Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Pioneers: Watching People Playing With Themselves

Catherine - PS3 game

Pioneers is a column that focuses on discussions surrounding digital culture, including  news, reviews and features of games and other webby things that are going on that are interesting. If you have something you’d like featured or think worth exploring get in contact –, or sound off in the comments below.

Last week I skimmed through potential ideas surrounding the use of YouTube and how it is having a dramatic effect on broadcast media, as much as culture in general. From there I asked you to let me know what you watch on YouTube – I”ve had quite a response, and I look forward to reading through any more you have to send me. But this week, by way of a lengthy introduction, I want to talk to you about what I do on there.

I spent the last week at my parents” house, digging through old boxes packed from moving years gone by and I found some gold (you can read my semi-erotic nostalgia stream on my twitter page). Some of the boxes I must have packed 10 years ago, and even then they only collated stuff which hadn”t been touched for a decade before that; 20 years of glorious clutter. I pulled out Gladiator”s toys, a talking drinks coaster from hit BBC Comedy “They Think It”s all Over” and a whole host of Simpsons gumpf that I foolishly imagined my brother would like for Christmas (and who wouldn”t want a homer slouched on sofa next to their television which would hail catchphrase abuse with every use of the remote control?!)

Then came a box that made me weep. Next to Timmy Mallet”s board game (genuinely looking for a small team to play through this if you are interested) and between dusty dining suits that would make even Bernard Manning looking fashionable (and he”s dead), I found my holy grail: a treasure trove of vintage gaming, my holy trinity of digital glory: a Sega Master System, a Sony Playstation and the Sega Megadrive. All in their original boxes, and surrounded with the games I used to play on them.

The first console I ever bought took me three years of saving from Birthdays and Christmases, £5 from depressed Aunt sally here, £10 from randy uncle buck there, and topped up with pocket money that I had convinced myself my parents owed me thanks to the influx of sitcoms for Kids on the Disney Channel (yes we had Sky, fuck you). Back when I first made the purchase, my family thought it would be a waste of money, but I planned it expertly – the £100 box set saw the console (second generation) packaged with Disney”s Lion King, a killer game for the under 10″s if they happen to be a fan of lion based platformers. From this day on, I was hooked (and destined for light hearted obesity).

Amongst the slightly weary cardboard, I even found a multi-tap which really showed my age – a peripheral that allowed you to add four controllers to a console that was only designed for two players.  Sure, I can”t have the same eldered shivers from the Amstrad days (we did own an Amstrad but I”ll be damned if I can remember anything beyond the rainbow striped keyboard), but even I was old enough to remember a culture of gaming that wasn”t to be shared. It was niche, a hobby for the lonely. You had to want to play, to find this world yourself, on a 14″ TV screen borrowed from some spare room or closet, twice as deep as it was wide. Gaming was a dirty secret.

Consoles have since developed from this mysterious 2D word (anyone remember zoop?) and has developed into the multi-billion dollar industry that now has a games console in almost every home, that not only plays games, but the entire media experience. Sometimes we forget just how staggering graphics are these days – sure Fifa 13″s models all look like the reanimated corpses (my favourite being United”s Raphael, who in the game looks like a lemur from the 70″s), but from a distance you could be fooled into thinking you are watching the real thing, less football arcades and more a Sky Sports Simulator.

Rio Ferdinand looking scary in Fifa 13

So realistic that they predicted his international career would be dead, so they rendered him a zombie and decided to make him look like he wanted to kill you too.

Not only this, the staggering cost of games means that to be successful, games have to be rammed with content. 20 hours minimum of gameplay to get a decent return on the 50 bucks you have to shell out for the latest release. Not only this, but these consoles are hooked up to be social, connected into the internet, and thus to players from around the world. Who can shout abuse at you. In surround sound. Mega.

These games were too long for me. Even if I had the composure to stay interested in the single player, the literally endless possibility of online gaming meant that multi-player extended the half-life of a game exponentially. Games became mystifying in their complexity and dangerous in their capacity for immersion. For a few years I had to let this world go – I couldn”t be trapped as I had been before, the potential to be lost at sea in an endless perversion of shoot-em ups, career driven sports games and open-world hero stories leave little time for a real life. Because they expect you to take on a life of someone in the game world, which they”ve made to be perfect.

