Back in October of last year, some of the crew had a chance to play around with Gucamelee! at Gamercamp here in Toronto. We were enthralled by the art style, and jammed on some great cooperative combat. The demo was about 15 minutes long, but it definitely stuck with us. Fast forward to this week, and Gucamelee! is premiering on the PS3 and PS Vita with cross-buy and cross-play.

I love the cross-buy and cross- play feature – buy it once, but play it everywhere. Clearly this is an approach that Sony is refining and perfecting for their next console, and I’m happy to see them experiment with it. It feels like, at this point in gaming, we should have access to this sort of ubiquitous play. One game, multiple systems. Multiple systems, all able to play together. Hurry up, future.

Friday, 1:49 pm – Gavin

I saw those NSMBU videos yesterday.  Holy shatballs is all I can say.  Incredible gameplay and coordination.

I’m not certain if I’d call the Wii-U a multiplayer system at this point – it has just as many good single-player games as multiplayer games.  The problem is that there isn’t a large amount of either.  Future Shop has just announced the deluxe set for $309.99 until April 18th, but I won’t be picking it up, even at that good price, because I NEED MORE GAMES.  Anyone who wants a Wii-U at this point likely already has one.  Everyone else is either waiting for more games (i.e. first party exclusives), or simply won’t buy the system at all.  NSMBU is a good game, but it’s not a system-seller for me, and plainly it isn’t for a lot of others either.  We know the major first party games are coming, but until they arrive, it shall sadly sit on the shelf.

Friday 12:54 pm – matt

in a move that may or may not be related the Consumerists recent report that EA was the “worst company in america” that Albert previously mentioned, the company has cut nearly 170 jobs from the Montreal studio’s mobile division. its a move that has a few tech writers a little confused based on the growing popularity of the mobile platform, but I think the bastardized “freemium” games they developed were a major sore spot of that report so maybe they are cutting ties with those most responsible?

Thursday 11:54 am – Ricky

Nintendo has released some videos of them playing with Boost mode in New Super Mario Bros. Wii U. My jaw hit the floor from the awesomeness, especially the first video. Honestly, the Wii U is definitely a multiplayer system at this point. As Gavin mentions, when there’s some more Mario and Zelda support, then maybe we can re-evaluate.

Thursday, 10:46 am – Gavin

In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, Adam Orth was fired from Microsoft for his outright customer contempt.  Always-online is, in my opinion, the way of the future, but for many reasons, it’s not practical now.  Until always-on broadband is a fixture in everyone’s house (or can be a fixture, like a land-line), you can’t have a system that requires it.  I firmly believe that at some point in the not-desperately-distant future, broadband will be as ubiquitous as power, but we’re not there yet.

And even if it’s the way of the future, that doesn’t mean that I want it to be the way of the future.  I can play the Wii without the Internet.  I can load up Steam in offline mode.  When the internet goes down, I can still use my 360.  The only reason a system should be always-online is if the game requires it for multiplayer purposes.  But if a game’s content is stored locally on a disk or is downloaded entirely to a hard drive (as it should be, in my opinion), then I can’t see a need beyond that nebulous idea of piracy prevention, which almost always manifests itself as “always-on DRM”, which we know to be an absolute disaster from everyone that’s ever tried to run with it.

I definitely share matt’s surprise with the Nintendo Land games.  Admittedly, we didn’t play any of the single player games while we were there, so I can’t comment on the quality of those, but think back to the major mini-games for the Wii: Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort.  Every single one of those games had a multiplayer option.  Maybe not for four players (such as boxing), but they were all multiplayer games.  Meanwhile literally half of the Nintendo Land games are single-player only.  I know that it’s more of a tech demo for the game pad than anything else, but still, I’m surprised that they didn’t make every game playable for one player (obviously the quality of game play would be diminished heavily with bots, and I admit that I don’t know how Mario Chase! would work with bots), but still, considering the Wii-U’s attempt to position itself a system with heavy local multiplayer elements, it seemed like an interesting decision.

