Video Games

I REALLY DO LOVE MY 3DS XL

I REALLY DO LOVE MY 3DS XL 150 150 GAMESFWD

Yes, love. It’s a powerful word usually reserved for people or maybe pets that are closest to you and not inanimate objects, however I have grown very attached to my 3DS XL in the relatively short time I’ve had it and, at this point in my gaming life, I simply cannot live without it.

I’ve probably logged more hours on the solidly-built revision in the six weeks since I bought it than I did in the 20 or so months I owned the original 3DS. The bigger screens and more comfortable to hold form factor are large reasons for that of course, however it’s the software that keeps me spending what little playtime I have these days with it in favour of my consoles or other mobile devices.

Much like its prececessor, the 3DS took a while to hit its stride when it comes to compelling software, particularly if you like Japanese-developed titles. The past few months have seen me purchase Professor Layton and the Miracle MaskPaper Mario Sticker StarHarvest Moon: A New BeginningFire Emblem: AwakeningCrimson ShroudUnchained Blades and Etrian Odyssy IV: Legends of the Titan, all without leaving my house. I could conceivably just stop buying games now and play this group until the end of the year. At least.

The immediate future looks pretty bright as well though, with games like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of FateMonster Hunter 3 UltimateLuigi’s Mansion 2: Dark MoonPokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to InfinityLEGO City UndercoverShin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner – Soul Hackers and Animal Crossing: New Leaf all out or due before fall. No other gaming platform has ever had this many games release within roughly a calendar year that I’m interested in enough to consider buying a digital version of that’s tied to a device that could conceivably fail, be dropped or end up soaked in beer at any given moment.

For some reason, Nintendo just doesn’t want its consumers to have their purchases tied to an account like Sony, Microsoft and Apple all do, but insists your digital purchases be tied to the device you first download them to.

For myself, it hasn’t been a hindrance at all as I’ve never had a piece of Nintendo hardware fail on me, but I can see how the policy would deter many people from going all digital with their 3DS or Wii U.

That said, being able to store 50 or so retail titles on a single SDHC card is hugely convenient and practical for me right now. I never know when my daughter will sleep or for how long, nor can I be sure of what I may feel like playing during my sporadic and often brief free time.

Getting back to the hardware, I was immediately impressed with the build quality of the 3DS XL when I unboxed it. It is very solid, just the right size and thickness to be comfortable in my hands and it’s weight is quite well-balanced. The larger screens make playing easier on the eyes during longer play sessions, but at the same time they highlight the relatively weak graphics capabilities of the system and simply aren’t in the same league as the displays of my phone, iPod or PlayStation Vita.

Despite its weaknesses however, the quality of software and convenience of having my library in one place have vaulted the 3DS XL to the top of my gaming platforms of choice. I like my consoles, mobile devices and PlayStation Vita, but I really do love my 3DS XL.

E3 2011 Hopes and Expectations

E3 2011 Hopes and Expectations 150 150 GAMESFWD

Once again the biggest video game trade show of the year is almost upon us. E3 2011, taking place June 7-9, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA promises to be one of the most interesting in some time. I’m expecting lots of details on Project Café from Nintendo, a date and price for the NGP from Sony and eagerly anticipate seeing where Microsoft will take the Kinect platform.

I thought I’d take a moment to go over what I expect to see and what I hope to see from “the big three” at this year’s expo and some of the more prevalent rumours floating about. In general terms of content relevant to Game Forward, I’m expecting Augmented Reality (AR) to be big this year and for Kinect for Xbox 360 and PlayStation Move titles to dominate their respective system’s first party lineups.

The PlayStation brand has taken a bit of a beating in the past few months, though E3 2011 offers a great chance for Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) to regain consumer confidence.

After an apology for the PlayStation Network security breach that took place in April 2011, I’d like to think that SCE will detail (as much as they can at least) what sort of steps they’ve taken since then to ensure our user and financial data is properly secured.

That unpleasantness is dealt with, I’m expecting a content-rich presentation from SCE, with lots of new details about its Next Generation Portable (NGP)—now rumoured to be called PlayStation Vita—including a near finalized launch date and expected price range.

Some new features being speculated are head tracking and PlayStation Move compatibility, though unless it is meant to be used as an ultra-portable console the latter seems impractical and unlikely. I’m looking for more details about its supposed PSN software compatibility.

In addition to the first party titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048 that have begun to appear in previews and the Call of Duty title mentioned when the NGP was announced, I expect to see plenty of third party content, including one or two launch window blockbusters and console launch mainstays like Madden NFL and Ridge Racer.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Shows Off the Power of PlayStation VitaOn the PS3 front, I’m expecting a PlayStation Move-heavy presentation including first party titles like Uncharted 3 and third party efforts like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Resident Evil 6. Beyond that, I’m hoping to see an updated version of Sorcery, a game they showed in 2010 and frankly anything else that isn’t a shooter.

SCE always has a ton of great first party content to showcase, both retail and for PSN and I’m sure that on of their montages will get me excited to see what they have on tap for the coming year. They almost always have a big third party exclusive to show off too, I’d guess the next Quantum Dream game, a resurfacing of Agent or maybe even the long-rumoured Final Fantasy VII remake.

Microsoft has been riding a wave of market-topping sales in recent months thanks to the somewhat surprising success of its Kinect motion sensing control system. From the looks of things, they intend on keeping it that way.

There are a veritable ton of Kinect-related rumours, including dozens of software titles appearing through trademarks or located on unpublished web pages by Internet-savvy gamers. Notable titles I’d expect to see include Dance Central 2Star Wars Kinect, a Gears of War rail shooter and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which appears to be a controller-Kinect hybrid title.

Mass Effect 3 also appears to incorporate Kinect according to information spotted on EA’s website.

I’m hoping to see more of these hybrid titles. Issuing hand signals and voice commands or having your head tracked are great ways to create immersion. I’m also waiting to see what Indie developers do with Kinect when it’s integrated into the XNA design platform and hoping to see more health and education-style apps appear on the Indie Games marketplace.

There are rumours of a Kinect-integrated redesign for the Xbox 360 fueled by recent sales and gift card offers and even one of a TV with an Xbox 360 and Kinect Built right in.

The Xbox 360 is also rumoured to be getting some new features such as cloud-based save files, full stereoscopic 3D support and that we will see free-to-play games introduced to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. A NeoGAF member also claims to have overheard some developers discussing object scanning and interactive books.

On the traditional software side there have been rumblings of a Halo: Combat Evolved remake, a Forza-branded open world racer and Microsoft has yet to announce the full Summer of Arcade lineup for this year.

Project Café, the supposed codename of the next home console from Nintendo will undoubtedly be the focus of the company’s E3 media briefing on June 6 at 9:00 AM PDT, at least from a fan and media perspective. The console is said to be HD capable, have a touch screen-enabled controller that still has buttons and it is even rumoured that you will be able to stream content directly to the controller without needing a TV.

