The Power of Starkiller (Article)

Another post from Kotaku expanded to form a full article. It's a good one though. Explains why I'm not really that much of a Star Wars fan these days.

Starkiller is, quite simply, one of the most powerful Jedi or Sith that we've ever seen. And this represents a problem. Because each and every single interpretation of the Jedi/Sith, be it in movies, TV shows, games or comics, has had the powers they command become more and more powerful as time goes on. And the reason for this is audience demand.

Essentially, people demand more from the Jedi/Sith. Basic lightsaber fights and characters barely moving a rock with their minds simply won't cut it. We want more, dammit! So that's what we get, no matter how ridiculous or absurd it is. That's why we get the Clone Wars, with Jedi doing stupid flips and blowing up entire buildings with a handwave.

And THAT'S why we get someone like Starkiller, who is so much more powerful than everyone else, along with the handwave of "oh, the other Jedi were this powerful too, we just never saw it".

Example time! In the original film (A New Hope), the only real lightsaber fight was slow and tension-filled, between a former student and his master. Each one took careful, well-placed swings at each other, much like real swordfighters would, trying in a serious manner to kill the other. It was a gritty piece of drama as much as it was a neat piece of sci-fi action.

The numerous saber battles in later films, say The Phantom Menace, were incredibly stylized but ultimately pointless ballet routines. They look like the combatants are more interested in showing off than actually killing each other. There's no tension, no real atmosphere. Just some awesome stuff happening with no real emotional depth to it.

This is actually one of the main reasons I've stopped being such a huge fan of the series. It's more about the spectacle of the fights and the flashy graphics then it is about the actual characters.

Well, that and they stubbornly refuse to make a new sequel to Jedi Academy. I wanna know what happens to Kyle Katarn, dammit!

Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley (Review)

Decided to rewrite my initial review, since it wasn't very professional. Or good. Ahem.

Comic Jumper is the third game from Twisted Pixel, and much like their other games, it is extremely silly, very funny, wonderfully imaginative and ultimately flawed.

The basic premise of the game is quite simple. You play Captain Smiley, a comic book character who's title is so bad it's almost immediately cancelled, and have to make guest appearances in other comics so you can earn enough money to relaunch your own. It's a little more complex then the other games by the developers ("Help an everything-eating creature to the end of the level" and "constantly blow yourself up to reach the end of the level" respectively), and the game does have a surprisingly strong plot, which is apt, given the subject material.

As you might expect, the humour in this game is brilliant. There's an awful lot for the game to make fun of, from the star on your costume being a pawning fan of your arch-nemesis 'Brad', to Captain Smiley complaining about how it's bad for his image to be shooting female robots, right down to mocking the people who write in to the 'Reader's Mail' bit of a comic. This is, without doubt, one of the funniest games ever made, and it's surprising how far the darkly-rich writing and snarky comments carry things.

Gameplay-wise, the whole thing feels like Contra, with you spending most of your time running from left to right (or in the last few levels, right to left) while shooting in the direction you point the right control stick, occasionally switching
from the standard 2D-platforming-rendered-in-3D to run through a short 3D-on-rails section. When you're not shooting stuff, and you're almost never NOT shooting stuff, there's a few incredibly basic fist-fighting sections, but these are brief and lacking in any real depth, and you'll quickly be back to holding down the right trigger and desperately trying to avoid the bad guys.

Which leads to the games biggest problem - the difficulty. This game is incredibly difficult, and not in a good way. Instead of challenging you with enemies that attack in different ways and with various strategies, the game just has the same half-dozen enemies throughout, and just throws more and more of them at you. This quickly becomes absurdly frustrating, as you are constantly trying to move left and right while jumping just to avoid getting hit by any of the dozen projectiles on screen at any one time while also attempting to shoot the enemies throwing the projectiles. You're moving in one direction and shooting in the other, and it's nigh-impossible to do this for long until you get hit. And when you do get hit, it inevitably throws you off and leads to you getting hit again, and before you know it you've lost a third of your health, which the game stubbornly refuses to let you regain without dying and going back to the last checkpoint.

This 'artificial difficulty' - ie: not creating a challenging and intelligent difficulty curve, instead just throwing more stuff at you in the hopes of simulating one - is the biggest problem this game has. It becomes even worse in the later levels, when the stages are in black and white, meaning that you can't even see the projectiles half the time. The end result is a game that will often have you putting the controller down and doing something else for a while just so you can calm down. It's that frustrating.

