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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon

Viewing blogs tagged Xbox 360

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I'm number 1!

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 05/01/2011 00:42:05

Bell and I were playing some Rock Band 3 tonight - and I got a pretty big score on the Blur song "Song 2" playing Pro Drums on Expert (Pro Drums refers to the cymbals and pads being shown as separate gems). I thought I was pretty close to getting the song 100% so I gave it a few shots:

My score
Yeah - I'm that good.

Looking at the leaderboard - I appear to be equal first with around 100 or so people - so I assume we all got the most points available for Song 2. But that's 100 or so people in the world that have made that score - so I'm calling it a victory

The drum kit
The Ion Rock Drummer electric kit that I use

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 21/07/2009 20:33:28

I don't blog about Xbox games anymore (or anything else for that matter) - but I wanted to make a quick mention of The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. I never got to play the original game back in the day - as our family didn't get a computer until later. So I'm happy to be experiencing this classic game in the comfort of my living room couch. The graphics and music has been all re-mastered, and all dialog is now spoken in the special edition.

But the best part about this game is that clicking on the back button on the controller downscales the experience back to the 90s version, with the old graphics, MIDI music and subtitles instead of speech. It's been great to see the difference between the old and the new in each scene.

If you have an Xbox 360 - buy it today! The developers have hinted that if enough people buy this game, other classic LucasArts games may follow - such as Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tappy tap tap taparoo

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 31/01/2009 13:44:44
Updated by Joel Dixon at 15/04/2019 20:53:01

We had a Commodore 64 as youngsters, and one of my many favourites was a very simple game called Tapper (which, as I've just found out, has a pretty extensive Wikipedia article). Basically, you are a bartender and you need to serve drinks to patrons and collect the empty mugs.

Tapper. If you collect a "tip" from a patron, the dancing girls entertain your demanding customers and make them forget about drinking for a short while

The other day we were passing the arcade game section outside of the local movie cinemas, and amongst the many and only slightly varied driving and shooting cabinets there was an "old school arcade" collection. Of course, one of the games was "Root Beer Tapper".

Root Beet Tapper
Root Beer Tapper same game different beverage

What fun it was reliving such a classic. While a little rusty, I pushed through and easily topped the high score table:

High Score
First of one is still first!

After reading the Wikipedia article, I learned that an XBOX Live Arcade version of this game is available. It's since been added to my download queue!

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Simpsons Game

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 30/06/2008 18:57:57

It was the best of games, it was the blurst of games.Last Exit to Springfield

There have been 21 other games in the long list of Simpsons-based video games, and it's fair to say that very few of them have been worth playing. The Simpsons Hit & Run was pretty good and Bart vs. The Space Mutants kept me entertained as a kid - but most of the games have run the gamut from totally shit to an occasionally enjoyable distraction.

It is with this in mind that when the last Simpson game was announced - with the original title of The Simpsons Game - I wasn't expecting much.

Simpsons Cover
There's a different cover design for each version of the game

The Simpsons Game features an original storyline - it was initially assumed this game might be a movie tie-in with the recently released Simpsons Movie - in which Bart discovers that the family is part of a video game. You can control Homer, Marge, Lisa and Bart and each member of the family has different skills and abilities. The game is broken up into 16 episodes - each with a different setting built around the two characters you will play as.

Developed by EA, poster boy for all that is wrong in the video game industry, this was a very tough game to keep playing. Deaths are far too frequent due to clunky gameplay and the camera seemingly intent on sabotage. If this game was on any other subject, I probably would have stopped playing it after a few hours. But this is where the story kicks in.

The game was written by three Simpsons writers and all in-game dialogue is delivered by the actual Simpsons actors. The story is very funny, and reminiscent of the golden age of Simpsons episodes (for me anyway). The town of Springfield is also pretty faithfully represented in digital form, including internal designs with the comic book store, police station, Kwik-E-Mart, Moe's Tavern and more.

Simpsons Church
Although there isn't much you can do there, running around the inside of places like the church is a nice touch

The funny, Simpsons-style story alone would make for a good game even considering the poor game play issues, but the most pleasantly surprising aspect of the game for me was the video game references. The game makes fun of past and current video games as well as the whole games industry including EA themselves. There's also many brief aspects of the game play included as homage to famous games in history, such as space invaders, all rendered in the regular in-game engine with a different camera angle (generally top-down).