3D Classics Appear to be More than ROM DumpsEverything I’ve seen about Project Café seems a bit crazy in that it doesn’t appear to simply be a “Wii HD” or “Wii 2” and almost steers away from what Wii established, so I think it’s all possible coming from Nintendo. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a release date of spring 2012, a few key franchises’ Project Café iterations announced and we may even see The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword get “Twilight Princess’d” and see a dual release on both the new console and Wii; it’s original platform.

I’m not expecting much else in terms of Wii software announced, possibly a Kirby title or the long-hinted-at Pikmin 3 in addition to a new Wii Series title or two and possibly a couple additions to the Nintendo Selects line.

I’d like to see the Vitality Sensor make a return, whether for Wii, Project Café or even the 3DS. Such a a peripheral would not only lend to new gameplay experiences, but could be applied to fitness and rehabilitation programs.

For the 3DS, I’m expecting to get dates for Super Mario 3DSPaper Mario 3 and Kid Icarus from Nintendo and to see the next wave of first party titles announced, possibly even the next Pokémon title.

They recently unveiled the Pokédex 3D app, which will be made available as a free download for the 3DS when the Nintendo eShop launches on June 6 and makes use of the StreetPass data sharing system and AR functions.

3D Classics: Excitebike will also be a free download until July 7, giving us a taste of what to expect from the series. This remake will have two racing modes and the ability to save up to six created tracks.

Other titles to be available at the eShop launch include the Game Boy classics Super Mario Land and Alleyway, as well as Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype Edition from Capcom. I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the 3DS virtual console lineup and to see what 3DSWare has to offer and I’m probably more excited about that than even the new console. Nintendo says that the eShop will be updated every Thursday.

The system update will also allow users to transfer their DSiWare purchases and access the 3DS web browser, which can be used while playing software, but does not support Adobe Flash. Future updates will include a 3D short form video sharing application.

E3 2011 should make for an interesting week and that’s even without talking about the glut of third party content expected from giants like EA, Activision, Konami, Capcom, Ubisoft and Square-Enix. The next year or two should have a ton of great experiences to keep gamers of all kinds busy.

New technology also offers new opportunities, as well as challenges to those in the fields of accessibility, health, serious games and augmented reality.

LINK FWD: HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS

LINK FWD: HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS 150 150 GAMESFWD

Since its inception in 2008, Game Forward has been collecting links related to Serious Games, Health & Fitness Games, Educational Games, Game Accessibility and Virtual Worlds. This article will serve as a link repository that will be updated and edited on a monthly basis.

We have separated our links into three categories; Education and Research, Groups and Organizations and Hardware and Software Developers. If you feel that a link to your website should be included by Game Forward, please leave a comment below or send a detailed e-mail to links[at]gamefwd[dot]org. Please note that we are not interested in participating in advertising-style link exchanges and have set up these articles as a resource for people interested in the subjects we cover. Thank you for your co-operation.

7-128 Software – 7-128 Software delivers affordable, family friendly, computer games that are “Simply Entertainment” to everyone, regardless of special challenges. This mainstream casual computer game company makes many of its games accessible.

Apps in My Pocket Ltd – Apps in My Pocket Ltd applications are designed to blend the best educational practice with the 21st century magic of the iPhone.

Arkadium – Arkadium creates innovative game solutions for consumer brands, ad agencies, online gamers, and any company looking to expand their presence.
Blue Lightning Labs    http://www.bluelightninglabs.com    Educational iPhone app developer.

Benjamin J. Heckendorn – Creative console and hardware moder.

Bent 360: Media Lab Inc. – A non-traditional player among digital agencies, Bent 360 is focused on developing “branded entertainment” content and technologies for brands, giving advertisers a way to engage audiences actively through entertainment, rather than interrupting their entertainment with messages.

Bigben Interactive – Bigben Interactive had grown into Europe’s leading manufacturer and distributor of video game console accessories and a major player in the distribution of video game software.

Brain Center International – Brain Center International is a scientific society specializing in the field of neuroscience. Building on very recent scientific discoveries, our experts in the fields of psychology, medicine and computer science have developed the NeuroActive brain training program featuring interactive multimedia software containing fun exercises whose benefits are optimized via artificial intelligence.

BrandGames – BrandGames specializes in leveraging computer game technology in business communications. They combine compelling corporate storytelling and highly immersive simulations to enhance organizational performance and individual development.

BreakAway, Ltd. – BreakAway, Ltd. is a leading developer of entertainment games and game-based technology products. They create entertainment experiences that enable people to master skills and concepts in virtual worlds, and transfer this expertise to develop tools that provide game-based solutions for real world problems.

Brightmind LABS – BrightMind LABS deliver therapy to children by fusing immersive computer gaming principles with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

BTS – BTS develops flexible discovery learning platforms that allow for rapid and cost effective customization to meet clients’ varied strategic learning objectives.

CogniFit – Based on its unique approach and continuing success, CogniFit is quickly becoming a world leader in developing a wide variety of powerful and effective brain exercise programs that promote cognitive health and lifetime brain fitness.

Concentric Sky – Concentric Sky offers web development and consulting services with a focus on emerging technologies such as Social Media and the iPhone. From simple websites to integrated mobile applications, they deliver innovative solutions that exceed your expectations – not your budget.

Consafe Logistics – Consafe Logistics is one of Europe’s leading suppliers of mobile logistics solutions to customers using logistics to improve their competitiveness. They develop, implement and support solutions throughout the whole supply chain, mobile IT solutions, consulting within logistics and process improvements.

Corporation Pop – Coportation Pop is a design company that crafts effective solutions that deliver the unexpected and challenge the predictable. They do this irrespective of media – from beautifully crafted books to immersive virtual world communities.

Datel – Datel has established its reputation for excellence by developing videogame peripherals that are both innovative and creative.

Digitalmill – Digitalmill is a consulting and development firm focusing on efforts that take advantage of modern-day videogame design, technologies, and related resources in innovative ways.

DreamBox Learning – With the global reach of the web and the power of software, DreamBox Learning delivers the effectiveness of great teachers to benefit any student, anytime, anywhere.

eDimensional – eDimensional has grown rapidly and emerged as the leading manufacturer and worldwide distributor of cutting-edge gaming accessories.

Emotiv Systems – Emotiv Systems has developed a technology that utterly transforms the way we interact with computers: the Emotiv EPOC™ technology and interface.

Enabling Devices – A company dedicated to developing affordable learning and assistive devices to help people of all ages with disabling conditions.

Escape Hatch Entertainment – Escape Hatch Entertainment, LLC is a collective devoted to utilizing an effective team of extremely skilled developers to collaboratively create the industry’s most innovative and successful products.

Evil Controllers – Evil Controllers specializes in custom modded Xbox 360 controllers designed to enhance game play for a variety of different game genres.The company takes advantage of the fact that computers are programmable, coming up with modified video game controllers that have the power to turn single shot and semi-automatic weapons into full automatic weapons. Through innovative design and ergonomic upgrades tailored for specific types of games, Evil Controllers provides gamers with custom controllers that best fit their needs.

