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Review: Groovin’ Blocks

May 12, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

PlayStation Network is awash with puzzle games these days, and it’s getting harder and harder for us puzzle fans to find versions of our favourite block-sliding games that stand out and offer something different.

Groovin' Blocks

Groovin’ Blocks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Groovin’ Blocks has a very simple gameplay mechanic that would become quickly boring if it wasn’t for one unique twist: to get the big scores, you have to play in time with the music.

The premise is a doddle: groups of coloured blocks drop from the top of the classic bucket layout, and making rows of three of the same colour makes them disappear. There are three difficulty levels: in casual the falling blocks are always vertical columns of 3; in normal they can be vertical columns of 3 or squares of 4, and expert is the same as normal only faster. So, hardly original then. The interesting part comes from the fact that a Virtual DJ-style rhythm bar which flows in time with the music is scrolling along the centre of the screen, and dropping blocks on the beats increases your multiplier. There are also key beats which double your multiplier for a short while.

There are a few power-ups, you can drop these whenever you like but to activate them, the row of 3 you make with the same colour of the power-up must be completed on a beat.

That’s basically it. There are online leaderboards but no online play; there is however local split screen. Online play is a bit of a core omission from this I feel, and the leaderboards unfortunately can’t be filtered to show only your friends, as much of the motivation to play comes from beating the high scores.

The music is a mixture of old-school electro, techno and psytrance with songs such as I Love My C64 and Black Solition. If you’re looking for dance and trance you’ll be disappointed, but nevertheless the songs are quite head-bopping if you like electronica in general, and the levels end when the song is completed (or you fill the bucket and fail as in Tetris).

I’ve made the game sound quite dull, but actually it’s rather entertaining. Best played as a quick diversion in short bursts, I strained my neck at least twice bopping my head trying to keep my controller movements in time with the music; timing is everything in this game, and striving for the highest multiplier can be quite addicting.

Pros:

  • Simple, accessible gameplay – not too taxing on the brain
  • Timing mechanic is excellent and well-executed
  • Electronica fans who like puzzle games will love it

Cons:

  • No online play
  • Gets quickly repetitive – best played in short sessions
  • A bit on the expensive side

Groovin’ Blocks has 17 music tracks for the sum of $9.99. If you prefer, you can instead grab yourself the iPhone version of which the PSN release is a (good) port. For the money, there are plenty of games on the store with a longer shelf life; $5.99 or $6.99 would have perhaps been a more appropriate price point. The game has basically one trick up its sleeve, but a trick that it executes very smoothly. If you like Tetris, Bejeweled or Lumines Supernova – the latter of which most resembles Groovin’ Blocks but has far more features for the same price – and you are a fan of electronica, you’ll likely enjoy this.

6/10


My 8001050F Survival Strategy (Previously Unpublished)

March 2, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a previous unpublished article originally written for another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

A lot of my.. acquaintances… play World of Warcraft. I enjoy laughing at them on a regular basis. Whenever the servers go down for one of their regular 8 hour patches, it is like watching a river of crocodiles who have had acupuncture needles gouged into their eyes. Blindly and in agony they flap around snapping wildly, roaming the land (their living room) with no purpose until the servers come back online again. They have TV but they don’t want to watch it. They have porn but they don’t want to, erm, watch it. They have music but they don’t want to listen to it. They have girlfriends but they, no wait they don’t have girlfriends. They could go out, but well, I guess they’re unemployed so they don’t have any money. And where would they go? They are only familiar with Azeroth; they haven’t unlocked the town outside their actual front door yet, and to be honest, they’re probably KoS. If the Warcraft player’s character is from the Alliance, the real world is controlled by the Horde.

I’m a narcissist so I always enjoy laughing at these people’s expense, spewing out glib throwaway remarks like ‘get a life’ at them just to see if I can provoke them into a hissy fit. Yesterday, I had a hissy fit, and entered the land of hypocrisy.

Peter had already got on my nerves by telling me, no Katy, you cannot complete Star Ocean before Final Fantasy XIII comes out, instead you are going to write a review of White Knight Chronicles and then have two unfinished RPGs by 9th March instead of one finished. I stumbled out of bed on Monday morning after staying up til 7am trying to find a good place to stop in Star Ocean, poured myself a coffee, wiped the little crusties out of my sleepy eyes and popped the White Knight Chronicles disk into my PS3.

