[PS3] Skylanders Sold Out!

I’ve been meaning to post about this. Over Christmas the kids accumulated some gift money which they took to the store to buy various things.

LBO picked up Skylanders for the PS3 and we drove around town looking for the extra figures that are available for it, only finding one. They’ve been sold out since.

LLO bought some Pokemon toys, a Crayola 3D picture kit, Nerf gun refill and a flash light toy.

What is Skylanders?

Well, it’s a video game and figure collection rolled into one. You can use the figures in the game once you collect them. This works across platform – the action figures aren’t tied to any one system so they’ll work on the PS3, Wii, XBox 360 and DS 3d. The item that is platform specific is the “Portal of Power”. This is a small round device that syncs with the console and lets it know which figure (I’m reluctant to say ‘action figure’ because the figures are not adjustable) is on the pad. Further, the figure stores data so if it is your figure that is level 10 and has all his abilities unlocked in the game, it will be level 10 with all its abilities unlocked on your friend’s system too.

This is a fantastic idea on its own, but considering that it is also about collecting, it’s a double win for the kids. Not so much for the parents because it’s the regular price of a video game (comes with the Portal of Power and three figures) and if your kids want to collect all the figures, it will cost about 300$ – assuming you can find them on the shelves.

Back to the game itself. The gameplay is quite simple. There is no jumping (first thing the LBO noted) short of jump pads, so it’s more of a solving the level type of game and less of a jumping puzzle type game. Attacking is quite simple, much in the way of Lego type games, lots of mashing the buttons. The boss fights aren’t overly challenging but seem challenging enough for 6-10 year olds (which is the target age group; they advertise 10 and up, but I don’t see kids much older than 12 or 13 finding it ‘cool’). Some of the phases involve dodging the bad which is slightly different. Each of the areas and figures is tied to an ‘element': Tech, Magic, Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Death and Life. When you enter an area, it will tell you which element is the most effective there. If you have a figure of that type, you can swap it right there.

That’s one of the cool things about the game, you can swap figures in and out as much as you want so long as they’re not knocked out (they don’t die). Knocked out characters reset on a level change so it’s not like you lost them and have to start over short of starting the level over. You can do this in the middle of a boss fight even. In a way, the more figures you have the more ‘lives’ in game you have. It’s really sneaky way of reinforcing that you want to buy more figures.

One complaint I have with the game is the inability to skip dialog. Some minor parts can be skipped, but not all of them. When the kids are fighting the main boss, losing and trying again and again – it becomes tiresome to hear the villain prattle on over and over.

Short of ‘combat’, the game is focused on discovery and exploring small zones. There are secret treasures, scrolls (with nonsense on them) to read (I think they’re actually read for you) and extra power tokens that you can find specific to each of the figures which unlocks a greater ability for them. These last items also serve as in game advertising for the figures because you have an option to watch a short cinematic showing what that figure looks like in game. Lastly, there are several side zones which are tied to a figure’s element. If you don’t have a figure of that type, you can’t enter these zones. The rewards for these zones are usually a hat which you can put on the figure to have it gain some sort of attribute like increased damage, better armor or faster movement.

As you can see, there is a lot of funneling the kids to wanting more figures. Which I am fine with, oddly.

There are other supplement packs which add levels and give access to magic items but what I really see happening, is carrying the figures forward in sequel games. It’s really a nice money making set up Activision has.

Action figures that retain data.

Video games that use the figures and data.

Expansion packs that add on to those games.

Win.

I admit, this is a nice little innovation.

I have to say that the game seems a bit short. The LBO and LLO are already to the last boss so unless there is more after defeating Kaos, it isn’t overly long. There is duel mode and you can run some challenges solo – I tried one, it was actually tricky thanks to a short timer. There are also all the mini areas unlocked by figures of specific element types.

Even TheWife kinda likes the game and asks if I want to play when the boys on hogging the computers.

[PS3] Batman: Arkham City

It was a cold, gray and drippey weekend and I was recovering from a cold so I decided to give Batman: Arkham City a try (once TheWife picked it up for me late Saturday afternoon). By the next day I had it beat.

It’s not a very long game if you focus mainly on the story missions and don’t deviate too much. I know I missed several things; 3/4 Riddler rooms, Zsasz’s last phone call, a bunch of trophies and Riddles. There was also mention of Deadshot and someone that was stealing the faces off of people but I didn’t get to follow up with those yet (I can still roam around the area even after beating the game).

I suspect there would have been more to the game if I could get the Catwoman DLC to actually DL and install but it didn’t work and it seemed to corrupt my game data (at least I tried this before actually starting the game).