Exergame Fitness USA – Exergame Fitness is the global leader in Exergaming products and medically driven programming.

FiatLux Imaging – FiatLux Imaging is the only free advanced visualization software for CT and MRI imaging data that runs virtually on any modern platform.

Fonix Speech – Fonix Speech offers speech technology solutions for mobile/wireless devices; interactive electronic games, toys and appliances; computer telephony systems; the assistive market and vehicle telematics. Fonix Speech provides developers and manufacturers with cost-effective speech solutions to enhance consumer devices and systems.

Forterra Systems Inc. – Forterra’s private, secure virtual worlds allow you to plan, rehearse and train in a safe realistic environment. You make your mistakes in the virtual world, so you can avoid them in the real one.

Game Production Services – Game Production Services creates serious games and immersive mixed-reality environments for education, training, and marketing.
HopeLab    http://www.hopelab.org/    HopeLab is a nonprofit organization that combines rigorous research with innovative solutions to improve the health and quality of life of young people with chronic illness.

g.tec – Medical and electrical engineering firm, makers of the intendiX, a personal Brain-Computer Interface Speller.

Gamercize – Gamercize is the maker of a patented interaction system which provides users with the best of both worlds, a workout that is second to none in the exergaming world and the very best of video game entertainment, available for Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 with the included GZ Pro-Sport and games controller.

Humana Games for Health – At Humana Games, playing video games keeps your mind and body fit. Come into our world and see how we’re helping people of all ages play their way to better health. Get your game on!

ImpactGames – ImpactGames is a world renowned pioneer in creating compelling interactive experiences around current events. Their aim is to partner with and enable organizations to change the way people consume information and understand the world around them.

Information in Place – Information in Place, Inc. (IIPI) focuses on developing learning environments and capturing expert knowledge and delivery of information in highly mobile environments. IIPI is a leader in developing context-aware (e.g., location, environmental conditions, skill level) mobile technologies and augmented reality solutions.

InteraXon – InteraXon has years of experience creating and implementing brainwave-controlled computing technology and applications as well as an ongoing awareness of state-of-the-art advances in the field.

Invensys Process Systems – Invensys is a global technology group, supplying solutions, software, consultancy and equipment to monitor, control and automate processes in a wide range of environments. From oil refineries to power stations, from railways to domestic appliances, they help their customers to optimise their processes and improve their performance.

iTECH Fitness – iTECH Fitness Inc. designs, develops, manufactures, and markets the fitness, recreation, and entertainment industries most comprehensive active gaming technologies, products, and service suite.

Kogito Interactive – Kogito Interactive creates games and simulations where learners engage in simulated conversations with virtual characters and develop their ability to manage others and communicate.

KY Enterprises – KY Enterprises makes adaptive equipment for quadriplegics and others who have lost the ability to use their hands due to illness or accident.

Linden Lab – Linden Lab created a revolutionary new form of shared experience, where individuals jointly inhabit a 3D landscape and build the world around them. Today this experience, known as the Second Life world, has a rapidly growing population of Residents from around the globe, who are creating and inhabiting a virtual world of their own design.

LiveWires Design – LiveWires Design Ltd, are the developers of a game that teaches children how to surf the Internet safely.

MediTouch – Meditouch has developed optical and image processing technology that determines the position and speed of motion of single or multijoints. Together with occupational, physical therapy and rehabilitation clinical know how Meditouch develops rehabilitation platforms that use active exercises and biofeedback to improve lower and upper extremity function and aid in rehabilitation.

Motion Fitness – By making fitness interactive, fun and rewarding we change the dynamics and now have fitness as an addictive physically played game.  Motion Fitness combines the best in Xergaming products.

NeuroSky – NeuroSky is the worldwide leader in bringing biosensor technology to the consumer mass market.

PLX Devices – Makers of the XWave, a neurofeedback controller for the iOS platform.

Next View Software – Next View Software is an innovative leader in the supply chain software market. Next View’s team has been delivering leading edge software solutions and benefits to customers in the global supply chain marketplace for over 20 years.

Nortel web.alive – web.alive is a virtual world software application that provides an enterprise ready, network secured virtual world platform for collaboration, assisted E-Commerce and virtual learning & training applications.

NorthSide Inc – North Side Inc. is developing software to support conversation in unrestricted English between people and machines. They are committed to supporting natural, unrestricted English interaction in real-time.

OpenSimulator – OpenSimulator is a 3D Application Server. It can be used to create a virtual environment (or world) which can be accessed through a variety of clients, on multiple protocols.

P.I. Engineering – P.I. Engineering designs and manufactures rugged, reliable input hardware for computers.

Past Perfect Productions – Past Perfect Productions reconstructs worldwide archaelogical and historical sites using scientific research and cutting-edge virtual reality techniques, producing 3D real-time content, film clips, animations with CGI characters that breathe life back into the scenes.

Persuasive Games – Games communicate differently than other media; they not only deliver messages, but also simulate experiences. Persuasive Games’s software influence players to take action through gameplay. While often thought to be just a leisure activity, games can also become rhetorical tools.

PIXELearning – PIXELearning is a world-leading provider of immersive learning simulations and ‘Serious Games’ for organisational learning and development, business education and marketing communications.

PlayGen – PlayGen are a leading serious games and simulations development studio providing highly flexible technology, content and training.

Project Whitecard – Project Whitecard specializes in 3D and interactive web-based projects, including websites, blogs, audio, video, games and RSS.

Psychic Bunny – Psychic Bunny is a hybrid media studio specializing in design and content for education and entertainment.

Rumarka – Educational iPhone app developer.

Serious Games Interactive – Serious Games Interactive is an award-winning, research-based developer of games, simulations and virtual worlds. They offer a unique blend of competences within games, learning and storytelling.

Skinput – A method that allows the body to be appropriated for finger input using a novel, non-invasive, wearable bio-acoustic sensor.

SmartBrain Technologies – SmartBrain Technologies is a growing, innovative, and caring company dedicated to providing quality technology products to help children and adults make the most of their potential. They develop state of the art “interactive devices” in the areas of health, learning, and performance enhancement to create the most advanced and powerful “brain exercise” system available.

Softkinetic – Softkinetic is the leader in natural interfaces that transform the way people interact with the digital world. They provide the most advanced software platform for building immersive, transparent and intuitive user experiences within the fields of Interactive Digital Entertainment, Serious Games, Interactive Marketing and Consumer Electronics.

Software Kids – Software Kids is committed to creating industry leading educational software that bridges the gam between the power and excitement of multimedia technology and the fundamentals of curriculum based learning for K-12.

Spongelab Interactive – Spongelab Interactive is a leader in advancing the integration of cutting edge technologies for teaching and learning purposes. Their mission is to educate students in the sciences by building content-rich immersive teaching tools designed around discovery-based learning that are accessible to educators and learners at school, at home and in the general public.

