E3 2012: NOT a let down

Was this a disappointing year for E3? Over the last several years, E3 has tried to return to its rightful place as reigning champion of video game conventions, and although PAX has stolen some of their thunder, E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) has done a very good job of revitalizing what they began.

This year was lacking the big shock of new console announcements. It wasn’t just a rumor, it wasn’t “we have it on good authority” – it was a known commodity that Nintendo’s WiiU would be talked about, because it had already been announced. But rather than give us a ship date or price, rather than tease us with something we’ve been wanting for over a decade (Killer Instinct 3, anyone?), we got some cute mini-games and a sneak pack of a Wii U dressed in black. The Sony conference plugged a new God of War, talked at lenth about WonderBook, then rang the death knell for the PS Vita by not announcing a price cut. Microsoft impressed a few people with Halo 4’s story intensive trailer, and at least they didn’t announce a new product to compete with the 3DS or the PS Vita. Microsoft had the coolest “previously unannounced” (although leaked) item in the presentation, SmartGlass. SmartGlass is an enhanced offering of the Xbox Companion App for Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8.

So, no, it wasn’t amazing or jaw dropping… but, there are some exciting things happening in all three camps. I’m not a huge fan of Wonderbook, but the idea can be expanded upon and will find a niche – it may even encourage some people who dislike reading to get more interested in the written word, in the same way that e-books have ignited interest among young tech enthusiasts. No, it wasn’t the most exciting year for E3, but I’m confident that it wasn’t even in the top ten when it comes to “the worst.” I’m fairly pleased with what we’ve got to look forward to, and if you’re not, then I encourage you to go back and re-watch some of the pressers(Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft) and pick something out to enjoy – it’s not all bad news!

A Parents' Guide to Gaming


Today, according to the American Library Association, is National Gaming Day at your Library. As a person who has grown up gaming, I see the confusion in some parents’ eyes as they try to determine what games are right for their children.

Your kid already knows what they want – but just because it’s a game doesn’t necessarily mean you should cave in, especially if you’re the type of parent that pays close attention to the movies your child watches or music they listen to. Why should video games be any different?

So today, I’ll be at my local library presenting, for parents who wish to attend, A Parent’s Guide to Gaming. I will be discussing ESRB ratings, as well as how the individual consoles handle their parental controls. For those unable to attend (the extreme majority of the people who view this website), I’ve prepared a few links that might help you.

Below are videos from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada – now these videos are a little old, but the majority of the information is still the same. I wish I had the ability to record today’s demonstrations, which will all show case the latest revisions of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. Since you can’t attend, below the videos are also step-by-step guides from the manufacturer’s themselves, describing in detail how to manage the Parental Controls of each console, with their latest updates.

Video Demonstrations
Configuring Parental Controls video for Microsoft Xbox 360
Configuring Parental Controls video for Sony PlayStation 3
Configuring Parental Controls video for Nintendo Wii

Written Guides
Setup Parental Controls step-by-step guides for Xbox 360
Setup Parental Controls step-by-step guides for PlayStation 3 (PS3)
Setup Parental Controls step-by-step guides for Wii

Review: XBLIG: Nomis: Legacy Islands

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
After recently winning a free copy of this game in a Twitter giveaway, I thought it would be nice to give it a quick review!

Nomis: Legacy Islands itself is a ton of fun, having a lot of that platforming fun that has disappeared from console games in recent years. As one reviewer already stated, the main character is very much a “Nathan Drake” wanna be, which is apt: I found the game to feel quite a bit like the poor man’s shadow complex – another game featuring another “Nathan Drake” like character (and, in that case, voiced by the same actor that plays Drake!).

The side scroller and platformer mechanics are fast and fluid. The game has an excellent pace to it, which helps when the levels seem to sprawl in a ‘not-quite-linear’ fashion. While all roads may lead to Rome, you feel like you have a choice in how to get there! The ability to angle your shots with the right analog stick makes the game automatically stand out from other shooters… it suddenly feels more like Contra III on the Super Nintendo, rather than a classic Contra rip-off.

I hadn’t played the game before it’s first ‘overhaul’ – but graphically it’s very well done. Treated with a lot of care so that nothng disappears into the background or is not seen before it attacks you. Some of the ‘backdrop’ girders make me think I have to go around, from time to time, but that’s a matter of learning the level design on my end.

The sound is well done, and the little extras like robots crying out when they kill you, or your character making comments at the end of a level add a great deal to the game.

My biggest complaints come directly from the combat system. If you do not hold down the right trigger when you fire, your shots disappear from the screen. You can’t fire repeatedly as you approach a target, because you must wait for the first shot to hit them! The first boss battle also got very frustrating – if you ran out of ammunition, he was practically impossible to get to. I went to the in-game store to buy some ‘extra lives’ during this battle, but even after they ran out, I just kept respawning. Is there a mechanic where you’re supposed to have unlimited lives during a boss battle that wasn’t mentioned? Was this a bug? I may never know. The tutorial mentions how the Stealth does not work against bosses, however it certainly aided me in getting by certain parts. Tiny other things, like typos (“then” instead of “than”) were evident, but as someone with a degree in English, proof-reading is a curse, sometimes!

From reading other reviews, it seems that the game has seen some enhancements since it first launched, and with a few more, this game will be undeniably fun. For $3, there’s absolutely no reason not to pick this game up, it will bring back a lot of the fun that you haven’t had since your last run through Contra! At the very least, give this Xbox Live Indie Game’s free demo a shot!

Review: XBLIG: Zombie Sniper HD

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
For a buck, Zombie Sniper HD is one of your better options of the Zombie games on Xbox Live Indie Games.

80 Microsoft points gets you three game types: an Arcade Mode, where you simply just shoot as many zombies in the head as you can within a certain time limit. A Challenge Mode, which is similar to Arcade Mode except that it has a classic shooting gallery feel – enemies walk by in pre-determined rows and paterns – still, you have a target number of kills and a time limit. Then there is “Story Mode” – in which you protecting unwitting civilians (see: zombie bait) from becoming zombie lunch.

To accomplish any of these tasks, you take your sniper rifle in hand, and looking down the scope, just start doing what you do with zombies: turning their heads into piñata party favors and watch all of the fun leak out! You have a targeting reticle on the screen, which you scroll left, right, up, and down with. To zoom in, pull the left trigger, to fire pull the right trigger. And that’s where the problem lies… that’s the entire game.

While the game rewards you for multi-kills, “Nitro kills,” and Killing Sprees, there just isn’t enough going on. If you’ve watched the trailer on the top of this page, you’ve seen the entire game. Zombie Sniper HD itself, in the Arcade Mode instructional screen, the voice over seems to think this game type is a fool proof formula for addictive gaming, claiming you’ll never get tired of shooting zombies in the head. Unfortunately, there’s not much truth to that.

The game seems bug free, the sounds are good, and the HD sprites are cartoon-like by design, but very good looking. All animations are fluid, whether it’s the shambling of the zombies or panning of your crosshair. My biggest visual complaint is that, in some cases, that black aiming reticle disappears into the background; having the option to choose your color from a palette of more visible colors (yellow, white, cyan, green, etc…) would be a nice touch. However, the game really loses it’s luster quickly, and in the end is a great time waster while you wit for your pizza rolls to come out of the microwave.

For a dollar, like I said, it’s not going to break the bank, and it does give some variety. I believe a mode that is timed, but has no target number of zombies to kill (3 minutes to beat your own high score, for example) would have been an invaluable addition to the game. But as far as the overall “fun” the game provides as it stands? It’s a good thing it’s only 80 MS Points.