captpackrat: (MLP Big Macintosh plush)

captpackrat: (I voted for Kodos!)

I've been participating the the Everybody Votes Channel since I got my Wii a bunch of years ago, and I haven't missed a single vote yet.
captpackrat: (Windows uber alles)
Wow, it's been a while since I've posted here.  I tend to post more often to Twitter because it's so much easier and faster.  And Skyrim had consumed a huge portion of my life for the last month and a half.  Damn you, Bethesda!  Although I haven't posted anything, I do read everyone else's posts regularly.

Got woken up by a phone call at around 9:30 a.m. on Friday.  It was a recruiter wondering if I was interested in a Network Server Admin job in Lincoln.  The client was in a big hurry, and I got an interview that same day at 1:00 p.m.  The interview lasted a whole hour, one of the longest I think I've ever had.  Shortly after I got home at around 3:30, I got a call that I was hired.  They e-mailed me a bunch of paperwork in PDFs, and I digitally signed them and sent them back by 5:30.  6 hours from initial phone call to being hired, that's gotta be some kind of record.

I start work Monday.  I'm replacing a guy who is retiring on Friday, so I get a whole week of training before be thrown into the job.  There's only one other IT person there, a temp who's only been there for a few weeks.  This is gonna be fun!  At least the pay will be good.  It's temp-to-hire, which means in 6 months I'll hopefully be permanently employed.
captpackrat: (Books)
[Error: unknown template qotd]
How to Win Friends and Influence People
captpackrat: (Star Raiders)
For those who don't remember, Scribblenauts was supposed to be one of the greatest video games ever made.  It had a library of tens of thousands of objects you could summon and combine in virtually infinite ways.  Alas, the game suffered from quirky physics and horrendous controls.  You could spend an enormous amount of time creating an elaborate solution to a puzzle, only to have the main character misinterpret a screen tap and throw himself off a cliff or casually blow himself up.

I am extremely pleased to report that 5th Cell seems to have learned from their mistakes and have fixed all those issues with their sequel, Super Scribblenauts.

The game physics have been greatly improved.  In the original, connected objects tended to flail around.  If you attached a chain to a stick, your character would trash about like he was insane.  Placing a magnet on top of a car would cause the car to fly off the screen and disappear.  These flaws have been fixed in Super Scribblenauts.  Gravity behaves more normally and things no longer float around when attached to each other.

Even more important, the controls have been fixed.  You now have the option of using the stylus or the D-pad.  If you decide to use the touch screen to move, you'll find that Maxwell isn't jumpy like in the original game.  He keeps his feet on the ground unless he needs to jump and he doesn't run off if you accidentally tap the wrong place on the screen.  You also can no longer accidentally drop objects; tapping on yourself brings up a menu instead.  You can now take objects away from NPCs, something you couldn't easily do in the original.  The camera also stays wherever you put it, instead of returning to Maxwell automatically.

The new version of the game adds adjectives to its already enormous dictionary.  So now instead of merely summoning a "car", you can be specific and summon a "blue car", a "small car" or a "wooden car".  You can use multiple adjectives, so you can even summon a "small blue wooden car".  On one puzzle, I tried summoning a "romantic dinner" and ended up with a steak with heart thought balloons.

The hint system has also been improved.  Hints cost money, but the amount required decreases the longer you keep trying at the level.  Eventually the game will provide the hints for free if you try long enough.

In the original game, there wasn't much incentive to be creative with the objects you summon; I ended up using "wings" on almost every single level that required flying or climbing.  Super Scribblenauts on the other hand rewards originality.  Each new word you use gets you money, so it pays to break out the thesaurus.

Super Scribblenauts is everything Scribblenauts should have been.  It's a shame the designers didn't get it right the first time, but at least they learned from their mistakes and got the sequel right.
captpackrat: (Star Raiders)
If you have a DSi, you can download Photo Dojo for free until June 11th.  After that it goes up to 200 points.

It's a  fighting game in the style of Streets of Rage and Street Fighter, except you create your own characters using the DSi camera and mic.  The game guides you through posing for various fighting moves, and has the ability to take pictures using either camera.  After taking about a dozen photos, you are then stepped through recording the sound effects for punches, kicks, fireballs, etc.  You can create up to 8 characters.

The single player mode is basically just a survival game, kill as many enemies as you can.  Move right, fight enemies, move right.  The enemies are chosen from among the characters you've created, so the more characters, the more fun and bizarre the game gets (especially if you let your friends make their own characters).