Tabula Digita – Tabula Digita is the company behind the award-winning DimensionM educational video game series for math. Tabula Digita is focused on delivering innovative and effective technology-based educational tools for elementary, middle and high school students.

The PEREGRINE – Makers of the Gaming Glove: faster, deadlier, more comfortable, and more precise than any keyboard. A remarkably innovative, human-machine interface that would allow any user to truly become the game.

Thornton Media – Thornton Media, Inc. creates custom hi-tech tools to help save endangered indigenous languages. We are Native-owned and have worked with over 100 American Indian tribes and Canadian First Nations since 1995. TMI is the only language tool company in the world devoted to Native languages.

TruSim – TruSim creates effective, immersive and engaging training games using high quality 3D games techniques and technologies. Their games are designed to be accessible and easy to use as well as being stimulating and challenging.

Virtual Heroes – Virtual Heroes creates simulations for learning, serious games and virtual worlds for the healthcare, federal systems and commercial markets.

VSTEP – VSTEP is the leading European developer of simulators and virtual training software. Using interactive 3D technology from the computer gaming industry, VSTEP creates training applications and games that allow people to build their skills in a practical and cost effective way.

Waterloo Labs – Developed the Eye Mario system which lets users control Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) software using only eye movements.

WILL interactive – WILL has become a force in the interactive training market. WILL Interactive is the pioneer for a new genre of education and entertainment media known as the virtual experience.

XOS Digital Inc. – XOS Digital, Inc. is the leading provider of digital technology and media management solutions to collegiate and professional sports organizations in the U.S. It provides its clientele with advanced digital technology solutions to enhance organization performance and image to improve the management and monetization of their digital media assets.

The FWD Download: Xbox LIVE Indie Games Round-Up 1

The FWD Download: Xbox LIVE Indie Games Round-Up 1 150 150 GAMESFWD

Much like the App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch, the Xbox LIVE Indie Games service is proving to be a viable way for independent developers to break into the market and make a few bucks at the time. It is also proving to be a great way for gamers to get some great games at great prices.

In this edition of The FWD Download, I will briefly review eight titles released between December 2009 and February 2010 that highlight the variety of genres on the Xbox LIVE Indie Games service. All impressions are based on the full purchased versions of the games, though like Xbox LIVE Arcade Games, trial versions are available. More…

Arkedo Series: 03 Pixel!

The third game in the Arkedo Series is a sleek 2D platformer that stars a wonderfully adorable cat named Pixel. Although the game is brief, it features great level design and enough variety to keep it interesting.

Arkedo is not your typical Indie Games developer, having produced the well-received retail games Nervous Brickdown and Big Bang Mini for the Nintendo DS. Their experience shines through in this simple, yet polished effort that features a great look and sound.

Pixel himself resembles a Tamagatchi and the game world is drawn with oversized pixels and a clean, monochromatic look. The game uses many familiar mechanics, including a run button that lets Pixel jump farther and the ability to stomp on baddies’ heads. After stepping on five baddies and filling his Roar ‘o’ Meter, Pixel can unleash a powerful  attack.

The game also employs a magnifying glass system that allows you to zoom in on suspicious blocks and initiate a maze-solving mini game. Rewards for completing mazes include full life for Pixel and “Useless Relics” that act as the game’s collectables. Each of the seven levels in Arkedo Series: 03 Pixel! contains three of these relics.

Arkedo Series: 03 Pixel! is not a challenging game by any means, but it is a pleasant, family-friendly experience that should last most players two or three hours. (Arkedo, 240 MS Points)

Dreams of Witchtown

Here is a case where the description and screenshots are better than the game itself. Dreams of Witchtown is billed as a 2D side-scrolling RPG in the vein of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. While that is technically true, it is executed poorly and plays like an early Flash game.

The premise here is that Aurora, an apparently elderly witch that looks like Sailor Moon loses her broom and scroll spells after being hit in the face by a rogue soccer ball. She then grabs a bag of soccer balls an embarks on a quest to thwart evil.

Aurora can kick soccer balls and cast spells to dispatch of enemies, who will in turn drop experience points. The idea here is to level up before proceeding to the next area. Unfortunately, this game is riddled with sloppy programming traits like infinitely spawning enemies and inaccurate collision detection.

In my experience, I had to grind through the same area no less than five times in order to get to the game’s recommended level for the next area. While the concept is solid, I simply could not have any fun with this game. On the plus side, Dreams of Witchtown does feature bright and colourful graphics and a low price. (Dip Slit, 80 MS Points)

Dungeon Adventure

Roguelike fans will certainly appreciate Dungeon Adventure being on the Indie Games service, as it is the only example of the genrea available on the Xbox 360. This dungeon crawler can be played in old-school ASCII mode or using modernized graphics that include a tiny version of your Xbox LIVE Avatar.

The game is controlled using a single analog stick, though players have the option of using a ChatPad or USB keyboard to provide an authentic experience. There are also a ton of other graphic and gameplay options that can be tweaked.

After completing a tutorial that explains the basics of roguelike gameplay, you create a character from one of nine classes and venture forth into the dungeons. As you proceed, you will gain experience, find better weapons and encounter more powerful enemies.

Fans of the genre should pick up Dungeon Adventure without question. It has plenty of content and wildly-named loot to collect, though it could be considered a bit easy for verteran players. Newcomers will find an excellent example of a roguelike to cut their teeth on. (UberGeekGames, 240 MS Points)

Home Run Challenge

Home Run Challenge is a simple baseball game that can be played using your Xbox LIVE Avatar and is controlled with a single button. The object is to time your batter’s swing properly in order to knock out a few dingers. As you progress, the pitcher will begin throwing fast balls and change-ups.

At first, home runs are worth a single point, but there are several ways to increase your score like smashing targets, building streaks and even smashing the stadium scoreboard.

Home Run Challenge features a clean and attractive look that was clearly inspired by the baseball game in Wii Sports. It features a stadium filled with animated Avatars and a bright colour pallete. Though there is not much to it, the game proves to be addictive and is an inexpensive, family-friendly experience that anyone can play. (BarkersCrest, 80 MS Points)

Pixel Boarder

Pixel Boarder is a physics-based snowboarding game that features some excellent chip tune music and an intuitive dual analog control scheme. Players send their highly customizable boarder down big air jumps in hopes of landing a high score, or just landing at all.

Through manipulation of the analog sticks, you can make your boarder crouch, grab and flip as it traverses a course. In practise, I found that they physics were a bit floaty and that pulling off tricks proved to be quite difficult. I did get better as I played, but it was admittedly frustrating at first. There are a few settings and assists that can be adjusted to your liking.

High scores are kept locally and globally for each of the 20 courses in Pixel Boarder, though in many cases I was happy just to complete the course. Should you pull off a great, trick-filled run, you can view or save replays.

There are four graphics filters to choose from ranging from 4-bit to 32-bit, though none of them look particularly good. In fact, I had trouble looking at the screen when the game was set to anything less than 32-bit because of the colour palletes. There is a v-sync option for those sensitive to screen tearing and other screen options to help alleviate overscan.