Even when detached from the over-designed landscapes of in-game playing, the consoles have a life as Media Hubs to suit the rest of your life. My PS3 is chock-a-block with films and TV, whole libraries of ripped CDs, and with their own apps and services designed to deliver the artistic output of the outside world through your 44″ Plasma TV. Buying the latest console isn”t about the games you can play, it”s about buying into a lifestyle. I may have the latest console, but I rarely buy a new release, and I don”t think I”m unusual in that, especially now I have such a vast back catalogue at my fingertips.

In the last year or so I”ve rediscovered what it is to be a gamer, but I still rarely play – and even rarer still that I make it to the end of a game. Sure, works of art like Portal 2 demand that I play them, and are rightfully demolished in a glorious weekend; but these releases are few and far between, and it is only when I know what I want and I play it to completion. Then I fuck off before I”m suckered in to the extra, Downloadable content.

But I still love Video Games, and want to keep in touch. To keep on top of this world, I rent games through LoveFilm. I”m probably one of the few people to still use the postal DVD service, but for me at least, with games it makes sense. I play a game for a few days, get a feel for the thing, and send it back. If I really like the game, I”ll pick it up for cheap a few months down the line, but more often than not, I”ll shove the disc back into the envelope without a moment”s notice. I might get fm über 200 Automatenspiele für Euch getestet. to try out 4 or 5 games a month, for a couple of quid at a time. I must have the most useless collection of Bronze Trophies given to me for picking up the fucking controller. CONGRATULATIONS, it reads, YOU MADE THE CHARACTER BLINK ITS FIRST BREATH. Here”s a fucking pony.

And this is, finally, where YouTube comes in. For the most part my experience of gaming is through what I read, or more often than not, it is often through someone else playing. And I am not alone.

The king of the culture of video games videos is Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, whose “Zero Punctuation” series on The Escapist match extreme cynicism, fast paced metaphors and humour with a genuinely respected critical opinion that yearns for a return to well made gaming. Often thought of as the Charlie Brooker of video games – remarkable due to Brooker”s own history in videogames – his simply animated web series, funny as it is, does little to pioneer a format that is essentially the same kind of entertaining reviews that has been the staple of mainstream journalism in this field.

Where the innovation begins are found in more amateur attempts elsewhere. “Let”s Plays” are now a staple of the video game industry on YouTube. What these consist of are simply video feeds from people playing games, often accompanied by narration of some kind. Maybe its someone playing a game for the first time, and giving you their honest first impressions of a game, reviewing the concept and potential but not the game itself. Usually it is something in Beta that won”t be released for some time, but often it might even be something you”ve played before, but played by a critic you trust, or just like to listen to. I always enjoy seeing films before listening to one of Mark Kermode”s review, just so I know how valid my hand flapping is. I imagine driving cars into walls and watching Clarkson might be similar. Maybe even shoes and a famous woman? I don”t know that world. Sorry. But you get the point.

In other situations, “Let”s Plays” might include games played through in their entirety, from start to glorious finish. The joy of playing the game is deferred to the joy of the game being played, and receiving gratification in this manner. When I rented the bizarre dating-sheep-horror-puzzle-platform Catherine (genuinely, my full review here These cut scenes aside, playing a game to completion, often in a series of videos, becomes a staggeringly addictive way to enjoy oneself.

Mainstream TV does occasionally glance past this desire – in Japan at least, popular show GameCenter CX sees comedian Shinya Arino play through retro video games in search of their end screen. The challenges he faces are as much an endurance of will as much as he is hampered by notoriously awful thumbs, and cowardly approaches to bosses and monsters. (If you have an interest and a spare hour, I”d thoroughly recommend one of the most entertaining challenges, in which , a game on the famicon – the Japanese NES – which was designed to piss off those playing it with near impossible challenges and unentertaining sections, and the story that goes with the making of the game.) But even this has only seen a life of its own in the West thanks to YouTube. 

Next on our agenda are speed-runs, which has nothing to do with a fast and dangerous form of diarrhea. In speed-runs people demonstrating their uncanny knack of ratcheting through releases at pace, eager to prove their record beating fastest time, and ingenious exploitation of bugs and techniques that make the game move that much faster. For about a month I was obsessed with catching up on the Half Life series like this. Sacrilegious to some, but man I just wanted to know the story – I don”t have the time or the patience (or probably the graphics card) to find out what happened first hand.

