (iPhone) Review

Somehow, despite having played the majority of both text and graphic adventure games in existence, I missed out on the Monkey Island series seemingly completely.

A shame, but one that can be well correct with the release of the The Secret Of Monkey Island on the iPhone. This is the special edition, with new artwork, cleaner interface and updated sounds (even some scenes which had been previously cut are added back in). The interface takes a little getting used to at first - you drag a cursor around, tap for the primary option (usually walk to) and double tap for the secondary (open, talk to) ... otherwise you can open the verb menu or your inventory for more complicated actions. If you get stuck, you can shake your iPhone for a hint (which while fairly leading, but usually not too spoilerish). Also, you can swipe two fingers to compare the original classic with the updated version.

Fans of the series looking to revisit should probably just stop reading now and go download. Those new to the series, like myself, are in for a treat of "player friendly" design, as it was called back then (no annoying deaths, hints, no babel fish puzzles), excellent sound design and dialogue (seriously - play this one with the headphones on) and humor.

Highly, highly recommend unless you just know that the adventure game genre isn't for you.

Update: Now having played the entire game through, I still think this is a fairly commendable port with a few pretty huge caveats:

1) The "drag cursor" interface worked largely for me, but there were some sections (like navigating Guybrush around certain island maps) where it was extremely frustrating. Tip: don't try dragging the cursor by placing your finger directly on it. Put your finger off to the side so that you can see the cursor while it moves.

2) There's a at least one puzzle where it was much easier to perform in classic mode. While the Special Edition is grand, it shouldn't be allowed to hinder gameplay.

3) There were two puzzles with pretty massive bugs to them that if it weren't for the built-in hint system and the ability to flip back to classic mode - the user would never move forward. The second one, if it weren't for classic mode alone, you would never finish the game from what I can tell. These are things that should never be allowed into a shipped product.

I still quite enjoyed it and hope that mode classic adventure games make their way to the iPhone, but the whole thing feels like it needs another iteration. And better quality assurance.

Monday, August 31, 2009

TV Watch: Legend Of The Seeker

Right now everyone seems to be talking about the return of Mad Men, or Leverage or, you know ... really good shows. Here at Cathode, we're not so predictable.

The Girl and I started watching Sam Raimi's latest episodic show, Legend Of The Seeker simultaneously obeying the same rules that got me watching Street Fighter ... but interestingly we're now half way through the first season off the old Roku.

Let's get the really bad stuff out of the way. The two hour premiere, consisting of two episodes and a lot of generic plot setup, is simply terrible. The entire show seems, at this point, to be derived from something else. There are Matrix style projectiles flying into 300 style fight scenes. Parts lifted from the Bible, and an overall plot that seems to read almost exactly like Star Wars: A New Hope.

Spoilers exist in this paragraph, so skip to the next if you wish. But let me see if I get this one right. A Confessor/R2D2 escape the Evil Empire/D'Harrans to enter an alien forest/desert and stumble on a farmboy/wilderness guide who helps them but in reality is related to the message/book for Old Ben Kenobi/Old Zed who is a hermit who lives nearby and has been watching them closely because they're the Seeker/Vader's kid so that when the time is right they can give them a lightsaber/magical sword so that they can defeat the incoming Imperial Soliders/D'Harrans who end up burning down Luke/Richard's foster father's/uncle's house and killing them before they can escape from the alien forest/planet and then end up getting some training from Obi Wan Kenobi/Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander who is really a Jedi/Wizard so that they can fulfill their destiny and become a Jedi Knight/Seeker and defeat Darth Vader/Darken Rahl.

About sum it up right? Probably not the best grammar, Bridget Regan doesn't really deserve comparison to a squat utility droid and OK, some of this isn't entirely fair since it isn't like this formula is particularly unique ... though when you chuck in the subplot about the identity of Richard's father - the similarity feels a bit thick.

Toss on some questionable editing, questionable dialogue, and questionable directing - and the premiere to the show feels about as campy as any episode of Hercules or Xena, just nowhere near as intentional. Or funny. However, television shows need to start somewhere ... the real question is whether they can go anywhere.

Seeker gets better. It still stumbles a little, but strong performances from the principals and much, much, much better writing in later episodes pay off quite well. The show is based on Goodkind's Sword Of Truth series of books and does its best when it delves into the more unique aspects of the novels, such as Confessors and Mord'Sith. There's a decent payoff half-way through the first season and while the show may not be destined for greatness, it certainly feels comfortable as a weekend or late night watch.

Recommended, though not strongly - but particularly if you have Netflix Instant and some spare hours. Hercules and Xena fans will notice favorites like Ted Raimi and Michael Hurst. You may just skip the premiere, as there's a clip show episode mid way through that more or less recaps it anyway, with enough editing to hide some of the more embarrassing parts.