Despite a few quirks like the game taking too long to realize you’ve fallen, Pixel Boarder is a quality title that rewards persistence and sounds fantastic thanks to its Commodore 64 inspired soundtrack (PixelFriends, 240 MS Points)

Soul

Hand-drawn graphics and a genuinely creepy atmosphere help this maze game stand out from the crowd. The premise is that you are guiding a man’s soul to heaven and must avoid running into evil creatures and walls.

Soul is played using only the left analog stick, but also requires extremely precise movement to navigate through the mazes. Along the way, you will encounter “shock scares” that remind me of those old internet videos people used to trick their friends with. These sections are loud and jarring, which can easily cause you to make a mistake.

Luckily, when you do fail, you immediately start back at the beginning of the room you were in. Many rooms require a trial and error approach in order to determine where creatures will appear or to gauge the speed of obstacles.

Though the art does look great and the game features some nice lighting effects, I sometimes found it hard to determine where walls were, which caused some frustrating restarts. The sound effects in Soul are also well done and serve to help create the atmospere of what appears to be an abandoned hospital.

It certainly is not for everyone and the shock scares become all-to frequent, but Soul does provide a unique and challenging experience that fans of Kururin Paradise or Irritating Stick will appreciate. (Kydos Studio, 80 MS Points)

Yet Another Zombie Defense

A hybrid of an arena-based shooter like Zombie Apocalypse and tower defense games, Yet Another Zombie Defense proves to be a fun diversion well worth the price of admission.

Your task is to survive night after night of incoming zombie attacks by shooting them and slowing them down with barricades. As you progress, the zombie hordes will get tougher and faster and will require stronger weapons to defeat. In between waves, you will be able to purchase both weapons and defenses like steel fences or turrets.

Weapons stronger than the default pistol have limited ammunition resources, so careful spending is required to make it deep into the game and achieve high scores. Zombies will drop both money and health packs that need to be picked up before they disappear.

Yet Another Zombie Defense features 3D models and ambient lighting provided by a single street light. The music is rather generic and loops too often, but like other games on the Xbox 360 it can be replaced by your own custom soundtrack. (AwesomeGamesStudio, 80 MS Points)

You Will Die

The concept of this shooter is simple: you have one life to survive as long as you can against increasingly powerful enemy ships. You Will Die is an addictive boss rush experience that shows a lot of potential and features global leaderboards.

You start by battling a simple enemy ship. As you progress, ships will become more complex. You must destroy every weapon on a ship before it can be damaged and areas get weaker the farther they are from the centre. As you build your score multiplier by landing successful attacks, shields will become available for use. You can also use the multiplier to repair your ship, which is easier said than done in the heat of battle.

Though it plays like a traditional horizontal shooter, You Will Die is controlled primarily with the analog sticks. I found that ememy bullets were quite small and were often obscured by a scolling star-filled background. The rest of the graphics fare quite well and the in game sound effects are adequate, though there is no music to be heard while playing. (Derrick Hopkins, 80 MS Points)

The quality of the games on the Xbox LIVE Indie Games service is getting better every week and though there are a number of duds and novelty applications no one needs, I find myself checking the Indie Games Marketplace more often all the time in search of unique ideas to spend my leftover Microsoft Points on.

NOT QUITE A REVIEW: CRACKDOWN 2

NOT QUITE A REVIEW: CRACKDOWN 2 150 150 GAMESFWD

After about four hours of Crackdown 2 I can safely say that I like it, mainly because I loved the original title and this expansion pack-cum-sequel is essentially more of the same.  A few tweaks and additions were made, most notably four-player online co-op, however even as a fan of the franchise I can admit that Crackdown 2 isn’t nearly as impressive as it’s predecessor and it falls flat in a lot of ways.

Crackdown 2 is set ten years after the events of the first game in which agents rid the city of three large gangs . For some unexplained reason, Pacific City has again gone to hell, a virus is turning citizens into zombie-like “freaks” and a single gang organisation called The Cell is terrorizing the city.

There is an overarching narrative in Crackdown 2 that sees The Agency tasked with restoring power beacons, liberating tactical locations from The Cell and wiping out the hideouts of the freaks. While on paper it sounds like there’s more variety than Crackdown, the mission structure really boils down to the same thing as before; move to an area and annihilate anything that stands in your way.

This time however, there are no boss-type characters to deal with and so far I have only been facing generic enemies. The  feeling of satisfaction for completing objectives is far less than the first game, making Crackdown 2 feel much more empty or soulless in a way. It lacks any real personality.

The day/night cycle has become more relevant in Crackdown 2. By day, Cell members roam the streets, leaving tactical location held by them more vulnerable and at night thousands freaks come out -awkwardly rising from the pavement- leaving their nests ripe for destruction. There are often a ton of freaks on screen at night, though they basically stick to being at ground level and can easily be avoided by your acrobatic agent.

A caveat is that while conventional weapons are great for dealing with Cell, they are relatively ineffective against freaks. Contrarily, a new UV weapon system can take out a mass of freaks easily but will do little against Cell. It’s an attempt at balance that is rendered ineffectual by your agent’s ability to punch and kick.

While melee attacks are still quite awkward, the team at Ruffian actually managed to make the weapon targeting system worse than the first game, which was already pretty squirrely. Target priority is completely screwed up (even after a title update) and will often snap to objects in the background, foreground and in some cases, useless objects like the door of a civilian car. It’s extremely annoying, especially during a heavy firefight.

Platforming around and collecting hidden orbs and agility orbs can still be quite fun and for most Crackdown fans this is probably the main draw of the franchise. However, you will be collecting orbs in the same city and though some of its layout has changed, I have literally picked up orbs in Crackdown 2 that were in nearly identical spots as before. On the plus side, rogue agility and driving orbs have been added that require you to chase them through the streets or along rooftops.

Getting around feels a lot more clunky than before to me. Your agent needs to be perfectly lined up to grab a surface and often will not grab onto things that appear to be climbable. In one case I traversed a silo using the metal rings that hold it together, then literally two minutes later and a few blocks away an identical structure could not be scaled. Admittedly this was a problem in Crackdown, but it feels worse and more inconsistent here some three years later.

Though the draw distance has received a significant update and Pacific City is no longer blanketed by fog, there are a few things about Crackdown 2 that make it look less appealing than the original, which again, is three years old.

First and foremost, the city itself feels sparse. Buildings lack a level of subtle detail, such as having junction boxes or air conditioners on them. In the first game these objects could often be used to create tricky platforming sections, whereas now everything feels quite literally straightforward and flat.

Textures, both on buildings and terrain are also noticeably worse and texture seams can be spotted everywhere. Explosions have been toned down and have lost the “oomph” they once had. The colour palette looks more washed out than before and though trivial, Crackdown 2 is missing the cool scanning effect when you target a vehicle to tell you if it’s friend or foe.