Simpsons Tutorial Level
Mmmm, chocolate

There's no online component to the game, and the achievements are uninspired. Apart from the "finish the game" type achievements, most of the points are handed out for collecting the various "collectibles" throughout the game. That being said, The Simpsons Game does give up one of the most amusing achievements I've "achieved" on the ol' 360. I won't give it away, but you'd see what I was talking about if you ever decided to give this game a go.

3.5 out of 5

Thursday, April 17, 2008


# Posted by Joel Dixon at 17/04/2008 22:59:06
Updated by Joel Dixon at 18/04/2008 08:24:03

As I've mentioned I'm a huge fan of NHL video games, and have tried to collect one for each year. A little while ago I found a second-hand version of NHL 2K6 for the 360 so I snapped it up.

NHL 2K6 Cover
NHL 2K6 with Marty Turco on the cover

2K6 was the first NHL game released on the Xbox 360 - and it kinda shows. Buying a two-year-old game I didn't expect anything fantastic, but I can't image it would have been that special even when it was first released. It wouldn't run on PAL-60, so to play this game I needed to changed the cords I was using and alter the Xbox's display settings. There was also some freezing issues with the game, and the 2K Sports interface was getting very clunky by this stage.

I played a few games with my beloved Penguins, and it's always fun controlling Crosby around the ice - but there wasn't much reason to continue once I earned the 5 achievements. It will take it's place on the shelf next to the other NHL games, and the Tony Hawk series.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ninety-Nine Nights

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 23/03/2008 01:33:33
Updated by Joel Dixon at 17/09/2008 09:29:37

When I bought the Xbox from a workmate he included his 4 remaining games. I had already completed three of those games (Kameo, Oblivion and Enchanted Arms) after my first few weeks in Edmonton around 8 months ago. The fourth game, Ninety-Nine Nights - took considerably longer.

N3 Cover
Ninety-Nine Nights cover

A joint effort between Q Entertainment and Phantagram, Ninety-Nine Nights (shortened to N3) is a hack-and-slash game with up to a few thousand enemies to vanquish in each level. You start the game as Inphyy, a 17-year-old leader of the Temple Knights fighting a holy war against a horde of goblins and other supposedly evil groups. Once you finish the main storyline with Inphyy you unlock two new characters and replay the same story with a different viewpoint. Each character you unlock tells a different part of the story and lets you play on both sides of dark and light, which changes the events of the story.

The game play has elements of RPGs such as level progression based on experience points and a number of weapons with status changing upgrades. The story also reminds me of RPGs like Final Fantasy - complete with world-saving teenagers, a predominant light-versus-dark theme and female characters that believe boobies are more effective against a sword than armour.

N3 Armour
All protected from stabbings. Unless, of course, someone goes for the chest

Visually N3 is very impressive, and this was obviously an important goal of the development team. Hundreds of enemies and allies are onscreen at once set against purty backdrops of the desert, jungles or a snow field. Each enemy is given a different look with a random combination of various armor pieces, and act relatively believably when left on their own. Unfortunately it seems they pushed the poor Xbox too hard as the framerate is noticeably slowed when a large number of enemies are joined by the destruction of structures such as a sentry tower. While this doesn't affect the game play too often it does make the game look a little unpolished.

N3 Enemies
Bring it!

N3 is essentially a button masher with one button controlling a regular attack and the other a power attack. These buttons are combined to inflict powerful combo attacks, and you learn better attacks as you progress in level.

For each enemy you kill you are awarded a red orb. When you collect enough you can unleash an orb attack allowing you to cut through hundreds of enemies like partially set jelly. Enemies killed during an orb attack result in a blue orb. When you collect enough of the blue orbs an orb spark attack pretty much levels the playing field of foes.

The achievements in N3 are quite well implemented for such an early title. Awarding an achievement for completing the game with each character encourages you to uncover the complete story in the game. If I was playing this game on a system without achievement points I probably would have stopped playing after finishing Inphyy's quests and would have missed a lot of the story elements. The final achievement, progress each character to level nine, gets repetitive to the point of tedium - which explains why this game took so much longer to complete.

Ninety-Nine Nights isn't the most strategic game, but when you come home from work there's a certain level of fun to be had mowing through thousands of animated goblins.

