Putting The Bands Back Together: Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band

I am fascinated that both Guitar Hero and Rock Band have actually returned after a multi-year hiatus, much less that both have come out within weeks of one another! On top of that, both take such different angles in their comeback special!

Let me state first that I have yet to play either either franchise’s newest entry. But I’ve kept curiously up on news and features, and find so much of this compelling. As such, I felt inspired to write about it. Wanna read it? Here it go.

guitar_hero_360

Early preview for 360 port of Guitar Hero 2

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Sucky Sony Customer Support

In the latest console wars, I chose PlayStation 4. Late last gen, my PS3 was the preferred gaming device (PS+ and my 360’s loud-ass fan were contributing factors), and their first-party stuff interests me more. So when they went on sale at Target in December of 2014, I bought one. Had I known what kind of customer support I was going to receive, I may have bought a different console.

Playing Bloodborne (an awesome game), I noticed at times my character stuttered when I was pressing up on the left analog stick. It was intermittent so didn’t really bother me. However, the issue kept getting worse. And as I was getting further in the game, those hiccups became costly. Then it became noticeable in Batman: Arkham Knight (another awesome game).

bloodborne

Great game (as long as you can move up)

I had no choice but to contact support. After all, new controllers are freaking $60 – the price of a big-budget, new-release game – and I’d only had mine for about 8 months. And some Googling showed that it was a very common problem, so I assumed Sony was well-equipped to fix their faulty hardware. Continue reading

My Hate Letter to Amiibo

Dear Amiibo,

I know you’ve suffered a loss in the family recently (Satoru Iwata RIP), so I’m a little reticent to bring this up now. But damn it, I have to get this out of my system.

Amiibo, I hate you.

I wish you’d go away and never return. And this is not a baseless hate. Allow me to explain. Continue reading

Silent Hill 2: The Second Time

I haven’t kept up with this blog lately. I’m sure it’s the only blog on the Internet with that issue, right? It’s mostly been for good reasons: I’ve been working on a screenplay that I’m pretty excited about and I really want to hammer out the first draft ASAP. But I’m still gaming, so I wanted to speak on that a bit.


My wife and I are playing Silent Hill 2 right now. It’s a game I really didn’t like when I reviewed it. I didn’t find it scary, and a lot of it annoyed me. But recently, Games Radar awarded it the best video game story ever, so I decided to give it another shot. In fact, we chose it over Bioshock Infinite (buy here), which I picked up for $30 a month or two back.

We’re playing the Xbox port – Restless Dreams – which I bought years back at a Hollywood Video closing. Thankfully, it’s backwards-compatible with my 360. It’s also a pretty fun game. My wife hates scary movies, but can handle scary games. Having her next to me, jumping at things, actually enhances the experience. Plus, she loves maps; Silent Hill 2 has awesome maps that are updated constantly as if you’re drawing on them.


Is there a gathering of games more animal-shelter pathetic than the Xbox Marketplace’s Indie Games channel? I like to browse it every so often, and download trial versions of games that look interesting – knowing full well the rate of success is low. Even still, I’ve found some really cool stuff in there: Quiet Please, DLC Quest and Dead Pixels instantly come to mind. Add One Finger Death Punch to that list.

If it was described as Kung Fu with a stick person, you’d think it was terrible. The description isn’t wrong, but it misses all the awesome things. The game is violent, it’s fast-paced, and throws so many interesting things at you. I’m inspired to replay levels until I get gold medals. Basically, it’s Kung Fu with an “if I knew then what I know now” philosophy. And it’s a buck. So if you have an Internet-connected 360, I suggest you buy it. And look up those other games, too – as well as You Will Die, Ophidian Wars, Shoot 1-Up, Fast Fast Laser Laser… Ya know what? Maybe a list is in order. I’ll add it to my to-do.

The Steam Summer Sale was an amazing thing, per usual. The addition of virtual trading cards is just another way to get you to buy more, even though the things are quite useless. I grabbed a few games. To The Moon is an RPG I’ve been wanting forever. McPixel is best described as point-and-click adventure games meets WarioWare. I got some other stuff, but won’t mention them as I haven’t played them yet. I did sink more time into The Binding of Isaac, though. I’m lucky to get to the third dungeon before dying (though I’ve earned several trading cards).

And it’s worth noting that one day, out of all the games I own, I chose to start playing Duke Nukem Forever (buy here). As obsessive as I am, I spent about half my time trying to knock in all the billiard balls and getting a high score on the in-game pinball table – both of which have just terrible physics. But I did actually have fun seeing what Duke’s been up to. Still, it remains to be seen if I’ll go back to it.