The game also has much more prevalent screen tearing and frame rate issues than the original Crackdown. This isn’t necessarily the fault of Ruffian, who had a very short development time to deal with and were unable to reuse the Renderware engine because its creator Critireon Games was purchased and internalized by EA, but the problems are very noticeable.
It’s not all bad news though and there are some good things about Crackdown 2 that will keep me playing. Rooftop and vehicle races are back, the aforementioned rogue orbs are fun to chase down and you can now pilot helicopters. Also, when you have maxed out your agility (I’m more than halfway after four hours), you can glide around the city in the wing suit and I’ve seen a rather cool-looking tether weapon in videos that I can’t wait to play around with.

Another nice addition is that of a radar that briefly shows you any orbs in your vicinity at the touch of a d-pad. This will make hunting down the last of the 800+ orbs much easier than before, though it feels a bit cheap towards the beginning of the game.

I’m playing solo for now, but will be diving into some four player co-op action as soon as I can. My Xbox LIVE friends list has over 50 active users on it and only two of them have even played Crackdown 2 so far one full day after the official launch date, so it may be tough to get a session together. The addition of orbs that can only be collected during co-op play is annoying.

Like other reviews have said, it really is more of the same. A bit more is some cases and a lot less in others. Crackdown 2 is fun for me because I loved Crackdown and I can look past a list of flaws that took me around1000 words to describe.

I am hooked on collecting orbs, I love blasting and power sliding my way through freaks and I will play until my agent is maxed out. Am I happy I paid $70 CAD ($60 USD) for Crackdown 2 after waiting three years for what can best be described as a half-baked expansion pack? No, absolutely not.

FWD PROGRESS: A GREAT MONTH PAST, ANOTHER AHEAD

FWD PROGRESS: A GREAT MONTH PAST, ANOTHER AHEAD 150 150 GAMESFWD

May of 2010 was a great month at Game Forward. We managed to get three solid event preview features and one about a cool rehabilitation technology together, which in turn generated a bit more traffic than usual. We also published a couple of reviews and one of Nathalie’s news round-up posts did rather well. I’m sure that regular readers know that we offset our costs primarily through page impressions and ad clicks, meaning the bump in traffic made us a few extra bucks too.

The month of May, normally about the time that the traditional “summer drought” sets in, was also a surprisingly solid one for retail titles. Nathalie and I started playing a few for our own enjoyment, though these days I find it next to impossible not to be critical and at the very least take notes about the games we buy. We started playing one game for each console; 3D Dot Game HeroesAlan Wake and Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Alan Wake will likely go down as one of my favorite games of 2010. Despite severe screen tearing, I find this game absolutely beautiful to look at. And, while the strorytelling mechanism is not quite at the same level as Heavy Rain, the writing and acting are well above average. Frankly, I would expect nothing less from the team at Remedy.

The gameplay itself is part survival horror, part open world adventure and part third person shooter. The premise is that you are safe in lighted areas and must destroy the darkness around your enemies using the trusty flashlight before dispatching them with traditional firearms.

The game creates a wonderful sense of tension and is presented like a season of a TV show. Alan Wake is difficult to describe without going into too much, potentially spoiling detail, but I feel that Xbox 360 exclusive is a must-play. We purchased the Limited Collector’s Edition, which includes a full soundtrack CD, a book called The Alan Wake Files and some video content, including DVD-style developer commentary. I think it was well worth the extra cost.

3D Dot Game Heroes is a game that literally explodes with charm. A 2D world has been transformed into 3D in this lighthearted tribute to action RPGs of the past, namely the eight and 16-bit The Legend of Zelda games with a healthy touch of Dragon Quest-like aesthetics.

The game features a fantastic character editor that lets you create just about anything to use as your hero. Check out the Hall of Heroes for a better understanding. My favorite thing about this game so far is that it does nothing in the way of hand holding.  For example: you will be told little more than the direction in which to head to reach or complete a quest, which stays faithful to the retro-ness of the whole package.

A generous helping of post-processing effects gives this game and very surreal, stop motion animation-like look and the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic.

I am probably more disappointed with Super Mario Galaxy 2 than any other recent game I have played. While I am only about two hours into the game, I haven’t seen anything particulary exciting or impressive to this point. It is quite literally more of the same. Besides the staple of princess peach getting absconded by Boswer, the premise here is that Mario needs to collect stars to fuel a ship. Riveting.

There have been some changes, such as the utilization of a world map instead of the large hub world seen in the original Super Mario Galaxy. So far, the biggest addition is that of Yoshi, who can flutter jump and of course, eat and spit things.

Something that I find strange is that the fidelity of the music and sound effects seems to be far worse than the original game. This could be a side effect of our Wii being three and a half years old, but it honestly sounds like subpar compression technology was used this time around.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is still a great game, and certainly more challenging than the first however I cannot shake the feeling that I would have enjoyed it more as an expansion pack released a year earlier. Also, the controls are identical to the first game, so those who had trouble with them in the first game will likely get frustrated because of the bump in overall difficulty.

In the month ahead, I am really looking forward to playing Disgaea Infinite and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on the PSP and of course, E3 is only about a week away. This year will definitely be more exciting and relevant two Game Forward than last because of the focus on new video game technologies.

We should see the 3DS revealed to the public and both “Project Natal” and PlayStation Move will undoubtedly be featured heavily, giving us a better idea of the software lineups we should see at the time of their respective launches. I personally think that all three new technologies will be accessibility nightmares, but am also very excited to try at least two of them out this year.

I am slowly getting caught up on a huge backlog of planned reviews and features and I’m hoping that between Nathalie and myself we can push 15 or 20 articles out in the month of June. Some of the downloadable games I am looking forward to this month are Snoopy Flying Ace on the Xbox LIVE Arcade and Joe Danger on PlayStation Network.

Keep checking Game Forward for new content, don’t forget to follow Nathalie and Brian on Twitter and Like us on Facebook. We’ll have a game giveaway on our Facebook page this month. As always, a heartfelt thank you for reading!

FWD PROGRESS: PARDON THE MESS WHILE I BLOW UP A TOWER

FWD PROGRESS: PARDON THE MESS WHILE I BLOW UP A TOWER 150 150 GAMESFWD

As you can undoubtedly see, I’ve re-skinned the site and created a new logo for Game Forward. Unfortunately, it‘s only the first of about a million little steps I’m taking to upgrade the look and functionality and it looks like I’ll have some downtime because of a few small, but very annoying layout and technical issues.

The site shouldn’t be offline for more than a day or two at most while I clean things up and rebuild. I’ve got a couple of iPhone/iPod Touch reviews to go up first though and a few games on the go as well. Over the holiday, I started into The Saboteur and despite a number of flaws and decidedly last-gen technical issues, I’ve fallen in love with it.

First of all, The Saboteur is a great-looking game, at least on the Xbox 360. Like most open-world games, it suffers from a touch of pop-in, however it’s a highly-polished title with a lively colour palette and excellent lighting effects.