I’m not going to comment on the Wii-U as a standalone single-player system, if only because I didn’t play it as a single player.  I only saw ZombiU, which isn’t my type of game.  I’ll wait to pass judgment until I play some of the first-party exclusives, which are basically the entire reason I buy Nintendo’s hardware.  Give me 3D Mario or give me death!

Wednesday, 3:00 pm – matt

nice brief write up on the game Ricky, I completely agree with you in regards to your bullet points, even with the secondary characters who only have brief moments in cut scenes, we get to learn more about them thanks to the hidden journals you can find. One element I thought was a great addition was including a small history lesson with each of the hidden artifacts you find throughout the game. In previous installments you would just find ancient artifacts lying around and that would be it, where as now with Lara, learning can be fun! Its a great nod to the Tomb Raider games from the past, with one subtle (yet for me glaring) omission upon completing the game that I will have to save for another time…

Wednesday, 8:06 am – Ricky

I’m almost a little sad that EA won again. When they made the final four, interim CEO Peter Moore made this blog post titled “We Can Do Better”, where he owned up to some of the mistakes the company has made, including the SimCity launch. Sure, they’re the big dogs, and they’ve done some stupid things, but this blog post showed me a different side of the company. I really hope Peter replaces John Riccitiello in the end.

So I finished Tomb Raider! I miss it already. I loved every minute I spent with that game, and completed it at 71%. I didn’t go back to any regions to try and collect missing items or find secret areas, so I still have some game left. But the main storyline is wrapped up, and I’ve been left completely satisfied. To say Crystal Dynamics has successfully rebooted this franchise would be doing the game a mild disservice. It stands alone as a self-contained title, providing you with all the background and fiction you need to dive head-first into the world of Lara Croft. If you knew nothing about previous entries in the series, that would be just fine.

I’ll be breaking down the game a bit more during the podcast this week, but here are my high-points in bullet form:

  • The bow and arrow is an incredibly versatile weapon for Lara. I never felt like I needed to use a gun (outside of some sequences and situations that required it), and it became my go-to tool in almost every situation. Everything about the weapon felt solid, and I don’t know if I’ve played a game with a better bow and arrow than Tomb Raider.
  • The environments they constructed are stunning, varied, and immersive. They feel alive. It felt like each area had it’s own distinct past, present and future. There were signs of the times apparent everywhere, with weathered ruins, shanty towns that have stood longer than they should and the games lore seems to be represented everywhere. When you’re in an area, enemies and animals are in the moment: they go through motions that appear to be part of their daily lives, where enemies talk about what has happened and animals react to my movements. Finally, I knew that my actions would change the area from that point forward, and knowing that your choices and decisions will impact a game in that way is really rewarding.
  • Forgetting Lara for a moment, the secondary characters all feel fleshed out. I have a reason to care about each of them, or at the very least I know how we’re associated and why I’m concerned with their actions. But Lara is the character I care about the most. For every encounter she lives through, you see relief wash over her as she changes her body language and un-tenses her muscles. You hear emotion in her voice when something happens, and you sense her inquisitiveness when she’s reading through journals or examining relics. You genuinely care about what happens to her on this island.

I can’t wait to get back to this game later this year (and I’ll probably be playing multiplayer with matt), but for now, I’m happy to just sit back and reflect on the game.

Tuesday, 3:22 pm – Albert

EA is so cool!

Check it!

Tuesday, 3:07 pm – matt

Indeed we took a small trip to NintendoLand, a rather strange locale full of random mini games, random mii characters, a weird train, a hell of a lot of stamps… gamentary’s first official foray into the newest console from Nintendo was a mixed bag for Prezzie, Ricky, Gavin and myself, but I think everyone left with positive impressions of the system. Unfortunately in Toronto there is a relative lack of videogame rental locations, but luckily I was able a console and two games here in Montreal beforehand. As Gavin mentioned zombie u was a major disappointment, but more than likely a result of having three people sitting around just watching the action instead of participating, still the game has been garnered with high praise and attention and the brief experience we did have didn’t little in terms of wow-ing me.