And going back to Rock Band 3 (buy here) is what I did last night, around 2 years after I last played it. As my wife played Animal Crossing: New Leaf (buy here), I plugged in my guitar and rocked it for a while. I was surprised both how many songs I have and how quickly I got my skills back. I often play on Hard, and moving my hand along the fretboard was still intuitive.

Activision Buys Competition

This is not a story about games I’m playing or pining for new games I want to buy but won’t. This is the type of story you can’t tell if you’re beholden to game publishers for ad revenue for your site/magazine. However, as far as I know, everything I’m stating in this article is true. I’ll try to link to evidence where I can.

In my You Missed The Boat article from two weeks back, one of the games I brought up was Aggressive Inline. To me, it was the best extreme sports game that isn’t part of the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater trilogy.

Aggressive Inline was published by Acclaim and developed by Z-Axis. It came around the summer of 2002. The next game by that partnership was the controversial BMX XXX, which released during the holiday season 2002. While Aggressive Inline (PS2) received an 85 Metacritic score, BMX XXX only managed a 54 Metacritic score.


BMX XXX

Reviewing it for Game Informer, I gave BMX XXX its highest score – 78 out of 100. Even still, I talked about its awful collision and the steps backward it took from Aggressive Inline.

So what happened? Well, on May 22, 2002, Activision announced it had acquired Z-Axis. This would have meant all the development work on Aggressive Inline was done, but the fine-tuning for BMX XXX would have occurred while the developer was in the process of being bought. And BMX XXX smacked of a game where the developers failed to give it the polish necessary to go from decent game to great game. That near-submission time is very important.

What did Activision do with the second-best extreme sports game developer? Not a hell of a lot. Z-Axis – which would later be renamed Underground Development – put out a handful of games before it was closed in 2008: X-Men: The Official Game, the PS3 version of Quake Wars, and Guitar Hero: Van Halen. Kind of a weird assortment of games for the studio to be handed, isn’t it? It would seem like Activision merely bought them to keep them from making competition for its own games, then let it wallow before pulling the plug, doesn’t it?

Maybe there are reasons. Maybe not all the Z-Axis talent came along when Activision bought them. Maybe, once acquired, Activision broke up the band. Maybe Z-Axis was only ever good at making extreme sports titles (they also developed Acclaim’s older games, Dave Mirra BMX and Dave Mirra 2 – both of which received low-80s on Metacritic). But it just seems fishy, doesn’t it? Well, let’s look at another example.


DJ Hero

Not many of you bought it, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the DJ Hero franchise. Instead of plastic guitars, DJ Hero and DJ Hero 2 had you manning plastic turntables, crossfading between two songs and adding effects. It’s honestly pretty fun, and you’re affecting the music more than in Rock Band. However, it maybe didn’t feel as cool or translate to the game-playing masses. The series sold poorly.

Around the time the first DJ Hero was in development, another company had a similar idea. Seven Studios was working on Scratch: The Ultimate DJ. They had even partnered with experienced DJ equipment manufacturer Numark to make their turntable controller. It looked more authentic than Activision’s counterpart, and featured tracks by Beastie Boys, Kanye, and Outkast.


Scratch: The Ultimate DJ

Strangely, Activision would buy Seven Studios in April 2009 – before either game released. Not surprisingly, Scratch’s publisher Genius Products and Numark felt threatened enough to file a lawsuit against Activision. After all, Seven was Scratch’s developer, and being owned by a company who’d announced a competing DJ game didn’t bode well for Scratch’s future.

The lawsuit begat countersuits, until it was pretty obvious Scratch would never see release. Meanwhile, Activision’s diversion play worked, and DJ Hero released without competition in October 2009. Around that time, they reduced the size of Seven’s staff by 50%.

So what did Seven Studios do while flying the Activision banner? While it’s rumored they pitched in on various franchises such as Guitar Hero and DJ Hero, the only game I could find they developed and Activision published before the studio was shut down in early 2011 was a piece of Wii shovelware entitled Space Camp.

So here are two fairly obvious instances of Activision buying studios working on competing games, and then doing next-to-nothing with them before unceremoniously shutting their doors. Yet EA is still considered the worst company in America? Even after the debacle with Infinity Ward? What’s a company gotta do to win an award around here?

I Played 110 Games This Year (A List)

I like to track things in my life: weights lifted, events experienced, and just about everything related to my video game collection. Last year, I added a listing of every game I played that year. Of course, I made one again this year. On the off chance someone cares, I’m publishing the list, along with (exactly) 8 words on each one. Enjoy, and have a happy and safe New Year!