Fortunately I had read TSA while waiting for the coffee to brew and knew that impending doom may be on the cards. Sure enough, my shiny ever-faithful brother reported “sorry m8, you’re one of the 8,001,050 F*cked people”. Ah well, not to worry, I have my PSP, and I have to review Echoshift as well, I’ll just play that today.

But I don’t WANT to play that today. I’m waiting for my PSPgo AV cable in the mail so I can play it on my TV. I WANT to play on my PS3. And here is where the syndrome begins. I could’ve used my PSP, or my Wii, and well, technically I could’ve used my 360 but there are certain limits I try to adhere to when it comes to exercising the use of taste in my choice of entertainment (360 fanbois: if the 360 had died I would’ve made the same joke about the PS3; it’s called creative licence, relax). So I did what everyone else did: opened Sony’s twitter feed, the US blog, TSA comments, and hit F5 every 5 minutes, periodically pausing to twiddle my thumbs and smoke a cigarette.

My nurse came and said, why don’t you go outside and enjoy the sunshine. I had to contain my laughter. Everybody knows that sunshine does a gamer no favours at all, and what is this ‘outside’ you speak of? For me, outside is the path that runs directly from my house to Gamestop. It is used only as a shipping lane to bring overpriced pre-ordered games into my realm on the day of release, and otherwise should be avoided at all costs. Staying outside in the sun too long can cause you to forget how to operate a PS3 controller, this is scientifically proven. Plus I might meet someone and make a friend who wants to go out while I’m playing Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and then where would be? No, this whole ‘outside’ concept was no good at all, completely ridiculous and I dismissed it out of hand as any gamer worth her salt would. I mean, what would I say to my 100 closest PSN friends? “What? You went OUT?! Are you crazy?! Seriously, I’m disappointed in you, I expected better. Warm up some frozen pizza, grab a cola and start behaving like an adult.”

So I did what any bored person would do: surfed YouTube, the ultimate time sink for lonely people. The Hitler videos were quite hilarious and I’m sure we all saw Fat Rage Guy too. Not being exposed to sunlight since mommy left the hospital with me has made me a dab-hand at electronics, and I pondered ripping my PS3 to bits assuming I’d probably have to use the shipping lane to import a Slim today anyway. I had decided I would give them til 11am today to fix it. But, the guy who wrote the tutorial was an idiot – the battery is soldered onto its contacts, his solution – apparently in the absence of having the balls to use a soldering iron – was to tightly wind electrical tape round the battery holder after you’d replaced it. So you’ve never heard of fan vibration then? That’s gonna last for about ooh, 3 days. Then you’re gonna spend the Rest Of Your Life re-opening it to re-wind the tape every 3rd day. I can live without that.

I know this girl who lives in my town. Hot girl. Gamer geek. We’ve chatted on and off on MSN for a couple of years, but never met – the real world is too dangerous. She actually had the cheek to berate me for not being in the Just Cause 2 beta lately, I was like, what the hell? I’m not going to be pwned by another girl, that is my job. Damn other women who are in more betas than me. Damn them all to hell. Stop stealing my glory. Anyway, in a masterstroke of genius timing, she wrote to me yesterday and said, do you wanna meet at your house and play some games?

After my blood had reduced from boiling point to a mere simmer at my grave misfortune of not being able to entertain a young Norwegian girl in the manner of her choosing, I said “Ehm… yes… I’d LOVE to play (games) with you! Just.. ehm… it’s a little, err, inconvenient today. Can we take it tomorrow? I’m available anytime after midnight.” No way was I going to admit to her that I’d been 8001050Fucked, that would make me look foolish for not upgrading. As she went off to do other things I looked up, fist clenched waving it at the giant Sony in the sky. YOU made me lose a date, Sony. YOU WILL PAY FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. If I don’t get laid with her because of a bug in a real-time clock, I’m gonna sue for, well, let’s say pain and suffering and unnecessary stress and trauma, that’s what the other guy is suing them for right, and it always worked for him!

I returned to my F5ing. Then my best friend calls, says he’s free, and for a moment I lost myself and said, “Great! Come and check out Heavy Rain, it’s awesome”. He came over but instead I was forced to sit through The Watchmen, a movie where Batman and a girl pulled straight from a JRPG fly around doing, stuff, oh I don’t know I was too busy looking at my phone to see how close it was to midnight.

