Sheeepy…

I’ve been spending what precious little “free” playing time I have at the moment playing Jeff Minter’s mildly trippy — no, make that acid-drenched-in-a-bucket-full-of-Neon-Paint-And-Magic-Mushrooms-trippy — but above all quite difficult Space Giraffe. It’s currently only available on Xbox Live at a cost of 400 “points” — that’s about $6.60 Australian at current rates. And I’m really quite bad at it. Mark that — I’m enjoying it, but it’s kicking my skinny white backside left, right and centre. Doesn’t matter that I’m losing, but just that I’m enjoying it.

Now, XBL Arcade games aren’t something that I can really review for my regular monthly Netguide gig (more’s the pity), but having shot down a few too many psychedelic flowers, screaming bullets and strange (very strange) geometric shapes, I was willing to bet that the huddled masses of online journalists would have, and what’s more, that some of them will have solidly misjudged the game.

First stop was my old employers, GameSpot. To their credit, in their review they pretty much nailed it — this is a tough, old-school, score obssessed twitch game that’s not for everybody, most noticeably epileptics. I’ll certainly never play it in front of my stepmother, that’s for sure.

Heading over to rivals IGN reveals a different state of play, with a much more personal and less objective review. Or to put it mildly, this review flat out sucks. There’s a place for personal comment, and certainly I’ve been guilty of it from time to time, but it should be tempered against your audience — and when you’re writing for a general games audience, you can’t just assume that they’ll share your exact views and values.

To borrow a few choice quotes:

“once you sink your teeth into Space Giraffe and witness the glory of what J Allard’s face would have looked like if you were dosing on acid, ecstasy and heroine, all at once, you’ll soon be thinking back to the 2D days of the primary colored Tempest. “

Heroine, eh? Must be bloody hard getting those wenches to melt on the spoon and into the needle…

“All of those negatives and we haven’t even mentioned the intrinsic boredom that comes with a 2D side-scroller where all you do is bombard the attacking enemy with bombs, shots, or knocking them off the map.”

Wow. It’s just a guess, but perhaps the reviewer wasn’t the best person to give this particular task to. Why not, and it’s just a crazy idea here, give it to someone who likes shmup games? And can appreciate their subtleties and differences?

“Maybe if the gameplay were more endearing to the casual gamer, or if the visuals didn’t make half of the people who play the game foam at the mouth, or perhaps if the levels weren’t designed to cheat the player..”

So, in order, a hardcore Shmup gamer’s game — of exactly the type of variety that XBL needs — isn’t designed for casual gamers, and that’s an automatic fail? Guess those same casual gamers will never make it through, say, Gears Of War, or Oblivion, or Bioshock either, but I’ll bet they got a better reception at IGN regardless of how non-casual they really are.  I’ll give them the trippy visuals, but then again it’s part of the challenge anyway. The last one reveals exactly how much gameplay time the reviewer (who’s clearly not cut out for reviews of harder titles to begin with) really gave it. Yes, the game is tough, and yes, it does take some time before you use the visual and sound cues the game gives you to best effect — something I’m still in the process of doing — but that’s not the same as “cheating” the player. It’s not even close to “cheating” the player.

Hmm. Don’t think I’ll be getting too many job offers from IGN after that little diatribe. C’est la vie.

(Reach up for the) sunrise…

Who exactly has time to listen to six and a half thousand different radio stations?Home Entertainment Issue 13

Well, that’d be me. As part of my research for an article in the current issue of Home Entertainment Magazine, I personally listened to 24 hours of each of 6,500 Radio stations, in my never-ending search for the truth*. It’s all part of a feature on Internet Radio — what it is, how to get it, different ways to listen to it, and how to stop it making that awful mess on the carpet when it’s had too much to drink. Although there’s precious little of that in the final edit, which is probably for the best. Anyway, it’s in stores now, awaiting your fevered purchase. Or purchase it when you’re entirely healthy — it’s all the same to me.
*this is, of course, a blatant lie, or as some would have it, “marketing”. For the record, I didn’t listen to 6,500 radio stations. I mean, I don’t have nearly eighteen years to spare that it would take to do all that. I did flick through some of the more interesting selections, such as Bluegrass gospel, or exactly what radio options are available to the fine people of Ghana. Interesting stuff — but you’ll have to buy the mag to get the full flavour…

I’ve got the old man’s car… I’ve got a Jazz guitar…

Wow, my throat hurts. And not just a small amount; it feels like I’m ingesting a tiny dagger at a specific point on the back of my throat each time I swallow.

You probably didn’t need to know that. To distract you, why not take a look at my latest review, live today at GadgetGuy.com.au?

HTC P3600i: “The P3600i — which for a variety of wacky branding reasons may be known locally as the Dopod 810x or CHT9100, depending on where you’re reading this…”

Fire in the sky…

So, last night, we were cooking up some roast potatoes in the oven. Not that we were cooking already roasted potatoes — they were raw when they went in — but anyway… I’m confusing myself now. I’ll start again.

Roast Potatoes. They were in the oven, y’know. And some beef. And my beautiful wife opened up the oven, at which point a massive plume of steam shot out of the oven and up to the ceiling, as is the wont of steam everywhere*. Being something of an idiot (and aficionado of air guitar), I wasn’t about to let some concert-style smoke go to waste, so I set to with my best Air Fender with a little snatch of Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water”. You know the intro bit?

