When garbage collectors are called sanitation engineers, and used cars are referred to as certified pre-owned vehicles, it's refreshing to notice a place, though small in size, that goes simply by the name of Royal Pawn. Why? Because it is an actual pawn shop. Unlike another establishment I visited during my video game field trip that was called "Cash Converters" when it was in essence a pawn shop, the store I visited for my video game field trip was a bona fide pawn shop. It's a place where you can pawn items it you want, or if you prefer, you can just shop around like I did, and find out what they have to offer in the way of video games.
Before visiting Royal Pawn, I went to their website and saw lots of pictures on the walls, as well as musical instruments and other merchandise displayed in glass cases. I have visited similar looking places, and would more often than not be told that they do not sell or trade video games. When I visited Royal Pawn and walked closer to the glass door opening of this store, I saw the sign "We Buy Gold” -- which heightened my doubts that video games would be sold in this pawn shop.
When I walked in the store, I was greeted by a salesperson. I was going to ask a leading question such as, "You all do not have video games or video game systems here, do you?" -- when I decided to take a more positive approach and just ask if they had any video games. I was surprised when the salesperson said that they not only sold video games but had video game consoles as well -- which were located in an area behind where I was standing.
I asked the salesperson if there were any PS4 or Xbox Ones in stock, and his reply was that it was too soon to have the new systems. However, he mentioned that about two weeks ago, this store had a PS4, which was bought within a few minutes after it was put on the shelf. Of course, this could have been a fabrication; however, judging from the busyness of this store, this was a possible true story. When I asked about the prices of the video games, he said that most of their video games sold for $10.00, unlike the "Game Box" down the street that sells games for $50 and up. When I questioned "Game Box," he said that he meant to say "GameStop." Having visited GameStop the previous week, I can attest to the fact that the used video game prices at Royal Pawn were more reasonable. An added plus was, from what I saw -- the video games included some recent titles.
When I asked to look at a game in the glass case that caught my attention, he went to another area in the store and brought a key back with him to open the case. The video game that caught my eye was Gears of War for the Xbox 360, which was in a new-looking metal case. When he opened the metal case, the game along with the external and internal packaging were intact. I was expecting this game to sell higher than $10.00 -- but when I asked, he told me the price was $10.00. I was tempted to purchase this game; however, I did not particularly like that there was a red skull on the front of the packaging, similar to the skull that's on Call of Duty Ghosts. The salesperson jokingly said that he would remove the skull if I liked, and I knew obviously, he was just kidding.
To make a long story short, after much contemplation, I passed on the Gears of War game and did not purchase it.
I would describe this video game field trip as an enjoyable one. Not only was I looking around for video games in a pawn shop that was also known as a pawn shop, but I was being assisted by a salesperson who was very helpful as well.
If you want to look for your favorite older video games in a place that seems like it's not out to take your money, I recommend you visit a similar type establishment in your area. If there are no video games in the pawn shop that you are interested in, there may be other type merchandise that you may want to check out. It is likely that should you decide to look for video games, consoles, or other merchandise, there is a pawn shop waiting for you to frequent. Hopefully the salespeople are just as friendly as the merchandise is inexpensive.
Bobby King, VP and Lead Designer of Pinball Arcade joined Ms. H for a riveting interview on the Mom’s Minute podcast. He discussed the current kickstarted campaign to license the legendary Addams Family pinball table and also dropped more than a few gems of info about what lies ahead for the Pinball Arcade. A deal with Sony Entertainment will bring Arnold Schwarzenegger back to pinball with The Last Action Hero table and also, for the first time Farsignt will design a completely original pinball table based on a Sony film property. That leaves a lot of room for speculation, although it’s slated to be released in time for Halloween, so that could narrow down the prospects.
Mr. King also let us know that the long awaited Xbox 360 release is nearing completion with all of the current tables in the mix. Even more exciting is the Xbox One version of The Pinball arcade is in final testing and may be out as soon as next month.