3 out of 5

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 24/02/2008 13:34:46
Updated by Joel Dixon at 04/03/2008 17:03:18

Back in high school a couple of friends and I hired a game that was getting a little bit of hype amongst the kiddies - Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for my PlayStation. Still to this day, I can remember how I felt when I started skating the first level - the Warehouse. The game did look awesome - but the real joy came from replicating the feeling of turning up at an unfamiliar place, and seeing what you could skate on. This is something my friends and I did frequently during our early high school days (on rollerblades), but in Tony Hawk - I could actually complete better tricks than "the jump".

Old Tony Hawk
The first level in the original Tony Hawk game

As I rolled through the levels like The School (another very familiar setting) and The Mall (I admit I did have a fantasy of blading through an empty Eastland) collecting the coveted tapes and uncovering amusing gap names I knew this was a special game. I am now a proud owner of every game in the Tony Hawk's series and while I definitely feel the quality of the series had peaked by the third installment - I still buy and enjoy each of the games, just to try out the new levels, if nothing else.

The last Tony Hawk game I bought for my PlayStation 2 was Tony Hawk's Underground 2 quite a few years ago - and it was fortunate that the next in the series, American Wasteland, was available for the Xbox 360 at the bargain price of $15.

Tony Hawk American Wasteland
Why pink?

As this is the fifth Tony Hawk game, game play changes were hardly genre re-defining. The big change was what they took out of this game - loading screens. There was, however, loading tunnels - 30 seconds of sparsely populated tunnels connecting each different section together. Even though the change was essentially turning the loading screen into a user-controlled animation, I must admit that it did help the flow of the game.

Continuing the trend that was introduced in Tony Hawk's Underground, American Wasteland's main content was uncovered in a "story mode" that tried to add a narrative to the game. I've never been a fan of "story mode" as it generally results in a lot of busy-task goals, and crap loads of unnecessary skating from point A to B. In my opinion the story mode succeeds only in making the game more disjointed.

THAW Story Mode
The chick you try to doink in the story mode (the one without pigtails)

Some of the new story mode levels are pretty cool (such as a finished Skate Park) as are some of the NPCs that are introduced - but on the whole I was unimpressed. A very small feature of story mode is the ability to get off your board and hop onto a bike to ride around. This was one of the better inclusions of the game in my opinion, especially since the BMX controls were much better than the controls of Activision's Mat Hoffman series of games. It feels great to pull off a flare or tailwhip with this style of controls!

No tuffs on this bike, unfortunately

Once I finally slogged my way though the story mode I gave classic mode a shot - and was happy again. The sense of nostalgia overwhelmed me as soon as I begun the first classic level. You see - all of the classic levels are remakes of levels from earlier games in the series (like my beloved Mall level from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater). I'm sure some people view this as a cop out - but I was happy as it's been so long since I've played these levels, and they take on new life with the inclusion of moves such as the manual and revert.

I guess the other new feature that would have wowed people when this game was released was the ability to play against others online with Xbox Live. I played a few games online over Live - and it was definitely fun - but there really isn't many other games playing this game now days. Still - the online experience was quite well implemented - considering the time this game was released.

Achievements in this game weren't too bad, but pretty basic. Once completing story mode and classic mode most of the achievements were dolled out, leaving only 10 points to skate each level over Live (with or without another person) and 100 points to "complete" the game (basically get all of the gaps). Once again, considering the release date of this title, the achievements weren't too poorly implemented.

Overall - American Wasteland is pretty much as you would expect for yet another game in the Tony Hawk series. A fun game, some new levels and the ability to play over Live (while the game is still popular).

2.5 out of 5

Monday, January 28, 2008

Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 28/01/2008 10:46:27
Updated by Joel Dixon at 02/02/2008 09:05:54

The last PlayStation 2 game we bought was Buzz! The Music Quiz, the first game in the somewhat popular Buzz! video game series. We had played it at my parents house and found it enjoyable enough to purchase our own copy. Belinda is pretty good with music trivia, especially newer music, and we were pretty evenly matched which made the game fun even after playing it repetitively.

The Buzz! series continued with The Big Quiz and The Sports Quiz - but I was hoping they would come out with a movie trivia game. Since then I bought an Xbox 360 and the DVD-based game Scene It? was adapted into a video game. Fun for everyone.

