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Tae K. Kim April 6, 2010

Posted by huymix in Internet Site, Videogames.
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Tae K. Kim

Tae K. Kim is the reviews editor over at Gamepro. If you have read my Monthly Thinkering on Video game reviews, than you might very well guess that he is the inspiration for the entire post.

I’m sorry I don’t really have much more to say about him. I think he’s probably an alright guy but I have no way of knowing and I’m sure he plays tons of games. His reviews just plain suck.

My advice is, read one or two of his reviews and ask yourself:

  • Did he get to the point?
  • Was he repetitive? (beating the same point over and over again)
  • Were his points relevant to you?
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Personal Trainer – Cooking March 30, 2010

Posted by huymix in Food, Videogames.
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I actually have the Personal Trainer: Cooking package that is in this post (including the “stylish” pouch). I can recommend that you get Personal Trainer: Cooking (if not the whole package) because:

  • The recipes are actually pretty good. I’ve made brownies, apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding based on the recipe in Personal Trainer: Cooking and they all turned out pretty good.
  • It has recipes, step-by-step instructions, videos, shopping lists and calculator all in one. Anything you would need to know about a particular recipe is contained in the software.
  • It’s funny to reference the recipe to a game. So I’ve given out tons of food based on the software and it’s always fun to say I got the recipe from my DS.

I used Personal Trainer: Cooking to help get me more comfortable in the kitchen and it has really helped out. Normally, recipes do not go into such detail so it’s nice for a novice like me.

A Life Well Wasted March 18, 2010

Posted by huymix in Internet Site, Videogames.
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A Life Well Wasted is “An Internet Radio Show About Videogames and the People Who Love Them” made by Robert Ashley (that’s what written above so really I just wasted your time and mine writing all of that). Anyways, even if you haven’t played videogames in a long while you should check out his site because:

  • The podcast. This is the main reason to visit his site. Unlike any other podcast on games, Robert’s podcast focuses on unfamiliar aspects to games and in particular the people. Oftentimes, videogame discussion can be dry as heck (perhaps explaining the popularity of the Angry Video Game Nerd and Zero Punctuation) and stories about people are much more interesting. His podcast is about the people with a videogame backdrop.
  • Posters. He has available custom posters that relate to each podcast done by Olly Moss that are unique and pretty cool. I have the “Why Game” Poster that is in this post hanging in my den.

That’s about it. Normally, I like to have 3 reasons but you don’t really need more than the podcast is excellent. So, go check it out. Dooo it.

Darksiders March 2, 2010

Posted by huymix in Videogames.
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I’m a hypocrite. I said it, and it’s out of the way. Why am I a hypocrite? It’s because I still give this game an F+ despite not even finishing the 1st dungeon and with no real intention on ever finishing this game. What gives?

  • I gave up on this game because of the same reasons I gave up on all Zelda games (which only really include Phantom Hourglass [didn’t finish the first dungeon either] and Twilight Princess [finished 1 dungeon]). All the other Zelda games I did not even bother playing. I can’t give you a good reason why I stopped playing Darksiders just as much as I can’t give you a good reason why I stopped playing Zelda. There’s something in this type of game that just does not work on me.
  • I do see the quality in the game. What I have played I did enjoy and if you pick up the game you will see the quality as well. Despite seeing the quality, I’m still not going to finish Darksiders.
  • Maybe I’m just a terrible person and not worthy of your time and attention. Maybe.

Alright, let’s bottom line Darksiders. This is a good game. Forget the haters. There is something here that is worth your while. Especially, if you liked the way Zelda is structured. As an aside I do not mean to compare Zelda and Darksiders as there is no real term for the way the game is structured it’s just handier than saying dungeon-based action rpg with weapon upgrading and boss fighting.

Conclusion: If you are already interested in Darksiders get the game, if you liked Zelda and want a badass version of Link then get Darksiders, if you’re a terrible person like me and do not enjoy life than save your money.

MARCH THINKERING: Video Game Reviews March 1, 2010

Posted by huymix in Monthly Thinkerings, Videogames.
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To be honest, one of the reasons I decided to even start the Snuh Zone was my dissatisfaction with videogame reviews. I always found that they were lacking (in general) from a few key areas that can be ironed out. The overarching problem that fuels my thoughts on videogame reviews is a lack of perspective. While most are well-written (certainly better than my writing) the perspective problem undermines videogame reviews.

Unclear/Not Cohesive

To start off, many videogame reviews you might read do not describe a strong opinion one way or another. One of the many ways to detect that ambiguity is the classic “it’s good but….” or “that’s bad but….”. As a reader I just want to know whether or not I should play/buy the game and why. I think the way some reviews go is by starting at a 10 (or the equivalent) and writing down as they are playing various points of deductions or praise. While I have no problem with referencing specific points, that approach is also confusing. Here’s a prime example from Gamepro on Darksiders, “I liked Darksiders enough that I’m going to recommend that gamers try to look past the shameless cribbing of ideas and discover the relatively worthwhile action experience hidden underneath.” From that quote I guess you should pick it up but who really knows.