Vs. mode has one of the strangest control setups I've even seen.  Instead of using two DSis, you just use the one, one player moving with the D-pad and attacking with the L button, the other player moving with the ABXY buttons and attacking with the R button.  Game play is similar to Street Fighter, though it's a one-round winner-takes-all battle.

The game play is extremely simple, but the fun comes from creating the characters then watching them fight.

And of course, it's free.  Free is always worth a download.
captpackrat: (Scuzz the Rat)
Whoo, 1500th LJ entry!

I was at Sam's Club late last night when a huge thunderstorm hit.  You could hear the torrential rains even inside the store.  Fortunately they have a covered loading area, unlike Costco, so I was able to load the stuff without getting soaked.  I was also apparently the only person who brought an umbrella.

Picked up a 50 pound bag of popcorn.  That should last a while.

Last night I signed up for the Nebraska Lottery's free MVP program.  They gave me a coupon for a free Pick 5 ticket.  The jackpot is currently $102,000.  I went to the minimarket in town and got my free ticket this afternoon, then stopped next door at the Subway for a $5 footlong.  Laying on the counter was a coupon for a free MegaMillions lottery ticket, so after getting my order, I went back to the minimart and got that ticket.  That $5 footlong could end up winning me $31 million.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past week, Steam is giving away free copies of Portal until May 24th. Minimum requirements are a 1.7 GHz processor, 512MB RAM, a DirectX 8.1 compatible graphics card, Windows 2000 or higher.  If you meet those minimums, be sure to download.  If you don't meet those minimum requirements, GET IT ANYWAY!  Once you "purchase" it, you'll have it in your Steam account for life, so you'll be able to download and install it on a future computer.
captpackrat: (Star Raiders)
My SO bought me a bunch of games for Christmas, so here's some quicky reviews:

:  Intriguing story, lots of fun, but too short.  I was just starting to get into it when whammo, the game's over.

Fallout 3
:   EPIC.  This game is huge.  Not just in the number of quests, but the map itself is enormous.  It covers the entire D.C. area, plus sewers and subway tunnels.  There's tons of mods available for added replay value.  The assault on the Jefferson Memorial with Liberty Prime is the most awesome bit of game play I have ever experienced. 

Half-Life 2
:  Ugh.  I've never seen a game with this many "let's screw the player" moments.  The game was mostly OK, but there were a few parts that just sucked all the fun out of it.

Portal:  Easy.  Much too easy.  The only hard parts were the jumping puzzles, and I hate jumping puzzles.

Star Wars: Battlefront II
:  Nearly identical to the Battlefield series, except in space.  Worst team AI I have ever seen!  It only took a couple hours before I finally got disgusted at losing battles because my AI teammates were on the other side of the map screwing around.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II:  Wow, I can't believe video games used to look this crappy.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic:  Weird controls, even weirder combat system, but fun once you get the hang of it.

Team Fortress 2
:  This game makes me laugh every time I play it.  The combat can get totally silly some times, particularly on the more creative custom maps like the Super Mario-based levels.

Rabbids Go Home
(Wii):  Silly, mindless fun.  The jokes are hilarious and the levels creative, at first.  Unfortunately, it does get a bit repetitive with most mission types getting repeated three or four times.  Ripping a jet engine off an airplane and riding it through an airport terminal sucking up people and luggage is insane fun, the first time around.  The third time around, it starts getting a bit annoying.  A neat feature is that you can suck one of the rabbids into your Wii remote, then as you swing the remote he gets tossed around inside.


Dec. 27th, 2009 05:15 pm
captpackrat: (Homer's Brain)
Steam was having a sale on a bunch of stuff, including Knights of the Old Republic for just $5.  The KotOR engine is the basis for Mass Effect, a game I really enjoyed, so I grabbed it right away.

Bug City.

I don't know if it's Steam's implementation or if it's the game itself, but I had to do so many hacks and tweaks to make it work.  If the game had been more than $5, I'd have been fuming.  To make it work mostly correctly, you have to run it in XP compatibility mode, run as Administrator, disable visual themes, desktop composition and display scaling, edit the ini file to run the game in windowed mode, you have to disable some of the graphics elements in the game, and you have to change resolutions twice after starting the game, just to make it run without crashing.  And I'm far from being the only person having these problems, the Steam forums are FULL of complaint threads.

