Jan, 2010

January’s almost over, and let me tell you I’ve been FIGHTIN’. It’s been a fightin’ month.

Fighting where? Fighting how? Let me tell you.

Gameboys From Hell

Some people are calling it the best piece of games journalism they’ve ever read! Other, less well-read people are calling it the best thing they’ve read, ever!

Me? I just state the facts. At the end of last year I started playing a game of play-by-email indie masterpiece Solium Infernum with 5 other players. Gameboys From Hell is a 35,000 word diary of that game, as written by 4 of us. It works as both a story and massively in-depth tutorial. You can read part 1 here, and find parts 2-8 here.

Love Beta

Procedurally-generated curiosity MMOG Love has finally hit beta, and it’s grown up to become a strange creature with bad problems. Head down to Eurogamer to read what I make of it.

Napoleon: Total War

Empire: Total War was the Total War game that finally made me lose all interest in this series, so I’m either the best or worst person to cover the sequel. Not sure which. Read my tired, cynical hands-on for Eurogamer right here.

But you guys deserve more than this! Please, allow me to present capsule reviews of everything else I’ve been playing this month.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor

Picked this up because Gamasutra called it the DS game of 2009. And it is. Or it might be. I don’t even know anymore, and I care less. It combines two of the Japanese games industry’s favourite systems, grid based tactics and turn based RPG-style battles, and the result is as cold and compelling as leftover pizza.

Fuck the DS. I cannot believe this is the best it’s got to offer from the entire year.

DJ Hero

I’m pretty glad DJ Hero isn’t selling well. I mean, it’s really, really fun, but the mass proliferation of all the songs in Guitar Hero and Rock Band almost drove me to self-harm. I actually used to work in a bar where the manager’s playlist for the overhead speakers was composed entirely of tracks from Guitar Hero 1, Guitar Hero 2 and Rock Band. Those were some long-ass nightshifts.

Second Life

It’s still monumentally fucked up! Perhaps even more so!

Here’s the thing though. Everyone always talks about either how successful Second Life is, or that it’s full of sex. Nobody’s touched on the obvious point that it’s successful because it’s full of sex, and talked about what that means. That’s what I’m working on right now. Along with THIS!

Supreme Commander 2

I’m playing this too. Can’t say anything just yet, except that it’s really not what I expected. Or wanted.

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The Game Shop

There could be no mistaking it. I was to enter the game shop once again.

I stood there in the street, hip flask in hand, alternately gulping mouthfuls of tender air and grain alcohol. I knew there was to be no pleasure in the black transaction that would take place. The high street game retailer is a petri dish of oily emotions; it is a time capsule containing nothing but the engorged, battle-scarred penis of a cossack.

Soon I felt my poison beverage beginning its work, signalling it was time for me to begin mine. With the decisive, leisurely gait of a grown man I crossed the road and entered the shop.

I was not drunk enough, perhaps could never have been drunk enough for what happened next. Before me stood a giant display of The Wheelman boxes and a pyramid of shit Wii peripherals. I raised my hand to smash them, but took pause with my fist in the air. The evil men who did this would only rebuild their totems.


“Can I help you?” spoke a voice.

“No,” I ventured, squinting down the length of the shop. It was already beginning; I was having trouble making my eyes focus. They were acting independantly, snapping to crime after crime, errors on the upcoming releases calendar, pre-owned games that never should have been bought in the first place, copies of Wet and the Saboteur fucking clumsily on a shelf. No, this couldn’t be happening! I had to overcome this reality. Without realising it I’d fallen to one knee. I looked at my hands. These could’t be my hands?

I stood back up, my body at once limp and taught as an unmanned fire hose. Swinging my heavy head left, then right, I caught sight of the PC games section. Perhaps I could end this quicker than I’d hoped. A few clumsy steps took me there, though I could feel old PSX memory cards gnawing at my boots the whole way. I looked up at the yawning shelves, reaching up with both hands and flipping through titles with practiced fingers. Stronghold. Diner Dash. The Orange Box. No, these would never do. I moved my fingers faster, forcing more energy into those bony extremities until the games before me were spinning and flipping like cards on a rolodex. And yet the one I needed was nowhere to be seen!

Then, disaster. In the haze of boxart I lost focus and failed to remove my left ring finger from the path of one of the boxes I’d set in motion. There was a crack, and I withdrew my hand to find the wounded finger curled backwards in the wrong direction as if beckoning at me.

My sad, anguished yelp must have alerted the man I feared to my presence, for suddenly he was by my side. He was more awful than I remembered, and I knew at once I could not run.

“Looking for something?” he asked. His staff t-shirt was too tight for him, and the fat on his neck bulged out of the collar. As he said the words I thought I saw something black and narrow in the dark of his mouth, where the tongue should be. An electrical cable?

“I’m looking for Armed Assault 2,” I said. My voice tasted of ozone and liquor.

“You mean Arma 2,” he said.

“I mean Arma 2,” I corrected myself, terrified.

The man simply gestured at the shelves I’d been searching through. Impossible. There were eight or nine copies of Arma 2 right there at eye level. I snatched at one of them with my uninjured hand and held it to my chest. I looked back down at the shop man with animal eyes, worrying what he’d demand for this boon.

“That’ll be £29.99,” he said. I was lost. There had to be sacrifice beyond this. I removed some crumpled money from my pocket and handed it over to him.

It began as his hand touched mine. Time lost interest in us, our arms remained outstretched, and all sound faded but the wet, machine beating of my taut heart. It was the noise of a kite being snapped back and forth by winds of purest terror. I saw a badness in the man’s eyes, and knew something was coming.

He spoke in a voice bloated with disdain.

“…you do have the PC to run this, yeah?”

It was too much! A powerful spasm snaked through me, vomit exploding from my mouth in stinking shouts. I remember some part of me welcomed the floor as it rushed up to hold my destroyed form, and it was as I lay there I saw an unbridgeable abyss open, seperating me from the rest of existence.

I had to leave the shop. If I fell into unconsciousness, I would be his. My vision began flickering like an old film. With the last of my strength I reached out to retrieve the copy of Arma 2 that lay maybe two feet from me, and then… nothing. That’s all I remember.

I don’t play games anymore. I don’t go into town, either.

Do you understand? You look like someone who might understand.