“I have not seen your face hitherto”

It’s been a long time since I updated this thing with my current gaming activities. I have made some significant purchases in the past several months, most notably a Wii and a PS3.

For the Wii, I have two games: Mario Kart Wii and Okami. I played Mario Kart for a few weeks, and did enjoy it for the most part, but I haven’t really played it after the initial shine wore off. I haven’t even touched Okami, sadly. The Wii gathers dust, though it’s more a sign of my lack of time in recent months to devote to games than a dislike of the console.

I bought the Metal Gear Solid 4 80 GB PS3 bundle. I played a bit of MGS4, but that’s largely untouched to this day, and not because I don’t like the game. I’m either too busy to play games these days, or there are other games I’d rather be playing.

I got completely hooked on Pokemon Diamond from late Spring to mid-Summer. Even though I had the Wii and the PS3, the lure of Pokemon proved very strong. I haven’t finished the game yet, as I am bored of level grinding, and I don’t want to move on without a stronger party. I’ve mostly stopped playing Pokemon right now, but I’ll pick it up again later on. It’s a great game and I do want to finish it.

Shortly after I got my PS3, I got Rock Band. Holy crap, is this game good. I’d been playing it at friends’ places since it came out, so I’d been eager to get my own copy. I recently got my PS3 online and downloaded quite a few songs. I love this extension to the lifespan of my game. I played Rock Band avidly for several weeks, but after I got stuck on “Green Grass and High Tides” on drums (Medium), I decided to take a break, much like I took a break from Guitar Hero III after I couldn’t defeat Tommy Morello in the boss battle.

Recently, I was given the gift of SingStar to cheer me up during a particularly stressful week. I’ve wanted this game for a really long time. I actually don’t own any karaoke games for the PS2, which is probably surprising since I really enjoy karaoke — though I have no vocal talent to speak of. SingStar caught my eye several years ago when it was initially released on the PS2, to great acclaim in Europe. One look at the song list guaranteed a purchase in the future, but with the proliferation of SingStar themed games, the threat to my wallet was great. I decided to hold off until I bought a PS3 and could pick and choose songs to download.

I’ve been having loads of fun with SingStar. It’s harder than Karaoke Revolution, but I like it a lot more than KR. I like that SingStar plays the original music videos to the songs you sing. I also like that it’s no-frills — you don’t have cheesy, brightly-coloured characters or customisable avatars prancing about, singing along with you. It just gets on with what you’re interested in — singing. Having said that, I do like the left-to-right scrolling text and tone indicators that both Rock Band and Karaoke Revolution have, rather than Sing Star‘s bottom-to-top method.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the next North American SingStore update, which will be out later this week. I downloaded a bunch of songs last weekend, but I really hope that the North American SingStore catches up with Europe in terms of number of songs available and variety. I looked online to see which songs are available in Europe and in the States and I’m pretty disappointed that I can’t buy up absolutely every Coldplay song available for SingStar. Why is “Clocks” available as standard on the disc, yet I can’t buy “The Scientist”? Both are from the same album. Why can I buy a few songs from X&Y but not others? I would understand the licensing issue more if certain regions were denied access to entire albums, but individual songs makes less sense. The whole situation is a little frustrating. I’ve read about some workarounds whereby North American players can purchase, download, and install songs from the UK SingStore, but it all seems like quite a lot of effort just to give Sony my money.

I downloaded a few demos from the PlayStation store. Right now I’m playing Echochrome and Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War (official site).

Echochrome is this neat puzzle game in which your character, a featureless figure, wanders about a black and white world where the physical reality depends upon perspective. You can rotate the three dimensional stages around to help your character reach marked locations on the map. It’s a lot of fun. The puzzles are challenging, though having to complete them within a time limit is a little annoying.

Bladestorm is a squad-based tactical hack-n-slash action game in which you assume the role of a mercenary in the Hundred Years’ War between the English and the French. The action is largely mindless fun, though you do need to plan your attacks appropriately by selecting the correct type of troops and your approach before you rush off into a skirmish. The voice acting is quite bad, but awesome all the same. The graphics are pretty good and look great on the PS3, but the art style is uninspired. The game is mediocre as a whole, but I shamelessly admit that I’m having a great time with it. If I haven’t had enough mindless action after I finish the demo, I’ll probably get the full version.

EDIT – 20 August 2008: I have been gently reminded that I also played Odin Sphere briefly in the early part of the summer. Odin Sphere is a fun multi-perspective RPG/side-scrolling beat ’em up. I love the 2D Japanese art style, and I’d also like to call out the fantastic use of colour throughout the game. The music is also really good as well. Unfortunately, the English voice acting is gross. I originally started playing with Japanese voice acting enabled, but I decided to do a comparison with English. I quickly switched back. If you want to read a more in-depth review of Odin Sphere, you’ll find a lot on the web. I stopped playing because my ability to stick to one game and finish it is lacking, as we’ve seen from the first part of this post. :-P

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