Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Would you really tap that?

Looking closely at the Princess Toadstool sprite from the original Super Mario Bros it really makes you wonder if she was worth all that hard work. To save this maiden of questionable looks Mario had to fight his way through 32 levels, face off against 8 incarnations of King Koopa and being told 7 times by a bunch of mushroom heads that 'our princess is in another castle'.

The quality of chicks in the Mushroom Kingdom must really be low for that endeavor to be worth it. If Rosalina was around back in the 80's I bet her Royal Highness would still be stuck with the Koopas on 8-4.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sleeping with the iPhone

I often listen to my iPhone while lying in bed at night but have always been annoyed by the high volume, even when pulling the slider to near zero. Yesterday I found a great app to help me with this problem, I also though I would share some basic tips for sleeping with Steve's little black beauty.

First of all my latest discovery is the app Volume Control by BahnTech, it is basically an app that allows you to manipulate the sound level with more precision. In the iPhone's normal iPod software the sound is controlled by a slider, Volume Control instead allows you to set the sound level anywhere from 0,01 dB to 1,20 dB. To set the sound level to the lowest possible level might theoretically be possible with the slider but in reality almost impossible to do without muting the thing. To have this increased level of control over the volume is a welcome addition for those like me with sensitive ears. My only complaint is that I would like to be able to go even lower in terms of sound volume but it seems that this is a system limitation and that this app gives you the highest degree of control possible for the iPhone.

Another tip is to use the iPhone's built in sleep timer, a function cleverly hidden within the Clock app. This function is easy to miss but under the Timer function you can choose between different alarm sounds, one of these being "Sleep iPod" which of course isn't an alarm sound at all but an effective sleep timer. So if you are listening in bed at night it might be recommended to set the timer to an hour or two, since listening to the latest Dr. Dre song on repeat all night is unlikely to contribute to your beauty sleep.

Then of course there is the possibility of setting the phone to Airplane Mode, effectively turning off the devises phone functionality. There is as far as I know no proven link between cancer and cell phone radiation but I still feel a bit uneasy about sleeping with my iPhone so close to me brain or penis area. So I chose to turn on Airplane Mode at night, this is also serves as a very effective protection against drunk dials.

Before ending this post I would like to call attention to the fact that I deliberately avoided making any jokes about Apple nerds having to sleep alone with only their beloved iPhone as company, since I do think I deserve some credit for avoiding such an obvious joke.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sneaky exploiting iPhone developers

A company run by evil ninjas.

Sometime in the run up to last Christmas when I was filled with the Christmas spirit I downloaded the special Christmas themed version of Angry Birds, the popular iPhone game. Not only was this a cool Advent calendar style game where a new level was unlocked every day, it turns out that it my purchase also included whole other seasons.

Now in the days before Valentine's Day a new update was released adding a whole bunch of Valentine's Day themed levels for free. I thought this unexpected generosity was pretty fucking awesome and I felt really good about the guys over at Rivio. But this positive feeling quickly disappeared when it turned out that to unlock the last three levels in this love themed expansion I had to post some kind of advertisement on Facebook. I simply refuse to spam my Facebook friends since I know how much I hate it when my own news feed gets filled with farmville updates and the like. As a result the completionist in me is quietly weeping.

In a way I have no right to complain since I am getting this whole Valentine's Day expansion for free but I really do hate it when developers try to turn me in to a human spambot.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Should we be looking forward to Paper Mario 3DS?

If you are following the 3DS news you have probably seen some footage of the Paper Mario game for Nintendo's new handheld. This might be the game that convinces me of picking up a DS but it depends entirely on who is developing it, something Nintendo has been very tight lipped about.

As all of you surely know it was Square who first turned Nintendo's Goomba stomping plumber in to a RPG hero with its Super Mario RPG on the SNES. After the relationship between the two Japanese giants turned sour the responsibility to continue the Mario RPG series was handed of to two developers.

With Nintendo's own internal studio Intelligent Systems creators of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem handling the console games, now titled Paper Mario. They quickly proved just as or even more apt at putting together a high class RPG without losing the Mario magic, then the RPG masters at Square. Especially the second Paper Mario game, the one for the GameCube was fantastic, one of my all time favorite role playing games.

The handheld games on the other hand were handed off to AlphaDream know for... well nothing other then the Mario & Luigi games really. Even if they supposedly had some big shots from Square working for them all of the Mario & Luigi RPGs turned out to be disappointments. AlphaDream was able to put out some mediocre RPGs but failed completely when it came to making their games feel like Mario games. Add to that an increasingly confusing control scheme, that just got worse with every game and you have a series of games even the most committed Mario fan like myself had to struggle to get through.

Now of course the big question is who the developer behind Paper Mario 3DS? The fact that it carries the Paper Mario name would make us think it's a Intelligent Systems project, which would be very promising. But at the same time it is a portable game, an arena traditionally handled by AlphaDream.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nostalgia for cruel and unusual game design

Sometimes I get an itch for some of that cruel and unusual game design of the late eighties. Like how shooters like Gradius or R-Type get progressively more difficult while you collect power-ups to be able to handle that increase in difficulty. But then when you die (and you will) you lose all those power-ups, instantaneously making the game unplayable. It doesn't matter how many extra lives or continues you have saved up, all you can do is push the reset button.

To add to this highly problematic game design, most of these games aren't primarily reaction based, they are memorization based requiring you to play the same level over and over again. You might feel like you are getting better at the game but what you are really doing is just memorizing enemy placements and patterns. So when you get to a new level it's like jamming your head straight in to a rock wall. This combination of memorization and de facto one life game play is intriguingly sadistic.

Me being a very troubled individual I went to the Wii Virtual Console last night looking for just this kind of abuse.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Should we just wait for the 3DS Lite?

Looking at the history of Nintendo handhelds any prospective 3DS buyer surely has to ask himself if it isn't worth waiting for the next superior model? For a 3DS Lite or 3DS SP.

If we look back at Nintendo's handhelds starting with the old grey brick from '89 we see an increasing trend of iterations. Building on the original Game Boy we had the Game Boy Pocket, the favored accessory of the first generation of Pokémon kids. Then we had the Game Boy Color which kinda straddled the line between being its own console and another Game Boy iteration. Sure the games were in color now but that was about the only thing new about the GBC.

After the gimped Game Boy Advanced we got the Game Boy Advanced SP, which thanks to its addition of a backlight made a bunch of previously unplayable GBA games playable. Finally gamers could tell apart the enemies from background in darker games like Castlevania. And we can't forget the Game Boy Advance Micro, which delivered on what the Game Boy Pocket had promised 10 years earlier, a Game Boy small enough to fit in your pocket.

Then we have Nintendo's most successful and maybe therefor also most iterated upon handheld. The Nintendo Dual Screen or maybe it was the Nintendo Developers System, that was never really made clear but the abbreviation DS wasn't hard to remember, not even for Nintendos new market of grandmothers who got their own series of brain training games. They even got their own system, the Nintendo DSi XL, with extra large screens for those who had trouble reading that pesky little text. That one was guaranteed not to fit in anyones pocket.
But before that there were two other iterations. Shortly after the original DS Nintendo put out the Nintendo DS Lite, the version that not only played great games but also looked nice. Then of course there was the Nintendo DSi, which was pretty much a DS Lite only with the GBA functionality removed.

So for the Game Boy we had one maybe two iterations, for the Game Boy Advance we had three and for the DS we had four. Making it very likely we will see an updated version of the 3DS in the not too far off future. When I look at the 3DS launch line up of games I can't say there is anything I just can't wait to play.