Scene It
Scene It? is a Xbox 360 exclusive title

The four "big button pads" that come with the game are designed quite well. Firstly, they're wireless and come with an infrared receiver that you place on top of the television. It takes a little bit to remember that you need to point the buzzer at the TV - but it's much better than using wired controllers. They have a proper guide button and all the other buttons of a regular controller except for the triggers. The big button also doubled as a directional pad, which makes navigating the Dashboard screen much easier. And, batteries were included - bargain.

Big Button Controllers
That's not a big button pad, this is a big button pad

The narrative of the game is tedious at best, but basically involves three rounds of games, with 3 or 4 games each round depending on whether you're playing a short or long game. After the three rounds is "The Final Cut" which will potentially award a lot of points. There is a "Movie Clip" game each round in which a short movie clip is proceeded by five questions. The game does remember which questions you have seen and tries not to show you those questions again - but as there are only 40 or so different movie clips and they start repeating quickly.

The 20 other game types is where I found the most fun. These games include guessing the movie title from it's poster as the elements are slowly added to the canvas, or guessing the movie that a sound byte has been taken from. The game types are creative and a lot of fun, but unfortunately there's no way to select which game types you will playing. I feel the "Sequentials" game pops up far too often (you are presented with four similar movie titles, and you need to order them according to release date).

The Pictogram game type - see it and say it

The game types are generally fun, and the mechanics of awarding extra points for early answers is good to see - but with only 1,500 questions in the game it starts repeating far too quickly. When I started playing the game 60,000 points was a pretty good for me - but it didn't take long at all until 90 to 100k was coming easily. I didn't find Buzz to be as bad in this regard at all as they have a pool of 1,000 music clips to choose from (and 5,000 questions). I guess it's easier for Buzz! as they use cover bands - you can't really have a movie clips or screen shots with cover actors.

This is where the Scene It? should be using the power of downloadable content to prolong the lifespan of their game, and make use of the inventive game designs by providing downloadable question sets. I believe this is their plan, there's already a "Downloads" menu items that sends the user into the Marketplace area for this game - but there's currently nothing to download there. I would assume there are more questions coming - probably in different theme packs like we've already seen with the DVD game (like the Disney, James Bond or Marvel Comics editions). I'll certainly be downloading any theme packs that are released.

Speaking of Live integration - initially I felt it was a little disappointing that there is no online multiplayer game mode - but it didn't take me too long to realise that multi-player wouldn't work with the limited question set. For example, in most of the game types I can answer all of the questions immediately just by looking at the four available answers - and it's not like I've been studying the game at great length. Eventually most good multiplayers would be competing very close to the maximum score allowed each game.

The achievements were handed out very quickly, but again, I think this was a result of the limited question set more than any design flaw. The 30 and 60 questions correct without an incorrect answer were tricky and time-consuming - but all of the others were pretty straight forward to achieve, the first 600 points coming in the first three games. Then again - any trivia game that allows you to pause after a question has been asked is going to have most people getting all achievements when combined with IMDb.

In summary, a fun game - great for small gatherings - and something that will hopefully have downloadable content! 3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Xbox 360 Achievements Lead to Increased Sales

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 17/10/2007 09:32:10
Updated by Joel Dixon at 06/07/2017 01:38:38

An interesting article came through my handy feed reader this afternoon - "Xbox 360 Achievements Lead to Higher Scores and Sales". I've made public my love for achievements before, so I actually read this item. Apart from referring to Achievements as "Accomplishments" (which shits me a little), the article did make a few interesting points:

The study concluded that, in general, game titles that have a higher volume of Accomplishments correlate with both a higher Metacritic Metascore and higher gross sales in the United States.

I agree with this to a point - but it's important to remember correlation doesn't imply causation. Just because higher selling and higher rated games have a depth in Achievements - doesn't necessarily mean the Achievements caused the high sales and rating. I think if a game developer puts effort and planning into the achievements of a game - it's not the only factor that they're trying to get right.

Then again, if I had two next-gen systems and a game came out on all systems - I would probably buy it on the Xbox for the achievement points.

In fact, 29% of all Accomplishments are Completion Accomplishments; one of the easiest to develop and integrate leaving way for additional opportunities within the Accomplishment categories.