Update: Finished Season One. I would upgrdage "gets better" to "gets much better" by the end. The finale is almost like a completely different show from the premiere. Don't get me wrong - it is still very genre, and they are still some unintentional campiness, but the show is far less annoyingly derivative and far more entertaining by the end.

Demo Play: WET (PS3)

Someone at Sega might be groaning a little bit. Why? Because WET bears a strong resemblance to the recent MadWorld for the Wii, except it is almost destined to sell better ... a bizarre statement on the relative demographics of the Wii and the combined PS3/360 market.

Let's chalk up some similarities. Both games revel in being uberviolent. Both games use a combo/movement system to chalk up specific kinds of kills. Both games offer a very singular design motif (MadWorld with it's Sin City TV concept ... WET following the Rodriguez/Tarantino movie vein). Both rely on arenas/environments as stages. And I'd say "both use Quick Time Events" ... but that's hardly getting specific in this day and age.

Don't get me wrong ... I'm not accusing WET of being a MadWorld clone or even necessarily being derivative ... but both games are taking some modern game dynamics and reaching the same conclusions.

Whether you find it entertaining, I think, will come down to a similar set of criteria, though. Basically - do you enjoy the base set of combos and how they work with the combat? Because you'll be doing them quite a bit. Jump, shoot, slice. Slide, shoot, slice. Wall run, shoot, slice. Pay close attention to the tutorial level ... because it's the very essence of the game.

It certainly gets style points, and like MadWorld, if you get into a good rhythm the game is fun to play and watch. Just not the highest on my anticipation list, but still keeping an eye on.

Game Play: Wolfenstein RPG (iPhone)

Wolfenstein RPG builds off id's former mobile licenses in the same vein, namely Orcs & Elves and DOOM RPG. I'd like to crow like a fanboy on this one, but the reality is that it turns out to be a pretty mixed bag.

The good is that there is plenty of Wolfenstein joy to be had - from posters to classic games to a very familiar "Mein Leiben!" death cry. Also, the interface is well suited to the iPhone, unlike a few other retreads of classic shooters (Duke, I'm looking at you). It's a turn based, grid style dungeon crawl with a dash of depth to it and quite a bit of humor.

Overall, the game is well executed and a decent amount of fun. Combat gets a little redundant as the AI is constrained by the nature of the genre and usually devolves to "shoot with biggest gun available, wait to get shot, repeat". Some items like dynamite and the "syringes" (powerups) add a little flair, which helps. A few of the boss fights require a bit of strategy, but we'll cap that off in the end.

Obvious problems persist, such as bizarre shearing on the maps (id can't get a simple 3D renderer to work?) and I ran into the occasional outright bug (like a Nazi soldier who wasn't really there). Also a few nuisances, like having to kick constant to destroy items and the game's annoying tendency to save for you (more on that in a bit).

My biggest complaint, however, is the last level. So, if you don't want some spoilers - finish reading with the basic gist that the final boss is one of the worst ever designed, not entertaining at all and embarrassing for a company of id's stature.

Spoilers begin now.

The final boss culminates all the annoying behavior of the game into one horrible mess. First, most of your weapons are now completely useless - which is particularly painful when the enemy seems to get an extra move on you constantly. Secondly, there's a restart to the fight where you have to go get the Spear of Destiny - which, kudos for yet another Wolfenstein reference ... but it still feels like you're fighting with a toothpick. Thirdly, if by a rather annoying dance of syringes and poking with the toothpick you manage to damage the end boss *at all* - it has a pool of blood to drink from which 100% heals it. This pool is bottomless. Fourthly, trying to stand on the pool of blood isn't a bad strategy except that the end boss can kick you off it - which hurts like hell.

Finally - if you, like myself, made the mistake of leaving the game while losing to said boss ... the game will save. Automatically. If you, like myself, find yourself in a scenario where you pretty much can't win - you're completely fscked. There's only one game save spot, the game just used it for you ... so congrats, you get to start the whole damn level over again (and hope you don't get stuck again).

There is one, and basically one, strategy to beating the end boss. I'll let readers google it as I've probably spoiled enough so far. If the game had behaved in accordance to decent save game behavior, I probably won't be quite as annoyed with it. And I'll grant, a game that can be beaten in 4 hours or so - maybe having to replay a level to finish doesn't seem like much of a crime. To me though, it seemed cheap, frustrating and utterly anti-climatic. An end boss for completist's - and completist's only ... because there's little entertainment value in it.

So a recommend with caveats. It's fun, but certainly not perfect, and ends with a pretty disappointing finish.