Overall, lots of fun. It plays a lot like Batman: Arkham Asylum did only with a few different gadgets and I felt AA was longer than AC.

The Shark absolutely freaked me out. I think that whole section had me on edge.

Bosses I beat or defeated/interacted with? (Some spoiler information):

Two Face, Bane, Joker, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Clayface, Ra’s al Ghul, Hugo Strange, The Penguin, Solomon Grundy and Harley Quinn. I feel like I missing someone, but I think that’s a pretty decent list.

Of all the fights, it took me a bit to figure out Solomon Grundy but Clayface was one of the worst – for me. ┬áMr. Freeze was likely the hardest overall, mainly because it wasn’t a straight up fight and each time you got to beat on him he prevented you from using that method again.

I’ll likely poke around with it from time to time to see what I missed, but now that I’m feeling better, I’ve set it aside. It was definitely a good ‘rest and recover’ form of entertainment. I estimate about 12 hours was spent playing it (again, note that I did not do a lot of the side missions).

Lego Indiana Jones 2 – PS3

I picked this up for the boys on Thursday and gave it to them on Friday. I then played it most of Saturday morning and Sunday morning with the LittleBigOgre.

I have several complaints.

Much like Lego Batman there are points where aspects of the game stop responding like they should. In Lego Batman this happened with the mission selectors and the computers for buying upgrades and extras. In Lego Indiana Jones 2 this seems to happen in the menu from the Start button. I’ve also seen it lock up at certain points and required restarting the PS3, which only happened in Lego Batman the one time.

They added in a new feature of allowing the screen to split so your two players aren’t stuck being in the same area. This has good intentions but it fails in their implementation. You see, if you’re close but just far enough off screen, it cuts the screen but doesn’t center the cut part on your player so you could end up not being able to see your character much. It will also spin around on a central axis if you find yourself below the player that was below you, swinging the split point around. Same deal if it’s side by side. This makes it a pain to track what’s going on in your panel because your panel is moving.

While I’m on the subject of blocked view, this game is bad for that. There are points in the game were you might have your entire view blocked by something like a palm tree, which is frustrating.

Another issue I ran into was on one of the replay levels (these are different, but I’ll get to that) where you have to bounce from trampoline to trampoline. This type of gameplay is painful and one of the main reasons I avoid console games. I would bounce along and get to the third to last trampoline where I discover the area for the ‘super bounce’ appeared to be smaller. You see, to make the jumps you have to bounce on the trampoline and time double pressing the jump. Each of the trampolines got slightly farther apart meaning it got harder to jump to the next one without jumping from the very edge of the trampoline. Anyway, the third from last trampoline had a ‘non-bounce’ area there. I could only get the double jump from the very middle of that trampoline and I’d always fall short.

I know, I’m an idiot, I should just use a female character because they jump really well in Lego Indiana Jones, right? Wrong. Well, they do jump well but they’re not available for the replay.

That gets me to the replay mode of the levels. Every level plays in story mode and in replay mode. This is standard for the Lego series of games. What isn’t standard is that when you’re playing Story Mode you have access to everything you need, there is no need to come back through as a different character to get all the secrets and extras.

But what about Replay Mode?!

Replay Mode is a shortened version of the level where you need two specific character types to beat the level. It’ll tell you when you pop into the level which ones you need. In the case of the trampoline level, the characters you needed were both men. Oh, and you cannot cycle between people, what you go in with is what you have access to. The sole purpose of Replay Mode is to jump through the hoops needed to get the Treasure Chest (or Artifact as it was called in Lego Indiana Jones).

Indiana Jones 2 deviates from the typical Lego games you might have seen. You have more hubs centered around the movies except the Crystal Skull which appears to have about three (it might be four) parts which means it has three or four hubs. You have to play around in these hubs to unlock some of the levels, the characters and the extras. When you beat a level, you get access to a character – usually an enemy – but only after you beat them up several times in the hub area and after you buy them. If you don’t buy them or can’t afford them, they remain hostile. You unlock extras and non-hostile characters buy finding red, green and blue bricks scattered about. You also unlock characters by succeeding at some timed vehicle courses – these are annoying at best. There are also bonus levels which reward you with treasure chests (you also get treasure chests as the reward for the Replay Mode of the Story levels).

I can’t help but feel there was some failure in planning because collecting all the treasure chests in some hubs are harder simply because of the cost involved with the characters required. Raiders of the Lost Ark hub, for example, requires you spend 500,000 Lego bits for Belloc with the Staff of Ra (silly part is you can get Indy who had a Staff of Ra on the level but doesn’t have one while in the hub) while other hubs don’t have that hefty price to complete them.

