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The Developer Conundrum

February 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In the games industry there are three distinct development parties. These are third-party developers, second-party developers and first-party developers. Third-party developers are not generally associated with any particular console or corporation other than themselves, whereas second-party developers have signed contracts with a console manufacturing company and release platform exclusives. First-party developers, however, are different all together. They are part of the console manufacturing company and often carry the company's name.

With the different types of development companies out there, games have been developed for various platforms. This provides another dilemma for gamers when choosing a console. We not only have to decide on the quality of the console itself but also the franchise that are available on that console.

Microsoft: Halo is undoubtedly Microsoft's main attraction, with Halo 1 and 2 released for the original Xbox. It was one of the main reasons people bought the Xbox and for many current Xbox 360 owners, Halo 3 is one of the main reasons they bought the 360 as well. There are many other fantastic games for the Xbox 360, but without Halo, there would have been much less Xbox 360s sold.

Halo is not the only franchise exclusive to Microsoft's platform, Epic's Gears of War series and Bizarre Creation's Project Gotham series are both exclusive to Microsoft.

Sony: One of Sony's biggest and loyalist second-party developer has been Insomniac. They have been a second-party developer for Sony for more than ten years, and have released a gamer, almost every year for their platforms. Even today, for the PS3, the company releases games annually, and on the odd occasion twice yearly. Insomniac is an extremely reliable company for producing quality games, and would be proud to own the console they develop on. This generation, Insomniac is best known for the Resistance series, a highly acclaimed first-person-shooter) and the Ratchet and Clank series (a brilliant third-person platformer / shooter).

Naughty Dog are also a primary second-party developer for Sony, with the Jak and Daxter series, and most recently the Uncharted franchise for the PS3. Also it is worth mentioning that for a decade, up until recently, every core Final Fantasy game released was exclusive to Sony platforms. Final Fantasy developers, Square Enix, continue to dedicate itself to the PS3 with exclusive game rights.

Nintendo: For the Nintendo Wii, first-party exclusives include Mario games, such as Mario Galaxy and Paper Mario, and Wii Sports. Wii Sports is a very popular game for the platform and best exploits the innotive features of the Wii Remote, or Wiimote. Many more first-party games have been created for the Wii, such as Excite Truck and Disaster: Day of Crisis. One first-party developer for Nintendo, Intelligent Systems, was founded by former employees of Nintendo's Research and Development division. Intelligent Systems is responsible for great games like Metroid and Famicon Wars.

This kind of information in most likely lost on casual gamers, but for those who are interested in the games industry and are serious gamers it is important to keep track of where games fit in with the developer hierarchy. This knowledge sets the level of expectation for each game and ultimately the success of a console system.

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3 Great WiiWare Games

February 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

WiiWare is Nintendo's equivalent to Sony's PlayStation Networks and Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace. Most of the content on WiiWare is re-releases of Nintendo classics, but is also a platform through which developers can easily distribute cheap games over an internet connection. WiiWare is in its infancy compared to its counterparts, but there are some true gems that are available that are unlike anything you'll find on the other networks.

#3: Gyrostarr

Unlike anything you have seen before, Gyrostarr is a simple yet engaging racing game that provides up to 50 levels of gameplay, which makes it a worthwhile addition to anyone’s library.

Gyrostarr is a space-shooter and a racer wrapped up in one. Prepare to be blown away, as you select your ship and then sent blasting down a tunnel of space tubing. The objective of the game is to use the ship's grapple are to collect power orbs before you reach the tunnel's gate, to open it. As you fly through each tunnel, there are plenty of power-ups that can also be grabbed with the grapple, as well as enemies that will need to be shot down.

Gyrostarr includes a singleplayer mode and a co-operative mode with a twist, where players are competing for the highest score, but still have to help each other out to power the gate and progress. Gyrostarr is one of those unmissable and unique games that must be played.

#2: LostWinds

The Wii is most famouse for its unique and simplistic motion controls. WiiWare games take advantage of this new control system and provide new ways to play games. LostWinds is no different. The story involves Toku, a boy who meets a wind god named Enril. Together they set out to save their village from an impending doom. The most unique thing about LostWinds is you control Toku with the Nunchuk, and Enril with the Wii Remote. Swishing the Wii remote makes Enril produce blasts of wind that help the platforming aspect of the game, allowing Toku to reach ledges that you wouldn't believe he could reach.