The premise of the game is that you are an Irish race driver named Sean that sets out for revenge after his friend is killed as the Nazi forces invade France in 1940. When Sean is in a Nazi-controlled area, The Saboteur is essentially presented in Black and White, with sparse colour effects used to indicate enemies or provide ambient lighting. As Sean liberates areas of France, their colour returns and you catch a glimpse of an absolutely stunning game world set in both city and countryside.

This system may remind you of inFamousThe Saboteur also takes some gameplay queues from Sucker Punch’s 2009 effort and the popular Assassin’s Creed series. Sean is remarkably athletic and can scale just about any building with relative ease. Traversing rooftops proves to be an effective way of getting around without drawing too much attention to Sean.

Though the game can be played as a balls-out action romp, I’ve taken the stealth approach to it so far and it has proved to be very rewarding. Hundreds of ambient freeplay events task you with destroying Nazi sniper and lookout towers as well a fuel dumps and propaganda speakers and I found that a quiet, unseen approach has let me make it halfway through The Saboteur relatively unscathed.

There are a number of other gameplay systems at work including a disguise mechanic similar to Destroy All Humans!, some of which work and some of which are downright broken. There is also a very GTA III feel to movement and animation and there are many ways to exploit clipping and dumb AI routines.

There is also an extremely annoying control issue related to having to hold down a trigger or bumper to fight or sneak around. I’d have liked to see an option to toggle fighting or sneaking states because I’m developing “claw hand” every time I play.

The game itself  plays out much like any Grand Theft Auto title, featuring driving, stealth, sniper and escort missions. The story is very well-paced so far and I imagine it would take about 12 hours to complete if I had gone straight through. As it stands though, I’ve been spending a ton of time seeking out and destroying Nazi facilities.

Because of their proliferation, it’s next to impossible to move 50 feet without picking an ambient freeplay event up on your mini-map. Much like with the orbs in Crackdown,  it’s tough not to get distracted and move off-course from your main objective

Despite it’s rather glaring flaws, I’ve spend almost ten hours with The Saboteur so far and likely will not be done with it by the time my rental period is through. The game world is fantastic and full of Nazi stuff to destroy. The audio is also quite well done and features well-implemented positional effects and a fantastic period soundtrack.

I’ll probably end up buying The Saboteur even though I had no intention to, or even any interest in the game just two weeks ago. The final effort from Pandemic Studios is a bit rough around the edges, but its ironically also the best game the studio ever produced.

How I Make Playing Wii More Accessible for Me

How I Make Playing Wii More Accessible for Me 150 150 GAMESFWD

Like many gamers that live with physical disabilities, I have had my fair share of difficulty with many of the non-traditional control schemes that have become synonymous with Wii software since the console was launched almost three years ago.

Whether coming to grips with the Nunchuck attachment or simply using the pointer of the Wii Remote, sometimes it has been difficult and frustrating for me to play Wii because of the limited dexterity of my left hand associated with Cerebral Palsy and the Arthritis in my hands and arms. I wanted to share a few simple tricks that I use to help me enjoy playing Wii, even on days that my body doesn’t want to co-operate.

From the time we brought our Wii home on launch day, I had problems using the Nunchuck attachment. It became apparent to me that over the years I had spent learning to use game controllers with my left hand, I had become used to having my right hand providing both resistance and support. To this day, I still have trouble pushing up on the analog stick and end up just tilting the Nuchuck down because my right hand is not holding the controller in place.

I have tried a couple of things to help alleviate this. First, though I am right-handed, I tried swapping the Wii Remote to my left hand so I could use the analog stick and small C button with my good hand. This setup reminded me of the way I learned to use an N64 controller “left-handed” and it is how I played through most of Super Mario Galaxy.

Now, I do find it tough to use the pointer extensively and reach the 1 and 2 buttons with my left hand, but for me it was an extremely simple solution to a very frustrating problem and it has allowed me to play and complete quite a few games.

The Wii ZapperSomething else I learned to do early on while struggling with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was to use my leg to stabilize my left hand. I simply rest my left hand on the side of my leg to stabilize it and prevent it from just moving through the air. I find that this also helps me grip the analog stick better with my thumb. It still feels unnatural to play games with my hands so far apart, but it works most of the time.

I actually have idea for an attachment that would basically be an arm/wrist rest that hooks over your leg. I think my problem with pushing the Nuchuck through the air stems from weakness in my elbow and forearm and that resting my left arm/wrist on something allows my hand to grip harder.

While the lefty flip method works for some games, there are obviously others it is not practical for. The Trauma Center games are some of my favourites on the DS, but the Wii versions proved to be difficult for me to control because of extensive Nunchuck use that needed to be executed with precision and pointer-heavy gameplay that I needed to use my right hand for.

My solution here is the Wii Zapper accessory. It lets me turn the Wii Remote and Nunchuck into a single, two-handed controller that allows me to better use the analog stick.  It also lets me guide the pointer with my right hand and though using the A and B buttons in concert took some getting used to, I found that this also provides me with greater pointer stability.

When I’m having a day that sees me struggling with Arthritis pain, even holding up the Wii Remote and keeping it still enough to use its pointer can be difficult. While the Wii Zapper is great for games that require a Nunchuck, it isn’t very comfortable and it’s impractical for games that use only a Wii Remote or genres like third-person action that tend to require shaking the Wii Remote and/or Nunchuck.

An accessory like the Nyko Perfect Shot is affordable and allows for a more ergonomically sound grip on the Wii Remote while allowing free movement of both the pointer and Nunchuck attachment. The drawback here is that using the A and B buttons at the same time is virtually impossible with one hand.

Of course, the pistol can be gripped with both hands in the case of Wii Remote-only games like Zack & Wiki or my import copy of Another Code: R, which allows for operation of all the Wii Remote buttons and also for shaking, twisting and tilting of the controller.  The Wii Wheel attachment is also effective as a two-handed grip for pointer-based games, though I tend to use it for something else.

The Wii WheelWhen I was playing Super Paper Mario I grew to hate playing games for any extended length of time while holding the Wii Remote sideways “NES Style”. The controller is simply too small and the left side of it is very thin. I found it tough to grip it properly and my thumb would tend to slip off of the d-pad and accidentally hit the A or B buttons.

While the Wii Remote Jacket that Nintendo introduced some time later does help by creating a larger surface to grip on the left side of the Wii Remote, the right side is still small and quite often I’ll feel myself getting “Claw Hand” from trying to grip it, especially on days when my Arthritis is flared up. I find that the Wii Wheel not only makes the controller symmetrical, but slightly thicker as well, allowing me a more comfortable grip. It also makes the B button on the back easier to detect and it still allows for shaking, tilting and pointing.

The first thing I do when I play Wii software is check to see whether it supports the Classic Controller or GameCube controller. For many games it simply feels more natural to play on a traditional controller and I do whenever it is possible, which is sadly not nearly as often as I would hope.  Many of the “traditional” Wii games like platformers are ported from, or simultaneously developed for the PS2 and/or PSP, so implementing a traditional control scheme on the Wii version should be easy enough for a developer.

