Playtime's Over is where I talk about video games. Generally, these will be reviews I write about games I've played past and present. 

Entries in playtime's over (2)

Saturday
Dec312011

Games of the Year 2011

The new year will bring with it some really great titles that I can't wait to play. Mass Effect 3 and Bioshock Infinite being at the top of that list! 

2011 was really the year that I got into gaming frequently, intensely and with a great appreciation. I can't believe the number of games that I've actually managed to finish and appreciate (with reviews to prove said appreciation). I'd like to express my sincerest thanks for those of you who took the time to read those reviews and give me feedback. I love doing this and I'll keep doing it for the foreseeable future. 

I recently was part of a Games of the Year post for The Financial Post, where I said what I loved about Portal 2, Bastion and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Check it out for my thoughts on those experiences, because I think they're not to be missed! 

In addition to that, I wanted to say a bit more here on Playtime's Over about a few other games that are worth your time.

Batman: Arkham City

 It really led the rush for me this fall in terms of great games. Batman: Arkham City did so wonderfully what its predecessor started: Allowing us to be Batman. Though its plot lacked a sense of direction at times, the tools it gave us to be the Dark Knight were incredibly fun. Moving around was a pleasure, fighting was expanded and more fluid--and the world itself had more to offer beyond the main game. 

Assassin's Creed: Revelations

I feel this game has been overlooked because of the sheer exhaustion this fall gaming season has brought us. Don't be mistaken, Assassin's Creed: Revelations is just as exciting and authentic as the games that came before it. The mature elements of the story, binding the themes of regret and legacy into well-crafted characters and the beautiful backdrop of Constantinople make this a worthy experience. Best of all, there are answers to all the questions long-time fans have towards the series. 

Magicka

This is a great game that did what only a few games chose to do with their stories. Make us laugh. The hilarious take on an epic adventure, Magicka was an independent release for the PC and delivered great sound, a funny script, varied combinations of magic to use and unique levels to wander through with your friends. Check it out on Steam! 

There are many more fantastic experiences out there that I hope to try. If there's anything you should know about my reviews on this site--time is of no consequenece. A good experience is a good experience no matter when you try it.

In fact, I'm playing a tiny little game called Skyrim right now. Just a small, independent title, really. I'm sure I'll be able to bang out a review tonight if I really tried hard enough. Note: The preceding sarcasm actually serves the opposite function of telling you that my Skyrim review will probably be some months off! 

Again, thank you for all your patronage and have a safe and happy (and game-filled) new year! 

Tuesday
Sep272011

First Consoles

I bought an Xbox 360 yesterday. It was the first time I bought a console with my own money and of my own accord. It was probably the shortest thought I had given to a purchase in quite some time. I’ll let you know one thing about me: I’m a cheap guy who comes from a family that believes in saving money.

Growing up, I want to say that I was deprived of the gaming luxuries. I thought about this post and how I would bring up how I was really underprivileged as a kid living in North America, not getting the games that he wanted or the latest consoles/toys. Having to make do with hand-me-downs and really struggling as the son of immigrants. Then I would end it with this brilliant self-actualizing moment where I have taken control of my entertainment and interactive pleasure (I’m aware of what it sounds like) and I have it all now. A PS3, an Xbox 360 and a Wii I don’t touch (I’m aware of what it sounds like).

the X's BoxThen I realized it’s a great piece of bullshit. My family got me many gifts. I’ve played more than my fair share of consoles and games as a kid. Let me take you back a little and then we’ll get to the moment of realization when I opened that Xbox yesterday--because there was one, even if not the American dream of upward mobility.

The first game console I ever owned, I will never forget. You never forget your first, of course. Bright red, leaving a city I was leaving for the last time. I’m making this far more dramatic than it actually is. It was 1996 and I was leaving Columbus, Ohio--where I had lived for the past three years. As a parting gift, the families we knew there got me and my sister a red Gameboy--not a Gameboy Color as people would often confuse it years later when that iteration came out. This was the original brick--but a red brick.

That gameboy was in my hands 6 years after it had been released and I would enjoy it for many years after it was obsolete. I played a black and beige Mario that didn’t even look like Mario. I played a tiny stick figure that was supposed to be James Bond. I played the original Mortal Kombat and Pokemon Blue. And I was thrilled. But looked around and saw everyone else with much fancier systems.