When he arrived – and I swear this is completely true – I hovered in front of my PS3 with its stack of irresponsibly unboxed bluray games strewn over my coffee table, put both my arms out and shouted “Don’t come any closer. Do NOT put these games in the machine. Do NOT put SingStar in. I have 88% on that including the one for getting 9324 on Hard and getting a 4-star or higher rating on online media with at least 1000 ratings. If you even pick up the disk, I swear to God I will snap your neck with my thumb and forefinger. He laughed and said, “Well, Wipeout HD works”.

Wipeout HD?! What is this 2008? That’s like Gran Turismo 5 without the 4-year delay. Sure it gets the job done but come on! I know, right? What’s wrong with him!

At the stroke of exactly 0249 CET I checked TSA one more time before sheepishly trying to log back into PSN. It worked. Balloons and confetti flew around my room, fireworks went off outside and I fell on my knees in praise of Syscon for making a time-measuring device that works at least 364 days out of every 365. Those geniuses! I wished that someday I would be that good a software developer, but, I suck, so, I’ll probably just have to keep my job working on PlayStation Home*.

And with that, like many of you, I turned it off and went to bed. I’ll say that again just in case you missed it: I turned it off and went to bed. Why? Isn’t it obvious? Once it works again, you don’t need to check it, or use it, and your work is done. The trauma only comes when the thing you want to use doesn’t work, everyone knows this. Once it works again, you’re like… “meh, I’ll play with it later”.

This is a 100% entirely true story (except for the confetti and fireworks bit), of how I got through one of the most tedious 24 hours I’ve had in, ooh I don’t know, at least the last week. All my friends may now laugh at me as I have reduced myself to their level and succumbed to the “OMG THE SERVER IS DOWN MY LIFE IS OVER” syndrome typically exhibited unemployed 30-year olds on welfare still living at home with their parents. I better keep it on the down low, certainly wouldn’t want to post about it on the internet or I’ll never live down the shame.

How did you get through it?

* I don’t work on PlayStation Home – they said I was overqualified.

Fifteen Things I Hate About You

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

I was going to write Fifteen Things I Hate About My PlayStation 3, but I thought this would be more amusing. So without further ado, here are my pet hates – all the reasons I hate you.

15. You have more trophies than me

I’ll admit it, I’m very competitive. I just hit level 11 last night and I was quite pleased with myself. I remember the good old days when Super Stardust HD and Wipeout HD were the only games that had trophies and I had more than you because you hadn’t figured out what the PSN store was yet. Now you have owned me, and I don’t have time to catch up. I hate you.

14. You have more trophies than me for all the wrong reasons, and you know it

You know the type. Usually their comment says something like “4217 trophies!”. They buy every game – even the ones that suck, and the ones you’ve never heard of despite checking the release schedules every week. Then they whore through all the easiest trophies, toss it on the shelf and move onto the next game. Then they put their trophy count in their comment message to show you how much better than you they are. They tell you they have 20 platinums, then you check their trophies and discover they got them on Terminator Salvation and Noby Noby Boy (yes yes I know, overlook the factual inaccuracy there). Actually you just have more money than sense – I believe Warcraft players have a word for that: it’s called “no-lifer”.

13. Your status says “LittleBigPlanet: Empty Level (1/4)” and I know damn well you’re making a level just to impress a girl

Oh get a life. If you want to impress a girl, take her for a romantic dinner or buy her some flowers. I’ve never made an LBP level to impress a girl of course. So this one doesn’t apply to me. Obviously.

12. You have a custom avatar

…from which I’m assuming you are 16 or under since you have to have a certain level of adolescence in your soul to pay for a 2D sprite. It’s 20p – you could’ve bought your first cigarette with that! Shame on you.*

11. You always ask me to play Modern Warfare 2 when I’m watching porn

I’m a lady, so I don’t watch porn of course. Especially not lesbian porn with blonde Swedish girls who’ve barely turned 18. But I digress. How many times have you been watching your torrent download of House or Top Gear, munching on your microwave dinner only for that box to pop up in the corner with one of your friends asking you if you wanna play Buzz? Obviously I only have my closest most important 100 PSN friends on my friends list, so this isn’t so much of a problem – but it could be. Especially if I’m watching porn at the time.