Inconcise

There’s a reason people tend to just go to the score of a game and that Metacritic is so widely-used. A lot of the writing just drones on and on. 1up.com does an alright job of being relatively concise but even then they do not always cut to the chase. There’s the argument that the review ought to support the score and thus you need a lot of space. The problem is the writing is abstract and it is tough to maintain any level of interest. Giantbomb.com “quick looks” have become popular because people would rather see the game itself and not have to read someone’s attempt to translate game mechanics.

Small Scope Audience

Even within the gamer-collective, videogame reviews tend to write towards an audience that is the hardest of the hardcore. While they definitely have the hardcore gamer as part of their audience, that group of people is still relatively small. To most people all the 133t-speak and other references to other games is almost written off as an insider-language. If all I play is my DS, how does describing Dante’s Inferno as God of War help me understand the value of the game. Or saying, “Wii Play is not a game” while there are plenty of people who think of Wii Play as a game equally and enjoy the heck out of cow racing. If you think Wii Play is not a game than you have got your blinders on too tight.

Impersonal Perspective

Roger Ebert is a divisive critic and there are many who have an opinion as to whether or not they agree with his perspective. Oftentimes, the review is representative of the site/magazine and not really of the person. This dehumanization of the review comes across as false as when Stephen Colbert says “I don’t see race, people tell me I’m white and I choose to believe them”. Everyone knows that any review is a personal view and to not bring up the reviewer more prominently only fuels more “Your site is BIASED!!!111!!”. While many would believe Ebert is biased, it’s trivial to really point that out.

Singular-element focus

Controls-art-music-story-multiplayer. Check, check, check and check. That’s the way a lot of reviews are structured. IGN is notorious for having a ridiculously prescribed structure to reviews. I will often call out an element of a review as well but only when I feel like it is of any interest to me.  Leave that stuff for the academic discussion the masses do not care.

How does all of the above tie-in with the lack of perspective I noted at the beginning? I believe that the reasons behind each of those problems stems from the fact that the decisions to write reviews in that way is not driven by what the reader cares about. If reviews were written with the reader as the primary consideration, you would definitely see much better reviews.

Crayon Physics Deluxe February 25, 2010

Posted by huymix in Videogames.
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Continuing the downloadable games theme this week is Crayon Physics Deluxe. Now, this game is available by PC so most if not all of you should be able to play this game (it does not require very much in terms of system specs). Unfortunately, I think there are very good reasons to take a pass on this innovative and unique game. If you have the time and money to pick up Crayon Physics Deluxe you might want to consider buying World of Goo or Audiosurf instead because I found:

  • The game to be boring. Maybe it’s just my mood or something but the whole presentation and slow movement of the physics just put me to sleep. Playing this game felt like a warm blanket soothing me to sleep rather than engaging me. Now if that is what you want than this game is for you, but I doubt it.
  • It’s kind of expensive. For full disclosure I did take advantage of the birthday sale the game had and I paid $5 for the game. However, if  you were to buy it today it would cost $20. I applaud the unique premise and visuals and everything but there is no way I would pay $20 for Crayon Physics Deluxe.
  • I never played the game ever again. I played it once at lunch time and then closed it. I could very well open it up since it just sits on my desktop at lunch but doing almost anything else is more appealing to me.

I sound harsh and the reasons I give for not recommending this game to you has almost nothing to do with the technical quality or the amount of imagination put into the game. This is just how I feel. Maybe you’ll disagree and find Crayon Physics Deluxe a visual-feast with awesome puzzles and music and blah blah blah. If that day comes, please shoot a comment in the post and I’ll be glad to talk about it. Otherwise, avoid this game.

Shatter February 23, 2010

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Downloadable games are the theme this week on The Snuhzone and Shatter is a downloadable game that if you can play, you should play. As a warning this game is only available on the Playstation Network so if you don’t own a PS3 than you might as well avert your eyes from the rest of the post. Otherwise, for the rest of the PS3 owning public, here is why you should get Shatter:

  • Controls. Now from it’s premise (a large variety of twists to Arkanoid) mentioning controls don’t seem to make much sense. I argue that for most Arkanoid-type games (including the remix of Arkanoid) there is a consensus that it isn’t as good without the specific dial-controller. In Shatter, the controls with just the sticks works just fine and I was never left wanting for a dial controller.
  • Presentation. Shatter is a game, without any pretense and presents each level, power up and boss cleanly and efficiently. Much is made of the soundtrack with good reason because if you like techno/electronic something or other Wipeout-esque music than the Shatter soundtrack is quite good.
  • Value. For $8 (even if you don’t catch it on sale) the number of levels you get for $8 that throw much different challenges at you is pretty awesome.

I wasn’t sold on this game until I gave the controller to my brother. He plays even fewer games than I do and all I did was tell him it’s like Arkanoid with some twists. It took him all of 5 minutes to “get it” and get into it. If you have any memories of enjoying Arkanoid or Wipeout techno beats, give Shatter a demo.

