With next-gen gaming coming around the corner, I took some inventory of what I could possibly trade in (while that is still a thing) towards either a new console or some of the awesome games coming out this week. So I checked out Gamestop’s website and found something that really surprised me.
You can now trade in your RROD (Red-Ring-Of-Death) Xbox for trade-in value or cash. I’m not sure when they started this practice but I think it’s a great idea. Although I am not a fan of the price gouging they employ I do think they do serve a purpose for the budgeting gamer.
There are some caveats like the trade needing to go towards a new game or preorder and “Trades must be in full working condition to receive full value” (But you just said to bring in my broken console…..) But I think it’s a sweet deal for anyone with a bricked console just lying around collecting dust or cigarette butts.
Also I just called a couple of local Gamestops and they have a deal ending tomorrow (sorry) in which you can snag an extra 30% of credit, so get going!!
We are about to turn another gaming corner in a couple of months. The jump to the new next-gen consoles is upon us, and we will go into a future of prettier and more expansive games. Ones which will bring a new level of fidelity and give game makers more interesting ways to tell stories.
This past week I was taken to a place that relishes in not going forward, a place that believes honoring and showcasing old school games is its life’s meaning. Digital Press in Clifton, NJ is a magical place for retro game lovers, a non-assuming place where people wear many hats. A friendly store clerk will go seamlessly from “perfecting” you in Street Fighter 3 to ringing up your Sega Master System purchase. Patrons are just as impressive, I think people should visit this place sometimes just for the overheard conversations. Then can totally run the gamut from anecdotal musings of gaming greatness to encyclopedic breakdowns of retro lore and strategy. DigitalPress is both fascinating for the laymen and nerdgasm inducing for the fanboy.
I wanted just to share some of the sights from that awesome day with you all and hope that you check out their site http://www.digitpress.com/ and give their storefront a visit. Arcade cabinets, gaming tournaments, geekdom and possibly cake pops await!
A huge thanks goes out to my friends Marc and Berit for taking me retro gaming mecca. I can’t wait to return, next time with money.
The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.
This week’s shaper is a mainstay of the community and has made some pretty cool levels. I was attracted to some of his creations because I really like symmetrical levels. Many of this shaper’s levels are great because they are, in the words of Tart himself: short, sweet and to the point. They offer a challenge to both novice and veteran players and show that he has firm grasp of the platforming genre.
This week’s Shaper is Old_PopTarts
My two favorite levels from Tarts were “Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and “Say CHEESE!!”(1sl).
“Escape from Guantanamo Bay” – was really fun to play because of how the red elements are placed in the level. The “kick box” enemies were placed in such a way that it reminded me of the game “Plinko” from “The Price is Right” TV show. You have to time out both your jump to avoid the boxes and where you land on the safe areas. It was a small part of the level but stuck with me after playing it.
“Say CHEESE!!” – is a level that resembles what you would see through a camera’s viewfinder. You can see this from the level’s community screenshot but it looks even cooler when you play it. The level is pretty straightforward: dodge all the red dotted lines on the periphery while trying to gauge your jumps on and off the circular treadmill. It’s simplistic in its design, but challenging to finish. It took me more time than I thought it would to complete, but I felt like I accomplished something once I was done.
After playing Tart’s levels I reached out to him for a quick interview:
TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
TART: State-side born in a town called Peoria in Illinois. You may have heard “If it plays in Peoria, it’ll play anywhere.” I’ve been a gamer since the first Nintendo system all the way to the Vita. I’ve always been into platformers and who doesn’t love music? A game that mashes them both intrigued me. I’m familiar with Jonathon Mak from the game Everyday Shooter so this game definitely caught my eye. It’s a very interesting concept and works very well in action. It’s a gem that I hope everyone has a chance to play!!
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
TART: I like plan out my music first and get the basic layout of each screen before I start to shape my level. I find it’s much easier to start with symmetrical shapes for the whole screen and tweak from there. If you rush and just place notes randomly, there’s a chance your level won’t be as polished. You can have a whole song done but as you progress you replace certain sounds with entities from the game to compliment or replace without compromising the integrity of your song.
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
TART: I had an unwanted visitor in my home back in May, so unfortunately I don’t have access to a PS3 at this moment. Soo I do all my Shaping on the PS Vita, which is extremely intuitive and very well thought out. I favor the touchscreen/pad in tandem. It really makes shaping and positioning a breeze.
TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
TART: I would say my favorite level I’ve made is “Escape from Guantanamo Bay”. It was my first fully fledged level, albeit short, sweet and to the point, I believe it’s a well rounded level. I’m currently working on my next Sound Shapes level and it’s a bit more ambitious than “Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and I am having a blast making it. I really can’t wait to release it and see what others think of it!!
TSP: What is your favorite level you’ve played and why?
TART: Picking a favorite level I’ve played is an extremely tough choice. There are many works I am fond of by creators such as: Daftbomb, TheBeejAbides and TonyTough among countless others. Favorite levels from each would be “Cheer-up Buttercup” by Daftbomb, and “A Nightmare on Church Street” by TonyTough each respectively and in no particular order. If I missed you I am terribly sorry!!
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
TART: Save and save often! I’ve heard of hours lost on projects due to nasty bug that is to be resolved soon. I have fortunately not had this issue (knock on wood.) I am still learning as I go, so I may not be that helpful. I gladly pass that on to Daftbomb and his instructional levels for just this! I will point out that you must take your time and try not to rush if you want your level to be polished and fun.
TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?
TART: It has been mentioned before, but I would love an option to set the tempo for screens individually to set the right tone and send the right message. I would also love to see new Sound Shapes entities and new color palettes. An option to cue strings of levels and play them back to back would also be welcome. I would have loved to have a “ghost” mode as well but have been told Queasy Games would need a fully deterministic engine to do so
I would like to first thank Queasy Games and John Mak for this lovely gem. Everyone who even remotely likes platformers and music should give this game a go. I would also like to thank Kahlief for this opportunity to share my thoughts. Lastly I would like to thank the all the creators for giving me tons of content to obsess over! A special shout-out to Redespair, MilkManiac, DUSTINISGOOD and BeejAbides for setting such high bars on speed-runs and look forward to meeting you all on the Sticky Ball courts. ^_^
Big thanks goes out to Tarts for being a part of the series and sharing his thoughts on his work. A huge congrats also goes out to the SoundShapes crew for winning “Best handheld and Song in a Game” at this year’s VGA’s. Two really dope DLC launches this month wrap up a pretty amazing year for us as Shapers and there is more to come. I can’t wait to see what new levels come about from all these goodies. As for us at the Spawnpoint, we are wrapping up our #SoundShapers series next week and we hope to see you there.
If you’ve been paying any attention to 2K Sport’s basketball for the past couple of years you already know that they have and are producing the BEST b-ball game you can buy. High praise from both media and fans has kept them on the mountain top, and without any competition this trend doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. With that said, I want to focus this review on the significant changes made this year and why you should care.
For the past three years, 2K has pulled some of the biggest names in basketball to help promote their game. The signing of Michael Jordan and then Magic and Bird to round out some historic teams gave notice to their fan base that they were serious about not staying pat on the innovation front. This year they went full monty by bringing on hip-hop mogul Jay-Z to executive produce the game. Many people, myself included scoffed at the idea of bringing on Jay. What would or could he really add to the game that gamers care about? Is this just 2K adding a huge name for “front of the box” name recognition?
Upon starting the game you quickly understand why they did it. You are treated to a montage of Jay doing his thing at a concert with interspersed gameplay clips. You can’t not get a little hyped up by seeing the mix of the two; it sets the stage for rest of the mash-up experience that is the presentation style of 2K13. Right before you start a contest you might be shown highlights of your favorite team, synced to an Eric B. & Rakim or Nas video. Behind the foreground menus you see equalizers pulsate in time with Jay-Z’s assembled soundtrack. They are small touches and I’m still not sure how I feel about them, but it is a interesting direction nonetheless.
Music isn’t the only thing Jay influenced: he used his clout to get some future hall-of-famers to join the ranks as well. With a call or two, he not only got Scottie Pippen to add his likeness to the 92’ “Dream Team” but also snagged longed-for “Round Mound of Rebound” Charles Barkley who hadn’t been included in a basketball game since 1994.
I’m not sure how Jay-Z’s inclusion has translated to direct sales and I’m not sure how those presentation flairs have come across to the greater gaming community but I will say that it might have put 2K in a weird predicament. Where do they go from here and how much bigger do you go without alienating your core fans? I suppose we will see what happens next year in this respect.
