How many cool first person games for the 360 can you count? Plenty. How many first person games starring an Asian chick, running about town can you count? One. Mirror's Edge really is a one of a kind game and if you haven't heard anything about it, you must be living under a rock or you're 80 years old, and you can't be bothered with such fancy inventions like the internet or games.
Lately I felt that games are not evolving as quickly, as they used to. After seeing the whole E3 2009 lineup, I couldn't help but notice it was mostly sequels or games built on tried ideas. Mirror's Edge doesn't exactly break any boundaries, but it tries hard to show something new. Something that wasn't seen before. When you get to the innovation of Mirror's Edge, I guess it could be [in some ways] compared to what Portal was a while back. It was still a first person game, but its unique mechanics made it so much different. That's how I see Mirror's Edge.
Through the course of the game, we'll be controlling a female "runner" named Faith. The story is set in the near future - in a vast city, where digital information is always monitored and controlled. Runners are outlaws, who carry information for their clients and deliver it personally. This means a lot of jumping on the rooftops, climbing fences and pipes while staying out of trouble and out of sight at the same time.
This is the main focus of the game - running. Faith doesn't carry any weapons and can only rely on her own skills. She's extremely agile and climbing most obstacles is not a problem for her. The game guides Faith through the city using so called "runner vision". This makes various objects appear in different color, to let us know where we should be going. A nice solution that guides the player without forcing him or her into a narrow corridors with locked doors. Ok, that happens too, but runner vision is something that's supposed to be of most help when on the rooftops.
The developers have decided to use Unreal Engine 3 when making the game and what a great choice that was. Everything looks sharp and well designed - the main attraction being the colors. Art direction of Mirror's Edge has very little competition and anyone who likes first person games should try it, if only to admire the vastness of the city we get to explore.
The graphics are cleverly constructed, too. Most city buildings are not that complicated in terms of geometry. This saves a lot of processing power and allows to create really impressive objects, like cranes, etc. Texturing and lighting need processing power, too - and if anything is perfect in Mirror's Edge, it's the lighting. DICE licensed an advanced lighting system called "Beast", developed by Illuminate Labs. This gave the developers more control over how the lighting works and it did pay off.
And then, there's music. Mirror's Edge has a superb soundtrack with a wide selection of great ambient tunes that contribute a great deal to the whole feel of the city. The beats are clean and melodious, but at the same time the music manages to be sophisticated and it doesn't make you want to turn it off. The main theme is great, especially the version with Lisa Miskovsky's vocals that can be heard over ending credits. I already wrote a bit about the music after I bought the single CD containing several remixes of "Still Alive". You can check it out here.
There is something that comes up frequently, when Mirror's Edge is discussed, and that's motion or simulation sickness. When in game, we don't see any kind of HUD and the camera movement is designed to closely resemble a first person view. This might cause some people to feel nauseous. I myself, however, have not experienced any kind of discomfort. The only thing that was disorienting at times was the forward roll after a landing. For a second we don't really know where our character is, but I can't say it made me feel sick. If you have motion sickness, that's too bad. I suggest you take some pills and play the game anyway.
Mirror's Edge isn't without its shortcomings. My main problem with this game was its length. I finished it rather quickly and I felt that I wanted more. More out of the story, and more running in the sun soaked city. I really hope that DICE and EA decide to make a sequel, which will improve the formula and give us some more exciting parkour action. I highly recommend this title to anyone who is into first person games. Keep in mind that this will be a trial and error type of gameplay, and not your standard kill everything that moves deal.
It's been nothing but games here lately, but this entry is about to change everything. I think it's safe to say it will change your perception of reality forever. Ok, that's stretching it a bit [only a bit, though], but what I'm about to show you, might just come in handy if you're a Windows XP user. So, you often use Microsoft's Notepad, but sometimes you wish it had more functionality to it? Notepad2 might be an answer to your problems.
Notepad2 is a free, open source Notepad alternative that comes with such features as syntax highlighting for Assembly, C, HTML, Java, PHP, Python, batch scripts, among others. It also supports encoding and newline conversion, bracket matching and automatic tag closing for **ML. The list of features is long and to read more about them, feel free to check out official Notepad2 website or this article on Wikipedia.
Since Notepad2 is a great tool that I'm really fond of, I made a small piece of software that will replace the original Microsoft Notepad with Notepad2. Because Windows doesn't really allow you to simply delete and replace the original notepad.exe, you'll need a way of forcing this, and that's where my Notepad Replacement Script comes in. Just download it, place it in your Windows directory and choose a suitable option from the menu. The installation is completely reversible and 100% safe. To download the Notepad2 insstallation click on one of the mirrors below. And remember, this program will work on Windows XP only. It doesn't matter which Service Pack you have, but it still has to be XP.