Toronto Thumbs February 18, 2010

Posted by huymix in Games, Videogames.
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Continuing this week’s theme of “Canadian Blogs”, I present: Toronto Thumbs. They say “We aim to make people think, laugh, and feel what we feel via our detailed and often personal recollections of gaming experiences” and “We will never just cut and paste from press releases for the sake of reporting breaking news because our readers expect and deserve more than that”. If you’re seeing the big red F- I think you have a sense that this isn’t exactly what is happening on Toronto Thumbs. I would say, the site fails on these 2 fronts because:

  • Most of the posts on the blog itself are just news items that have just a huge picture and a paragraph about the topic. It’s largely impersonal and well covered by the time Toronto Thumbs puts up the the news. I’m not saying Toronto Thumbs isn’t timely, it’s just they are often beaten to the punch by much bigger gaming blogs.
  • They aren’t actually funny or entertaining. If you listen to their “regular” podcast, there isn’t much opinion or entertainment to be found. I don’t know what it is about these guys, but they are plain old boring and it can feel as if they are just guilt tripped into doing the show. Not really disagreeable but not really good listening. The same applies for their writing except they tend to write very little anyways.
  • There isn’t much to see/do. There are a couple of posts a day (much more than the Snuhzone but hey, it would be a legit complaint about my site if you wanted to complain about it) but in these posts there is hardly anything to read. Their “regular” podcast is so infrequent you wonder why it’s set up as an iTunes feed.

I have a theory for the internet, if you’re going to do something infrequently, do it well. To have people wait for long and irregular periods between content that is mediocre at best is a formula for anti-success. Hit up that Joystiq or Kotaku if you’re interested in gaming because Toronto Thumbs probably won’t make you “think, laugh, and feel what we feel”.

Penny Arcade January 19, 2010

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Penny Arcade has been around for a very long time. Despite the internet being inundated with various webcomics (especially strips devoted to videogames), Penny Arcade has manage to stand out from the rest and really provide a common place visited by almost every gamer out there. The popularity of Penny Arcade is no accident and here’s why they have earned the following they have:

  • Calling out bullshit. The videogame industry seems to provide an endless source of bullshit that Penny Arcade will call out in a hilarious way. So, a lot of the time they will point out how ridiculous something is that is very Daily-Show-esque. Penny Arcade was looked at as a champion for gamers when Jack Thompson was at his most relevant. The best part of it is that they are not afraid to call out the bullshit of the gaming community itself, the very same people who comprise their audience.
  • Personality. Penny Arcade is technically a comic strip but I believe a lot of the value of the site is the actual written text accompanying each strip. While some, but not a lot of, attention is drawn to the reasons that comic was created, a lot of the text is devoted to more personal perspectives on their lives, and videogames and entirely other matters. Classic bait and draw, the comic brings you in the door, you stay for the personality.
  • Representatives of gamers. Annual events such as PAX and Child’s Play show that they are strongly gamer-centric. While there are tons of games media, Penny Arcade has almost become the “People’s Champ” of gaming. When stuff goes down, a lot of people look to the site to see what, if anything, Penny Arcade has to say about it.

While I put the above reasons for why I think Penny Arcade is popular, there is a much better reason than any of those 3 to support Penny Arcade. Child’s Play. A charity created by Penny Arcade that does much to improve the lives of those kids that are in hospitals. So if you had to choose how to support Penny Arcade, Child’s Play is the first way to go.

Borderlands January 7, 2010

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With the recent slate of big title games this past Winter, Borderlands almost seems to be the unlikely darling of gamers. I have to preface this post by saying that I sank a lot of time (70+ hours) into Fallout and so you can tell that this sort of RPG/shooter post-apocalyptic system is already appealing to me. For those of you who don’t know, Borderlands is in 1st person perspective with 4 characters to choose from and you can play co-operatively with up to 3 other people (for a total of a 4 person party). If you liked Fallout OR you thought Fallout might interest you but got bored, you should play Borderlands because:

  • It does a great job of building incentive to level up and play the game. So the reason why Borderlands has its hooks so deep into me is because of the “well I’m only X amout of exp away from levelling up if I just play this one mission” incentive. This is the main reason why I keep playing it even though I finished playthrough 1 already.
  • Co-operative play. I only got started because a friend played with me for like 4 hours and found playing together really great. Whenever I get the chance I much prefer playing co-op rather than single player.
  • Art direction. The thing about Fallout and other games that push realism is that even impressive graphics still do not feel real. Borderlands does not try to be realistic since it pushes an elegant cell shaded look and the game is better off this way. I think realism is broken by having unrealistic elements in the game (like numbers flying off an enemy when you shoot them). Besides having gone with cell shading, character design has been pretty cool so far (I’m at level 39 out of 40).

I could go on and on about my ridiculous addiction to levelling up my character and shooting Badass enemies (Badass is the actual name) but at this point you ought to give this game a shot and stop reading this post. Put it this way, even after I finished my first playthrough after like 30 hours, I’m continuing with my character in a second playthrough to get him to level 50 with Assassin’s Creed 2 and Batman sitting on my desk completely unplayed. I have drunk the Borderlands Kool-Aid and must satisfy my need to get to level 50.