Beyond this there are those who are doing so much more than just playing games. It is how these games are used that are fascinating – in PC gaming especially, where games culture their own vibrant community of modders, people add and take away elements of games, create their own worlds, maps and push the games to their limit. GMod is a game developed from this, building on the Half-Life engine, it allows gamers to mess around and create, and has spawned a whole plethora of vidoes that stretch and shoot (for a full history of GMod, check out this and other articles on the development by

But it isn”t just games that are designed to incorporate this playful exploration – on YouTube, the art is making the playing of the the games the entertainment in itself. Some like Yogzcast, among their many video types, use narrative to thread vodcasts of games together, like their quite joyous first encounters with the survival mode of Minecraft. This team has been so successful that they have even spawned their own game , having been backed on Kickstarter to the tune of half a million dollars.

One of my favourite channels on YouTube is Dan “NerdCubed” Hardcastle. What he does is play games, and has fun playing them. Sometimes he revisits old classics, and other times he gives first impressions for new titles.  But whatever he does, he has fun playing them, and entwines jokes and structure into the video, so that the joy of someone fucking about in a game – that same experience most players have after being bored and drunk, turning a game into its sandbox alternative seeing what they can do to make things not work, killing oneself in hilarious ways or just shouting at the screen when it wants you to take the game more seriously. Basically  he wants to play games and he is a joy to watch.

Aside from just playing games, he attempts other ways of coming at games, including his epic semi-tutorial “how not to suck at minecraft” series that sees him build things requested by his viewing community. Though not the absolute best architect of the medium, NerdCubed uses a light hearted and energetic enthusiasm, in what could probably be symptoms of some kind of attention deficit,  lends itself to an enjoyable way to watch someone do something remarkable. I cannot put across how much I enjoy what he does. As testament to his raw talents – and this coming from someone who spends their life drowning in the world of stand-up – I”ve spent hours catching up on his shows, and found myself even enjoying him play around in Bus Driver Simulator OMSI (and several other real-world simulators ) without a second thought that I am actually watching someone play a game that I would never play myself. For hours. Just driving a bus. Picking up passengers. Giving them correct change. Occasionally braking incorrectly. It”s hilarious.

And this is where the pioneering element of youtube re-emerges in our brief analysis: What with the inevitable demise of the print industry, there is no better place to turn for publishers than the popular blogs and video channels of those. Trusted critic TotalBiscuit now spends his days roadtesting new games, and highlighting yet to be released software as part of his “WTF” series – now well into it”s 18th Season. My new favourite game Faster Than Light I found only through NerdCubed. And I enjoyed him playing the game so much, I actually waited in line – a digital line sure, but I was potentially as cold as had I been waiting outside – for the game”s release the hour it came out.

Where before, the presence of games on the site were examples of the beautiful and the bizarre, such as the notorious Leeroy Jenkins video, or remarkable throwing knife kills. Now the games are themselves a canvas for others to use for their own production. Even South Park has made an episode almost entirely from in-game footage from World of Warcraft – take a look at this by example. The games themselves become a vessel for your puppetry. An artistic medium like any other.

Following Burnistoun”s Robert Florence on twitter, one is so often reminded of the glory days of gaming TV. His work on Consolevania made popular, gaming entertainment for this generation. But aside from this, there hasn”t been a real games culture on television for far too long. My childhood was littered with such experiences; I remember watching Gamesmaster religiously, the squashed head of xylophone enthusiast Patrick Moore guffawing and disparaging the young and the lame (in gamesplaying terms). Other memories include recorded Saturday Morning TV on my VHS, which flashed up thousands of cheats and hints for games in a highly dense minute of television – so fast that unless paused frame by frame, none of the information was visible. It was even through this that I was exposed to comedy that spoke to me – the first times I saw David Walliams was on Sky One”s GamesWorld, where contestants had to beat “The Videators”. This world may be long gone, but there is scope for a re-emergence of the format, as demonstrated by the vast variety of content available, particularly on the Machinima uberchannel – but the key is that of course, the geeks and hobbyists hat dominate the gaming landscape are not ones to watch TV. This is why their world is documented online.

So where next for Videos of Video Games online? The next stage has already been launched, and is hugely popular – a whole service outside of YouTube for watching other people play games called Having completely ignored the culture of competitive gaming that is rife in South Korea, and becoming more and more popular in the Global North, we now see this kind of gaming as sports entertainment in the service.