You’ll find a lot more information in the 30+ minute interview as Ms. H gets answers about upcoming tables, leaderboard hacks, Farsights new non-pinball titles, and exactly why Christopher Lloyd’s face won’t be on the Addams Family artwork.
The interview starts 37 minutes in and you can listen to the 9/22/14 episode of Mom's Minute below.
One of the worst feelings in the world is when you realize you're number two. The 'Backup Plan', the 'Just in Case', the 'If All Else Fails', 'Second'. Because even when you do get to step up to the plate, its only a matter of time before you're back on the bench. It doesn't matter how good you are or how well you perform. You're only there because the first choice wasn't available. It was you or boredom.
That's Midnight Club L.A. It likes to pretend it's a glitzy blinged out arcade racer. It tries hard to impress with a lot of licensed cars and a pseudo representation of L.A.'s streets and highways. But as soon as you load it up and the poorly scripted 'story' starts, it's true nature shines through. Its really just a slightly ramped up version of the driving sections in GTA IV. And you're only playing it because you've already played through Nico's storyline twice.
Sitting across from the table from someone while they wait for their cell phone to ring is not the best way to enjoy a meal. It doesn't matter if you're funny or smart or know how to order the wine in French. Because you're the second choice. They'd happily trade you in for a cold sandwich with someone else. The pasta is bland and dry as you swallow because you know that all it takes is one phone call, and you're eating alone again. Look at those eyes. They're looking through you.
Being second sucks. You're always waiting for the hammer to fall when number one decides that they're ready to take over again. You can never get too comfortable because there's nothing stopping the door from slamming on you. What will happen when the first choice stops showing up at all? It doesn't really matter, because no matter what, you're number two. Someone else will go to the top of the list while you brush up on witty reparte.
Burnout Paradise is what Midnight Club wants to be. It wishes it could have Burnout's style and graphics and falls short imitating its gameplay options. MCLA's modes consist of 'Race from A to B', and 'Race from A to B to C'. Sure, you can plow through traffic like a madman, but it lacks Burnout's wild stunts or crashes. Adding in motorcycles and a race editor don't make up for the yawn inducing treks through the city. It wants to be more, but it falls short.
Being second sucks. Your phone only rings because someone else didn't pick up. You only get invited because someone else dropped out. You're only on the speed dial until they need the room. Midnight Club L.A. is only in the Xbox because Need For Speed Undercover wasn't on the shelves. You'd rather be playing EA's version of cops and robbers than Rockstar's. The cops that roam the streets in MC:LA act like after thoughts. The car customization tool looks like it was pulled directly from old versions of NFS. Nothing is terrible, its just 'okay'. But 'okay' is only good enough until the real deal is available.
Being second sucks. You wonder how it would feel to not get dismissed. No more sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you hear the click of call waiting. What would you do if every call didn't end with 'my other line is ringing, I gotta go'. It must be staggering to have someone's full attention. Being first would be great. Intoxicating.
Midnight Club:LA doesn't do a lot wrong. The rubber band AI, uninspired gameplay, and lax graphics aren't it's biggest flaws. Its biggest flaw is that it's a second choice. And being second sucks.
Fred is joined by an all star list of guests as Gaming History 101 looks back on the longest, most successful, and most diverse generation of consoles. Steve (R9cast) and Norma (Knuckleballer Radio and Zombiecast) come on board to discuss the beloved Xbox 360. They take a deep look at the console launch, launch titles, significant advances, hardware setbacks, and a bunch of other ups and downs in Microsoft's second, and currently most notable, console.
Then Fred is joined by 42 Level One host Andy and Video Game Outsiders own Matt (@MattoMcFly) to reminisce on the Playstation 3. They look back on the launch, early titles, and myriad of ups and downs that Sony struggled with on its third console
I first saw World of Tanks in a small booth at E3 a few years ago. I played it a little, but at the time, to me the term ‘Free to Play’ meant ‘Not a Real Game Yet’. I admit it, I was biased against F2P games and didnt give it much thought. Every year since then, the World of Tanks booth has grown to the point where now you can expect to see full size WW2 tanks looming beside the game area. I began to think that maybe I had misjudged this MMO version of a tank sim.