One of the other problems with the game is that it doesn't really take advantage of the concept as much as it could. The idea of 'jumping' into other comics is an intriguing one, but aside from your own, you only visit three other types of comic - a
Conan-style adventure, a return to the Silver Age of comics and a backwards-running excursion into Manga territory - and these don't quite have the imagination to stay interesting across all three levels you spend in each. Two of the levels in both the Conan and Manga comics are almost identical, which is somewhat disappointing. While there's some clever ideas, the game really could have benefited from one or two more styles, or maybe just a little more variation in the styles they do have.

In the end, there's an abundance of ideas in this game. The problem is that they focused too much on the humour and story and not enough on the gameplay. The end result is a game that's mired down by repetitiveness and an unforgiving difficulty. It's still worth trying, but it could have been so much more, and that's one of the worst things you can say about a game. Still, Nordya was hot, right?

Comic Jumper (Review)

Another review. This one's really short, but that's because there's not a whole lot to say about it.

Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley - 7/10

This is, without a doubt, the funniest game I've played all year. Bar none. Sorry Telltale, Sam & Max came a good second, but Comic Jumper has the most wonderfully childish yet dark sense of humour I've ever come across in a game.

Unfortunately, the whole 'game' aspect is where the problems lie. It's basically a 2D sidescroller where you move with one control stick and control which direction you shoot with the other stick. Which is fine in practice, but the game decides that 'increased difficulty' means 'more enemies with their projectile attacks that are nearly impossible to dodge'.

So while the demo level (the first one) gives you a good example of how the game plays, it utterly fails to give you a grasp of how difficult it is. And it is difficult. Especially on the Manga levels, where everything's in black-and-white and you can't even see the projectiles half the time. This is not conducive to good gameplay. This is just clusterf**king.

When it's good, it's brilliant. When it's not, it's an anger-inducing smorgasboard of frustration. And that's how I'd sum up the game in three words. A hilarious clusterf**k.

Also, the 'He Ain't Even Married' achievement can go f**k itself.


Hey ho, another update.

I haven't had much free time as of late - work has been manic, and I suspect will continue to be for the next couple of months - and what little free time I do have is spent on a couple of projects that don't leave much room for anything else.

One of these projects is a series of new in-sleeves for my PS2 games, as the old ones are getting on a bit and I've been able to come up with some much nicer ones. Basically they're just a wallpaper that's been stretched across a DVD cover that I've just slapped a template over, but you'd be surprised how well that works sometimes. I'm about halfway through those ATM, and the hardest part has been finding decent images/wallpapers/fanart/whatever to use. I've had to get a bit inventive at times, but overall it's coming along quite nicely.

Another project has been with my PS3. You may have noticed the gamercard on the right side of the website with all my trophies on it. Getting as many of those as I can has certainly been part of it. The other part is transferring videos, music and wallpapers over to the system. I'm really not sure why I've been doing this - it's not like I don't have the files on my PC - but sometimes it's nice just to be able to watch Doctor Who on my TV without worrying about having to put them onto DVD first.

Finally, I've been sleeping. A lot.

So anyway, that's been my life as of late. Nice of you to ask. :)

Review - Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

I wrote this review for the SwapGame website after reading one that someone else had written that was very negative.

This is a game that, by all rights, shouldn't exist.

It's a sign that big developers are actually listening to gamers, which is an incredibly bizarre thing in this day and age, though it's a very welcome development, if you'll pardon the pun.

Given how much of a split reception the 2008 reboot of the series received, it's no surprise that Ubisoft has taken the Prince of Persia series back to what gamers feel most comfortable with. A new entry in the Sands of Time series (or rather, FOUR new entries, since the Wii and the two handheld versions are completely different games) that doesn't require players to have actually played any of the other games, allowing both old and new players to enjoy their new title. And slotting it into the 7 year gap between Sands of Time and it's previous sequel Warrior Within means that there's much more flexibility with what Ubisoft can do with the series and the characters within.

Unfortunately, while they've made a technically solid game, there's a lot of missed opportunities that prevent it from being the complete return to form that it could have been.

Starting at the beginning, the story is rather one-note and is rather basic compared to the rest of the series. The Prince is visiting his previously unmentioned and never referred to again brother Malik (well, this is a midquel) to learn how to become a leader. But his kingdom is attacked and he's forced to unleash a mystical army that ends up being an evil force that wants to crush everything in its path, and it's up to the eternally un-named Prince to fix things. It's a tired concept and the game doesn't seem to try to make it any more interesting. The whole thing is full of clichés and it's very hard to shake the feeling that we've been here a dozen times before, with the Prince even saying as such in a nice touch of self referential-ism.

