Monday, July 30, 2007


I mean, "It's about f-in time." That's not nearly so friendly, though. Apologies to those who prefer milder language: for you, pretend that I said "fire-truckin'".

Someone finally figured out that chess would make a good XBLA game, and better yet, it's not alone. Let me get this straight: for 400 points, we get chess, checkers, reversi, and mancala, and we paid how much for Pac-Man?

Anyway, good to see the trend toward thinkers' games (Catan, Carcassonne) is continuing.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

PS2 review: Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s (6/10)

Warning: spoilers involved. Don't read this unless you want to know all the tracks in the game.

Let's go through each set, one at a time.

Set 1 songs

  • Quiet Riot: (Bang Your Head) Metal Health
  • A good start.
  • Go-Go's: We Got The Beat
  • Kind of a surprise, but it works here.
  • Flock of Seagulls: I Ran (So Far Away) [as performed by]
  • Not bad, but it seems like they took some of the keyboards and made them into guitar notes.
  • Accept: Balls To The Wall
  • Standard metal fare.

Set 1 encore

  • Skid Row: 18 And Life
  • Nice encore tune. Moves around a bit, but not too difficult on Hard.

Set 2 songs

  • Scorpions: No One Like You
  • Good song, and a good way to start the set.
  • Eddie Money: Shakin'
  • Not bad, I like this one too.
  • Asia: Heat Of The Moment
  • My favorite Asia song, one of the best in the game. Too bad it's not the original and they don't do the guitar solo correctly.
  • White Lion: Radar Love



Not only did they defame the game by including a cover of the song (hey, the original was a '70s song anyway), but it's a bad cover. Bad. Loss of one point.

I mean, seriously. There's a White Lion song in here and it isn't Wait?

Set 2 encore

  • Limozeen: Because, It's Midnite
  • Um ... what? Did someone break into the game and wreck the last half of set 2? This isn't even worth putting in the game, and on top of it, you won't get points from it. I posted a perfect 55K. boo.

Set 3 songs

  • Dio: Holy Diver
  • Okay, back on track. Good song.
  • Vapors: Turning Japanese
  • Uh, whatever. The pop influence, I guess.
  • 38 Special: Hold On Loosely
  • I really like this song too. Not a bad set so far.
  • Scandal: The Warrior [as performed by]
  • Nice. Get rid of Turning Japanese and we could have had a really solid set.

Set 3 encore

  • Twisted Sister: I Wanna Rock [as performed by]
  • Awesome! The one thing they should have added was the lead singer asking the crowd what they wanted to do with their lives. This was a solid set.

Set 4 songs

  • Romantics: What I Like About You
  • Not a bad song.
  • Police: Synchronicity II
  • Sting is not a good singer to have to copy.
  • Krokus: Ballroom Blitz
  • I couldn't tell right away if this was real or not. I like Krokus' version better than the original.
  • Oingo Boingo: Only A Lad
  • Um ... this isn't Karaoke Revolution.

Set 4 encore

  • Ratt: Round And Round
  • Nice. Songs by the two artists at the first real concert I went to see (they opened for Billy Squier).

Set 5 songs

  • Poison: Ain't Nothin' But A Good Time

um ...

that's not the title. Those lyrics don't even appear in the song. This is inexcusable. Loss of a point. (At least the song is good.)
  • Billy Squier: Lonely Is The Night
  • Good song.
  • Faster Pussycat: Bathroom Wall
  • Hadn't heard this one before, but it's not bad.
  • X: Los Angeles
  • Who?

Set 5 encore

  • Iron Maiden: Wrathchild
  • Nice. I forgot about this one. Unfortunately, The Trooper is 10x cooler.

Set 6 songs

  • Judas Priest: Electric Eye [as performed by]
  • Hadn't heard this one before. Nice touch to get their version of it.
  • Dead Kennedys: Police Truck
  • One punk song per game, huh? It's not a bad song, I guess.
  • Winger: Seventeen
  • Nice song, but not sure this is the type of song for this set.
  • Anthrax: Caught In A Mosh
  • eh.

Final encore

  • Extreme: Play With Me

Okay, it's nice that it has Mozart stuff in it, I guess, but seriously? This is the best you had? From the '80s? Seriously?

I never heard this song before. Sorry, not impressed.

So that's it. Hmm ... where to begin.

No Van Halen? No AC/DC? No Bon Jovi? No Cinderella? No Def Leppard? No Dokken? No Tesla? No Autograph?

And that's just from my own collection.