The second game rented was the variety game NintendoLand, and the bulk of our time with the system was playing this game. The collection of mini games seemed pretty large, with 12 different titles based on popular Nintendo franchises, however only a handful of them are actually multiplayer, with more than half only for single player competition, which seemed really bizarre for a party game compilation. The included wii-mote was wii-plus enabled, but as gavin mentioned two of our remotes weren’t so we lost out on another set of games there too, and was the first one of those “are you kidding me with this shit?” moments…

Once we actually got to play some of the games featured in NintendoLand the system really started to shine, thanks to the gamepad being its “own entity” in a way, you can have 5 people actually playing the game with one person taking control of the wii-pad and 4 people can compete with wii-motes. Most of the games have a similar gameplay mechanics but with a distinct twist for each respective franchise. The Mario chase has up to 4 players competing cooperatively to catch the gamepad controlled Mario. In Luigi’s mansion the gamepad assumes role of a ghost trying to capture the wii-mote players, Animal Crossing pits 4 wii-motes collecting prizes while being chased by two guards each being controlled by the right and left stick on the wii-pad. The gamepad adds an interesting element to gameplay with gameplay specific information only seen on the pad, feels light and responsive, and certainly has an eye catching “what are you playing with” element, but I am not convinced it alone (because let’s be honest, it’s the only thing separating a wii from wii-u) is worthy of a plus $300 commitment for a weekend of fun with friends.

The system really fell apart hwoever with the single player experiences, that lack the excitement and near misses from chasing your friends around, and so we always come back to the same point; the wii-u is a fun and engrossing system to party around with, but how much of the luster falls off on its own?

the neXtBox apparently is going to shut off if the internet connection is lost for over 3 minutes, how can anyone even know this information has been confirmed?

well aside from Microsoft’s Adam Orth tweeting to “deal with it”

Tuesday, 9:07 am – Gavin

My bad, I thought that Paul Thurrott was a Microsoft employee.

I think that the online features of the PS4 are very interesting, but they certainly do not sway me in favour of it – that is, if two consoles were otherwise equal, except that one had the new online capabilities of the PS4 and the other didn’t, the new online capabilities would hold no influence in my decision.  At this point in my life, I only really want optional online services, and those generally tend to be 3rd-party applications like Netflix, an online marketplace, and a corporate channel, like the Nintendo e-news channel.  Maybe that will change if I finally find the killer app, but I haven’t yet.  The 360 had tons of online capabilities, and yet the only ones I cared about were the third party applications – specifically and solely Netflix, the marketplace, from which I downloaded exactly three demos – Shadow Complex, UFC Undisputed, and Braid, and multiplayer/chat capabilities.

I doubt that always-online is enough to ruin Microsoft, but it will drive plenty of people into Sony’s hands – specifically those with shaky internet, and those who simply don’t want to NEED to be connected to the internet.  Considering how prominent Xbox Live was to Microsoft, both as a revenue tool and as a business priority, I can’t imagine the nextbox NOT being always-online.

Tuesday, 8:00 am – Ricky

Just to clarify, this article talks about the thoughts, insights and opinions of an analyst – Microsoft has not announced anything officially. The analyst also believes that Microsoft will unveil the console on May 21st at a dedicated press event.

All of that being said, the PS4 is the console that’s impressed me the most so far. Of course, most of the features that have impressed me require an online connection… We’ll have to wait and see how Microsoft officially responds, though one has to think that they’ve been working on this next console for years, and it would be tough to reimagine it in the span of a few short months.

Monday, 9:36 pm – Albert

Sounds like I missed a party! Based on what you’ve described, it probably makes sense that ZombiU would be better played solo in a nice dark environment. Glad to hear the Wii-U was a success. While I have no desire to really pick one up at the moment, maybe i’ll grab one when they make it smaller, lighter, and in red. or whatever.