The gameplay, on the other hand, is where the game shines. It's a wonderful return to the style of the original Sands of Time, and there are few things as satisfying as successfully making your way across an entire courtyard by climbing along the walls and sliding down a banner. There's even a few new tricks, such as the ability to freeze water and use that as platforms to swing across, or causing lost parts of buildings to temporarily return for you to clamber all over. A few small niggles bring the experience down though. Unlike in any other game, when running along a wall the Prince does so in a sort of rainbow-like arc, which is incredibly annoying when trying to time your way across a series of traps. The Prince also seems to have gained several abilities that he'll forget before his next game, which feels somewhat anachronistic-al. But once you get used to the changes, the game becomes much easier to enjoy.

Until you reach the combat, however, which is the games biggest failing. While before the Prince had free flowing and smooth combat sequences, here the fights are little more than button mashing sequences. There's no finesse to the fights, and no satisfaction to be gained from enemies who only have one attack and constantly try to use it on you. There's also so many of them in each fight, up to 50 at a time, that you'll quickly learn to dread these sections. The now obligatory XP system allows you to learn several abilities, and you'll quickly find the two that are most effective at getting through these fights quickly and will constantly use them, rendering the whole system rather broken.

There's not really much else to say about the game. The music is good as always, the graphics are impressive (except for the Prince himself, who now looks like a football hooligan), the level design is pretty good (if a little illogical when thought about in real-world terms) and the voicework is generally acceptable. But it's hard to shake the feeling that this isn't a game made by the original developers. Rather, it's been made by their biggest fans who desperately want their tribute to be held up and thought of as being as good as the games that inspired them. And while this tribute might be good - and don't get me wrong, it IS a good game - it's not up to the exceedingly high standards of the original trilogy.

But if they want to make more such tributes, well... I wouldn't say no.

A Tale of Drivers

From a comment I made at Kotaku when someone said ATI was better than nVidea.

Let me regale you of a tale of a dark and dangerous world - a world called 'drivers'. Our 'hero', if one can call him that, goes by the name of Catalyst, and no matter where he goes, he is endlessly followed by the tales of the games that were rendered unplayable due to his lack of prowess. It is a sad and unhappy tale, full of misery, woe and anger, mostly mine. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

Once upon a time, a young gamer tried to play Bioshock with his outdated PC on too many times and found that the motherboard had died. Sad and frustrated, he convinced his parents to lend him the money so he could purchase a brand new PC, one that would be capable of playing not just Bioshock, but also Crysis, should the mood take him (though it never did, sadly).

This shiny new PC came with nearly everything that PC Gamer magazine (the UK one) recommended, including a relatively new ATI Radeon HD 5850 card. And when he got the PC up and running, it was wonderful! Bioshock could run for longer then 15 minutes at a time! FEAR looked shiny and impressive! Half-Life 2 was much the same!

And when the time came to update his drivers, our gamer did so without nary a question. "New drivers", he told himself, "means better performance with games!" The gamer, if you have yet to realise, is not the smartest tool in the workshop.

Update his Radeon drivers our young gamer did, and now they proudly displayed the number 10.2 on their shield. And the gamer thought no more about it, playing the same games over and over again.

But then the young gamer, in an RPG mood, tried to play Neverwinter Nights. Denied! The game crashed before it even reached the main menu! The gamer was puzzled. The game had always run on his old machine. What had happened? Had the final patch not applied properly?

And so he went through the lengthly process of re-installing NWN and its two add-ons. Remember, the game was released back in the days before DVDs, so in total there were 5 CDs to go through. To say it was inconvenient is somewhat of an understatement. To say it was a massive pain in the arse is much more appropriate.

Yet, once he had re-installed the game and fully patched it, the problem persisted. And so, frustrated and annoyed at the wasted half an hour he had just spent, the gamer turned to the internet for help. And, eventually, he found it, in the form of other gamers complaining of the same problem while possessing similar graphics cards.

The diagnosis? "It's the Radeon 10.2 drivers", they cried! "It interferes with the Aurora engine and stops it from running!" And to the gamer's horror, this meant that any game that used the same engine, or had engines developed on top of it, would have the same problem. Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2, Jade Empire, and even The Witcher! A shocking oversight!

With the 10.3 drivers, the problem was then fixed, and the gamer could enjoy running around the town of Neverwinter and becoming the greatest rat-catcher in history. But this was not the first of the gamer's run-ins with Radeon. Oh no.