While the Wii is arguably the least accessible home video game console ever produced for people with physical limitations or disabilities, adaptations can be made to make it more enjoyable for those of us that struggle with its standard control setup.

I would love to see Nintendo or a third party step up and actively try to make playing Wii more accessible, whether through specifically-designed accessories or by making traditional controls more standard. Nintendo has gone to great lengths to bring video games to a wider audience, now it’s time to bring it back to millions of gamers living with physical limitations and disabilities who grew up and learned to play with them.

I WANT A DS PLAYER FOR WII

I WANT A DS PLAYER FOR WII 150 150 GAMESFWD

I’ve been saying this amongst friends for a while now, but I’m almost amazed that Nintendo hasn’t yet introduced a DS player for Wii, similar to the Game Boy Player for GameCube or Super Game Boy for the SNES.

Sure, they’d look a bit ugly on an HDTV, but there are plenty of games in the Nintendo DS library that I’d love to play on the couch with Nathalie beside me. RPG titles come to mind first because; well that’s what I mostly play on the DS. I’d much rather play something like Dragon Quest V on the couch for an evening with some company to share the experience with rather than alone in a corner or something.  Family time is important to me, so I’m less likely to play a solitary handheld game than one I can play on the TV with other people around.

Some would argue that it would be difficult to control DS games on a TV. I would argue that those people aren’t thinking hard enough.  It would be very easy to simply use a DS as a controller, while streaming the audio and video signals to a Wii via wi-fi, or knowing Nintendo, a proprietary dongle.

They could also implement a system similar to the one in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time and map controls to the standard Wii Remote and Nunchuck combination, using IR pointer capability to act as the DS stylus. It may not be perfect, but it certainly works well enough to be playable.

Display is another concern. I would personally prefer the two DS screens to be displayed on top of each other, producing a similar aspect ratio to a vertical SHMUP title. The emulator could also have options for a side-by-side display or even make one of the screens the only one displayed on the TV in the case of titles that primarily use one of the DS screens.

This brings me to my next point. The Wii has been hacked wide open. There are fully functional DS emulators that run on relatively low-powered PCs.  Why the homebrew crew hasn’t ported one of these emulators is even more surprising to me than the fact Nintendo hasn’t introduced an official DS player.

One way or the other, I really want to have the option of playing DS games on my TV without having to hook up a PC to it. I have a feeling I’m not alone when I say I’d pay good money to be able to do so.

PSP GO IMPRESSIONS: A PSEUDO-REVIEW

PSP GO IMPRESSIONS: A PSEUDO-REVIEW 150 150 GAMESFWD

Opinions about the newly redesigned, download-only handheld from Sony seem to be polarized after its first week of release. While many fans are finding a lot to like about the PSP Go, retailers are complaining that they can’t sell games for it and some in the UK have even slashed the price of the console in an effort to move units.

Game Forward
had the opportunity to get a PSP Go during its launch window and despite a few shortcomings, we are very satisfied with our purchase. The system is sleek, light and surprisingly comfortable to hold during extended play sessions. The display is simply the best among the current generation of handhelds and the ability to use a PlayStation 3 controller with it essentially turns the PSP Go into an ultra-portable console.

At first I found the PSP Go a bit awkward to hold, because it’s rather thin when opened – about the thickness of an iPod Touch – and the button placement is a rather drastic change from the original PSP layout. I found that the unit quickly settled in my hands though and I adapted to it easily. The placement of the analog nub in particular feels perfect and I don’t have to scrunch up my thumb to use it as on the original PSP. The nub also has a wider gate than before and it feels more responsive.

The buttons and d-pad have also received a makeover. The face buttons are smaller than before, but not too small. The d-pad on the PSP Go is the same size as the original PSP, but the buttons that compose it are a bit thinner than before. Both the buttons and d-pad have a more “clicky” feeling to them and they remind me very much of the original Nintendo DS buttons.

The right and left triggers are easily accessible, but they suffer from a spongy, springy nature and feel like the cheapest component on the whole unit. The volume, brightness and music buttons are housed at the top of the unit between the trigger buttons and are tough to use while the system is open.

Of course, should you not like the new buttons or analog nub and you own a PlayStation 3, you can actually sync a SIXAXIS or DUALSHOCK 3 controller to your PSP Go via Bluetooth. This feature requires you to register the controller with it and the PSP Go connected to your PS3 via USB cables. Unfortunately the feature cannot be used by those who don’t have a PS3, but hopefully Sony will make it available to everyone in the future via a firmware update or through the Media Go software used to purchase content from the PlayStation Store on a Windows PC.

I cannot stress enough how much I love the controller sync feature. It alone was worth the upgrade cost for me and is something I will use often. When combined with an A/V out cable, the feature basically turns the PSP Go into a tiny home console and the ability to play on a TV without being tethered to it by a cord is fantastic. Unfortunately, the video out is still heavily windowed as it was on the PSP 2-3000. Though the XMB, video content and PSOne Classics all run in full screen, PSP game content does not and on our TV at least only covers about half of the available space.

A decent TV scaler can alleviate this problem somewhat, but it’s still annoying and I had hoped that the slight power boost the PSP Go got over its predecessor would allow it to output PSP game content in full screen.

Getting back to the controller sync feature, it has actually impacted my ability to play some games for the better. Regular readers of Game Forward are no doubt aware that I was born with mild Cerebral Palsy and have limited dexterity in my left hand. On an old PSP unit, I had difficulty playing God of War: Chains of Olympus. There are many quick time events in that game that requite spinning the analog nub quickly and I was simply unable to pass certain sections of the game because of my physical limitation. My left thumb often slips off of the analog nub and leads to much frustration.

Though the new nub on the PSP Go still doesn’t help me with that particular game, being able to grip a full-sized analog stick on a familiar controller certainly does and I was extremely happy to get past a part of a game I was stuck on for over a year. I doubt that the engineers at Sony were specifically thinking of gamers with physical limitations or disabilities when they were implementing this feature, but I can see it being beneficial to many such gamers in the future.

The PSP go is being touted as the first 100% digital handheld gaming system and brings with it an expanded PlayStation Store, wider digital distribution of titles available on UMD and the introduction of PSP minis, Sony’s answer to the Apple App Store. I won’t go into software here, but will in an upcoming edition of The FWD Download.

The fact that there is no UMD trade-in or upgrade program seems to have rubbed many consumers the wrong way because the PSP Go essentially renders their collections useless. I can certainly understand the concern and would have liked to see a solution for people who wanted to upgrade and leave their old PSP behind. It should be noted thought that all digitally distributed games, including PSP minis are playable on both the PSP Go and the original PSP series and apparently Sony has no plans to stop selling the PSP-3000 or pressing UMDs to sell at retail.

This is not an official review, so I won’t flat-out recommend the PSP Go or not. For us at Game Forward however, the ability to play games with a PS3 controller was worth the cost of the upgrade alone. The system’s smaller form factor, improved on-board controls and ability to pause a game and save its state are icing on the proverbial cake.