The key to this service is that it is all about playing games, and forefronts content according to different elements that only make sense for video games TV. Live streaming games being played by champions, popular channels, in competition or casually by people you don”t know means that you can access the world you want to access without feeling awkward. What”s more, you can find content according to the game you want to see being played, and the games don”t have to be the twitch style game, the popular shooters that dominate mainstream gaming, but focus on independant platformers and cult classics too. By building on a community exclusively tied to video games, all of which is being live streamed with incredible ease, the service has a bright future ahead of it.

It isn”t necessarily skill that is enjoyed by these kinds of viewers though, but also endurance. Foremost in this category is Charity event Desert Bus which raises thousands of pounds through riotous gamesplaying marathons, all in the name of a good cause. The game in question is “Desert Bus” a simulator spoof that sees players driving a bus across America in an 8-hour trip – and considered to be the most boring game ever created. The live streaming of such an event, made enjoyable by the vibrant personalities that take part, are a remarkable recipe for updating the tired charity events dominated by Red Nose Day and the like. And it makes sense too – why appeal to the everyman, and in the process alienating audiences while embarassing performers having to avoid subject matter and wet, shallow humour, when you can have every appeal that the interested niche could want.

Development too is beginning to incorporate live streaming as part of the process. Watching Minecraft developer Notch playing games on Twitch isn”t where his visibility ends – in a recent event Ludum Dare, he and his team were live-streaming game development to make and build a game in a weekend, again for charity. There is an endless stream of people interested in how a game gets made, and focusing on the community in this way is a fascinating endeavour to building a game”s commercial viability.

Gaming itself has been on the cusp of embracing trends in streaming technology for their ends. LiveOn, though struggling financially, allows people with very limited technology to play the latest games on the best graphics cards possible, by live streaming what they are playing. Though this particular venture hasn”t made it to the astronomical success many hoped for it, the fact that Sony recently acquired GaiKai, a similar service, there may be more for this style of gaming in the next generation of consoles.

When the culture of watching games starts to dictate the directions of games themselves, and the industry in general. One of the biggest revolutions for Halo came in the form of a multiplayer mode that recorded everything you played. To me at least, it didn”t seem that big at the time, but now you can see the passion of gaming that they wanted to tap into – now a game can barely exist without having some relationship to its community. These communities, now often found before a game is released, are the strength and joy of video games and I would argue might struggle to exist, particularly in the mainstream, without YouTube.

Finally, watch this. It”s some soft-core nostalgia with a clip of David Walliams on a segment with the Games Mistress (I don”t imagine I got the strange Masturbation references at the beginning) and think to how far we”ve come. YouTube isn”t half good for nostalgia too.

Once again, I”m interested to hear how you use YouTube – let me know in the comments, or e-mail

Pioneers: Humble Indie Bundle


Pioneers is a column that focuses on discussions surrounding digital culture, including news, reviews and features of games and other webby things that are going on that are interesting.

First off welcome to Pioneers, a new column I”ve set up which is supposed to be a space for me to talk about something interesting or different you clever people on the web are doing, and that other lovely people out there might not know about. I”m not sure I”m happy with the name of it yet, but most of the good names have already been taken or are one of those awful words of demonic offspring – like some bungled mess you”d expect when two cars collide. Words like “Netocracy” or “Infotainment”. I especially wasn”t keen to add a “2.0” to the end of it.

Needless to say, I doubt it will be particularly pioneering, but you never know, you might like it.

So, I thought I”d begin with something easy enough to talk about inspired by a release this week: the bundle.

Now for those of you with their head buried in sand (and not the good silicon type sand, casual everyday beach sand) you might have missed the fact that the games industry – and indeed most entertainment industries for that matter – have found their business models challenged by things people do on the internet. Downloading, sharing, piracy – those sorts of dreadful things. These have not been good for business, or so we have been told.

One of the ways the games industry, closest to these technological changes, have countered these practices with innovative ways of selling games for cheap. Much of the buzz surrounding these bundles have been very useful for selling, and allow people who have liked one game to try other games recommended to them as part of the bundle.

The great thing about these bundles is that they work. Quite well.

In the case of the Humble Indie Bundle – now in its sixth official iteration, but with countess other android only packs and special editions in between – the premise is simple: pay what you want, and choose where that money goes, sharing the spoils between developers, charities (Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and ) and humble themselves who now have a helpful distribution technology which is used by independents to sell their own wares.