Ha! Always on console. Wow. I don’t know what to think. On one hand, it really doesn’t matter if my console is always on. I mean, it’s going to be in the house anyways… most likely plugged into my modem. BUT on the other hand, its FUCKING annoying. Jesus. We already know that always-on disasters aka recent memory of SimCity. We’ll have to see. What if I want to bring over my console to a friends house? Or like my grandma’s house and they don’t know their wifi or something. Entirely possible. .. right?

Gucamelee was AMAZING. I really enjoyed playing it with Preezie and we both worked together to get pretty far before we felt guilty for hogging the controllers for so long. It’s not often that I enjoy a side scrolling coop adventure with the desire to just get more. I wish it was released on the PC but i’m sure time will tell. The colors and graphics were stylized really well and the game play was interesting and easy to pick up. Definitely a lot of fun with a friend. How amazing was it? See below.

Monday, 12:44 pm – Gavin

A great weekend indeed!  While I had played with the Wii-U at a Best Buy, this was my first in-depth experience with it.  I didn’t get in on ZombiU, but while it looked interesting, it didn’t always appear desperately intuitive.  It’s not the kind of game I’d pick up and play though – I’m not huge on survival horror – so it didn’t really bother me.  NintendoLand, on the other hand, was a BLAST.  Not all of the games are fun, but we spent most of our time on Luigi’s Ghost Hunt and Mario Chase!, and those games were great.  One player uses the game pad and looks exclusively at the screen on the game pad (great detail and fidelity, and no lag), while others use Wii-motes.  We had matt, Preezie, and myself on Wii-motes, and Ricky on the game pad, and then we alternated.

Down-side?  I brought over my two Wii-motes, and they’re the older ones that don’t have WiiMotionPlus.  I borrowed a Plus attachment to play Skyward Sword, but never got one myself.  So, you do need it in order to take full advantage of all of the games.

The “tour guide” that introduces you to the games and explains how to play them is incredibly annoying, but would you expect anything less?  And it’s just a minor annoyance, in my opinion.  Once you got into the games, they were terrific.  Very easy to pick up and play, very difficult to master.  And they only get better the more people you have, especially Mario Chase!.

Bottom line, I will be picking one up, but not until there are more games to be had.  Specifically, first party exclusives.  I won’t own the system until there’s a 3D Mario game.  That is my mark.  I won’t necessarily own one immediately upon release of a 3D Mario game, but I definitely won’t own one before.

In other news, Microsoft confirmed the always-online requirement for the Xbox 720, and also confirmed the pricing: $500 for the standard model, $300 for the subscription-necessary model.  That’s a pretty pricey system, especially considering the PS4 will not be always-online, and the most expensive Wii-U currently sells for $350 here in Canada.  Obviously, the Wii-U won’t be heading up directly against the 720, but if you’re like me and will only be buying one new console in the next few years, it made that decision significantly easier.  Key quote from the article: The Xbox 720 reportedly stops functioning if an Internet connection drops for three minutes.

But they are releasing a pared-down $99 Xbox 360!  This will surely sell well.  I mean, the Wii Mini sold like hotcakes!

I’m still kicking it in Skyrim, as I will be for quite some time.  I just murdered an orphanage headmistress.  I’m a monster awesome.

Monday. 8:30 am – Ricky

Had a great weekend of gaming! The crew got some hands-on time with with WiiU, specifically with Nintendo Land, and man, did we ever have a blast. Maybe it was the newness of the tablet controller, but we had a ton of fun passing the tablet and taking turns being “it” in a variety of game modes. Unfortunately, our experience with ZombieU was brief and not quite as thrilling, so we abandoned it rather quickly. I’m still not sold on the console for single player gaming. As far as a party console, it matches and exceeds the Wii in my opinion.