This mechanic is used throughout the puzzles in LostWind, and combined with the gorgeous graphics and sceneray your are sure to be blown away.

#1: World of Goo

World of Goo is possibly the most weirdest yet addictive games available through WiiWare. The objective of the game is to stick together blobs of living goo to form a path to pipes that suck them in. The remaining blobs roll over the makeshift path to their destination. Traps and dangers litter the levels, which must be avoided. World of Goo is very reminiscent of Lemmings, but with its very own bizarre, cute and quirky style.

World of Goo is an instant classic and is one WiiWare game you should get above all others.

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3 Top PSN Games You Must Own

February 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The PlayStation Network, Sony's free version the Xbox Live, does not have nearly as much content as Xbox Live's Acrade store. But, that doesn't mean to say it hasn't got it's share of awesome games, Here are three that will definitely impress.

#3: Echochrome

Puzzle games rarely offer something that isn't unique, and Echochrome follows this trend brilliantly. When playing Echochrome, prepare to be presented with a series of puzzles, which may or may not be optical illusions. So be warned!

The basic principle of the game is to navigate a small mannequin through each level and gather echoes. Each level is floating in a fathomless white space with thin lines representing paths. On the paths lie black holes, and falling through these may or may not take you to where you intended to go. As I mentioned before, the game uses optical illusions and therefore it is difficult to tell where a hole will take you, so if you fall through the floor into infinity, you lose.

The game features 52 levels, along with a map editor for you to create your own maps and share them online. This is a must have on your PS3 hard drive!

#2 Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection

Tekken has long been hailed as one of the best fighting games ever. So what happens when Sony port the PlayStation 2 game Tekken 5 to the PS3? You get a simple yet engaging Tekken fighting game in beautiful high definition.

The game offers all the modes that were found in the PS2 version, as well as an all-new online multiplayer mode and a Ghost Mode, which pits you against a series of NPC's with random ranks and abilities. The variety of such as mode as this is welcome and so is the ability to take the currency you earn from the mode to buy accessories for customizing your characters.

If your a fighting fanatic you cannot miss out on this opportunity, and if your new to the series, there is no better place than to start here and experience Tekken.

#1: WipeOut HD

Ever since the announcement of the PS3 people have wanted a new WipeOut. Fans got their wish, WipeOut HD.

Sci-fi racers are a rare breed in games and have been done to varying success. The WipeOut Series has been the outstanding franchise in the genre and this continues with WipeOut HD. Essentially, WipeOut HD is a remake of the classic PlayStation original, remade with slicker high definition graphics, and boasts both singleplayer and online multiplayer. The singleplayer mode incorporates a career system where the game speed and the AI difficulty increase with progression.

WipeOut runs at an amazing 60-frames-per-second, and is an awesome ship-racing game that is even more beautiful in motion. The sheer sense of speed the game creates makes you think you are travelling at speeds near to 500kph. Whether you have never played a WipeOut game in your life or are a veteran to the series, WipeOut will blow you away!

Arcade Awesomeness with Xbox Live

February 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Many people are dismissive of the downloadable games that are available on the consoles, as it is relatively new to this generation of consoles. When people see games for $10 - $20 (roughly £5 - £10) they expect it to be an inferior game, whereas if they save up for a $50 - $60 game, they have something that is worth their money. However, as a gamer yourself, you know that this isn't always true. Here we have 3 of the best downloadable games available from the XBLA on the Xbox 360.

#3: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

After successful iterations on both the Nintendo DS and the PSP, Puzzle Quests developers decided to port the excellent puzzle game to the Xbox 360, so it is now formatted to your TV and is shown in glorious HD.

Puzzle Quest combines role­­­­-playing and puzzle solving skillfully into a demanding and enthralling game that you won’t be able to put down. You navigate through a World-Map, exploring, talking to people and accepting quests, gaining experience, leveling-up, as well as gaining new equipment. But where the game gets really engaging is when you build your own city and attack surrounding enemy fortifications.