After a while, Psychonauts went on sale on Steam. For 99p, no less! The gamer bought it at once and played through it again, safe in the knowledge that it would not suffer the same issues as the PS2 version he had previously acquired.

And it was glorious indeed! The resolution was wonderful - 1440 by 900! The mouse was, as always, much preferred to the joypad, and the world of Whispering Rock was more vivid and wonderful than ever.

But then came Gloria's Theatre. And the game collapsed into nothingness. The framerate, which had until then been wonderful, collapsed into single digits and never recovered, no matter where the gamer went in the game. Almost instantly, the game halted. No longer could the gamer keep playing, his saved game forever corrupted. An unavoidable tragedy.

And then the gamer did something he would do for no other game. He updated his Radeon drivers to the very latest ones (10.4 by now), and restarted the game from the very beginning. A new save game overriding the old one fixed the issue immediately, and he resolved to try again.

Two days he spent returning to his last known place in the game. And played the other levels he did, until there was nowhere left to go but Gloria's mind. And once he did so, the game did once again start coughing blood and clutching at its chest. The framerate plummeted, as did the gamer's hopes of finishing the game. He has yet to replay it, not wishing to play through the rest of the game again only to be disappointed.

And this is still not the end of the story! Yes, there is more woe to come. For as the ATI Radeon grew 'stronger', so to did its ability to break games. 10.5 caused horrific graphical glitches with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (and StarCraft 2, though it had yet to be officially released).

10.6 was particularly hard on the gamer, as it completely broke any game using the any of the Quake engines. This meant the first three Quake games, SiN, the Star Trek: Elite Force games, American McGee's Alice and Jedi the Star Wars games Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy were no longer playable. There's a possibility that this has been fixed in the recent 10.8, but even so the gamer was not able to enjoy slicing the arms off Stormtroopers as a bearded mercenary for a significant amount of time.

Radeon has his moments, but they are far, far overshadowed by his crippling failures and constant neglect from his mentor and ruler, the evil vizier AMD, nee ATI.

And sadly, this is where our tale ends. The gamer has endured much frustration with ATI Radeon and his devilish drivers, and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. The fiend's lack of respect for those that support him and unwillingness to listen and respond to the criticisms they give him are his undoing.

Next time, go nVidea. Then at least the video at the beginning of Bioshock will be true.

Update: I did update to 10.8 (I had to, in order to play Sam & Max 305), and it didn't fix the Quake 3 thing. Grr.

Games You Realise You Hated (Forum Post)

Shut up, I've been busy. But anyway, this is exactly what the title says: a list of games that I realized I hated while playing them.

EDIT: There's a problem with the font that means half the post is in teeny-weeny-eye-strain-o-vision. I'm trying to sort it out, but since it involves retyping everything, my chronic laziness is stopping me from fixing it particularly quickly. Sorry.

EDIT2: Ok, think I've fixed it. Huzzah.

Halo - About 8 hours in, I encountered the Flood. I also realized that I'd just spent the last hour running through the exact same corridor that had been copy-pasted about 300 times. This was around the time I abandoned the game and moved onto something more fun. Looking back on it after I'd finished painting the cat, I realized that aside from a precious few levels that take place outside, the majority of the time I spent playing the game was me running through corridors, all of which looked extremely similar, fighting exactly the same enemies and using exactly the same tactics - shoot everything that moves, wait until my shields are nearly gone, hide behind cover, wait for shields to regenerate, then rinse and repeat. I also realized just how bored I'd been with the game. The series may have a great story and a thrilling arc, but if the gameplay itself is less fun then an hour-long session of Sudoku, then I couldn't care less.

Tomb Raiders I - V - For obvious reasons, really. Playing the Core Design'd Tomb Raider titles in modern times is very, very boring. The games are very slow paced, and while that works for some titles (stealth games like Splinter Cell, mostly), an action packed 3D platformer should be fast paced. TR was most definitely not faced paced. I skipped the first TR in favour of its Crystal Dynamic'd remake (which I very much enjoyed, PoP-style platforming needs to be done in more games), so I have played through about two-thirds of TR2. But I really couldn't keep going past the ice levels, because my arms had fallen asleep by this point. So yeah.