The genius of this system is plentiful. The distribution model itself is fantastic, allowing the consumer to have a say in how money is distributed, as well as choosing how much they are willing to pay. Simplicity is key, as without having to log in, one can simply click a few buttons and for next to no money at all (as little as a penny), they have at their disposal enough games to last them a few weeks – or until the next bundle launches.

The charity aspect is crucial too – people are always willing to give a little extra if the money is going something worthwhile, as donating is already a habit established for charity. As well as this, two technology centric charities effortlessly receive an almost guaranteed revenue stream, which is particularly helpful when you have a charity that defends the rights of those notorious to some for not paying for things.

Another feature worth mentioning are the leaderboards displayed on the page ranking and rewarding the highest paid individuals (often well recognised industry types who have digital visibility from games that have successffully emerged in similar set ups) and showcasing which Operating system has paid the most, and how the bundle itself is doing. This mild form of “gamification” – a concept of making things in the real world like games to make difficult or boring tasks fun – adds to proceedings. Beating the average unlocks an extra game and other content, with this average changing – by paying extra, you make it that little bit easier for others to afford that average.

The games themselves tend to already exist, and are usually quite popular before they make it into the bundles – which makes the whole thing that much easier to sell; games which have their own audience bring this audience to five other games they might like, and together the entire industry benefits. Plus, and I think this is a really neat feature for the bundle, if you”ve already pirated the games, you have a way to make amends of your guilt financially.

Speaking of piracy, back when the second bundle was being released, Jef Rosen (one of the developers) revealed to TorrentFreak some of the opinions from an anonymous survey he”d set up to find out why people would still pirate games they could legitimately get for free using bitTorrent, and the results were simple: torrenting was “extremely convenient way to transfer files”. They added the distribution officially to their service with phenomenal success, saving themselves bandwidth costs in the process.

Further revelations from Rosen revealed other habits about those unwilling even to fork out a penny – for some it was idealogical

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(sticking it to the man) but for most it was convenience, while others wanted to share files with friends having already paid on behalf of them all. For those without the means to pay however, there weren”t other options – this includes those too young to have their own debit cards, or where services like google checkout and paypal weren”t working; having found statistical amounts of pirating around 25% the response from Humble was perfect: “”How many legitimate users is it ok to inconvenience in order to reduce piracy?” The answer should be none.” No need for DRM, “we will just focus on making cool games, having great customer service”. Their one request – if you are going to pirate our games they ask you to shout about the games to friends, and “please consider downloading it from BitTorrent instead of using up our bandwidth”.

The Humble

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Bundle is not the only bundle that”s out there – the premise has been copied and expanding upon all over the place including current offerings “Bundle in a Box: Deep Space” and Indie Royale”s “Back To School Bundle” developing the theme, with many more out there no doubt.

Could this work for every release? No. it”s difficult to imagine an IP like Assassin”s Creed being released like this – not until the game has received a separate release and is being re-packaged for a few extra pennies or in anticipation of the next instalment, but there might be something of which developers should take note.

These sales work because of the reduced costs in making the games that keep overheads low – and the fact that most of these games have already been successful. These platforms offer extra publicity that really push their recognition into a mainstream that they may or may not already have, and thus help fuel sales of future games these companies produce; many of the games end up getting pledged into open source (allowing the games” codes to be seen by anyone, and thus handing over the keys for unlimited meddling and community adaptation).

The real issue is not how to stop people not paying – but making sure your stuff gets seen by the people willing to pay at all.

Now to the Games.

Short, pithy reviews of the games featured in this, the sixth Humble Indie Bundle. Once again, it”s a cracker, with some really rather wonderful favourites from the Indy development world. Really it makes little difference what I say when you can pick the games up for yourself for next to nothing at all, but for what it”s worth:

I must have played for hours when I bought it for the PS3 a few years ago – a breakout clone with some extra tools, it”s a classic retro game souped up with 007 gadgets, with a couple of handfuls of barbiturates shoved up its jacksie for good measure. Frenetic gameplay with an equally pumping soundtrack guarantee some extreme arcade fun. If you need a soundtrack for your next gym session, this too comes bundled with the purchase. Instant Classic.