Lastly, there is the combat itself, this is a mash between Bejeweled and Final Fantasy. In each fight, you put your strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses to your advantage, as you and your opponent perform actions on the same Bejeweled-like board. Simply put, you move the pieces around until you line up skulls and do damage to your opponent. You can also perform spells, as well as other moves, which is determined by your character's profession and level. If you are into addictive games, then you can go wrong with Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords.

#2: Portal: Stay Alive

Portal: Stay Alive is an expansion on the original game Portal (the download includes Portal too). If your head has been in the clouds for the past couple of years, Portal is a first person puzzle game created using the Half-Life 2 Source engine, and was released as part of Valves, The Orange Box. The game consists of mind-warping puzzles that you must get your head around to solve, with the help of your trusty portal gun. Portal: Stay Alive is, admittedly, short, however it is cheap and still remains one of the most engaging game out there. You must play Portal, period!

#1: Braid

Braid received massive amounts of attention from the press after its release on XBLA. To its credit, it deserved every bit of it. Perhaps the thing Braid was praised most for was its story, but this was not the only thing Braid has going for it. Braid was specifically designed to pose some very complex and intricate puzzles, in a way that is not frustrating for the player to solve.

Your main ability to help you solve these puzzles, is the ability to manipulate the flow of time, and is essential for solving certain puzzles. Each world in the game provides a different variation of this mechanic and the way you control it to keep the challenge the whole way through.

The game consists of five worlds in all, each containing 12 puzzles. It is not necessary to complete all 60 puzzles, however, it is highly recommended to, as it unlocks an ending that must be seen.

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Klonoa Returns!

February 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A classic from the sepia hued days of playstation 1, Klanoa: Door to Phantomile is due to receive an ambitious remake at the hands of Nintedo Wii. The original game combined revolutionary 3D graphics with the classic side scrolling platform dynamic seen in Super Mario. Taking control of Klonoa, players utilized the character's magical ring to manipulate objects and blast enemies that barred your path. In addition, Klonoa could grab enemies and throw them downward in a way that gives him a boost when leaping through the air. Our plucky hero was also able to take advantage of wind tunnels and geysers to glide throughout the landscape using his sizeable pair of ears!

Set in the magical world of phantomile, born out of the dreams of its inhabitants, this makes for a diverse and magical adventure as Klonoa travels the land seeking to put an end to the misdeeds of arch nemesis Ghadius. The diverse and interesting visuals and gameplay that Klonoa: Door To Phantomile has to offer are still remembered by much of the gaming community. A sequel was released in 2001 on the PS2, titled Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil, also heralded for it's tight controls and varied and engaging gameplay. Seven years later, Namco Bandai is developing a remake of the original classic for the Wii. Aswell as enjoying the obvious graphics and gameplay boost, the Wii remake benefits from the integration of motion control, set to make this cute and popular title even more fun to play. However, those that prefer the classic take on this videogame can still opt for the joypad method.

Many people may be wondering, "Why on earth are they developing a remake instead of a sequel?" Well, are a couple good reasons. Firstly, Door To Phantomile is a rare and revered classic that people are still talking about and is extremely tough and expensive to get ahold of. Namco Bandai wants to provide a loyal and quality remake of a classic game for way less than what people are lately charging for the original. Secondly, it's a good means of checking to see just how interested people still are with the game, as well as generate even more interest and popularity.

Hopefully the interest and success this remake could bring would prompt developers to think about a fully blown sequel to Klonoa 2, but all that remains to be seen when Wii's remake hits the shelves later this year.

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Petroglyph’s Upcoming Game: Mytheon

February 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Petroglyph, the creator of Star Wars Empire At War and Universe At War: Earth Assault, are currently developing a game called Mytheon, which they claim will combine elements of the Action, RTS (real time strategy) and MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) genres. The company have decided to base their game on popular and widely known Greek mythology, as this presents a solid backbone and intriguing world for the backdrop of their ambitious project.

The game revolves around a Power Stone system, which like in other strategy games can be manipulated to provide certain things or carry out certain actions. For example, some can be used to summon mystical powers, whilst others are orientated towards building and laying foundations. Differing factions and classes of people have access to different stones, and thus a diverse and challenging world is set.