Three years later, I begged and pleaded--as only children are wont to do (and should)--for an SNES. I had seen friends back when I lived in Columbus with that system, often going over to their houses to play with it. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released a year after the original Gameboy in North America. I got it 7 years later, in 1998. I was beyond happy. Games like Aladdin, Super Mario World and Killer Instinct were amazing to me. Nintendo had, by that year, introduced the N64, bringing three-dimensionality to the characters I had played on dot matrix.
 
I hope they don't fight when I'm not looking.
Naturally, I was the last to have that one as well. Four years after it came out, in the year 2000, I got an N64. Starfox, Donkey Kong and Perfect Dark were my life for a very long period of time. Make no mistake, I was happy, but kids--and parents, if you’re listening, be aware--they will always see what other people have and are incapable of enjoyment when they see that their friends have something better. It is innate--there is no zen, no peace in practicality when you’re a child. I would constantly beg for more games, to buy used games, to buy really old games. This tactic would only work about a third of the time. 

I went a very long while without buying a new console after that N64, whether handheld or TV-based. Computers were getting faster and more graphically impressive--but not the ones I had. I was doing what I did with consoles, starting to enjoy computer games from ages ago. I played and replayed Age of Empires constantly, starting almost six years after it had been released. Parents, take heed again, when a kid can be absorbed into a good game, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s new or not. My parents didn’t have to spend a fortune to keep me entertained, but they always made it seem like they did. As they should have, but we won’t get into how I was parented here.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I jumped into the next generation of consoles by getting a Wii. Some would argue that a Wii (and the clever will note that I got it a year after it came out--the shortest span of time ever between launch and procurement) isn’t next-generation, but it was certainly a step up from what I had been playing. The year that I played with my Wii (restrain yourself) were incredibly enjoyable, but by then, I had taken to writing and keeping up to date with the news--so even I felt slighted when the Wii had lost its fervour as a non-hardcore machine. What really bothered me was that same feeling of seeing what everyone else had on other consoles--and the longing of those experiences with my system. It wasn't about buying games--indeed, I had bought more games for the Wii that now sit uselessly in my basement than any other system I owned. It was about the experiences I lost.  

Vowing to redeem myself one day, it took a hellish month in my final year of university to make my parents realize that I needed a stress reliever. We decided to get a PS3 for the family (but mainly for me). If you’re curious as to what I did to pull that off, kids, try working yourself so hard that you get up at midnight, walk outside your door (with the security system fully armed), stand outside for a minute, then go right back to bed--all while your father is watching you from the living room like you’ve gone insane.

That PS3 thrust me into the world of modern gaming. I still got it years after it came out, but they were still making good titles for it, still improving the system. I felt proud to own a console next to my peers after 20 odd years.

I'm gonna like this thing. Then yesterday, I bought an Xbox 360. Firstly, it was a strange experience to just hop out of bed one day, walk into a video game store and walk out with a box--all on my own. I had, up until that point, never bought a console with my own money. One experience stayed the same though--the familiarity with something I had never owned. I knew how to use and set it up. I got that same pleasure of unboxing it as I did when I was younger. I enjoyed that controller, as if I had never handled anything different. Side note: While they said it was a quieter version than the previous SKU of the Xbox 360--this thing still makes quite the whir. 
 
It feels good to take control of my experiences. Perhaps this Xbox is a new chapter in my entertainment, representing my hard earned money towards my pursuits and my ability to never miss out on an experience that I wanted to have. Interesting note, when I bought it yesterday, I saw two kids walk in looking to buy a game. They proceeded to dump a huge mess of two dollar coins on the counter, money that appeared to have been collected over quite some time. Indeed, one of the kids said he had 500 quarters in another jar. That was the kind of gamer I never was when I was a kid. The one who would scrimp and save to take matters into their own hand. Sure, I got everything late, but that’s because I never worked to get everything sooner.

Even now, let’s not forget that the Xbox 360 is six years old (even though this particular SKU is only a year old). Maybe I buy things late so I can appreciate it all when the hype has faded. One thing’s for sure, you’ll be seeing a much richer list of games on Playtime’s Over from here on out.