Category Archives: Conundrum Sticks

Nasty Nate’s Virtual Storefront. Smells like dice and joysticks in here.

Trials Evolution may be the most addictive sequel ever.

Back in 1995, my parents bought a Macintosh Performa 6116 as a family computer. It was the first real permanent desktop computer for our home, not a borrowed unit from one of the schools where either of my parents taught. Now that we had a computer that I could take a little more ownership of, and which connected to the still-unfamiliar internet, I began to discover just how much the World Wide Web had to offer. This was back when Hotmail was the cat’s meow, Netscape was the premier web browser, and “pirating” was still limited to knocking over a boat and stealing its cargo. Because digital media law wasn’t really a thing yet, shit was just out there for the taking, so long as your modem and hard drive could handle the file-size. I utilized this new-found magic to get video games (… and porn, but everyone used the ‘net for porn back then. Actually, everyone uses the internet for porn now. In fact, I’m surprised you’re reading this instead of looking up porn). One such game was called Trials.

That first iteration of Trials was a motorcycle and a line across the screen. The motorcycle’s throttle and gears were controlled with the mouse, and the line had various bumps and ledges which acted as obstacles. It was pretty fun at the time, but thinking back on how the mouse button changed gears and the cursor’s movement dictated throttle, and there was no control over which way the rider leaned (or maybe there was, and I just never knew about it), playing that game today would totally suck.

Super-realistic-simulation-motorcycle-time!

Fast forward to 2009 (when I had long forgotten about that crappy little motorbike game on my parents’ Macintosh that went obsolete before the iAnything was launched), RedLynx released Trials HD. I downloaded the demo on a friend’s recommendation, and something about it was familiar, but it wasn’t until the third or fourth track when I had that moment of clarity and realized I had played this game 14 years earlier. Upon further research, I found out there had been various flash games with the Trials formula, and even a full release for Windows in 2008. I wasn’t disappointed that I missed out on those earlier games, but it was nice to know that there was some history behind this incredibly addicting game that would overtake my summer and annoy the shit out of my girlfriend.

The first time I nailed a clean back flip in the demo for Trials HD, I was hooked. Soon after, I bought the full game and continued looking for huge jumps and ridiculous stunts to pull off. I’m a big fan of giant ramps and inconceivable distances to jump over, like Evel Knievel jumping Snake River Canyon or Danny Way over the Great Wall of China (the movie Hot Rod has a special place in my heart), so this game catered to me directly. After earning all the gold medals I could and beating all my friends’ records, I started playing less and less of Trials HD, until it eventually became a fond memory of a game that no longer appeared in the “Recently Played” tab of my downloaded titles.

Less profanity and fewer rage-quits than I’m used to

Everything I hoped for in a sequel to Trials HD came to fruition in Trials Evolution. To be fair, “everything I hoped for” wasn’t much; it mostly boiled down to more tracks and multiplayer, which further distills down to just multiplayer, since a sequel to any game without new levels is just the same game all over again (I’m looking at you, Madden NFL franchise). On top of real-time local and online multiplayer, RedLynx also added Track Central, a feature that can make the game seemingly endless for the competitive perfectionist. As in HD, Evolution has a track creation system, allowing players to design tracks from their own head. However, where HD only let you upload tracks to your friends list for them to play, Evolution allows for public sharing and retrieval. Track Central even breaks down the player creations by ‘Highest Rated This Week’, ‘Highest Rated All Time’, and ‘RedLynx Picks’ among others, so no one has to dig though piles of shit tracks with no quality or challenge for something worth playing. It’s clear that a lot of effort goes into tracks created by our fellow players, and some of them are better than those from the core game.

Build your own damn track

Something many might not notice is the tighter control on the bike itself. That is not to say the controls in HD were bad, but there were plenty of times I found myself pissed off at HD about how under-responsive the Scorpion bike was compared to the hyper-sensitive Phoenix. However, Evolution seems to have found a wee more middle ground between the two, and repeated crashing now frustrates me more with myself than with the game.

Evolution also has bigger jumps, like really big fucking jumps, with enough hang time to make me apprehensive about how I plan to land them. I know it shouldn’t matter how I feel about my little virtual motocross dude-bro, but when I fuck those up, I have to try them again, and that makes for a slower time. This often results in re-starting from the beginning of the track so I can try for a faster overall time, and even if I nail that big fucking jump’s landing on this attempt, I might not hit the next one so cleanly, which means I’ll start the track over again… and you can see where this game gets mildly addicting.