Timeshift - I've actually finished this. But that was on my old PC, when I could only play games for 15 minutes at a time before my graphics card overheated and my PC switched off. Playing it in small chunks, it's surprisingly manageable. Playing it in larger chunks, which my new PC allows me, lets you realize how little fun the game actually is. The time manipulation mechanics are fun at first, but after the novelty wears off, you're left with a distinctly average shooter with a few fancy 'hey, look how cool we are' gimmicks. Or rather, one fancy gimmick, that isn't really all that fancy, because in order to make it through the game, you will be using slo-mo pretty much all the time. And that gets real old, real fast. Which is a little ironic really, when you think about it.

Exodus From The Earth - Chances are, you've never heard of this. Good. It is quite possibly the most boring, tedious, badly translated attempt at a modern FPS I have ever played. Almost every cliché in the book is here, from fighting through a factory/warehouse to a confrontation with a CEO in his office that turns sour, and the action itself is hopeless because you can never tell if you've actually hit anyone with your shots. There's no response - no blood, no screams, nothing. You just have to keep shooting in the hope that you're actually doing some damage. Add in the fact that I genuinely got stuck at one point in the game and had no idea of where I was supposed to go, and I literally just went 'sod it' and gave up. Which is not normally a good thing.

Painkiller / Serious Sam - I've lumped these two together because they're extremely similar (and both have had multiple sequels that changed bugger all but still charged us full price for the privilege), but you can also include pretty much any FPS to come out of Germany along with them. Apologies to Yahtzee, but the reason he likes these games is the same reason I get fed up with them - they're all about killing. And I don't know about you, but when a game does nothing but throw wave after wave of enemies at you, it doesn't take long for you to get tired of it. Especially when there's little to no variation in the enemies or their attacks. I mean, at least Doom had the odd keycard-fetch-quest to liven things up.

Dead Space - Initially this game actually got off to a good start. Then my machine needed reformatting and I had to restart the game. To my utter shock (and indifference), I realized this game did not match up to how good my mind thought it was. Although the game had its moments (and time you enter a zero-g or de-pressurized area, mainly), the vast majority of the time you just do exactly the same thing. Wander around with your gun drawn shooting the arms off stuff. And while that may describe around 95% of games out there, Dead Space somehow managed to make it incredibly repetative, unexciting and routine. The second you see an enemy, you inwardly sigh and start carving all its limbs off, and that's why I gave up. Also, those little insect-like creatures? Screw them. Screw them all.

XIII - I put this solely down to the controls. The game is an utterly horrific console port which, aside from the standard mouse-look that all PC games have to have by law, completely fails to grasp how a PC FPS should work. As well as the movement feeling unnaturally sticky and unrefined, you can't select weapons with the number keys 1-5. Instead, you have to cycle through them using the PageUp and PageDown keys (or Z and X, if you're feeling fruity). That means that it takes far too long to change weapons, and the same goes for the inventory (though that's a little more standard in games). The game has a great story, being based on a cracking graphic novel series, and I spend a great deal of time on it, but the controls really did cripple it and I just couldn't take any more. Shame, really.

The Nomad Soul - Again, this is down to the controls. The Nomad Soul, also known as Omikron, was by roughly the same guys who made Indigo Prophecy (aks Fahrenheit) and Heavy Rain. It attempted to mix several different gameplay styles, such as a 2.5D fighting section, an FPS section and, IIRC, a driving section, all connected by a third person bridge that also served as the main part of the game. Unfortunately, the fighting section is absurdly difficult to control, the FPS section is woefully bad, the driving section lackluster and the third person section incredibly clunky. There's a brilliant story here, and there's a body-swapping mechanic that worked so well the makers of Driver have stolen it, but the over-ambitious attempt to combine so many genres into one just doesn't work. Another shame, but if a game constantly kicks your ass purely because it won't let you play it properly then it's no wonder no-one bought it.

Why Adventure Games That Kill You Died Out (Article)

Not quite a forum post, but a comment on a Kotaku post. The post itself showed two videos containing the many ways to die in Space Quest III, and I felt moved to write the following in response.

EDIT: This post got some interesting feedback. I may include some of it, along with my responses. Maybe.

There is a reason why games like this are no longer made.

Although they were far from the only company doing so, Sierra titles really were the stand-out champions of 'games that kill you for no reason'. Unfortunately, while many people like games that perform this service, it did an awful lot to hold games back.

The primary issue is right there in the title - killing you for no reason. If you were to walk right into the path of an enemy, then fair enough, but games like Space Quest would often kill you just for walking to a new screen. Half the time you wouldn't know what was there, and you were severely punished for merely being curious. This, as you can imagine, would be incredibly frustrating for an average player, and would easily convince them to just give up and try something else.