I finally managed to get the game to work, only to discover it's not anything like I expected.  I thought it would be a first person shooter, like Mass Effect, but it's not, it's a graphical RPG.  You use FPS-like movement (except it's third person) to get around in the game, but when you enter combat, everything becomes automated.  Just like a paper RPG, the action pauses, you issue your instructions and the computer acts as GM, rolling dice and determining what happens.

You ever laugh at the line, "only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise"?  That's exactly how this game is.  The majority of the characters (including my own) can't hit a target even at point blank range!  If you've got your blaster pointed square at someone's chest, how can you possibly miss?  REPEATEDLY?!  Fortunately healing is very easy (especially once you have a Jedi with the Cure power), and as long as at least one of your party is still standing at the end of a fight, everyone else gets up again with 1 HP.

It does have a lot of the game elements later used in Mass Effect, like zillions of side quests, upgradable weapons and armor, having to pick just two teammates out of a pool of several, running around in a city/space station just talking to people, even the good/neutral/evil dialog options.

Once you get the game to work, it's very engrossing (I played it for nearly 12 hours straight yesterday).  And at $5, it was an absolute bargain.
captpackrat: (Music Machine)
I've gotten good enough at the guitar and bass that I can usually finish most of the songs in Beatles Rock Band on easy with a 100% score, even the more difficult ones like Birthday or Revolution. So I tried playing Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds on medium.  I actually managed to get a 97% on it.  (In Rock Band, the easy level only uses 3 chords, medium uses 4, while hard and expert use all 5 chord buttons, requiring you to move your hand up and down the fret.  There are also more notes to play as the difficulty increases.)  I found my fingers working on their own at times, managing to hit notes that my brain totally missed.

Playing Beatles Rock Band has really increased my appreciation of their music.  You begin to see patterns and eccentricities in the music, such as notes that are deliberately out of beat.  Playing the bass is especially insightful since you don't normally pay much attention to the bass player when you're just listening to the music.

I've got blisters on my fingers!

captpackrat: (Music Machine)
I have both Guitar Hero III and Rock Band, but I never really played them much.  I primarily got them for parties or guests.  I only knew a fraction of the songs in the games and it's hard (and not very fun) to play along with a song you've never heard of before.  Plus those games required that you play through the songs you don't know to unlock all the songs, or you have to use a cheat code which means you can't save your results.  Feh.

But the Beatles, that's another matter.  Everyone has heard the Beatles' music.  It's a rare individual who doesn't know the words to Yellow Submarine, or recognize the intro to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.  And unlike Guitar Hero: Aerosmith/Metallica/Van Halen, which have a large chunk of music from other, lesser known bands, Beatles Rock Band is pure, 100% Beatles.  And best of all, every song in the game is unlocked right from the start (with the single exception of The End, which is unlocked when you finish story mode).  If you want to jump right in with Back In The U.S.S.R., go right ahead.

In story mode, you play at the various venues the Beatles played at, ranging from the Cavern in 1963 to the rooftop of Apple Corps in 1970.  The later Beatles songs are accompanied by colorful and sometimes bizarre psychedelic dreamscape images.  You have to choose whether to watch the imagery or watch the notes going by.

The only downside to the game is the obscene price tag.  The game is about $250 for the software, two replica instruments (McCartney's Höfner bass and Ringo's Ludwig drums) and one mic.  Other replica instruments, such as Harrison's Gretsch Duo-Jet or Lennon's Rickenbacker 325 guitars cost $100 a piece (you need one more guitar controller to do a full band).  Extra mics (you'll need 2 more if you want to do complete harmonies) are $20 each.  And even when you've finished buying the software and the equipment, there's still downloadable content, currently just the Abbey Road album and All You Need Is Love single, which runs 1950 Wii Points, or $19.50.  That comes to $410 for the complete Beatles Rock Band experience.  Plus tax.  Ouch.  Of course, you could buy the set with the generic instruments for considerably less, $160 for the software, guitar, drums and mic, plus $60 for a second guitar and $40 for two extra mics, $260 without the DLC.  Still ouch.

The software alone is $60, and since I already had the generic instruments from Rock Band and a bunch of gift certificates for Best Buy, it was an easier purchase to justify.

