Family Game Night 4

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Overall I would still recommend this game to anyone with either a passion for board or family gaming.  It has its shortcomings, but they are not fatal, and there’s enough that’s right about Family Game Night 4: The Game Show to override that which is deficient.  Give this game some playtime when you have a hankering for some simple, clean, and non-violent fun! ~Dan Epp

Family Game Night 4

Family Game Night 4: The Game Show is a collection of mini-games set within a broader game environment.  You are a contestant (and can play with others or against computer opponents) playing to win a virtual version of the Hub Network television game show of the same name.  Some of the games you play include: Scrabble Flash, in which you attempt to form as many words from a set amount of Scrabble tiles as possible; Connect 4 Basketball, in which you must aim your basketballs carefully to form a row of four balls or to prevent your opponent from doing the same; Yahtzee Bowling, wherein the pins are the dice that you must knock over with your bowling ball; Sorry! Sliders, a shuffleboard-style (or curling) game in which you must attempt to slide your pawns into the highest possible scoring areas; and Bop-It Boptagon, which is essentially a hand-eye coordination and reaction game.

Scrabble

I found the various games to be a mixed bag in terms of “fun,” which arguably is the best metric to judge a video game based on a television show based on board games.  I enjoyed the Scrabble Flash and Yahtzee Bowling, and found I could play these two games multiple times while still maintaining a sufficient level of “fun” gameplay. Connect 4 Basketball could be challenging once you started shooting simultaneously with your opponent, but the Sorry! Sliders became dull very quickly as the gameplay did not seem to alter much from game to game.  Finally, Bop-It Boptagon was an experience that I did not repeat twice, and the memories of my abject failure are too painful to translate into the written word.

Connect 4

Mr. Potato-Head is the host of the game, and though he is not annoying like the bizarre host of the Family Feud Xbox game (the memory of whom has scarred me for life), he also doesn’t add anything to the gameplay.  The animations of the avatars are a bit silly, and not dismissed immediately with a button-click, which makes them a little irritating.  The play-by-play voice was a constant, “go get ‘em, tiger” kind of happy, which lost its charm over time.  Note to developers: if you want to see how a host can be engaging, perhaps even annoying, and yet bring you back for more, check out the You Don’t Know Jack series of games.

Bob it

A quick note: although the game features Kinect compatibility, as I am one of the last Xbox 360 owners in North America without a Kinect accessory, I did not test it with anything besides a standard wireless controller.

Family Game Night 4

Overall I would still recommend this game to anyone with either a passion for board or family gaming.  It has its shortcomings, but they are not fatal, and there’s enough that’s right about Family Game Night 4: The Game Show to override that which is deficient.  Give this game some playtime when you have a hankering for some simple, clean, and non-violent fun!

Thanks to the Classic Game Room for the awesome video review.

Now Robots Can Play Kinect, Too!

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I am not quite sure how the humanoid robot balances itself as the video doesn’t really explain it but it does seem able to remain focused and not lose any center of balance whatsoever. ~Umar Khan

Now Robots Can Play Kinect, Too!

When Microsoft announced the Kinect, a lot of people thought that this was going to be just another peripheral gimmick. In reality, they were correct. It really was just another peripheral gimmick and a way to bring in another competitor in motion based gaming. The original intent of the Kinect was to just have some good gaming fun. In the world we live in, though most things that have an original intent get pushed into another direction by an opposing force. For the Kinect, this opposing force is a community of hackers that enhanced its capabilities. I am sure we’ve all seen things that people have managed to do with Open Kinect.

One user managed to make humanoid devices mimic movements applied in a Kinect. What does that mean? I mean he made a freaking robot simulate human movements! What else could I mean? Move over Iron Man because we no longer need the armored suit.

Humanoid Robot Kinect
Humanoid Robot Kinect

In the video it shows the machine doing the opposite mirrored movement but that’s because instead of facing the screen, it is facing towards the camera. The robot responds to movement inputs placed in Open Kinect programs and responds with a likewise movement. The robot shows perfect balance even when moving around with a weight on its arm and shows adaptability to remain as focused as it is in the Kinect movements.  I am not quite sure how the humanoid robot balances itself as the video doesn’t really explain it but it does seem able to remain focused and not lose any center of balance whatsoever. Give or take a couple of months and we’ll see what else hacked Kinects can really get done.

Games and the XX Chromosome

xx chromosomes
xx chromosomes

I’m normal, I swear. I get up every morning, have something to eat, shower, go to work, come home. However, instead of planning a new outfit, painting my nails, or going shopping; I pop in a video game. Does that make me so different?

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) “Forty percent of all players are women and women over 18 years of age are one of the industry’s fastest growing demographics.  Today, adult women represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (20 percent).”

So why is it still such a shock to see a woman enjoying some good old fashioned interactive virtual fun? Why does the stereotype still exist? Is it because the games themselves sustain female stereotypes? Is it the social awkwardness of the typical male who chooses the video game as their media of choice? Or, is it the gaming industry that tries to paint this idyllic view of their manly models playing their games in ads?

