Wiikend

Just after midnight on Saturday night, my flatmates and I stood outside the Target down the road, waiting in line with 30 other people for a Wii. We were 17 out of 24 people to get a Wii. It’s super awesome.

We bought three games: Zelda, Red Steel, and Monkey Ball. Zelda is amazing. The art style is awesome, and the game play is very good. We consistently say, “Oh my god, look what we’re doing.”

Red Steel is hard to get into because of the sensitive control scheme, the bad dialog, and the not amazing graphics. But, I’m holding onto hope for it.

Monkey Ball is Monkey Ball. Not much different, except that as soon as you play it, you realize that it was born before its time. It was meant to played on the Wii. You just tilt your controller to tilt the level and it feels wholly natural. They give you 50 minigames right off the bat. Which is bad, because there was a glut of choices, and not all the games are good. I’d rather have 4 good ones than 50 meh ones.

Wii Sports, with which the Wii comes, is absolutely fantastic. Its tennis game keeps us coming back, but we also dig on the golf and baseball modes. The games hit this perfect blend of complexity. All of them rely on a simple swing or motion with the remote and that’s it. But they seem to take so much into account of your swing that there is a lot of gameplay potential in just the one action you use.

One thing that has also really impressed us is the Mii functionality. This is where you get to create an avatar à la The Sims. It’s reasonably comprehensive and the results look so cute. The only game we have that uses them is Wii Sports. But it’s pretty funny to be punching your friend in the face with boxing gloves. Or to have your friends on your baseball team.

It adds a lot of personal investment to each game in a simple, cute way. You can also send your Miis to other consoles or put them into the internal memory of your remote to bring them to a friend’s.

I imagine that the next Animal Crossing will take good avantage of the Miis. Maybe even put the game’s characters into your Mii collection. It apparently (from a screenshot in the Wii manual) will use the console’s built in email/message board system to send messages rather than a built-in mechanism. Sounds like it will be a cool new take on the franchise.

Point is, we’re pretty happy with the Wii.

Funny Farm Puzzle Game

I want to share this neat word puzzle game I found.

It’s really quite fun, though difficult. Dave and I have been working through it together, with occasional help from anyone else that will try it out. You should definitely have at least a couple people working on it. The game makes it easy to share boards.

It’s basically a word association game, with a meta-puzzle as a win condition if you reach the corners of the word map. My big beef with it is its ridiculous “cheat detection” code that seems to kick in during the most innocuous moments. Just ignore it and press Back to resume.

I first saw this on Jamin Gray’s blog.

Canasta

Canasta is my favorite playing card game. I won’t bore you with a recital of the rules, for they are many and complicated. But I do want to share a house rule that we’ve adopted which we feel makes the game more fun.

In Canasta, picking up the discard pile is very central to gameplay. Occasionally, the pile will be frozen which makes it harder to pick up. When that happens, the usually correct thing to do is to play really conservatively, hoarding cards to increase your chance of picking it up. Whoever picks up such a bloated discard pile will earn a bunch of points, so everyone is really nervous about discarding the wrong card.

This creates some of the most tense gameplay and is why I like the game. However, it can become abusive if the player that eventually does win the discard pile just turns around and immediately freezes the pile again, keeping all the cards drawn in his or her hand.

To avoid such situations, we play with a rule that no player can freeze the pile more than once a hand. It has so far had the desired effect of avoiding abusive freezes but keeping freezes relevant.

Bonus Fact: Canasta has one of my favorite rules of all time. When dealing out cards to everyone, the dealer picks up a chunk of the deck from which to deal. If the dealer picked exactly the right number of cards (i.e. had none left over after dealing), his or her team gets 100 points. It adds a nice little physical challenge to an otherwise mental game. And it’s something at which you can become surprisingly good.

Hardcore vs Softcore Gamers

Sometimes I wonder what exactly separates gamers from Gamers, the casual from the serious gamer, someone who would throw a match to a noob from someone who feels such an act to be nigh unethical.

I have some hunches, but this is based entirely on my own opinion as a self-defined Gamer. For me, life is relatively comfortable and enjoyable. I’ve got a good job, family, friends, and city. Life is “easy.”

When I play games, I’m looking to introduce a challenging element. I want it to be an uphill battle. I’m looking to inject some texture, some mental challenges, some tests into my daily routine.

Not all the time. I look for escapism too. But it’s not my primary motivator. I suspect most casual gamers play to while away the time in a mild form of escapism. Kinda like watching TV or drinking till you can’t feel your legs.

The drive to make my life suitably interesting through gaming is what makes me make normally mundane daily tasks into overly complicated games which possibly annoy those around me. Like playing a full blown game of RPS for shotgun, creating elaborate four square rules, or masturbating in as many public places as possible (j/k).