A few weeks ago I got the chance to play the new version of World of Tanks on the Xbox 360. I kept an open mind, because when a company shows up at E3 with a tank, they must be doing something right. And they are, World of Tanks manages to solve not only a lot of the problems I have with F2P games, but it manages to avoid the shortcoming of most shooters.
One of my big issues with shooters (and make no mistake, WoT is shooter, not a sim. Think Call of Duty...but with tanks), is what I call ‘lone wolf syndrome’. No matter what the game developers envisioned, the game is almost always populated with ‘lone wolves’ who sprint around the map like wanne be Rambos trying to take out the opposition on their own. I’ve always said, if you can get just 3 people in a shooter to work together, their team would win every match. "Think Call of Duty...but with tanks"And yet it never happens. But in World of Tanks, you can’t sprint. You’re a tank. A big slow tank. Even the ‘fast’ tanks are still pretty slow. and that’s a good thing. Because now you’re almost forced to work as a team. Because of your speed and size, if you go out alone, you’re just a big target. This means that almost every game, you’re aware of where your teammates are. You cover them, and they cover you. And with that comes an immediate sense of ‘I’m part of a Team’, even in pickup matches with strangers. That’s something that you almost never get in most shooters.
The next big plus happens when you die. In the modes I played, you only get a single life, with no respawning. Once your tank is destroyed, you can wait around and watch the rest of the match unfold. Or you can leave immediately and start a new match without being penalized any points or rewards you may have earned. No more waiting around while the final two tanks look for each other on opposite sides of the map. That change allowed me to keep playing instead of just sitting back and flipping through the different camera views of other players.
"the devs have managed to keep the tedious parts of sims out"World of Tanks is a slightly arcade-y tank game with more than a few simulation style additions. There’s a ton of historically accurate war machines to pilot, with everything from small Shermans to huge Panzers. All of the tanks have the same simple controls. It’s more complicated to drive a car in Forza than it is to move a 30 ton beast in WoT but I’m not a tank buff so I can’t comment on how historically accurate each tank is. I was pleasantly surprised how well WoT uses terrain. For once in a game, higher ground actually means something. Flanking around the side of a hill isn’t just possible, its the norm. Getting into cover means driving behind a house, and not just hitting a button. Somehow the devs have managed to keep the tedious parts of sims out while including all of the ‘cool’ stuff like the damage model that allows you to blow off a tread or destroy a turret while still keeping the tank alive. And there’s a huge draw distance where you can see someone creeping from behind a fence on the other side of the map.
Notice I've gotten this far into the preview without mentioning ‘Leveling Up’. Usually in F2P games, the game is obviously secondary to the economy the developer has concocted to get you to start spending money. I know Wargaming.net isn’t a charity and they want to fill their bank accounts like any over dev, but I have to admit, I never felt pressured to hand over my credit card, or felt like I was being held back because I didn’t drop an extra $5 in the jar. The games were matched up in a way that I was always against similar skilled opponents, or on a team that had an even mix of small and big tanks. This is just a preview so I won’t go too deep on how the economy works, but basically, you play, you get money, you buy stuff for your tank (or new tanks).
World of Tanks on the Xbox 360 is now in open beta and from what I’ve seen, there’s no reason it won’t make as big a splash on the console as it has on the PC. It manages to have an arcade like control style, strategic gameplay, and is well paced. Maybe ‘F2P’ isn’t such a bad word after all.
Before this year, I was never really a fan of the Rayman games. I couldn't really tell you why, but there was just something about them that didn't feel right to me. But then Rayman Origins came out and I was completely turned around. The game had a fantastic art style, amazing atmosphere, and really tight gameplay. So when I heard that a sequel was being made in the same style as Origins, I was fucking excited, and the game did not disappoint, carrying over most of the things that made the first game great but still changing it up enough that it wasn't just Origins again.