No additional songs to unlock. (Maybe the developers ran out of their own tunes to include. Ha ha. Oh wait, that probably wasn't a joke.)

No career score. Like GH II, there isn't even a cumulative score for each level like they had in GH I.

This is very Madden-ish: the exact same game, only with new songs. (Actually, it's not even as much as you got in GH II.) At least they have the working hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Sorry to say it, but I don't recommend this game at full price. You won't get your money's worth. I hope Rock Band and GH III are worth it, because we're definitely getting screwed for the time being, between this and the lack of track packs (four in all, after the last one, but still only three songs per pack).

zlionsfan's rating: 6 rounds of sardonic applause out of 10.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Got what's probably my first 600 series, a 622. (208-217-197) I still can't put more than four strikes together. That last game raised my skill a whole 6 points, to 1206.

Wait till my next precipitous plunge. I don't think I can afford a 170 now. Poor me.

I wonder what happens at 2000? Guess I'll find out in tennis ...

Big hair, loud music, and regrets

It's true. Rocks the 80s is here, arriving promptly on the 26th (although they did that awful hold-the-game-until-we-say thing that I dislike; I guess the flip side is that I know I'll get it on launch day). It was almost like going to a high school reunion, running into an old flame, and making plans to hook up that evening.

Don't get me wrong. It was good - heck, parts of it were great - but really, it wasn't what I was hoping it would be, and honestly, it's probably because my expectations were too high. This was only supposed to be GH II with '80s songs, and that's exactly what it is. After all, there's a reason why she's an old flame ... and remember, your friend's cousin is coming into town later this year, and she's supposed to be smoking hot.

I'll have a more detailed review later (with spoilers, sorry, but it would be hard to review it accurately without listing all the tracks).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Low red count

Calle passed her first blood test. The second one was today, with chemo scheduled for tomorrow.

The hospital called me back today. Turns out her red blood cell count was about half of the lowest acceptable level, so we canceled the appointment. I've got antibiotics to give her, and next week, she'll go back in for another blood test. If that's okay, we can proceed with chemo.

Naturally, she doesn't care. Looks like the same old Calle, except with a bit less fur (the stomach fur is starting to grow back; the neck and leg won't stay regrown until we're done because they need the leg for chemo and the neck for blood work).

Well, she probably won't like 14 doses of antibiotics. Neither will I. I did get a useful tip, though. We'll see how it works out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

AOL sucks


Their fantasy football site is awful. Still is. But the commissioner likes it.

Also, it's free.

So my job is to document why it sucks so that we can compare it to better sites and use one next season (or maybe this season).

Let's see:

Slow updates. It was not at all uncommon for Tuesday to roll around without final scores and standings.

Counterintuitive design. If you saw a list of items like this:

Views » Team Records » Standings » Head to Head » Hall of Fame

you'd think it was where you were in the site, right? So under Views, there would be Team Records ... but that's not how it works. These are all equal options under Views.

There doesn't seem to be any place that shows past champions or past playoff results.

That's all for now. More later, I expect.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wii Virtual Console review: Gradius III (6/10), $8

Oh no, it won't be like Xbox Live. For one thing, I already own most of the games I'd want to play, and I still have the original systems (NES, N64, and Genesis). For another, well, they're not new.

Anyway, Gradius III is pretty much like you played it on the SNES: same preset ship configuration, same customization options, same gameplay, same customizable controls.

The Classic controller is very lightweight, almost too much so. The default configuration is almost unplayable (you've got shoulder buttons - use them), but it's very easy to reconfigure.

For some reason, the game doesn't size properly on an HDTV. Yeah, I know, the Wii itself doesn't provide HD graphics, but the regular Wii games are sized right. Hey, put in a little extra work and let us configure video (16:9 or 4:3). As a result, you can't tell what your score is, because it's off the top of the screen.

It does, however, save your high scores. Hear that, Microsoft? It saves your high scores.

So it's a nice little game if you enjoyed it in the past, but if you didn't, it's not really a game I'd recommend. Play one of the more modern versions.

zlionsfan's rating: 6 options out of 10.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bowlin', bowlin', bowlin'


Read it and weep, beeeyotches. (Thanks to Wayne Veres for his handy little score calculator.)

I figured out a small problem with my delivery. Two, actually. One was that I was swinging my arm out and back instead of hanging it at my side as if it held, well, a bowling ball. The other was that my release point was random.

A couple of changes later, I hit seven of eight strikes and end up a sleeper away from a no-tap 300. Added 97 points to my level (1175 now).