I guess what I’m saying is that for some, gaming is in and of itself a hobby in which they want to excel, while for others it’s just something to do. Startling conclusion, I know.

Randy Land

Everyone above the age of 3 likely doesn’t care for Candy Land (unless you’ve got a thing for Queen Frostine). Here are some rules to bacchanalify it:

  1. Every time you pass another player, that player takes a drink.
  2. Every time you land on a black dot “lose a turn” square, chug your beer until another player tells you to stop.
  3. Every time you draw double color squares, take off an article of clothing.
  4. Every time you travel on one of the special shortcut bridges, choose another player to take off an article of clothing.
  5. Every time you draw a red square, choose two players (possibly including yourself) to kiss.
  6. Every time you land on a character square (like Grandma Nutt), again pick two kiss partners but also choose a length and intensity within reason (like tongue or not).

Super Princess Peach

So there’s Super Princess Peach on the DS, for which I had high hopes. Finally, a Nintendo game with positive female roles; Princess Peach won’t just be sitting around getting kidnapped.

Nope!

Turns out, her abilities in Princess are — and I’m not making this up — violent mood swings. Her anger burns enemies with flames, her tears of sadness make her move faster, and her joy gives her wings. God damn it, Nintendo. So close and yet so very far.

SimEscher

So Dave was playing some old school SimCity, trying to break the 500,000 population barrier. This requires an intensely focused building plan and bulldozing any schools or hospitals you see for the wastes of space that they are.

In order to build regular, efficient plots of residential, commercial, or industrial zones, I had always relied on the “donut” formation — eight zones around a blank inner square that could be filled with a gift building, police station, firehouse, or park. The trick is that every zone must be touching a road (or the more efficient rails) or the citizens complain.

A donut shape of residential zones

A tasty residential donut

Dave was using a better strategy of ‘stripes’ of two zones wide up and down the screen, flanked by rails. Then I wondered if the game cared about rails being connected. Would one lonely square of rails be enough to satisfy a zone?

A stripes shape of industrial zones

An industrial stripe

Turns out, yes. One square of isolated rail can serve up to four zones all by itself. By zoning just so around a rail, you can get a kind of flower shape that lends itself towards tessellation.

A flower shape of commercial zones

A commercial flower

It really is pretty efficient. And the resulting town looks really neat. A pleasant cross between a seething mass of humanity and a well planned city. Just don’t ask me how they get around.

Screenshot of SimEscher layout

Itty bitty living space

Oekaki Logic Review

Oekaki Logic 2 Screenshot

Dave and I are playing through this great old SNES puzzle game Oekaki Logic (or as we like to willfully misinterpret, Face Full of Logic).

It’s basically a glorified version of Sudoku. You have rows and columns of either filled in or empty squares. You are only told the number and size of filled-in sequences along each row or column. A very relaxing game once you get into the zone.

It never made it state-side, so you’ll have to find a Japanese rom somewhere. There are plenty of versions: Oekaki Logic, Oekaki Logic 2, Ohchan no Oekaki Logic, and maybe more.

Nethack vs Battletoads

While Dave was making his notable list of best games ever, he and I were talking about the relative difficulty of NetHack and Battletoads. I maintained that Battletoads was way harder while he favored NetHack.

In my corner is the fact that he has beaten (or ascended) NetHack I think nine times now. Neither of us has beaten Battletoads despite a memorable shared attempt to do so, using an emulator with save states. Battletoads’ Wikipedia entry has a section dedicated to its infamous difficulty, for goodness sake.

In fairness, NetHack is also damn unforgiving and arguably more demoralizing. But we decided to settle this like men with a Google Fight. We figured “I beat NetHack” vs “I beat Battletoads” would be reasonable, though there are a couple ways to talk about beating NetHack, including the word ascending.

“I beat NetHack” vs “I beat Battletoads”: 19 vs 189

Ouch. At Nick’s suggestion, I scaled the numbers, using “NetHack” vs “Battletoads” as a base. Didn’t help my cause a bit.

“NetHack” vs “Battletoads”: 1,930,000 vs 242,000

So, NetHack has a Mikix Softcore Rating (or MSR) of a mere 0.000985% while Battletoads ranks at 0.0781%. You win again, Dave.

Not So Great Games

Man, I’m such a masochistic gamer. I saw a blog entry about a long-lost Penn & Teller video game and got excited. There’s no part of an in-game real-time 8-hour bus drive through a desert that I don’t like.

Something about the idea of the gamer never knowing what is game and what is the developer just fucking with him or her does not put me off at all.

Games these days are so leading, so purposeful. I want to be playing a game for a few hours before realizing that I killed a necessary character two minutes into it. I don’t want to be so safe that I don’t need to think about my actions. Games should delete my save if I die, like Nethack.