Continuing on from the "story" of Origins, the game starts with a fully voiced (in proper English, no less) narration, explaining how a group of evil Teensies are kidnapping the rest of the Teensies. Rayman and his friends, who are still hip-hop sleeping in that tree, are summoned to stop them. Much like Origins the story is barely there and serves as an excuse for you to be doing all the things you do in the game. It's like the platformers from the gaming days of yore where a single cutscene or a block of text is all the story you get then you just have to jump on things until the game says stop.
The basic gameplay of Legends is largely unchanged from Origins. Your movement speed, the way you punch, the way you jump, it all works like it did in Origins, which is a very good thing. The gameplay was great and didn't need any major changes to it. Running, jumping, and punching dudes and things still feel incredible and pulling off some of the more complicated sections of the game is extremely satisfying. The game does start off a little on the easy side, though. In the first few worlds I was breezing through levels, collecting everything there was to find and getting the highest rating possible. But as the game progressed, the challenge really ramped up to the point where I was pulling my hair out and screaming in frustration, and I was loving every second of it. On these levels the relief after beating it was even more satisfying, especially with the really upbeat music that plays on the scoring screen. There was confetti and people cheering and it all felt fantastic.
The one thing that wasn't so great about the gameplay, and this was also in Origins, is the punching. Not the regular punch, though. I'm talking about the running punch and the air punch. With the running punch, no matter how fast you're moving you always punch at the same speed which is a bit faster than your full speed sprint. Because of this (and my own boundless stupidity), I would keep launching myself off the edge of a platform or straight into a wall, completely fucking up any kind of flow I had going for me. The air punch is the exact opposite, sucking away all of your momentum. You could be going at top speed when you jump into the air but one punch cuts that speed in half. Neither of these things are particularly awful, they can just be very annoying.
While the movement and everything stayed the same, three of the main elements of the game were changed, the first being the enemies and the combat (shut up, I count them as one). In Origins, every basic enemy took two hits. The first hit made them expand into a bubble and the second one finished them off. They would eventually die with just the one hit, but you wanted both hits to get all the Lums (the Mario coin equivalent). In Legends, the enemies get taken out in one hit and they give you a bunch of Lums. I much prefer this method of dealing with enemies. Before, if you were running at a good clip through a level but wanted to collect all of the Lums to get the highest rating at the end you would have to stop and jump on every twice and it could really kill your momentum. Now you can keep going at the pace you want (assuming you have the skill) and deal with enemies without losing your momentum.
The second element is the collectibles and the rating system around them. Each level has six trophies you can collect; three for collecting Lums and three for collecting Teensies. But with the Teensies it is really weird. In most levels there are 10 Teensies to collect. Eight of them are your run of the mill Teensies, but two of them are King and Queen Teensies. If you grab the King or Queen, you get the bronze. If you get the King and Queen, you get the silver. If you get the King, Queen, and all eight other Teensies, you get the gold. But if you get all eight Teensies and the King or Queen, you get bronze. I don't know what happens if you only collect the eight regular Teensies, but I'm guessing you would either get bronze or nothing. I know Kings and Queens are important, but why rate it like this? Why not make collecting the eight worth a trophy, the King worth a trophy, and the Queen worth a trophy? This isn't a complaint, I just find it a bit weird.
As for the Lums' trophies, they work the same as they did in Origins. Just collect the right number and win the trophies. But now there's a trophy type thing in between silver and gold, and that's the Lucky Ticket. If you pass the halfway mark between the silver medal amount of Lums and the gold medal amount of Lums, you get a scratch card. This gets you more Lums to unlock character skins (which is what Lums are used for now), creatures for your gallery (which are an entirely different set of collectibles), Teensies, or "Back to Origins" levels (levels based on Origins levels with the new art style and gameplay).