Oh, I’ve heard it all before. “But chicks only play the cutesy and lame games.” “Girls only play for their men.” Not so, in fact, a significant number of women are out there playing MMOs, FPSs, and RTSs. And according to the ESA “the average female gamer plays games 7.4 hours per week.” So why is it that people still think that games are a male dominated arena?

It’s because the game development is still predominantly male. “Studies have shown that nearly 9 in 10 workers in the industry are men.” However, when girls are exposed to games early enough (like their male counterparts) they can see game development as a viable career option. The more we play and the more we get behind games, the more we can broaden the gamer image.

Games are everywhere now, from smart phones to Facebook. And with the Microsoft Kinect, the game world has expanded to include those who have always shied away from complicated button controllers. Sooner or later we will all become gamers as the media shifts from static entertainment to interactive. And the days of the all male gamer stereotype will fade away. And we’ll all be able to bask in the glow of our favorite electronic media!

GAMES COMING OUT FOR CONSOLES: NOV 2nd 2010

vote McCain Obama Super Mario Bros
vote McCain Obama Super Mario Bros

Hey, its election time and you have the awesome choice between spineless yes men and tea baggers, why not skip all that and play some video games instead. Okay, fine. MTV told me to rock the vote so how about you game the vote. While you are out picking up these games stop over at your local voting station and get your democracy on.

God of War: The Ghost of Sparta

I have a love hate relationship with the PlayStation portable. I like the games and all, but why all the remakes and such like Final Fantasy and Parasite Eve being PSP only? Oh, well in GOW Sparta we follow the events of our hero between the story from GOW 1 and GOW2. This story takes place during Kratos visit to Atlantis and if it wasn’t sunk before we now know how it got that way. The game is the second to find its way onto the PSP and has all the brutality it did before and stunning visuals to boot. One thing we know for sure, he really dislikes King Midas.

Golden Eye 007 – Wii

Hey, pop quiz, how do you get people to keep playing the Wii, answer, you remake games that were awesome on previous consoles. Yes, my Wii hate runs read, but my love for Golden Eye never dies. It was one the best console shooters of all time and even ranks up high for all-time best FPS shooters. Now those of you with the Wii gathering dust have a reason to celebrate as a remake of this classic is coming to you Nov 2nd.

Now the game is new meaning new graphics and even a new bond as you play as Daniel Craig, but all the classic gameplay that made it great is still there. You can still decide how you want to finish missions going in Rambo style or playing it like Bond really would being stealthy and cool. Multiplayer is back with a four person split screen tons of modes and support for the Wii and classic remote, nunchuk and even the zapper. Will I be buying a Wii to play this, no. Will I get my friend to buy it and camp his house, yes.

What about the Kinect Games?

Yeah, about that, as I said this list is for games I would buy and this week these two are the only ones I would consider. However there is also the new Sonic Free Riders and Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 that look good. However, I need to be a little more hash and this week you only get two from me. Next, week we will be back for our countdown to black Friday report so stay tuned and until then keep the spending to a minimum.

False Start

ps3 slim
The race to the next generation of consoles may have already started, but how certain are the predictions? First it was David Reeves of Capcom with his suggestion of two to three years. Now Murray Pannel, head of marketing for Ubisoft has predicted a similar time scale.

To a large extent this would make sense. Previous hardware generations have been about five years, and there has often been an advantage for the machine to launch first. However, once the design of a new machine has been started, technology can overtake what has been put together.

There is a very large counter-argument that the next generation is further away, and that is the strategy of both Sony and Microsoft to produce new add-ons for their current consoles. The “slim” SKU’s for both were a stop-gap, a way of improving the quality of the base machine, although for Sony fans the removal of backwards compatibility is a sharp pain that can only be eased by the rumoured “HD Classics” range. But Kinect and Move are both aimed at expanding the potential audience and creating a new wave of software that will last for years.

Sony confidently predicted a ten-year lifespan for the PS2, and that has come to pass. They are now suggesting a similar tenure for the PS3, and it could be to their advantage. This year has been a strong one for Sony with exclusives and good sales on the back of the PS3 Slim, and another good Christmas with interest in Move could push it further. Meanwhile, Kinect is going after the Wii’s audience to a large extent. Microsoft still has the edge in online gaming for many with Live, but the gap has narrowed. Moving on from the 360 may not suit Microsoft either, now that is making good profit and building its user base.

So where does Nintendo fit into this? The 3DS is clearly one important part of its strategy, but rumours of an HD Wii or Wii 2 refuse to go away. Could the big N once again pull a surprise out of its sleeve, continuing its “disruptive” policy? And will the familiar franchises keep the hardcore gamers satisfied alongside the new and expanded audience?

There is another joker in the form of the cloud gaming systems, OnLive and Gaikai. While OnLive has now launched in the USA to a mixed response, the news that games from Electronic Arts will be available on Gaikai is a major coup. These devices will, however almost certainly be fixed technology with frequent updates of the firmware, relying on a fast broadband connection to provide both the data and much of the processing power. It remains to be seen how they cope under the huge stresses of multiplayer gaming.

Whatever, the outcome will be good for gamers. Competition promotes development and innovation, whether it’s the mobile games on the touchscreen of an iPhone or the complexities of a PC strategy game. Next year, or maybe the year after, the real race will start.