Monday, January 27, 2014

Disney Infinity

So because I like video games and Disney, I decided to get a hold of Disney Infinity back when it came out last summer. So you can call this my little review of sorts. Disney Infinity is a game for almost all platforms, it consists of individual worlds called playsets with short story-lines and a platforming/brawler type gameplay with light puzzle solving. The main hub of the game is called the "Toybox mode", where collectibles found in the playsets can be used to create custom stages to be played in by yourself or to be shared online. Personally I started out with the version for the Nintendo Wii, but quickly switched to the Wii U version once I got the machine. Why? Well yes at around $65 for the main game alone it might seem like a very poor decision economics wise however the Nintendo Wii version just does not live up to the steep price point. If I wanted any enjoyment out of the game, not to mention the additional characters I purchased, I would have to switch version. There are a bunch of notable differences between the Wii version and the other versions of the game, if you look away from the most obvious one (the lower quality of graphics and sound) you will quickly realize that the Wii version is one of the poorest ports of a game out there. Not only are certain sound effects condensed beyond recognition (The sound effect of a horse jumping in the Lone Ranger playset sounds like a bear growling), the worlds are significantly smaller, gameplay aspects have been removed from the games, the storylines are shorter and the Wii version does not support 2 player co-op outside of toybox mode. On top of that, the entire online portion of the game small as it may be has been removed as well for the sake of the port. Wii owners, unless you have children that wants the game and you just cannot afford another game system I strongly advice that you do not purchase this title. For the rest of you however, there are plenty of good times to be had. The artstyle of the game is streamlined and pleasant to look at, the voice acting is, decent, taking into account that it's impersonators and not the original actors in the roles. The story-lines are all entirely new and fits right into their respective established universes with some acceptance for plot-collision. 

The main draw of the game is of course, the characters. You play the game by purchasing plastic figures that you can place on top of a USB device. The individual figures are about $20 a piece, but also really well crafted considering the price. When not being used for playing, they make for nice decorations on the shelf. With the game comes three characters with their respective playsets. Mr. Incredible from Pixar's The Incredibles, Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and James P. Sullivan from Monsters University. It should be noted that if you want two player co-op in the playsets you'll have to purchase matching characters. Disney has you covered with a "sidekick 3-pack" sold seperately for around $42. The pack consists of Hector Barbossa for the Pirates set, Mrs. Incredible for The Incredibles set and Mike Wazowski for the Monster set. With every character you'll also get a code you can redeem online for usage in an online game for PC and Smart devices. On top of that, you can also collect "power discs". You'll get one with your initial purchase of the game and then you can buy packs of three for about $10 each. These are like playing card value packs though, so you should expect to get doubles. The power discs either gives you character a boost during play or gives you items for use in stage customization in the toybox mode. There's really no reason to get the power discs outside of the realm of bragging rights though, do with that information as you wish.

When critics reviewed Disney Infinity back in summer, they had a habit of comparing it with the Activision Skylanders franchise - and while there's certainly noticeable similarities in the marketing and gameplay it should be noted that while Skylanders has an overarching storyarc for each game Disney infinity does not. Therefore, there's no "point" in Disney Infinity outside of casual fun. You're not saving the world or anything, and the game consistently reminds you of this by making everything resemble actions figures and toys. The in-game store for purchasing items for puzzle solving is called the "Toy store", the superhero headquarters opens up like a gigantic Mighty Max toy, the list goes on. These are "just" toys, however I still found a lot of enjoyment in the title. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The state of Nintendo

Recently a lot of speculation has surfaced around Nintendo’s announcement that 2013 was a very poor fiscal year regarding the Wii U. It should be noted though, that the 3DS on the other hand has become the best selling handheld of all time in the same period.
I of course have my own opinions on this, so I have actually compiled a list of what I would do to “fix” the state of the Wii U. But first I’d like to clear up 3 things:
  1. This is not a loyalty post, I love Nintendo but I also have great memories surrounding Microsoft and Sony. I fully expect to also acquire a PS4 and Xbox One when I reach the funds necessesary to do so.
  2. I consider the Wii U to be part of this “generation” of consoles.
  3. This is not a rumor mill, I’m not going to concern myself at all with the Nintendo Fusion rumor.