As is common in an MMORPG, in Mytheon you travel to and from specific areas and meet other people. In certain areas you can challenge people to PVP (player versus player) combat. Many PVP events will take place in specific areas, such as arenas. With a rich and immersive storyline, Mytheon promises to keep players hooked with a range of specific game events and sidequests. The open ended story is set to receive periodic updates, a highly important factor in an age where many MMORPGs are simply left dead in the water whilst players continue to fork out subscription fees. Mytheon will apparently be free to play, but will also feature microtransaction options, wherein players can opt to buy additional content such as clothing and key items.

Petroglyph are keeping any further details close to their chest, but plan for a release of late 2009. Speculation and interest in this title is already high, so it will be interesting to see whether Mytheon will make good on what it promises.

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Deadly Creatures!

February 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

If frantic and deadly battles between strange and poisonous creatures sounds like your kind of thing, then upcoming Nintendo Wii game Deadly Creatures may be just for you. In a world short on new and fresh ideas these days, this game presents in interesting and unique take on battles of all shapes and sizes! Presenting a multi-faceted storyline revolving around a Scorpion, Tarantula, and then two men stuck in the desert(voiced by no less than Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton) searching for someone or something.

Gameplay takes place over ten chapters, jumping between the control of the Tarantula and Scorpion, as each creature offers a different perspective as the story begins to unfold. Taking control of the different creatures will open up new avenues and access to differing areas, as the scorpion takes advantage of his digging skill, and the Tarantula spins webs for access. Throw in a frantic combat system which, for possibly the first time in game history, pits these tiny creatures against each other in a violent struggle for life!

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While the tarantula is fast and excels when it comes to dodging attacks, the scorpion is slow yet powerful, and relies on his blocking abilities to keep attacks at bay. Pressing A delivers a fast attack, whilst shaking the Wii remote will execute a more powerful attack that requires more careful timing. These attacks can be chained together to execute combos, more of which you will unlock as your character levels up. For example, for the tarantula you unlock a poisonous bite, and the ability to squirt webs at enemies and stun them. Also, after stunning an enemy it is possible to perform a finishing move, which will completely defeat your foe if you follow the onscreen prompts exactly.  The results of the execution of these finishing moves are intense, and often bloody, raising this game above the child orientated audience.

Visually this is a rich and immersive game, throwing the players deep into a claustophobic and dark world of constant survival. Add to this the unique and fresh perspective this game takes to gameplay and exploration and you have yourself a title quite unlike any of the usual action fodder that gets thrown around these days. Enjoy!

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Sonic Revived?

February 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Sonic franchise has long been a gaming stalwart, giving rise to one of modern cultures most recognisable videogame characters and spanning several gaming generations and consoles. The first two or three Sonic games were extemely popular and well loved, cementing the character as the poster boy for Sega. However, as time went on sonic struggled to get to grips with new technology, as the side scrolling formula gave way to 3D adventures, Sonic lost his footing and declined in popularity. Some say the games were overly ambitious and frenetic, overloading the screen with visuals and gameplay too difficult to follow. The latest Sonic Unleashed game hoped to right some of these wrongs and return Sonic to the top, but it met with nonplussed reviews.

However, Sega refuse to let the old hero go out without a fight, and the Wii exclusive game Sonic and the Black Knight looks like it just may be a game that succeeds in a few vital areas where the rest have failed. Dispensing with the repetitive storylines of the past, namely dredging up the villain Dr Robotnic again and again, Sonic is summoned by the wizard Merlina in her time of great need. This attracts the attention of a fresh new antagonist; The Black Knight.

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Another area in which the new game hopes to improve upon Unleashed is the combat. Unleashed featured Sonic turning into a hulking 'Werehog' in a gambit which Sega hoped would be the key selling point. Instead, this feature was heavily criticised, as gamers didn't take well to their usually spritely and lightning fast hero being reduced to a slow, cumbersome monster. In Black Knight, Sonic wields a sword which he can use whilst on the trot, giving rise to highly inventive gameplay as you speed through levels and dispatch foes in one fluid motion. As Unleashed was a game that had been ported to the Wii, the motion controls struggled with the system and most gamers simply opted for using a joypad. This isn't a problem for The Black Knight, as being a Wii exclusive the controls have been developed and mastered from the outset.