The second problem is the genre. Adventure games never have, and never will, lend themselves well to instant-death situations. In action titles, it's much more acceptable, but adventure games are generally known for making you think your way out of a situation, and suddenly throwing in a stealth section or limited windows of opportunity just don't gel with the rest of the gameplay. And don't even get me started on items that you have to pick up or you can't complete the game.

The third problem is checkpoints. Adventure games like Space Quest didn't have them, so when you died (often unfairly) you would either have to reload a previous save or restart the entire game. And since half the time you didn't know whether an area was dangerous or not, sometimes you could end up losing half an hour, or worse, more, because you hadn't saved for a while.

Modern gaming has solved a lot of these problems. Adventure games now rarely (if ever) let you die, and if they do, they let you retry from a point in time not too far back. This makes the games far more enjoyable, and means that players can feel free to explore without worry of being unfairly punished.

I'm focusing on adventure games purely because that's what's featured in the videos, and that's immediately what people will think of when they read this topic. Action titles have also gotten much easier, but there's a different discussion.

Series that need to end (Forum Post)

Yes, another post from a forum. Just be grateful I'm actually posting something.

First off, I'm a single player gamer. I play games for their offline aspect. That's what I will be judging the following on. Don't get angry or irritated at my choices if I pick one you enjoy playing onlone with your friends, because I'm not picking it for that.

Halo - The single player campaigns for all of them were hopeless. The first game literally had copy-pasted corridors that took me hours to get through, and the sequels did nothing to improve the gameplay - if anything, they worsened it by combining the health and shield bars into one, placing you in uninspired and repetitive levels and having a plot that made little to no sense.

Final Fantasy - I wouldn't mind this if they just focused on the core games. But no. They have to make sequels, and prequels, and utterly unrelated spin-offs (Tactics and Crystal Chronicles, I'm looking at you). The stories are pretty much based on the same ideas with new spins, the battle systems have just gotten worse with each one and the latest is just an embarrassment. I do not want to spend 20 hours learning how to play a game. Which leads me neatly on to...

Grand Theft Auto - And by this, I mean the more recent, 'realistic' ones. There's a reason most people prefer Vice City to GTA4 - it's just plain more entertaining. The recent games have been far too gritty and realistic to be much fun at all. The Ballad of Gay Tony was a good step in the right direction, but it's not enough to save the series. Either give us back the zany, over-the-top cartoonish GTAs, or stop making the damn things.

Splinter Cell - This one's bound to be a bit controversial, but hear me out. I thought the first four games were great fun. Sneaking along, performing stealth kills, moving the bodies out of sight... Tense, but extremely rewarding. The new game is nothing like that. While I'd expect a few changes, that's not what Conviction gives us. It's an almost completely different game to the ones that came before it. And that's why this series need to 'die and go away' - because it's not Splinter Cell any more.

Worms - Remember this? Way back in 1995, a few guys made a great turn-based combat 'simulator'. Team17 then spent the next 15 years remaking the same damn game over and over again. 15 years. I'm sick to death of the damn series, I'm sick to death of the cheating AI which always, without fail, uses grenades. I'm sick of all the cute voices which grate after around 30 seconds. And most of all, I'm sick of finding exactly the same game on every single console under the sun.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Do I really need to explain this? Yes? Oh. Well. Ever since Sonic went into 3D, he's pretty much split the fans. I'm with the camp that thinks everything since Sonic Adventure was rubbish. The character could work in a 3D world, but the only game that's really come close to showing that is Unleashed, and you spent half the time in that in 2D-style sections, so it's hardly the best example. There's been a change lately though - Sonic 4 looks like it could be good and Sonic Colo(u)rs might be interesting. But I have little faith for either of these, and if they aren't any good, then this franchise definitely needs to have both barrels. (Yes, I watch ZP*. Who doesn't.)

Assassin's Creed - Heh. Kidding.

*Zero Punctuation. Here's the relevant video.

The Trouble with T.Davies

Another Doctor Who themed rant, I'm afraid. Deal with it.

I thought The Next Doctor wasn't all that good. That was down mostly to RTD's writing, and it's often something I have problems with.

Having watched all his episodes, I've found that he generally writes two types of episode - one where the threat level remains constant throughout, and the other where there's a big reveal about two-thirds of the way through.

The episodes where the general tone of the episode and the overall threat remains roughly the same throughout work really well. Tooth and Claw, for example, or The Waters of Mars. Whether it's a constant feeling of doom or just a standard romp, they generally turn out pretty well.