Since we're already on a subject of homebrew software, I'll take this opportunity to link to one of my PlayStation intros that I wrote back in 2006. I have recently made an entry for it on Pouet.net, so feel free to check it out. You'll need a PlayStation emulator to run it. I recommend ePSXe. I have tested it on my Windows XP and it works just fine. Aside from displaying some visual effects, the intro also plays music, so if you can't hear it, check out another emulator or sound plugin, or run the intro on your PlayStation. That's it for today! Below are the mirrors for the Notepad Replacement Script. Grab it while it's still up.
● - Notepad Replacement @ Easy Share
● - Notepad Replacement @ RapidSpread
● - Notepad Replacement @ Megaupload
How many Sonic games can you count? Thirty? Fifty? I don't know the exact number and I can't be bothered to count them all, but there are a lot of Sonic titles out there - some better than others. Yuji Naka's hedgehog has been around for about eighteen years now, and while back in the nineties the blue rodent was all the rage among gamers, the series has since then managed to tumble down the rabbit hole of mediocrity, Sega Saturn period being a noticeable turning point towards the seemingly inevitable demise of this franchise.
The definite highlight of the whole Sonic series, for me anyways, was the MegaDrive era. Sega had a powerful piece of hardware at their disposal, and they knew exactly how to use it to make their blue lightning bolt run faster than ever. The remade Sonic [and Later Sonic CD], along with Sonic 2, 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are to this day a benchmark for a properly made, fast platformer. Sega had it right back then - they perfected the formula, and if they had decided to go with all 2D Sonic games until this very day, I'd still buy every single one of them.
Unfortunately, you can't cling to the ways of 16-bits when the competition is hard at work, utilizing every bit of resource available, to make their 32-bit debut a guaranteed win. While Nintendo did not fail its fans, releasing Mario 64 on their 32-bit console, and while Sony, thanks to Naughty Dog, enjoyed alot of success with the newly created Crash Bandicoot franchise, Sega did not seem to be trying hard enough to recreate the flawless Sonic experience we all remembered from the MegaDrive days.
If you have but once experienced how it is to measure every single platforming game by Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario standards, you probably know exactly what I am talking about. It seems that even though Nintendo lost some votes among Mario fans, platform adventures featuring the italian plumber still manage to surprise in an absolutely positive way, while Sega seems to be gasping for air while drowning in a sea of bad ideas. I absolutely loved Super Mario 64 and later Super Mario Sunshine - was there a memorable Sonic game for the Saturn? Not that I can think of. Was there a good Sonic title present on the GameCube or Xbox? Unless Sonic Heroes strikes your fancy, again, no.
You'll have to excuse or overlook my "the past and present of Sonic" rant, but I figured I'll type down some thoughts, since it's probably the first time I discuss Sonic the Hedgehog on my blog, aside from a brief mention of Sonic CD. It's just that every time a Sonic game comes out nowadays, I'm getting ready to be disappointed by default. How come I don't expect anything good from Sonic these days? It used to be a strong brand which, like Mario, was never supposed to go down the road of forced and cheap sequels.
But enough about that - let us focus on the title at hand, which is Sonic and the Secret Rings for Nintendo Wii. As usual, I am fashionably late to the party, acquiring a title that's been around for almost as long as the Wii itself. Fortunately for me, Secret Rings was a nice game back then ,and its charm has not worn off just yet. There arent that many big platforming titles for the Wii, anyway - not to get this one would be like turning ones back to one-fifth of the decent Wii platform game line-up.
As we all know, Wii is not your regular kind of console. It's far behind the competition when it comes to processing power and it features some peculiar controls. Secret Rings is a Wii exclusive and there's a reason behind this: The whole game is built around the Wii controls. Your character will always run unless you conciously press a button to stop him, and you turn left and right by tilting your Wii remote, which you hold horizontally. There are a couple of special moves and a jump button, of course, but this kind of gameplay would not work on other platforms, that's for sure.
When you play Secret Rings for the first time, you instantly feel that this time around Sega did try something new, perhaps in an act of desparation, trying to make things better for their blue mascot. The game feels kind of fresh, taking a step aside from numerous Sonic Adventure clones. Most of the gameplay will have your characters locked onto a path from which you can't stray. This makes things fluent and enjoyable enough to justify the rather annoying and unresponsive controls. Even though you'll probably end up dying a hundred times in a row on some stupid obstacle, the game still keeps you motivated and for some reason you do want to see what's next.
Now for the strangest part - While Wii may be well behind Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in the graphics processing department, Sonic and the Secret Rings looks better than any other Sonic game you've seen in a long, long time. The levels are enormous and I dare you to find a situation which causes the game to drop frames. It's all speed and eye-candy for Sonic this time around. If the uninspired storyline won't push you forward in your quest, an urge to see more of the gorgeous graphics surely will. Secret Rings is running smoothly thanks to the incredibly efficient Renderware engine, in conjunction with Ageia PhysX. This is a second, or rather first time Sonic Team chose PhysX for reasons unknown to me. Just like in NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, you can't really tell if a physics engine is used or not, since everything behaves exactly as it would in Sonic Adventure, or any other more recent Sonic game.