The game is an absolute blast.   It's the Beatles!  You can't help but have fun singing along with Maxwell's Silver Hammer.  In the past 2 days, I think I've played it for about 4 hours (and I'm supposed to be working on my computer).  My arm is tired.  I think this will make an excellent party game; even if you can't figure out the guitar or drums, you can always sing lead or one of the two harmonies.

My Beatles Rock Band Wii friend code:  2874-6667-2868

Goo goo ga joob.

captpackrat: (Bubbles)
Taikyoku Shogi is a variant of Shogi, or Japanese Chess.  The board is 36 rows wide and 36 ranks long and each player starts with 402 pieces of 209 different types, each of which can have 1-3 different moves.

And here I was having a hard enough time keeping straight the 14 different pieces used in regular Shogi

captpackrat: (This Bites)
Wow, am I ever disappointed with Scribblenauts.  The game had such potential to be one of the greatest games of all time.  It's a puzzle game where you can summon just about anything you can think of, from Aardvarks to Zygotes.  The object library contains over 22,000 words and objects can be combined together to create new objects (rat flail!)  Every puzzle has nearly infinite solutions, the only limit being your imagination.  I was really looking forward to this game.

Unfortunately, the controls are simply horrendous.  Touching objects, especially small ones, can be very tricky, and getting rope and glue items lined up requires absolutely precise stylus control.  But the worst part is the main character, Maxwell, himself.  To move around, you use the touch screen, not the D-pad.  That means the slightest miss-tap on the screen will cause Maxwell to happily throw himself into a pool of man-eating sharks, leap out of a airplane in mid flight or casually toss a pickax into a barrel of explosives.  Over and over again, I'd nearly finished a level only to have Maxwell run off on his own and get himself killed.

The puzzles get a bit boring after a while, and although you can summon just about anything, you'll find yourself using just a handful of objects.  I think I end up using WINGS in nearly every level.  Most of the levels you can just brute-force your way through.  Just summon DEATH and he'll kill everyone for you, then you just waltz through the rest.  Once you finish a level, you have to play it through again, but now you have to do it three times in a row, coming up with unique summons each time.  But even then, you often end up just using variations on a theme; such as summoning CAP, HAT and CHAPEAU each time around.

The start screen is actually the most fun part of the game.  It's a sandbox where you are (mostly) invulnerable and can summon anything you want just to see how things interact.  I find myself spending more time here trying to think of new words to try and new interactions.

It's still a worthwhile purchase, it's just not the absolute must-have everyone was hoping it would be.

captpackrat: (END OF LINE)
Nintendo has just updated their Internet Channel (Opera web browser).  It now has Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 (which is more or less Flash 8 with bits of 9) instead of Flash Player 7.  More importantly, it is once again a free download.  If you paid 500 points for it previously, you will receive credit for a free NES Virtual Console game at the end of October.
captpackrat: (Hiding in the plants)
I just got 36 under par playing at Wolf Creek in Tiger Woods 10.  If someone did that in Real Life, they'd be peeing into a cup for the next century for drug tests.

(The best score ever recorded in RL golf was 17 under.)
captpackrat: (Push Tail To Open)
Those of you who have the DSi, check out the DSi Store, there's a free download of Flipnote Studio.  It's an app for creating flipbook-type animations, with sound.  Once you finish your masterpiece, you can share it with other DSi users or upload to the Flipnote Hatena website for the entire world to see.  You can also use the app to download and view other artist's creations from the website.

If you don't have a DSi, you can still check out the animations on the Hatena website
captpackrat: (Star Raiders)
I picked up Wii Sports Resort this afternoon.  MSRP is $50, which includes one Wii MotionPlus dongle (normally $20 by itself), but it's only $43.79 at Costco.  You'll need one dongle for each player (plus an appropriate number of Wii Remotes, of course, and Nunchuks for some of the games).

It's well worth the money.  If you liked Wii Sports, you'll love this new version.  It includes Golf and Bowling like the original, though they are greatly enhanced with better graphics and more sensitive controls.  It also has Table Tennis, which was a Wii Play game, but again, it's been updated with better controls.

Some of the new sports are kinda dull, like Skydiving (your chute deploys automatically, so you can't try to intentionally face plant) and Basketball, which I just could not get the hang of.  Wakeboarding and Power Cruising get old fairly quickly, though the multiplayer would probably be more fun.  Archery was kinda fun, but the controls are a bit screwy; at times I'd be aiming off into space with the remote and still hit a bulls eye.