Duh Duh Duh, Duh Duh DUHDUH

At which point my three year old son finished the phrase for me, albeit in the kind of falsetto that only a three year old boy can muster:

Duh Duh Duh, DuhDuhDuh… Heeheehee..

I’m not sure whether to be very, very proud, or quite worried. Either way, I nearly fell face-first into the oven from giggling…

* So I’m informed **
** By THE VOICES. You know the ones.

I got a mind full of good intentions, and a mouth full of raisinets …

Well, actually, it’s more like a head full of infected sinuses. But that wouldn’t make such a good song lyric. So while I sit here mildly amusing myself with Wired’s Questionable Wikipedia Edits Blog (found via WikiScanner), why not check out two reviews written in a less diseased state but live today at CNET.com.au?

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate version 11: “We were in for a shock when we opened the Studio Ultimate 11 box. Pinnacle’s broken from a very longstanding tradition in big box software products. That’s right — there’s actually more in the box than just a CD or two and lots of (presumably very expensive) air…”

Belkin TuneStage II:
“In order to test how this affected the TuneStage 2, we stuck it on top of a wireless router, next to a phone and within spitting distance of a microwave oven. We’re cruel to technology like that sometimes…”

Natural selection is actually only the continued survival of animals Mr. T has found too chewy to eat.

(yes, I’m borrowing other people’s jokes today. Other people’s Mr T. Jokes, to be precise)

Gadgetguy.com.au has a bunch of my recent scribblings published today, mostly to do with GPS. I’ve got no excuse for constantly getting lost just going down my own stairs, really…

Mio Digiwalker C520: “The most striking thing about the C520 is its size, and especially the size of its display screen…”

LG LN800: “We’ve heard better speech samples coming out of an Apple II, circa 1983 – and that’s just for basic words such as ‘left’ or ‘right’, or the LN800’s own unique interpretation of a roundabout, which is, for the record, ‘traffic circle’…”

Nokia 6110 Navigator: “If you’re after a phone that does GPS, steer well clear of the 6110 – unless you like accidentally steering into trees, that is…”

iPod alternatives: “Thinking of buying an iPod, either as a first time purchase or to replace that older superseded model? Well, don’t jump in just yet. Alex Kidman explains why you may be better served looking elsewhere…”
(OK, this one doesn’t have much to do with GPS, per se. And if I get murdered over it, the Apple afficionados are probably going to get interviewed by the police. Also, I ain’t gettin on no plane with that crazy foo’ Murdock…)

Be somebody (or be somebody’s fool)

It’s positively criminal that the seminal “Be Somebody (Or Be Somebody’s Fool)” isn’t available on iTunes. Stuff the Beatles — where’s the love for Mr T?Netguide Magazine. Now with less Jibba Jabba

Still, while we all wait and weep, we can console ourselves that technology magazines are still widely available. Such as (hey! A not-subtle-in-the-least segue! Who woulda thunk it?) the September 2007 issue of Australian Netguide Magazine, on store shelves now.

It’s positively bursting with goodness; my reviews within include eight of the best portable music/video players, as well as standalone reviews of Safari for Windows Beta, SearchBoth.com.au, PimpFish Movie & Picture Ripper, WebCreator 4 Pro, AVG Internet Security 7.5, FreeAgent Go, HP TX1000, MotorRAZR V3 Red, Wacom Bamboo Tablet, Golf Launchpad (PC), Shadowrun (PC, Xbox 360), AFL Premiership 2007 (PS2) and Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, Wii).

Naturally, anyone unwise enough to fail to head forth to their nearest purveyor of printed goods is a fool. Of the “to be pitied” kind.

Small print, stolen from elsewhere on the Intertubes: The Mathematical Proof for Mr. T’s Infinite Pity: For life to exist there must be a symmetric equation regarding the factors of pity(p) and fools(f) -> p-f=0. If any one factor rose to a level higher than the other, life as we know it would cease to exist. The fool factor can be decisively measured by dividing jibba-jabba(j) by tolerance for said jibba-jabba(t) -> f=j/t. With these two equations we can deduce: p-f=0; f=j/t ->p-(j/t) = 0 -> p = j/t. This equation leads to quite an interesting result. As we can see, if we hold jibba-jabba constant, as tolerance for said jibba-jabba approaches 0, pity approaches infinity. Now we all well know that Mr. T “ain’t got no time for the jibba-jabba.” In fact, extensive observational studies have been conducted and even with machines able to calculate with precision to the 23rd decimal place, Mr. T’s tolerance for jibba-jabba has been conclusively found to be 0, and therefore Mr. T’s pity is the literal embodiment of the concept of infinity.

Argh! My Eyes! My Nose! My… BLEEEARGH…

A little tip for prospective parents out there. If you’ve got a nappy-bound child who’s not been, shall we say producing for a day or two (for reasons I won’t go into here), it might be wise to invest in a canary, a gas mask and a plentiful supply of fire before attempting to remove a nappy that smells like “it just might be a movement”.

On the other hand, Luc’s very, very happy right now. And I know, without a doubt, that my olfactory senses work. Curse them.