Shatter - screenshot from the game

“Shatter” just makes me want to wet myself

S.P.A.Z. (Ships, Pirates and Zombies) is a game that according to its developers harkens back to the kind of games that people don”t make any more; with mod options built into the game, this thing has got the legs to last you if that”s what you want; if flying through space, building fleets and mining asteroids sounds like fun to you, then the fantastic presentation and general design should make this an ideal purchase, but didn”t necessarily push my buttons.

is a game I”ve enjoyed far more than most I”ve played in the last month. Set on a mining station in space, the game sees you play a rotund labourer armed with a laser tool that allows you to grab shoot and throw objects to solve puzzles and save the world. It has a gentle learning curve, metroid-esque in its interwoven deployment and every time I think I”m getting to the end of the game I”m suddenly thrown into a whole new level and given an upgrade to mix up gameplay; I don”t care much particularly for the story, but this puzzle platformer develops its core mechanic so well, and so beautifully, that for me it is an essential purchase. Worth buying the bundle for this on its own.

Rochard. More fun than it looks apparently.

Rochard makes my balls tingle. It must feel so nice to let your genitals loose in zero gravity.

seemed enjoyable for my brief stint; you play Arkwright, an inventor, who can create water-creatures to push buttons and open doors. Working out the patterns and rhythms of certain buttons allows you to progress through the game with a steam-punk aesthetic that lends the game an awesome atmosphere to carry off what is essentially a solid physics puzzler; it didn”t grab me the way that Rochard has, but once again the puzzle-platformer genre appears to be the auteur”s choice for game development, allowing the content and form to be delivered succinctly in a package that will pass away a couple of hours with delight, if not with a little frustration and difficulty.

is a great little RPG, where you design a hero and thrust him into a world of magic, goblins and swords, delve into mines, plunder treasure and trade in villages accompanied by your faithful customised companion – in my case a wild cat called Lawrence. I stopped myself before I could get hooked, knowing full well that if I played much more I would be lost for days in the labyrinthine worlds, desperate to level up beyond my means. The splendid visuals matched with simple controls are a killer combination for someone looking for an arcade style RPG, but I alas, could not cut it having to eventually engage with real life. God I miss Lawrence.

Bonus Extra: Dustforce is I suppose a “clean-em up”, a fast paced platformer where you must throw yourself from wall to wall, speed cleaning mansions with ninja-like aplomb; Due to my shitty PC I found the controls a bit stressful for my chubby fingers, so I didn”t get a chance to explore the games full potential, but I imagine the theme is developed to satisfy the most dexterous of digits- it certainly looked great and very easy to jump into if so inclined.

So, that”s it. I hope you liked it. If you have anything you think is interesting in the way that the internet does stuff, let me know. I”ll do a bit on kickstarter and throw in a review of FTL next week. Do give the bundle a go, it”s wicked fun.

This One Just Happens To Ring My Bell, A Little Too Well


For those who remember Rez there will always be a place in your heart for the experimental genre which mashes music with gaming – less on cue button mashing from the likes of the Guitar Hero series, and more refined styles which fuse themselves with music in some way. For Rez, it was the shoot-em up, which casually built a soundtrack around how you played. For Chime, it is the gently addictive puzzle game upon which the soundscape is based.

Comparisons with Tetris will be inevitable given not only the trippy visuals that attempt to lure your attention away form the game board, but the key mechanics are very similar in Chime. By placing a series of geometrical shapes into larger blocks, you force them to disappear and score points – the added mechanic being that once removed, the vanished squares change the board’s colour, and it is this drive to cover the board in its entirety which fuels progress. Though it takes a couple of plays to understand really what’s going on, once you get it you really get it, and your innate tetris instincts take over. It is astounding how primal that bastard has drilled into your psyche – and it will never leave.

The twist in this case however is that whilst you are placing pieces, a white line washes across the screen, and in time with the music, chimes your pieces like a rudimentary xylophone – a feature not unlike modern synthesized instruments such as the Tenerion or its infinitely cheaper flash alternative. Though fun at first, this element does little to really take the game to another level, as it feels largely uninvolved with the gameplay, adding little but minute harmony, and without much intention from the player. Where as in Rez, you could conceivably adapt your play to style the music in certain ways, Chime gives you no control in this regard – or at least not to the extent that you would go out of your way to play differently.