The episodes where there's a big reveal about two-thirds or so into the story are not as good. Love and Monsters is a prime example of this, as was The Next Doctor. Up until that point, the story will be pretty good, but once you get to that reveal, RTD can't resist having some big earth-shattering event or an utterly ludicrous monster (or both) that just stops the episode dead in its tracks. Once you hit that moment, you're gone - you've lost whatever respect or enjoyment you previously had for the episode and you switch to mocking mode. 'That monster looks ridiculous!' or 'That makes no sense at all!'. And once the big reveal happens, you still need to have the Doctor beat this threat. But if you don't take this threat seriously, then it's hard to watch someone else do so.

Let's take Voyage of the Damned as an example. It wasn't the most fantastic episode in the world (way too much death for my liking), but it was enjoyable enough. Until we find out that the big bad is a head in a box. An annoying, smug, vain and just plain irritating head in a box. And it's an ugly head in a box as well - sparkling teeth and everything. Once we, the audience, discover this, we stop caring. It could be the head of Hitler for all we care, we're just not going to take it seriously. And if we won't take that seriously, then why should we take anything else seriously? And then Kylie takes a forklift to the ugly head in a box. I'll repeat that.

Kylie Minogue drives a forklift and forces an ugly, irritating head in a box to fall down a hole.

If anyone else had written a script with that in it then it would never have gotten through. It's just ridiculous. And RTD expects us to not only accept that, but feel sorry for Kylie as she then falls down the hole herself and dies. Which is absurd, because he's already lost us. He's crossed the line and lost the viewer's respect. And then he goes on and has Queen Elizabeth evacuate Buckingham Palace in case the ship crashes into it, and when it doesn't he has the Queen actually thank the Doctor. This isn't serious drama - it's a bad comedy sketch.

Several of his episodes play out like this. With Boom Town it was the Slitheen taking control of the TARDIS and causing somewhat unconvincing cracks to appear in Cardiff. With Love and Monsters it was the Abzorbalof (or, rather, Peter Kay). The Stolen Earth/Children of Time, the sheer cluster-f*ck of characters. The Next Doctor, the CyberKing. And so on.

I'm not saying this happens all the time. It's something I've only found in some of the episodes written by RTD. And even then, those episodes are fine, even great, until that 66% mark. It's the fact that RTD includes those OTT moments that means I am thrown out of the plot with little to no hope of getting back in. And when I say 'we/us', I mean me as a typical audience member. I admit not everyone shares my views, but if you visit the Gallifrey Base forums (formerly the Doctor Who Forums), for example, there are a fair few who do.

I very much enjoy Doctor Who. Even the old, not-as-good ones (well, except the early ones which just go on and on and on...). And when RTD is on form, he can write some of the best episodes. But, conversely, he can also write the worst. It's still better then a lot of other shows, but when compared to the brilliance of Who, he can really fall short.

I enjoyed Planet of the Dead - I thought it was an enjoyable romp, if not exactly jam-packed with tension. And as I already mentioned, The Waters of Mars was, with the exception of a few make-up issues, bloody marvellous. It seems that co-writing episodes with someone helps to temper RTD's bad habits.

Honestly, I don't really like to over-analyse stuff. When I do, all I find are more things to dislike. But I've had this view on RTD's writing for a while now and I felt like sharing. In doing so, I help myself to actually realize why I feel that way. I look forward to the Christmas two-parter.

- Ironically, RTD did exactly what I ranted about once again in The End of Time - Part I, with the Master turning everyone on Earth into himself. I mentioned in another thread that it was the sort of thing a six-year-old would come up with, which I think sums it up nicely. Part Two was brilliant though.

Lego Doctor Who - The Classic & New Blocks

Hey all. Happy 2010! At last, I can say two numbers instead of one and not seem weird! Huzzah.

Anyway. This particular piece (somehow) came about after I started a topic talking about the last episode(s) of David Tennant's stint as The Doctor. I'm not really sure how, but the conversation moved onto the possibility of a Lego Doctor Who game, which I naturally jumped upon like a starving wolf being presented with a nice shiny jugular covered in marshmallows and chocolate.

This is pieced together from a few different posts, but I think it makes sense once edited together. Now if we can just get this made, we'll be sorted.

Coming soon! Lego Doctor Who: The New Blocks! Chronicling the new series, from Rose to the End of Time! Thrill as you play through the very best of Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant's adventures through time and space! Tremble as you fight the Daleks, Cybermen, Juddoon, Sontarans and the diabolical Master! Laugh as the once treasured stories are rendered in lovable bricks and quirky cutscenes!