Are we clear? okay let’s go.

  • Re-brand the Wii U.

I love my Wii U, and so does anyone else I’ve talked to that has actually bothered to get one. However, Nintendo pulled a very stupid move in the naming department. It’s no secret that most of the impressive sales of the Nintendo Wii came from the casual market. Nintendo managed to create a console that scratched that itch between button pressing and joysticks that a lot of the population apparently missed. That friend you had as a kid that would move the controller along with the directional button? Yeah the Wii was made with him or her in mind and it didn’t hurt that you could actually lose weight by using it.

Let your kids play video games and still get a bit of exercise: BRILLIANT! However none of the people who thinks that way will actually notice that the Wii U is an entirely different machine. Why would they? And Why would they want a Wii U? They’ve got their Wii Fit board and their copy of Wii Sports. Here’s what to do: Bundle the Wii U with the Wii U Pro Controller.

The most off-putting part of the Wii was it’s controllers. Nintendo hasn’t exactly been traditional with it’s controllers for quite some time now but they’ve generally stuck to the two-handed approach. The Wii Remote and Nunchuck however was just way too far from the comfort zone of your general audience, they wanted something that felt familiar. So they went to Playstation and Xbox instead. The Wii U pro controller however is just “hardcore” enough, if you play your cards right you can still save some of the audience that takes itself far too seriously.

  • Third Party is your friend

Nintendo, you produce some of the finest installments in the way of puzzle adventures, platformers and action experiences. What you don’t produce, is modern wartime shooters, realistic racers, stealth based horror games, or some of the other genres on which the best games of the last generation were based. So why does the Third Party not like the Wii U? Well if you ignore the fact that the Wii U is not as powerful as the competition, it’s that the Wii U Controller is a big hunk of a controller. I like it, but it’s not exactly similar to the competition. This is where the last point comes in, if you can guarantee third party developers that people who own a Wii U probably owns a Wii U Pro Controller, cross-releases won’t be a hassle.
There won’t be that big of a difference in programming to make up for, currently if a developer wants to release a game on the Wii U they have to take the Wii U controller and the ugh Wii Remote into consideration. That’s at least 10 extra hours of programming. Either take the Wii Remote out of the equation, or provide a coding skeleton they can copy/paste into the games code when doing a cross release.

  • DVD/Blu-ray player

Okay so this one is a bit circumstantial, as I am not sure it’s possible to actually pull off on the current hardware. However you released the Wii Mini, didn’t you? - while no “gamer” will outright tell you this, and Sony will probably never own up to it, but a lot of the successful sales of the Sony consoles has been the fact that they doubled as media devices. The PSOne doubled as a CD player, to a lot of people from my generation the PS2 was their first DVD player, the same goes for the PS3. Even Microsoft tried to emulate this by being able to play HD DVD’s on the Xbox 360. Why you guys never decided to get on the media wagon outside of apps I have no idea, but it’s a small add-on that apparently means a lot.

  • Use the 3DS.

This is a Super Game Boy. It allowed you to play game boy games on the Super Nintendo. The 3DS has two screens, one being a touch screen, so has the Wii U. Do I really need to take this argument any further? You even have advertisements for the 3DS online store ON THE WII U ESHOP. Take the next obvious step. Please. The DS literally prints money.

  • Smartphone games

Speaking of eShop. Look at all that awesome creativity on the Google Play store and the Apple App store. Now if only you guys had the possibility of offering the people’s favorite app games in 1080p on their TV’s at home without having to try and find a comfortable spot over their tablets or smartphones. It’s not like you have a CONTROLLER WITH A TOUCHSCREEN THAT COMES WITH THE SYSTEM OR ANYTHING. Too bad, that would’ve been nice.

And that’s my suggestions, what do you guys think? If you liked this article please share it with your friends or try using it to open up discussion

(this is a cross-post from my tumblr)