Frisbee Dog was kinda meh, but Frisbee Golf looks promising (I haven't actually tried that one yet.)

On the other hand, Cycling was both fun and a very good workout (you have to pump the remote and nunchuk to pump the pedals), and Canoeing was also a good workout, but occasionally suffered from crossed controls (rowing on the right would be read as if it were on the left, etc).  Swordplay was rather fun as well, particularly Swordplay Showdown, where your goal is to hack your way through as many opponents as possible before your health runs out.

Island Flyover was by far the most interesting of the games; you pilot a small float plane around (and through) the island, popping balloons and searching for landmarks.  As you locate landmarks and other secrets, you unlock new abilities.  There's also a Dogfight mode, but I haven't tried it yet as it requires 2 players
captpackrat: (Star Raiders)
Opera Web Browser

It's free, so there's no reason not to download it.  I've been using it to check the NWS radar whenever there's a thunderstorm and my computer is turned off.  It's much faster than the Opera browser for the DS Lite, though not quite as good as the Internet Channel on the Wii.  Its biggest flaw is its lack of Flash support.

Animal Crossing Calculator

200 points.  I've always thought the DS platform had the potential to do more than just games, now Nintendo has finally figured that out.  This is a standard 5-function plus memory calculator that is vaugely Animal Crossing themed.  It can also do (some) unit conversions, though it leaves out some obvious units like quarts or tablespoons.  I also noticed it has a slight accuracy problem; if you divide 1 by 3, then multipy by 3, it gives an answer of 0.9999999999 rather than 1.  Still, it's nice to have a calculator on hand when you need one, and it's only $2 (or free, since you get 1000 DSi Points when you buy a DSi)

Animal Crossing Clock

200 points.  Nice try, Nintendo, but not quite.  This app has the clock from Animal Crossing, superimposed on a miniturized town complete with tiny, barely recognizable City Folk characters.  As the day progresses, the sky changes color and spaceships and balloons float across.  You can set up to 3 alarms, using music from Animal Crossing as the alarm sound, and you can program your own "Town Tune" which sounds every hour, just like in the game.  This sounds like a nice idea, but the DSi already has a clock and an alarm, so this is really just window dressing.  You can have the display turn off after 5 minutes or 1 hour, which totally misses the point of having an Animal Crossing themed clock, or you can leave the display on and suck down the battery.  If you're going to use this as an actual alarm clock, you'll want to leave it plugged in. 

Clubhouse Games Express:  Card Classics

500 points.  I loved Clubhouse Games.  It had tons of different card and board games and was a great way to waste time.  This version has 5 of those games, Blackjack,  Five Card Draw, President, Last Card and Last Card Plus (Crazy Eights).  You can play against the computer or using DS Download Play, even against older DS and DS Lite units.  You can also transfer one of the games to another DS for them to play against the computer.  The computer is a pretty good opponent, even on Easy.  Overall, this game is worth the money, unless you already have the full version.  (I only bought it because I frequently carry just the DSi and a single game cart.)  Japan has also seen the release of versions with board games and trump-style card games, these will likely reach the US in the coming weeks.

Dr. Mario Express

500 points.  It's Nintendo's own version of Tetris.  It's highly addictive and you can find that you've wasted a huge amount of time on this game.  This is apparently a port of WiiWare's Dr. Mario Online Rx, only without the multiplayer.  For some reason, the touch screen is not used at all, which is a bit confusing at first.  But before you decide to purchase this, you should know that Brain Age Express includes "Virus Buster", a clone of Dr. Mario.  If you're planning on buying that game, you might as well save the 500 points for this one.

captpackrat: (Size-Case)
I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The Japanese are freaking insane.
captpackrat: (Star Raiders)
[Error: unknown template qotd] Star Raiders for the Atari 400/800. 

For its time, it was incredibly complex.  You had to manage shields, weapons, propulsion, targeting computer, energy level and navigation while keeping an eye on the galactic chart to make sure your starbases weren't under attack.  If you were hit, either by enemy weapons fire or crashing into an asteroid, you could suffer damage to any of your ship's systems and would have to choose between continuing to fight or fleeing to a starbase for repairs.

Star Raiders was available for several other Atari systems, but the 400/800 had the best graphics and gameplay, and made extensive use of the keyboard.

It's hard to believe the entire game fit into 8 Kilobytes of ROM.


captpackrat: (Default)
Captain Packrat

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