I completely agree with this point - as mentioned for Enchanted Arms - completion achievements can be a huge cop-out. I'd be happy if this research convinced a few more developers to put extra thought into the achievements they use.

But it depends on how they are counting this one (the actual source article is available for purchase, so I didn't check). If they mean 29% of games use only completion achievements - then that's no good. Put if 29% of total achievement points across all games are based on completion of a section of the game - it's a little lower than I would have thought. It's always good to receive a small chunk of achievement points for finishing a level, or game. It's when you get all of your points in this way that annoys me.

It also found evidence that consumers are taking the time to review the available Accomplishments for a game before making purchasing decisions; game titles which keep their Accomplishments secret generate less revenue than those who expose them to players upfront.

This is another interesting thought - though not true in my case. I have 5 completely unplayed Xbox 360 games, and I have taken steps to ensure I don't know what the achievements are until I start playing the game. In some cases I have a basic idea of what they'll be - but I much prefer to find out while playing the game as it makes that "achievement unlocked" much more sweeter when you're not expecting it. Like now:

Achievement Unlocked

Monday, October 08, 2007

Enchanted Arms

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 08/10/2007 13:54:09
Updated by Joel Dixon at 17/01/2018 23:01:45

After completing Oblivion I decided to move on to the Japanese Role Playing Game of Enchanted Arms.

Enchanted Arms boxart
Boxart for the Enchanted Arms game

You take on the role of Atsuma, an "enchanter" at school with his friends, with a mysterious and powerful arm. Bad things happen, and you need to fix them (basically). As with most games in this genre, storyline is very important, and I found this story to be engaging and actually very funny in parts. Character development is a strong point (sometimes a little too strong for some, like with the un-ashamedly homosexual character Mokoto and his undying love for a school mate) and the visuals are satisfactory for a game in this era.

Enchanted Arms screen shot
The in-game visuals didn't blow me away - but were more than good enough to keep me engaged in the story

A large part of the game is your fight against golems, which are essentially robot warriors. You can find or buy different types of golems and have them fight for you as well. This was a high point for me, as the different strengths and general variety of golems kept the game interesting. Of course, there were a unsurprisingly high number of robot "warriors" made in the image of a school girl, nurse, maid etc

Prim Rose

A light female Golem clothed in a maid uniform.

Performs household tasks such as cleaning, laundry, cooking and others with ease.

Has many fans thanks to its range of expression and small, hard-working body.

Never forgets to use her gun to punish those who would upset her master.

Another important aspect of RPGs is the battle system employed, and Enchanted Arms gains points in this respect as well. You make your 4-member party up from a mix of characters and golems and battles take place in a 6 x 4 grid in which you cannot pass the halfway line. Different attack ranges, elemental attacks and the fact that hiding behind another character lessens damaged made this system fun and challenging. The biggest problem I had with battles was that there was very rarely a warning that a difficult battle was going to take place, and when you lost a battle you could either retry or quit. What's the point of having a range of golems at the ready when you can't edit your party after you've seen the type of battle you're about to have? You could runaway from a battle (but not all the time, especially with bosses) but this would cause a big health hit.

Another negative for me was the end of the game, and the achievements rewarded. Firstly, when you finish the game you can no longer progress through the world (and find extra golems) with your current party. You can save your game and use your characters for online play - but there were no more games being hosted when I looked - and multi-player seemed to be an afterthought. Basically, if you didn't save the game before you reached a particular point in the story, you are unable to go back through the game collecting golems.

This leads to another negative - all 1,000 achievement points are awarded over the course of finishing the main storyline (with a "happy ending"). Even though the game tracks the number of golems you've found - there's no achievement for finding all of the robot warriors. I feel this is a place where the developer could have provided so much more replayability to the game, but instead left the audience wanting. I guess poor achievements can be excused for release titles, and the fact the game was originally delayed a month probably explains why these kinds of things were lacking. But the biggest place where they fell down was by using a generic icon (a yellow symbol) for every achievement. This is something that would have taken a graphical artist no more than a day to fix, had achievements not been a complete afterthought.

Enchanted Arms Achivement icon
The generic achievement icon - From Software could have done much better here with little cost

Overall, I definitely enjoyed the game - but it's a shame they didn't have enough time to finish it and polish it up a little. 3.5 out of 5

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