I'd bowl again, but there's a cat on my lap.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


So I get home after an evening of playing Big Brain Academy and Mario Party 8, and I see that I don't have my BBA game in my inbox. Actually, I have nothing. Also, my friends didn't have my updated Mii.

I play for a bit and decide to test the connection. Sporadic connectivity, can't shop, can't update the system.

After about 45 minutes of the router equivalent of smacking the TV set, I unplug the Wii and move it up about three feet and out of the nice entertainment center where it sits. No connection problems at all.

I think this was because we were talking last night about how Sony was so stupid and Microsoft couldn't get out of its own way. Nintendo can't make enough Wiis to save themselves, but what else could they do wrong? Everyone loves their games.

Oh yeah. No wired connection and crappy interface to wireless connections.

Thanks for reminding me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cross your paws ...

Well, the surgery went very well. The incision healed fine, the E-collars are off, and the staples are out. There was much washing that first day, when she got to keep the collars off for good (I let her wash the fur areas every now and then, but she had to stay away from the incision).

Her energy was coming back even as the E-collars were on, so she's pretty close to normal now. That's good, considering that she also began chemo on Friday. (This was new to me: unlike in people, where they can ramp it up because you know what's going on, in cats, chemo is more for controlling whatever might be out there. A cat in pain because of cancer and a cat in pain because of chemo are essentially in the same spot.) There isn't anything noticeable right now, but because this turned out to be something a little bit different (pancreatic, and there are other words that go with it that may or may not have been what I posted before), this is to keep down whatever else may be trying to grow. There will be six three-week cycles, alternating between two medicines, with blood draws 10 and 20 days after chemo.

It was pretty quick, maybe just 20 minutes, and thankfully administered by IV and not yours truly. Got her back in the crate, back home, and within minutes, she was eating and pulling at the bandage on her leg. (I felt dumb when, after the hour they say to wait, I went to take it off and there was no bandage on the leg. She'd already removed it herself. No thanks, Dad, already took care of that.)

No real side effects, partly because of the low dosage. The one thing that happens sometimes is that whiskers fall out (their equivalent to our hair, stuff that keeps growing). Not yet, not that I've seen. Also, you're supposed to handle waste carefully, because for the first 72 hours, they can pass active medication. (Fortunately, I already react to cat urine, so I've got gloves just for that purpose.)

Things have gone as well as I could have hoped. The only real change, besides the fur that's slowly growing back, is that now that Calle has her energy back, she's not so keen on hanging out with Josie. Apparently all that closeness before was just that she didn't have the energy to move away. :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

XBLA review: Missile Command (3/10)


This week's XBLA release is another Digital Eclipse port of an Atari classic. And who wouldn't want to play good old Missile Command?

Well, anyone without a trackball, for starters. Missile Command is slightly less awkward to play with a joystick than Centipede, but both really, really need a trackball to be played well.

Also, I never really liked Missile Command, so it stands to reason that if the port were faithful to the original, I wouldn't like it either, and so I don't.

I will give them credit, though, for porting it well. The Classic mode is basically the old game with joystick controller. (Thankfully, they do use X A B for bases. I've seen ports that used only one button to fire.) For some reason, there's no two-player alternating mode.

Naturally, there's an "Evolved" mode that is supposed to be so much better than the original. Again, nobody looks at these games and says "Man, if only the graphics were updated, this would be a kick-ass game, even today!" Well, actually, they could improve the graphics here. The contrast on some of the levels wasn't so good: you could tell that Atari was using some colors simply because they could.

Well, Evolved does change the colors up, along with "3D" graphics, but the irony is that there are still levels where it's not easy to pick up the "missiles." Sigh ... also, Digital Eclipse really, really wants you to play the Evolved mode. Ten of the twelve achievements are for the Evolved mode at Normal difficulty. Thankfully, they only required stupid "throttle monkey" difficulty for one achievement. (Why bother to give us only two difficulty levels? MAME lets you customize the difficulty like arcade operators could.)

Interestingly, they did change one thing significantly. The bonus multiplier continues to go up beyond 6x: it continues every two waves. This should give you that same kind of artificially-high score that pinball players got from tables in the early '90s, when designers realized that you could add a couple of zeroes to everything and people would like their scores better.

I guess if you really are hankering for a game of Missile Command, this might be nice to have in your collection, but if you weren't the kind of person who'd put a week's lunch money into the game in the '80s, I wouldn't bother with it today.

zlionsfan's rating: 3 cities out of 10.