The soundtrack is what you would expect, having played a couple Sonic games from the aforementioned Sonic Adventure upwards. It's a nice blend of soft to harder rock, spiced up with some middle eastern vibes. Strangely enough, the usual Sonic tunes seem to be absent, which is slightly disappointing. Having these memorable tunes present in every Sonic game makes you feel at home, and while this isn't vital to the gameplay, familiar tracks might compensate for some of the games shorcomings- Don't get me wrong, however. The soundtrack is great and you'll probably catch yourself humming "Seven Rings in Hand" after playing this game for a while.
I know I didn't mention anything about the storyline, but what's there to mention, really? It's your standard "save the world" plot, with a twist of Arabian Nights and alot of cameo appearences. Sonic is an action game and I'd be lying if I said that I cared for the story in any of the hedgehog titles. During the MegaDrive days there was little to none emphasis on the story and it worked just fine. Nowadays people expect something more and something is exactly what they will get. Sonic and the Secret Rings is a nice game, featuring some amazing graphics, plus a handfull of minigames. Just like NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, it's worth a try and the chances are you won't regret this purchase. That's it for me this time around - there are still so many games I want to write about but, as usual, I'm to lazy to type it all up. Keep me motivated, dear readers.
It's OutRun - It's OutRun again, for the 100th time, and you'll love it, just as you did when you first played it. What am I talking about? I'm talking about OutRun Online Arcade, of course, which hit both the PSN and XBLA distribution systems within the past few days. Now both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners can enjoy OutRun 2, OutRun 2 SP and Coast 2 Coast tracks online, in a crisp 720p. I have to say, for a five-year-old game that got converted to every platform capable of handling it, OutRun 2 - because that's essentially what OutRun Online Arcade is - managed to create alot of buzz.
Even though the game now runs at a slightly higher resolution, the polygon count remained the same and from the look of it, so did the textures. This however doesn't bother me one bit, since the game runs at a high framerate and when you're speeding at 250+ km/h, who cares if a palm tree bark texture is crisp enough. Sadly, Sumo Digital, while doing a great job of porting this magnificent piece of software to current generation platforms, omitted all of the additional content we got when buying regular OutRun 2 and Coast 2 Coast. Scud Race and Daytona tracks are not here and neither are the missions.
Seeing as Sega likes to bring back the bigger hits every once and again, I couldn't help but think that a return of Phantasy Star Online is in order. I played the Dreamcast version, and I played both the GameCube and Xbox versions. Servers for all of these have been down for quite some time, yet, the PSO community refuses to let go of the title, and for years now we have had access to homebrew PSO servers, such as SCHTHack. Believe it or not, first two episodes of PSO are more popular than more current installments, like PSO Universe.
This should be a clear signal for Sega - People want PSO, so why not give it to them? If this ever happens, I hope that Sega will go with a more open server architecture like Demasked, where game servers are ran in a clustered environment and each game server scales dynamically, therefore maximizing stability, saving energy, and never having to retire the usage of an online game. Ultimately, all we want is to be able to pick up an old online title and be able to play it whenever we feel like it.
It's Easter, again. There are several things I like about Easter - It's a time when Spring usually kicks into higher gear, and when beverage manufacturers release their Easter specials. I'm not too keen on beer, but I like the those with addition of extra hop and malt, plus caramel - Easter brew, as they call it.
Easter is also when you usually get some time off. This year I have invested some of that time into playing newly acquired Xbox version of Red Ninja - at the same time I played a bit of Tenchu, so that I can draw a more accurate parallel between the titles when I get around to reviewing the first one, and to remind me how good Tenchu actually is. I've also been playing some 東方風神録 ～ Mountain of Faith, plus the newly released 東方星蓮船 ～ Undefined Fantastic Object demo. You can never get enough of Zun's danmaku on the lunatic setting.
I guess it's back to Easter beer and Påskmust for me. In case you have no idea what Påskmust is, it's a Cola-style non-alcoholic soft drink, with a very specific taste achieved by the addition of malt and hop extracts, much like in Easter brews. This beverage is sold almost exclusively in Sweden and Norway and it's traditionally consumed around Christmas [The name changes to Julmust then, for marketing purposes, of course] amd Easter - and it's pretty damn tasty. Every Christmas, Julmust manages to outsell Coca-Cola and Coke sales drop by 50% and more - yes, that's how tasty it is, and it's available only during these two holidays, which makes you want it even more. Ok, now I really need some, so I'm off - The bottle cap says "Happy holidays!". Cheers.