1. Mega Man 2 (NES) – An NES fave played for music video footage
2. Super Paper Mario (WII) – Played last in ’07, came back to beat
3. Mario Kart Wii – Another lost relic I dusted off and replayed
4. Def Jam Rapstar (360) – I was ranked #5 on “Can’t Truss It”
5. 1000 Heroz (iPhone) – I literally played this iPhone platformer every day
6. Bastion (360) – I like indie games that you can download
7. Batman: Arkham City (360) – Not quite Asylum, but darn good. Excellent story
8. Binding of Isaac (PC) – I’m a naked baby, armed only with tears.
9. Dead Space HD (iPad) – High hopes for my first iPad exclusive. Nope
10. Dungeon Raid (iPhone) – My favorite match-3 game ever. Still a go-to


11. Flight Control HD (iPad) – Another iPad exclusive I didn’t play too much
12. Jetpack Joyride (iOS) – Played on both iPhone, iPad for great fun
13. Kirby Epic Yarn (Wii) – Still haven’t beaten this adorable platform game yet
14. Mario vs. Donkey Kong (GBA) – Thanks, 3DS Ambassador program, for this 22 minutes!
15. Portal 2 (PS3) – If only Kate would finish co-op with me
16. Puzzle Agent (iPhone) – It’s Professor Layton meets Fargo. I beat it
17. Skyrim (360) – On 02.06.12, my epic 280 hour quest ended
18. Super Mario Land 3D (3DS) – Deserves more than the 5 hours I’ve played
19. Uncharted 3 (PS3) – You ever beat a game out of spite?
20. WELDER (iOS) – I like word games; just not this one


21. Angry Birds: Space HD (iPad) – This definitely rikindled my love of Finnish fowl
22. Aces Cribbage (iPad) – I like cribbage. Got a problem with that?
23. Bioshock (PC) – Crapped out on 360, gave PC a try
24. bit.trip Complete (Wii) – Man, was I NOT into this game collection!
25. Chu Chu Rocket (iPhone) – Ended up really liking this Dreamcast puzzle game
26. Don’t Run With A Plasma Sword (iOS) – Another “runner” style game. Okay but not memorable
27. Dungeon Village (iOS) – Kairosoft makes awesome titles, including this one here
28. Fairway Solitaire (iPad) – Of course golf and solitaire would mix, silly
29. GP Story (iPhone) – More Kairosoft. I like cars that go vroom
30. Homefront (360) – Only military console FPS I played in 2012


31. Journey (PS3) – Beautiful. Innovative. Short. Kind of like my wife.
32. Infinity Blade 2 (iOS) – I decided I don’t like Infinity Blade much
33. Mahjong Towers Touch (iPad) – Shanghai. Nabisco World. I dig these tile pushers
34. Mass Effect: Infiltrator (iPad) – Liked this way better than Dead Space iPad
35. Metroid Fusion (3DS) – Loved on GBA, played again on Ambassador Program
36. Pac-Chomp! (iOS) – A fun twist on Tetris Attack style puzzlers
37. Persona 3 FES (PS2) – First Persona I played since original on PSone
38. Rock Band Blitz (360) – Harmonix relives the majesty of my beloved Amplitude
39. Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (3DS) – Mario Land 1 didn’t really feel like Mario
40. Swordigo (iOS) – Played a couple minutes; only remember it’s ugly


41. Jamestown (PC) – I love shmups. This one isn’t crazy difficult
42. Temple Run (iOS) – I recall LeBron James loves it. I’m ambivalent
43. NFL Flick Quarterback (iPad) – Cool concept to get behind the QB’s helmet
44. Portal (PC) – Loved it on console and tried on Steam
45. Real Racing 2 HD (iPad) – There’s a theme here, with meh iPad games
46. Rock Band Reloaded (iPhone) – Rock Band is pretty decent on iPhone, too
47. Catherine (PS3) – Sexy, mature game about climbing towers in briefs
48. Katawa Shoujo (PC) – Visual novel about dating handicapped schoolgirls. It’s true
49. Russian Dancing Men (iOS) – Rhythm game which features the infectious “Amazing Horse”
50. Contra Rebirth (Wii) – Sure, I’ll try a cheap, easier Contra game


51. Pushmo (3DS) – Probably my favorite 3DS game. Haven’t bought sequel.
52. Wooords (iOS) – Make many words with colorful fridge magnet letters
53. Rayman Origins (PS3) – Beautiful and intuitive. Only played a short while
54. Antrim Escape 3 (iOS) – One of those “escape the room” puzzle games
55. Bugdom 2 (iOS) – A very poor knockoff of Banjo Kazooie type
56. Falling Fred (iOS) – You fall. As Fred. Until you kill him
57. Mario Kart 7 (3DS) – This formula has yet to get old yo
58. Mole Cart (iOS) – Let’s rip off Mario Kart cuz we’re China!
59. Starfox 64 3D (3DS) – Sadly, I have only played a couple minutes
60. League of Evil (iOS) – Fun Meat Boy style platformer on iPhone/iPad