10. You add me out of nowhere with no message

I can’t find you in my Players Met list and you haven’t told me who you are. Yes, I know, you’re probably from SingStar, but I run a gaming web site and as alluded to earlier I have 100 close friends already. This is also for those of you who message me and say “my friend says you know a lot about SingStar – how do I calibrate my mic?”. The manual is your friend, my friend. And if the manual doesn’t give you enough good loving, Google will love you forever (Note: If you have a genuine problem I’ll be happy to help you)

9. YoU hAvE a NiCkNaMe LiKe ThIs

Actually it’s usually along the lines of iAmDaShiZz14. I’m guessing that 14 refers to your age right? You know that’s gonna be out of date when your birthday rolls around. But hey, CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR AWESOME.

8. The output from your webcam looks like a plate of sick

Again, you know the type. They flock to Virgin Media cos it’s da best! Don’t invite me to a video chat if your internet connection consists of firing packets out of your bedroom window on the back of a carrier pigeon with one dodgy wing. Oh, you have fibre optic… is that what you really look like? Damn, you’re ugly.

7. You have a headset from Dixons

You know those conversations, they often start like “Sorry, my headset is a bit crap”. And then you continue to use it. If it’s a bit crap, turn the bloody thing off and go and buy an official PS3 headset. They’re not expensive. It’s not complicated. Certainly while the atmosphere of Aliens vs Predator is spruced up by the fear-inducing sound of shortwave radio static in my ear and the occasional background warble of speech, you are ruining the team play and making it impossible to hear anyone else. If you know your headset sucks, do us all a favour and turn it off.

6. You keep calling me gay

Yes, yes I am gay, well spotted. Fortunately, since I’m a woman, the only thing I suck at is video games. Tell your girlfriend I had a great time last night. Oh wait, sorry, you don’t have one, you’re that no-lifer with all the trophies.

5. You’re playing a game I don’t own and really want

You are responsible for so much decadent spending on my part I should send you the bill. If I see someone playing a game I don’t own and know is good, I have an unhealthy obsessive compulsion to buy it so I can be in the cool group too. The number of times this has happened to me is unreal. I have solved the problem now by simply pre-ordering every game that is ever released just in case it turns out to be popular. I won’t be that annoying trophy whore though, I don’t really play my games, I collect them. They’re just on my shelf to look cool. Still, you’re burning a hole in my pocket. Or you would be if I had pockets; women’s clothes are kind of lacking in practicality so I have a Hello Kitty purse instead. There’s no money in it either, just credit cards, so technically you’re melting a hole in my plastic.

4. You’re playing Super Mega Ninja Rundown Uber Victims Part 3

Why? WHY? Disney Sing It, Noby Noby Boy, Mahjongg Artifacts, Hannah Montana for Christ’s sake. At least play something we’ve heard of. Don’t make me look your games up on the interwebs (or I might buy them).

3. I’m playing a beta and you ask me for a code after not writing anything for 6 months

Wow you’re so cool, how did you get that?! Can I have a beta code too?! No, you cannot have a beta code. Sod off. Thank God I only have my 100 closest friends on my list or I’d get this all the time. Oh wait…

2. You take so long to start an online match I have died of old age in the meantime

Ok so my dinner is in the oven, it’ll be ready in 12 minutes, I just have time for a quick 10-minute deathmatch. Let’s go! Erm… let’s go! But sadly, no, you haven’t hosted a game before and players are leaving out of impatience because you haven’t yet figured it out…. please for the love of God click Ready so we can get on with this, you’re going to make my frozen pizza burn (technically it shouldn’t burn because it’s frozen, but hey, shit happens).

But my number one, all-time greatest pet hate that makes me hate you, is:

1. You have a headset at all

Oh how technology has advanced. Remember the good old days of IRC? If people got on your nerves, you’d say “ok, I’m gonna +m this channel; you, you and you can have +v and the rest of you, shut the fuck up.” Now not only can we not mute the annoying ones while leaving the others untouched except in a few select games, but we have to actually listen to you coughing, belching and eating crisps. And calling me gay. I’m not sure which is the greater evil, homophobic voice chat or caps lock.

If any girl gamer out there would like another geek girl gamer girlfriend (wow what a mouthful, ahem), I am available. Thank you for your attention.

* Smoking makes your fingernails yellow, your house smell bad and increases the risk of emphysema and lung cancer. Also it makes you cough more which makes you bad at SingStar, and it’s addictive so you have to take more breaks from gaming – so as you can see, it’s bad all round. Do not begin to smoke.

 

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