Will Sonic and the Black Knight restore the age old franchise to its former glory, or will it be just another disappointment in a long line of lacklustre titles? We only have a couple of weeks to wait and see...

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Console Buying Guide

February 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

With a number of console giants available on the current market, it can be a daunting task choosing one as a gift for someone else. Whilst most of the top three consoles share a lot of games and features, there are certain important aspects that also set them apart. Here we present a quick guide to buying the right console as a gift for someone you know.

One of the first things to consider is not just the starting cost, but also the long term cost of a console. Game and accessory prices for consoles are steadily on the rise, with most new Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 games starting out at around £40. The Wii offers games slightly cheaper, but tends to utilize a number of add-ons and inclusive packs that can add to the base price. Most add ons for consoles are not compulsory and so wouldn't normally need to be considered, but with the Wii some of the best games need a number of specific controllers and add ons from the outset.

You may also want to consider gthe recipient, and the type of gaming console that may best suit them. Nintendo have always held a family friendly policy, favouring games that are low on violence and instead concentrating on game that appeal to a younger audience. This isn't to say that mature content isn't available to the Wii, it's just on a smaller scale. Conversely, the Xbox and Playstation counterparts are much more geared towards catering for the mature gamer, with popular yet violent titles such as Gears of War and Resistance.

Is the recipient a fan of any particular developer of company? If he has experience with games on older Nintendo systems, the games on Wii like Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, and Metroid Prime 3 may be familiar and fun. However, if he's allowed to play more violent games and enjoys shooters and whatnot, the Xbox 360 has a better offering in that area. Not that he won't find good shooters on the Wii, but they are not as readily available as on the 360, or the PS3 for that matter.

All three consoles have access to online play and additional content that can be downloaded through a console specific marketplace.  Most additional and downloadable content comes a small cost. However, whereas gaming online with the Playstation 3 is completely free, the Xbox requires a subscription fee which is renewed every few months. Over time this charge can start to mount up, and seems ludicrous when compared to the Playstation equivalent which is free of charge.

Lastly, it's worth considering taking out some form of care plan for your new console. Xbox 360 in particular has been plagued with bugs and breakdowns since its release, and has become somewhat infamous in that area. It is an extra cost, but offers better peace of mind when you know that great big expensive piece of hardware is at least covered.

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Wii Love Racing!

February 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Since the release of the Wii, the console has struggled to promote an appealing range of racing games. Some teething problems in getting to grips with the motion sensors and other controller orientated troubles led the racing genre to have a slow start on the Wii. However, over time developers have got to grips with the new system and some truly great games have surfaced. Here we list three of the best;

Excite Truck was one of the Wii's launch games, and one of the few early racers to actually get it right. This game is so much fun it still stands amongst our top racing games. Whilst this title doesn't offer any multiplayer options, it instead provides a rip-roaring racing experience, wherein sheer, unadulterated speed is the law. The game, as with most other Wii racing titles, is played with the Wii remote. The remote is held in a horizontal position in front of the player and tilted from side to side to steer. Pressing the D-pad engages your boost, which can be activated at any time but will overheat and slow down your engine if overused.

The visuals are breathtaking, and the gameplay may seem a bit one-note, but then isnt that what most racing games are about?

Next up we have Need for Speed Carbon, which builds upon the ideals of this being a street racing game. This title incorporates car shop and customization options, street car races, and police car chases into the usual mix. Being able to customize your car’s paint job, engine, etc. alone make this a very replayable game, and the races themselves are everything we’ve come to expect from the Need For Speed series; fast, furious and utterly enjoyable.

And finally, of course, we have Mario Kart Wii. This game actually offers a total of four different control schemes, first is the aforementioned Wii remote. The game comes with a “Wii Wheel”, for inserting the remote inside for easier handling. The second is the Wii “remote & nunchuk” scheme, where the game is controlled as you would normally play a game after inserting the nunchuk into the remote. Also, the game is compatible with both Gamecube and Classic Controllers.

Mario Kart also offers online multiplayer options. This is possibly the most enjoyable online game ever to be played, and it quickly becomes clear that Mario Kart was MADE for multiplayer. It's just that much fun! Throw in motorcycle racing which offersa fresh spin on the classic kart-racing gameplay, and you have a truly complete racing package.

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