Speaking of art style, the final element changed was the atmosphere of the game in regards to the art style and music. The music still has the same catchy and light-hearted sound to it, but some of the pieces go for a bit more grandiose feel to them, especially in boss fights. It keeps enough the same for it to recognizable in style and changes enough with the new pieces to not feel like it's the just the same music again.
The art style this time around went for a more painted look to it as opposed to Origins' more hand-drawn style. All the characters look like they have more detail to them and almost look polygonal. It's a nice progression of the art style that I really like. The only things I didn't like very much were the characters and enemies that actually were polygonal. These models were mostly bosses and with what they had the bosses doing I can definitely see why they chose to make these guys polygonal, but I didn't think they looked as good as the rest of the game. They looked too disconnected from the rest of the world and the look of the world didn't translate particularly well to 3D. Fortunately for me they didn't show up that often, but when they did they weren't as gorgeous as the rest of the game.
On top of all of the stuff that was changed, new things were added. And by things I mean level types. The first one introduced are the levels with Murfy, a character from an older Rayman game. He was brought back when the game was a Wii U exclusive and was supposed to controlled with the touchscreen on the gamepad. On 360 you just push a button and he moves a platform or cuts a rope or something. Murphy doesn't really add much to the levels he's in. He's just something else you have to think about while platforming.
The second new level type takes out all the enemies and just has you run. There's no hunting for hidden doorways or collectibles, everything is in your path. You just have to avoid obstacles and time your jumps and punches right and you can get everything in the level. But if you die, you'll have to go right back to the beginning of the level. This type of level is where the challenge really starts to ramp up. Playing these levels were the second most infuriating and enjoyable moments in the entire game for me.
After that we have Invasion levels. These levels replace the time trial medal from Origins. At a certain point in the game, stages you've beaten will randomly invaded, creating a sub-level. You have 60 seconds to run through the level and save three Teensies, who are set to explode on fireworks if you don't beat the level in a certain amount of time. 60 seconds is your lowest bronze medal score. Any lower than that is DNQ.
Finally there are the end levels in each world. Here, the rhythmic platforming that this series is built on just goes fucking nuts and you are platforming to a song. These are my absolute favorite levels in the entire game. The music helps make the platforming feel incredibly fluid and rhythmic, and when you're pulling these jumps and such off it almost feels like you're playing Guitar Hero and that your actions are making the song. They are so fun and so awesome, these levels would've sold me on the game alone.
I was originally going to mark this game down for the polygonal models and weird punches, but having spent some time thinking about it those two blemishes barely even register for me anymore. Rayman Legends is an outstanding game. The platforming feels amazing, the music has the same great sound but still amps things up, the art still looks fantastic, and the new levels are fun and add something kind of new to the formula. Legends is a great follow-up to Origins, and one of the best platformers in this generation. Get this goddamn game.
“To sleep, perchance to dream,” in Abyss Odyssey therein is the rub. Out now for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC Abyss Odyssey presents a very interesting story wrapped in a brawler, a platformer, and a rouge-like game.
Drop into the darkness.
The story is set in the 17th century Chilean capitol of Santiago. Evil creatures are coming up through a hole in the center of town and threatening to overtake the city. You start out as Katrien, a swordswoman who specializes in short swords. As she arrives at the edge of the mysterious hole, the soldiers guarding it tell her to leave, that this is no place for a lady. She tells them they have no idea what they are facing. That they are fighting creatures that are the result of a Warlock sleeping at the bottom of the abyss. Those creatures are being created from the nightmare he is having. With those bold declarations, she drops into the abyss to begin her journey to the bottom in order to confront the Warlock.
Along the way you will die. Several times in fact. Such is the nature of Abyss Odyssey. The first time Katrien dies she reveals that she too is a part of the Warlock’s nightmare, that she died a long time ago. The dying part isn't as bad as it first seems. When Katrien falls she is replaced by a soldier who promises to revive her at a shrine, provided he makes it. The soldier is less powerful, but not entirely helpless. If he does fall in battle, then you are revived on the surface and have to fight your way through again. There are no save points in the game, but you can have temporary checkpoints. At special shrines you can change it into a checkpoint, provided you have the key for it. A note of caution, these checkpoints have a limited number of times you can be revived. Once used up you start at the surface again. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. As Katrien observes, the abyss, like a dream or nightmare, is never the same. Which means that every time you enter the abyss it is randomly generated, making it something new and different every time. It is a nice touch that provides for a lot of replayability.