Front flips over explosions are uniquely satisfying

Should you play this game? Maybe. I know it’s not for everyone, but those who get into it tend to just fucking love it. If you have an Xbox 360 that is connected to the interwebs, then I highly suggest you download the demo for Trials HD. If you don’t like it, let it go. But if you find yourself playing the same track over and over again for a faster time, then get the whole game and do your best to clear it (try to best my times while you’re at it). When you’re ready for more tracks and online competition, Trials Evolution will be waiting.

Only Snake Plissken and Shaft Could Make Arkham City Better

The best looking button-mash fights ever.

Historically, video games that are licensed for TV/movie/comic book properties tend to suck. They are usually crappy game mechanics and shoddy controls hiding behind a popular cartoon character, so kids are into them. Sometimes a developer is rushed to meet a deadline so their game can release alongside the movie it was licensed for, but the lack of polish on the “finished” product is outshined by the movie’s hype. It’s safe to assume that if an upcoming game is tied to a movie, it’s not worth waiting in line for on release day. Curious? Go fire up a copy of the last Harry Potter game and let me know how it is. After five games worth of practice and feedback, you’d think EA could produce something good enough to have me wielding a second wand while I play.

Batman games were no exception to this. The disappointment was only exacerbated by the fact that Batman fans put a lot of upfront faith into any new project featuring the Dark Knight. It took about ten years, but those at the intersection of Fanboy Rd & Gamer Ln figured out not to trust an upcoming Batman title, to do their research first, and often confirm their suspicion that the game was junk.

Note: In all fairness, I very much enjoyed the 1989 release of Batman for the NES. It was a side-scrolling platformer that was challenging but not frustrating, and it had some of the better music in the NES catalogue. It was also the first time I had seen wall-bouncing in a game, something I think should be in every game where the player can jump against a wall. Continue reading Only Snake Plissken and Shaft Could Make Arkham City Better

The Skyward Sword Is Long

Get ready for this face.

On December 22, 2011, I came home from my company’s holiday celebration dinner ready for a winter break devoid of traveling. I was excited to fill a week-and-change with movies and video games, both of which are presented to me through a Microsoft Xbox 360; the movies stream through my Netflix service, and video games are what the unit was designed for. I turned on the TV, fired up the stereo receiver, and pressed the ever-comforting power button on the Xbox console. Nothing happened.

I was not afforded the warning shot known as the Red Ring of Death (my Xbox is that old), and what remained was a useless brick of white plastic and electrical components holding my copy of Arkham City prisoner. I took it into my local used-games merchant to see if they could help. Since I’m cool with the guys who work there (and by “cool” I mean they don’t talk down to me), they gave me the max trade-in value for the console.

Pre-orders for the Star Wars edition Xbox (to be released in February) had just gone on sale. I was obviously in the market for a new Xbox, and I’m… pretty into Star Wars. It was as if the gods were speaking to me in clear-as-fuck English: “Pre-order this thing, and use your Wii for a few months.” What the gods didn’t tell me was that this Star Wars Xbox would be delayed until April.

It was time to go back to the Wii section of the store, where I hadn’t wandered in almost a year, and see what I could find. The sad fact is that Nintendo hasn’t released shit worth playing in far too long. There’s even documented evidence that the Wii’s street value is less than the labor cost of stealing it. But Nintendo had one more beacon of hope for the end of 2011. Continue reading The Skyward Sword Is Long

2010 in Video Games

Here are the video games I played in 2010 with mini-reviews.

New Super Mario Bros

Possibly the best four player cooperative game I have ever played. But players have to watch out for each other, or else they will end up bouncing off their team members’ heads and knocking them into pits. The difficulty curve works well, starting easy, but by the end the game is extremely difficult. 5/5

Spelunky


Definitely the best free/downloadable PC game I have ever played.  It’s a run and jump cave exploration platformer with 16 levels, pixely graphics and catchy chip-music.  The cave layout is randomly generated every time and there is a lot to discover.  When you first start playing this game you’re going to die a lot, but the pleasure comes from knowing how to avoid that trap/monster/layout next time. There are a lot of powerups, weapons and useful items you can dig up, purchase or steal from cave-dwelling shop keeps. Originally made by just one guy, an X-Box Indie Arcade version of Spelunky is in the works. 5/5 Continue reading 2010 in Video Games