However this isn’t important – the game itself is hugely addictive, especially in its manic multiplayer modes, though a little underdeveloped in terms of length. Any gamer worth their salt will have this completed with a few hours, and beyond the ten levels (each with 6 gameboards) there are unfortunately no exciting derivative modes which would easily extend play time. Though disappointing for a title costing £7, its length is somewhat remedied by a promise to give some of this money to charity, and with this in mind I still believe it is well worth the investment – though only if you are prepared to lose a few days to its beautiful simplicity.

Richard ‘Hitch’ Hanrahan

King of Kong – High Scoring Documentary


King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters Dir: Seth Gordon

Cruising on a wave of geek chic, this documentary is an interesting portrayal of a vintage obsession, the drive and determination left over from a voracious decade – that of the 80’s, with its shoulder pads, oversized mobile phones, and importantly arcade machines. Though there were countless classic arcade games – Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Q-bert – this documentary focuses not on the culture of retro gaming, but one game in particular – Donkey Kong.

Following the brief history of competitive retro gaming, the documentary focuses in on Billy Mitchell, a world renowned arcade gamer and originator of many a record. Through his success we are gradually shown the world of Twin Galaxies, an institution devoted to global highscores, and an official body for competitive retro-gaming. Within this world, colourful characters emerge, each taking their small role in what could so easily be a carefully scripted opera, and one with a suitably synthesised 8-bit soundtrack.

The film itself is very cleverly paced and expertly pieced together, keeping you at a certain distance from the true narrative for the first third of the film, before slowly luring you in with real-life characters that seem to be from another galaxy. As each absurd brick is placed on an ever teetering tower of bricks, the inherent drama and fierce rivalry of a world – which is so outlandishly irrelevant to a wider community – becomes ever more fascinating. The result is a surprisingly powerful documentary, that is undoubtedly entertaining, with humour which can be enjoyed by even one without a passing interest in gaming.

Some Alternatives To Buying A 3DS

pokemon blue s

This weekend sees the launch of the new Nintendo handheld the 3DS. At £200 3DS is an expensive prospect but frankly for any self respecting handheld gamer an inevitable one. So I am here to help, below are my selections to keep the handheld gamer within you subdued until you have saved up enough money or until Lylat Wars 3D forces you to buy the 3DS. Whichever comes first.

Play Pokemon!

Pokemon Black and White were just released at the start of this month. There are no real surprises to be had in this game other than the visuals that have been slowly evolving over the last 15 years to result in the now stunning environments that we see in Black and White. The core game play is very similar you have to build up a pokedex for the professor by going on an adventure that involves; gym leaders, sinister organisations, a rival, elite four, battling pokemon, catching pokemon, training pokemon, evolving pokemon and legendary pokemon. The pokedex is limited to around 150 again all of which are new pokemon, making the “gotta catch ‘em all” tag line slightly more attainable than the 650 pokemon that could have been available. So if you are a pokemon fan you should certainly be buying this game, in fact you probably have, because it is the best core pokemon game to be released to date, I know you have been playing the same game for 15 years but trust me it really is worth it once again.

Dig out your Game Boy Advance!

The Game Boy Advance is one of the best gaming consoles to ever come from Nintendo. Alongside the Gamecube the GBA made the early ‘00s one of the best times to be a Nintendo fan. The GBA is 10 years old this year and in celebration I will be digging mine out to remember some of the best handheld games ever made. I invite you to do the same, relive your well spent youth by revisiting Wario Ware Twisted, Metroid Fusion and Golden Sun. The actual 10 year anniversary is in June and nearer the time I will have a full celebration of the best games up here on the site.

Dare I say go to the App Store?!

One of the best handheld gaming experiences I have had over the last couple months has not come from the mighty Nintendo. It pains me to say this but it’s true. The Apple App store has become one of the biggest contenders in handheld market. Apart from enjoying the addictiveness of Angry Birds and Doodle Jump I wasn’t really all that impressed; I never thought I would buy a game from Apple that was anything more than a distraction for bus journeys. Then I discovered Battleheart, a really simple RPG that has a hugely demanding difficulty curve and an impressive array of power ups which you must combine to build your “team”. The visuals are simple, designed to produce the best from the iPhone without pushing its limits like a lot of big titles. The most impressive thing about Battleheart is the fact that it grasps the mentality of an iPhone gamer completely; the game can be picked up and played for an enjoyable 15 minutes on the bus or a few hours in front of the television.

So there you have it, whilst you are saving up for the 3DS those are my selections to keep the handheld gamer within you subdued.

Finlay Niven