While you start out as Katrien you won't play as her all the time. Besides the soldier you will be able to eventually unlock two other characters, the Ghost Monk and Pincoya. Both, like Katrien, have their basic attacks, but also special attacks and weapons. If that's not enough variety of characters for you, there's a way to acquire more. You can capture souls of enemies you defeat. Once captured, you can turn into them and use their powers and abilities.
Choose your weapon wisely.
The characters have some role playing game characteristics in that you can level them up and tailor their fighting styles. You may be slow and sluggish at the start, but carefully choosing how to level up your characters will result in a lean mean demon killing machine. Weapons can be found in the abyss or bought from merchants. A small problem for me was that you couldn’t sell your old weapon. This necessitates spending your money cautiously and wisely. Found weapons can only be picked up if they match your current character's weapon style. So if you are playing as Katrien, you can't pick up pole arms, only small swords.
Pretty as a picture.
Graphically Abyss Odyssey is stunning. It looks like someone crossed a storybook with art nouveau prints; it's colorful and beautiful. One of the touches I really liked was when you use the block move to stop a hit, a halo appears around them. The halo's design takes on the look that's almost a trademark of art nouveau prints. This art style is present in everything, from the backgrounds to all the enemies. I would love to see an art book created from this game.
Abyss Odyssey is a downright stunning game. The art, music, story, and gameplay come together in a beautiful arrangement. Even when you finally get to the end and finish the story the randomly generated abyss makes the game different every time. On top of that the developers, ACE, have stated that at current count there are about 37 enemies are to be captured and used. ACE has hinted at more enemies and bosses to be added to the game in the future. The game also really challenges you with that rougelike system. Can you make it to the end with no saves and limited checkpoints? It's a game that I really think is a contender for my top 10 of the year. I like it that much. If this sounds like your cup of tea, pick it up now.
Every year, a couple of the local Mercedes dealerships get together and rent out the Richmond International Speedway. They then spend a full day attempting to convince ‘VIPs’ to buy a new overpriced luxury car. They do this by letting you speed around in an assortment of Mercs on an assortment of courses specifically designed to make you want one right now. And being a VIP just means that they’ve sold you a car in the past or they’re pretty sure they’re gonna sell you one on the next week or so. Today, I was a VIP. So that there’s no suspense, I’ll jump to the end. I didn’t leave that day with a new Mercedes. I’m very happy with my Crown Vic, thank you very much. But I did leave with the knowledge of what it means to love driving.
I’ve driven on two NASCAR tracks in my life. And by driven, I mean I’ve sat in a car, pressed my foot to the ground, and went around those ovals as fast as my nerves would let me. The first time was at Richmond Raceway, a high banked oval designed for the fastest race cars in the world, and I was driving a high powered AMG Mercedes coupe capable of 155 mph, courtesy of the local dealership. The second NASCAR track I drove on was Langley Speedway. A small quarter-mile oval that looks like it was paved in someones backyard. And I was driving my own car, a bone stock Crown Victoria LX Sport. Guess which time was more fun.
To call Langley Speedway a ‘Speedway’ is kind of like calling Snookie an ‘actress’. That’s being a little unfair to Langley, but not by much. Unlike it’s heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, where the track was a haven for short track racers on their way to the ‘big leagues’, now it’s mostly used for Late Model and ‘Legends’ races. The term ‘stepping stone’ would be a fitting caption for most of the divisions that run at Langley now. A few times during the summer though, they open the track to anyone with a license and a helmet for what’s called ‘Wacky Wednsday’. That’s where me and the Crown Vic come in.