I suppose I should expand on the fact that you play through Raiders of the Lost Ark again. It’s not the same as the previous one, instead it’s different parts of the movie and I can’t help but feel like each level is much shorter than what they were in the first Lego Indiana Jones.

They also adding in a targeting mechanism, but like you have with Lego Batman’s Batarang. I don’t mind this addition, it makes sense and they made good use of it so far.

Another addition is vehicle levels where the sole purpose is to drive around in a vehicle and destroy enemy vehicles by colliding with them. There are powerups for speed, jumping and shooting (in some levels). You need to be certain vehicles to beat other vehicles. The controls are somewhat iffy and this is one of the areas you really feel the pain of the split screen and have your view point blocked a lot. These can be fun, though they’re really repetitive and there have been occasions where my vehicle blew up and it didn’t respawn anywhere nearby. In fact, I spent one level running around on foot looking for a vehicle. Some you can hop into and boot the bad guy out, others are parked out of the way. It’s an interesting gameplay mode, but I prefer the longer levels you found in previous Lego games over zipping around the same map over and over. (Think Empire Strikes back level where you have to destroy eight probes, then six walkers and four probes, etc. now imagine having two of those levels per ‘hub’… I might be exaggerating but it felt like there was way too many of those types of levels.)

All in all, it’s a little frustrating and annoying as well with scattered moments of amusement but it also feels way too short. Bottom line is that I am not too pleased with this game.

What Have I Been Playing?

I’ve been messing around on the PS3 trying to get my oldest son to play Little Big Planet with me. He pops in to do the parts that require two people, but he won’t do the rest of the level with me. I’ll just have to keep at it.

Aside from that, I’ve been building stuff with Lego, again, with my oldest son. It’s neat to see how creative he can be, though he gets upset when they break, more so when he breaks stuff I’ve made. He’s come up to me on the brink of tears saying, “I’m sorry, Daddy!” and I have no idea what he’s talking about so I ask and he tells me he broke the car I made or the bad guy hideout I built. It always surprises me, so I remind him that the best part about Lego is that you can take it apart and build other things or try to build the same thing differently – it’s not necessarily a bad thing unless it was done out of spite.

My youngest tends to follow the wife around most of the time, but I have managed to spend some time with just him. The other night we watched Spectacular Spider-man (pretty good animation). Otherwise we play some PS3 Lego game which amounts to me following him around as he explains the levels to me (hehe). He was playing with the Lego with me and his big brother for a bit, but he doesn’t seem all that interested in building really.

You may have noticed most of those activities are indoor activities… yeah, the weather has been that good lately. It seems to be getting better.

Outside of kid time, I’ve played a little bit of inFAMOUS, though none since last posting about it. I’ve also been mucking around in EQ1, though that was last weekend, I was hoping to play tonight but the Pittsburgh Penguins are playing the Detroit Red Wings tonight in game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. As a Pens fan, I’m rooting for them to make a come back like they did against the Capitals. Of course, Detroit is a tougher team than Washington so I’m not holding my breath.

I haven’t been into much else aside from work and my D&D nights. We’re entering a crunch phase for testing so I’ll likely be pretty busy with work over the next while.

Yay…

I think I might stop at the mall tonight and try to pick up a generic Lego set – those seem uncommon now, most are City, Agents, Star Wars, Indiana Jones or some other theme.

inFAMOUS on the PS3…

It has been fun. I didn’t touch it tonight, but I was playing it a bit Sunday and last night. I like the karma thing and claiming parts of the city. Gameplay is pretty fun though I was having issues targeting – I loathe using console controllers for FPS gameplay. Bouncing around the city is pretty fun, sort of reminds me of the early Leaping powerset from CoH only better since the animations make sense. It vaguely reminds me of Tenchu: Stealth Assassin back on the PS2 (or was that PS1?) only without the swords and ninja gadgets.

Missions have been a mix so far; one was simply protect an area, defeat some bad guys, save some cops and fight off some bad guys, capture some bad guys, restore power to a district, and one timed mission that did not involve combat, instead you had to make your way across some rooftops to various locations in a short period of time. Some of the missions could turn out to be traps which was fun.

I am trying to behave and not just run around blowing stuff up and zapping people, but in some cases, you get bonus XP for defeating enemies using the environment. Some of the enemies seem to teleport around, very few chase you up to the rooftops, but they will chase you on the ground.

I’m iffy on the regeneration. I guess it makes some sense, but since enemies don’t chase you up to the rooftops, you can just hide up there until you’re full and drop down on them when you are (the charged drop is pretty cool).

Overall, I’m pretty happy with it so far. It’s a sandbox game that mixes urban acrobatics and comic book action together. No complaints so far.