And let's not forget the classic adventures! Lego Doctor Who: The Classic Blocks, Volumes I, II and III! Marvel as William Hartnell swaps heads with Patrick Troughton! Shiver as the Master first appears! Puzzle over how Tom Baker manages to avoid tripping on his scarf! Laugh at Colin Baker's terrible dress sense! Gasp as Paul McGann gets more then one adventure!

In stores soon, provided the BBC has even a shred of sense and lets Traveller's Tales actually make it!


The specs:

Lego Doctor Who - The Classic Blocks - Volume I

Chapter One - William Hartnell

Levels - The Daleks (aka The Mutants and The Dead Planet), Marco Polo, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Romans, The Time Meddler, The Myth Makers, The Massacre (of St Bartholomew's Eve) and The Tenth Planet [Total - 9]

Chapter Two - Patrick Troughton

Levels - The Power of the Daleks, The Highlanders, The Macra Terror, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Ice Warriors, The Web of Fear, The Invasion, The Space Pirates and The War Games [Total - 9]

Chapter Three - Jon Pertwee

Levels - Spearhead from Space, Inferno, The Claws of Axos, The Curse of Peladon, The Sea Devils, The Three Doctors, The Green Death, Invasion (of the Dinosaurs) and Planet of the Spiders [Total - 9]

Lego Doctor Who - The Classic Blocks - Volume II

Chapter One - Tom Baker (The Early Years)

Levels - The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons, Pyramids of Mars, The Seeds of Doom, The Hand of Fear, The Robots of Death, The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Invasion of Time [Total - 9]

Chapter Two - Tom Baker (The Later Years)

Levels - The Key to Time (Parts I, II and III), City of Death, The Creature From the Pit, The Leisure Hive, Meglos, The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis [Total - 9]

Chapter Three - Peter Davison

Levels - Four to Doomsday, Black Orchid, Earthshock, Mawdryn Undead, Enlightenment, The Five Doctors, The Awakening, Resurrection of the Daleks and The Caves of Androzani [Total - 9]

Lego Doctor Who - The Classic Blocks - Volume III

Chapter One - Colin Baker

Levels - The Twin Dilemma, Attack of the Cybermen, Vengeance on Varos, The Mark of the Rani, Revelation of the Daleks and The Trial of a Time Lord (all four parts) [Total - 9]

Chapter Two - Sylvester McCoy

Levels - Time and the Rani, Delta and the Bannermen, Dragonfire, Remembrance of the Daleks, The Happiness Patrol, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Battlefield, The Curse of Fenric and Survival [Levels - 9]

Chapter Three - Paul McGann

Levels - The Movie (aka The Enemy Within) - [Audio Adventures] - Storm Warning, The Sword of Orion, Invaders from Mars, The Girl Who Never Was, Blood of the Daleks, The Zygon Who Fell to Earth, Worldwide Web and Death in Blackpool [Total - 9]

Lego Doctor Who - The New Blocks

Chapter One - Christopher Eccleston

- Rose, The End of the World, Aliens in London, Dalek, The Empty Child, The Parting of the Ways and The Christmas Invasion (David Tennant in Eccleston's outfit) [Total - 7]

Chapter Two - David Tennant (Brown Suit)

Levels - New Earth, School Reunion, The Girl in the Fireplace, Rise of the Cybermen, The Satan Pit, Doomsday and The Runaway Bride [Total - 7]

Chapter Three - David Tennant (Blue Suit)

Levels - Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, Evolution of the Daleks, Human Nature/The Family of Blood*, The Sounds of Drums and Last of the Time Lords (two levels**), along with Voyage of the Damned [Total - 8]
*I prefer the second title, to avoid confusion with the book called 'Human Nature' upon which the TV episodes were based.
**In the first level, you'd be David tennant trying to save Martha, and in the second, you'd be Freema Agyman trying to save the Doctor.

Chapter Four - David Tennant (Various Outfits)

Levels - Partners in Crime, Planet of the Ood, The Sontaran Strategem, The Doctor's Daughter, The Unicorn and the Wasp, Silence in the Library and Journey's End [Total - 7]

Chapter Four - David Tennant (Various Outfits)

Levels - The Next Doctor, Planet of the Dead, The Waters of Mars, The End of Time (Part One) and The End of Time (Part Two) [Total - 5, possibly 6 if Dreamland is included as well, though that's debatable]