Detail, Detail, Detail
There are still times when someone will walk in while a CPU vs. CPU game is going on and mistake it for the real thing. This is testament to all of the intricate motion capture 2K does every year. The thing that makes this installment so breathtaking is all of the in-between and collision animations they have this year. Going up for a contested layup more often than not will put you into a supremely life-like animation in which flailing limbs connect. It gives both players and the ball heft and weight; feet plant realistically while the inertia of gathered momentum moves players upward to the rim. It’s a beautiful game to watch. Players react realistically to getting hit and will sometimes react to those bumps by holding their heads or falling to the floor.
Added facial animations, authentic celebrations from both teams and crowds add so much to the gameplay and feel of the game. They’ve even found a way for the first time in a basketball game to introduce playcalling, substitutions and technical fouls on the Xbox 360 via Kinect. Massive kudos go to 2K for stepping all these up in a significant way.
2K has added “VC” (virtual currency) to be the backbone of how you progress this year in the “My Player” modes and “My Team” modes. Usually things like this don’t ping my radar, but this is the first time 2K has gotten into the micro-transaction game. You can purchase VC or earn them in game to buy virtual goods like animation packages, clothes and other accessories for your player. Although I am not a fan of micro-transactions, it seems as if they have been tactfully implemented.
The Wrap Up
This seems to be the most feature-complete game 2K has put on the market to date. From my experience, they have fixed a bunch of the online issues that plagued them for the initial month of last year’s release. Games I’ve played have been as smooth as you can expect from an online sports game and have been steady connection-wise. The removal of “My Crew” is disappointing but understandable.
Lastly here are some things of note.
• Some of the historic teams from previous years are missing. I truly don’t understand why this keeps happening? I wonder if certain players like Dr. J are only contracted for a year at a time and multi-year deals are too expensive. I think maybe if they put these teams in as DLC at a reasonable price, fans would be excited. Possibly doing a couple of era packs would suffice.
• There are still some significant players missing. Everyone is still waiting for Reggie Miller. (C’mon Jay, make the call!) Other players like Manute Bol, Lattrell Sprewell, Derek Anderson, and Derrick Coleman haven’t gotten their due.
• Why in the world is the All-Star Weekend DLC this year? To gate this behind pre-order DLC and then to not have it available day one is just not right. To top it all off, 2K didn’t make either the dunk contest or three-point contest playable online. It makes no sense and would have been so much fun.
• We are still waiting for an EA “Gameface” equivalent on the 2K platform. I can’t be that excited for “My Player” if my created player — no matter how much I try — won’t look like me. The tech is there. I would much rather that than making shoes.
• The removal of downloadable sliders is a heartbreaker to lots of folks who know that the game doesn’t always play to your liking straight out of the box. There are lots of dedicated folks in the NLSC and Operation Sports forums who take time to fine-tune them and help others out. The weird thing is that 2K has intimate knowledge of this, frequents those boards, but still omitted this feature.
• Saving replays and screenshots in a high-res format would be nice, as both consoles and PC version accept USB disks. Why not let things export to the HD?
Even with those niggling bits, 2K has again put out the most amazing display of basketball that you can purchase, a game that you can play long into the season and beyond. The jury is still out on the inclusion of Jay-Z, but again his influence has reached across multiple lines and actually made the game fuller on a gameplay level. If you are a fan, you need to play this game. There is no doubt that you will get your money’s worth.
There aren’t many games that will let you dress up as a priest to strategically hunt down and whack an enemy in the forehead with an axe, but if that is your cup of tea, Square Enix has the game for you!!
Hitman Absolution’s PR took a bit of a hit pre-E3 this year due to some unfortunate marketing that involved some sexy nuns and extreme violence upon said nuns. It looks as if the folks behind the game have gotten things under control and put out an AWESOME developer gameplay video earlier today.
Eighteen minutes later, I sit at my desk with my mouth agape and an urge to both spend money and wear a mechanic’s outfit. I marvel at the sheer number of options you have at your disposal when it comes to killing enemies. They range from uber-simplistic run-and-gun shooting, to living Rube Goldberg-esque mouse traps that will take multiple play-throughs to explore.
I jokingly say that I would love to see the wireframes and decision trees that comprise all of this madness. These guys must be amazing chess players.
Take a look at the video and tell us what you think in the comments below or on the social networks.
Follow us on Twitter: @spawnpointblog
Follow us here on G+: https://plus.google.com/b/101672589353242531433/101672589353242531433/posts