61. Mass Effect 3 (360) – Ended with a wimper, but what a series!
62. NBA 2K12 (360) – Love me some Visual Concepts hoops, says I
63. Dark Souls (PS3) – Games don’t get much better than this one
64. Epic Mickey (Wii) – Kinda disappointed by the filler in this one
65. Parasite Eve (PSP) – Didn’t play on PSone, but it’s darn good
66. Final Fantasy VII (PSP) – I still have yet to beat this classic
67. Mega Mall Story (iPhone) – Another fine Kairosoft effort. Build your mall, y’all
68. 10000000 (iPad) – Puzzle and RPG join with hip retro graphics
69. Batman: Arkham City Lockdown (iPad) – Infinity Blade knockoff. I’m burnt on Infinity Blade
70. Dynamite Jack (iOS) – Overhead stealth. Gotta go back to this one


71. Lollipop Chainsaw (360) – Not as endeering as it should have been
72. Pizza vs. Skeleton (iOS) – Roll over bony bastards as a large pizza
73. Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (GBA) – No game was played more on my 3DS
74. Bad Piggies HD (iPad) – Creating suicide machines didn’t do much for me
75. He-Man: The Most Powerful Man in the Universe (iOS) – Dripping nostalgia, trace elements of fun. It’s okay
76. The Room (iPad) – Solve your way through a giant safe. Maybe
77. Twist Pilot (iOS) – Console dev superstars: Don’t phone in iOS games
78. Driver: San Francisco (PS3) – Very creative driving game with some design issues
79. Puzzle Craft (iPhone) – Close to a Facebook game, I completed anyway
80. Terraria (PC) – Sorry, but video games need more than digging


81. Dishonored (360) – The muse for this entire blog. Hells yeah
82. Spelunky (PC) – Instead of buying on XBLA, free PC download
83. Punch Quest (iOS) – Really like this runner with a brawler soul
84. Street Fighter X Tekken (iPad) – Not a bad fighter for being on iPad
85. Quantum Conundrum (360) – Gal behind Portal does something Disney-esque. Still playing
86. The Walking Dead (PC) – Yes, I bought this on Steam’s Black Friday
87. Sonic Generations (360) – Mixes 2D and 3D Sonic, and mostly succeeds
88. Asura’s Wrath (PS3) – This dude is pissed! It’s like we’re twins
89. Quiet, Please! (360) – Endearing little indie adventure game on Xbox 360
90. Rayman: Jungle Run (iOS) – Pretty, playable and perfectly suited for portable pleasure


91. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (360) – Jumped off wagon with this, but so good!
92. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (iOS) – Freaking Vice City! The whole game! On iOS!
93. Extinction Squad (iOS) – Like those old Nintendo LCD games, but funny
94. Super Mole Escape (iOS) – Like Doodle Jump, but in reverse. Make sense?
95. Robot Wants Kitty (iPhone) – Metroidvania game where a robot wants the kitty
96. Waking Mars (iPad) – Intriguing, attractive game. A bit bland so far.
97. Angry Birds Star Wars HD (iPad) – 2 played out properties, but still really fun
98. Party Wave (iOS) – Surfing game by the dude behind Final Fantasy
99. Fast Fast Laser Laser (360) – Indie game blending Bomberman with guns and swords
100. NBA 2K13 (iPad) – Don’t own it on console, just iOS. Decent


101. Karoshi (iPhone) – This platformer/puzzler’s goal is to kill yourself
102. Slydris (iOS) – Tetris or Lumines, but without needing to hurry
103. Tiger Woods 2012 (iPad) – Robust golf game to take with you anywhere
104. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (iPhone) – Oh FPS and iPhone. You shouldn’t be together
105. The Curse (iOS) – Variety of puzzles and a creepy villain’s taunting
106. Penny Arcade: Rain-Slick Precipice 3 (iPad) – Impressive old-school RPG that I’m definitely hooked on
107. Beat Sneak Bandit (iPad) – Rhythm based sneaking is a pretty neat concept
108. Sonic Jump (iPhone) – Elevates the Doodle Jump genre immensely. Free now
109. Wordament (iPhone) – Boggle with a leaderboard and Xbox achievement tie-in
110. Mutant Mudds (iPhone) – The 3DS action/platformer is now smaller and cheaper