Online Killed The Split-Screen Star

So I have a guest over Saturday night, and we’re getting our Rock Band on and having a good time. My friend is asthmatic and I’m getting over the flu, so we got tired after a bit and decide to play something else.

I get a game from my collection and pop it in, expecting to find a 2-player split-screen mode…no dice. There is online play, but no split-screen. Okay, game number two…same result…a third game, and its STILL online only…we then punt and play Gears of War 2 instead.

I don’t know if this is a Xbox 360 thing, but what happened to local multiplayer? It seems silly that I can connect 4 controllers to my 360, but there aren’t very many GAMES that support 4 people playing on the same machine.

Online gaming is fun, but there are few things are more enjoyable in gaming than hearing the wailing and gnashing of teeth of your opponent as you pop them with a blue shell in Mario Kart…and few things more agonizing than hearing your opponent gloat after nailing you just before the finish line.


The cake is a…BARRRRF!

I picked up Portal yesterday, but wasn’t able to play it until today (more on that in a moment) I had heard the game was short, and so I figured I would blow through it in a few hours, see what all the fuss was about, and get back to my consoles.

While I’m not one one those “PC gaming is dead” fanboys, I will say that if my Portal experience is any indication, the amount of suck associated with PC gaming has increased. It used to be that you bought a game, popped the disc into your PC, typed in one of those long CD-keys, installed it, and you were ready to rock-and-roll.

Now you have to first install extra software on your PC, activate your CD-Key using that software via the Internets, and hope that no significant game-farking bugs exist in the game. Granted, we had the last one back in The Good Old Days, too, but publishers seem to be more willing to let the folks who buy the game on Day 1 be their beta testers these days.

Needless to say, two of those three of those things got borked up. Steam installed with no problem, but when it came time to “activate” the key, I kept getting “Invalid Key” errors despite the fact that I had typed it in correctly. I had to submit a case to Valve’s customer service (after making a scan of my CD-Key and submitting it, grr) and then figured I’d probably have to wait until Monday. Back to Twilight Princess, then.

On a hunch, I tried activating the game again today, and lo, and behold, it worked. It would have been nice if someone had told me the problem had been fixed, but no matter. I was just happy because it was Game Time!

I start playing, and life is good; Portal is an awesome game and deserves all the hype it has received. Unfortunately, a bug poppped up after one of the levels, instead of loading the next level, the game would drop me back to the main menu for no good reason whatsoever. Greaat, now it’s Patch Time!

After poking around for awhile, it turns out the bug has been fixed, I have to restart Steam and the game in order to apply the fix. It was another case of “that would have been nice to know” that I would be more willing to let slide if there wasn’t for this client application (that I was forced to install) sitting on my PC that probably could have told me this ahead of time.

Now it was Fun Time again! I would have finished the game alot sooner if it wasn’t for the fact that I kept closer and closer to blowing chunks the longer I played the game. I can usually tolerate first-person shooters pretty well, but every so often, one comes across that gives me motion sickness. Sadly, Portal is now on the list of “games I can’t play for too long unless I want to see that Whataburger I had for lunch again coming out the wrong end.”

In any event, I finished Portal and enjoyed the game, but the varied problems I came across got me pretty “Steam-ed.” The next time I have to pick between the console and PC versions of a game, I will definitely go with the console. You pop in the disc, and it just works, just like The Good Old Days.


Let The Music Play!

I was up until 1:30AM last night playing Guitar Hero III…which added another level of fun to work today, but I made it, and on only one cup of coffee, no less!

I really like music, and I really like games, therefore by logical extension I should really like music games. And I do! Starting from the top:

Dance Dance Revolution – Probably the first music game I played since “Simon” (yes, I’m dating myself here) and certainly one of the more popular ones, my initial experience was dulled somewhat by a crappy 3rd party pad and my big feet. I currently own Supernova for the PS2 and its quite fun, though currently living on the second floor limits my stomping around. I’d have to rate it my least favorite of the games on this list mainly because of the J-pop heavy soundtrack, but its fun.

Elite Beat Agents – Touch screen + highly stylized comic-book graphics + rhythm-based gameplay + wacky stories that could only come from Japan = FUN! The gameplay is solid, and the soundtrack is a nice mix of classic and current tunes from the US pop charts. If I have anything bad to say it, its that the audio quality of the music could be better. If a sequel ever comes down the pipe, it’ll be a “Day 1” game for me.

Karaoke Revolution – You don’t need Simon Cowell to find out that you can’t sing, though Virtual Simon is available in the American Idol edition of the game. While this is more of a jazzed-up karaoke machine than a game, its still loads of fun. Check your dignity at the door with this one, which of course makes it a great party game.

Guitar Hero – I have been a fan ever since I played the first game at Circuit City. Admittedly, the game would be quite the same without the awesome controller, which takes it all the way to 11. The soundtrack, for the most part, rocks and with online play now added, the game only gets better. The downside is that non-rockers need not apply…or is that a plus?

Whether its stepping, tapping, singing, or rocking, music games will always have a place in this gamer’s systems.