Click here to go to the Armchair Arcade product page for Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time (2009) by Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton.
"Art" is a word frequently thrown around in the videogame world, usually in the question, "Are videogames art?". While art truly is in the eye of the beholder and it's ultimately fruitless to try and argue if videogames and art can be one in the same, from my perspective there have been precious few times when something in the videogame world struck me as beautiful and made me feel emotions normally reserved for my experiences with other forms of entertainment. It's with that idea in mind then that I come to Braid from Number None Inc., for Microsoft's Xbox 360, via Xbox Live Arcade. To me, this time manipulation puzzle platformer is art in its truest sense, from the painterly, animated graphics style to the almost transcendental instrumental music to the rather flowery and richly constructed prose. Braid is also a game of seemingly purposeful contrasts, embracing often overly tread videogame constructs like jumping on enemy heads to dispatch them (Super Mario Bros.), finding and using keys (Shamus) and puzzle pieces (Impossible Mission), and reversing time in order to meet or re-do certain goals (Blinx), all wrapped up in an achingly beautiful aesthetic that makes everything else about it quite all right thank you very much. If I weren't terrifically busy and feeling a bit guilty about best use of my own time, I'd buy the 1200 point game immediately, but I will have to make do with a taste of the free demo for the time being, a demo of a game I'll want to expose my wife to at the first opportunity so I have someone else, firsthand, to share the experience with (and an experience it is). There are already countless reviews of Braid (whose title, for those wondering, is also fitting), but here's a brief one to get you started that hints just a bit more at what the game actually offers...
I just found a fun presentation that compares the copy protection schemes used by the 360 with those of the C-64. I was really surprised at the similarities, despite the many years and "advancements" made in the interval. The presentation really gets into the guts of the C-64 and the 360; you techies and hardware hackers out there will really enjoy this. Link via maxconsole.
Joystiq is running a great post about a potentially nasty booboo at Sears--they've got a tv spot featuring some silly kid telling us how much he likes Halo and Halo 2, and how he bought them at Sears. The problem? Uh, the kid's too young to have bought those games legally, at least if we care to observe the ESRB's ratings.
Well, as part of Xbox Live Wednesday's, which will see interesting new releases on that weekday for the near future, Microsoft and Konami have released "Frogger 25th Anniversary" to Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 yesterday. I was looking forward to the enhanced visuals and the new modes, but was ultimately left a bit dissapointed.
From the official release:
Gamers ask and Xbox 360 delivers with revolutionary free upgrade for all Xbox 360 connected owners.
Racketboy has collected a list of retrogaming port announcements that are sure to interest retrogamers who don't want to go the emulator route. The GBA is getting a 3-game Capcom pack that includes Bionic Commando and Strider (whatever happened to that franchise?), and the Xbox 360 Live Arcade is getting a whole suite of really sweet classics (including Paperboy and Sonic). It really amuses me how many "obsolete" games are showing up on modern consoles these days--a testament to their status as true classics. Of course, this ties in nicely with Nintendo's announcement to cater more to touch gamers this time around.
Frankly, when this was first announced, I thought it was a hoax, though a hoax directly from Rockstar. After all, a table tennis game from the creators of "Grand Theft Auto" and "State of Emergency"? Sure enough, it turned out to be true and is actually looking very interesting. Rockstar's basic premise was to make the best possible playing game and put all their effort into great character models and animation. Essentially, take a simple game, make it a pleasure to control, and as beautiful as possible. Sounds good to me and something of a nod to earlier days of development. Hopefully such a high profile developer like Rockstar doing this and - fingers crossed - has a big success with this, will start to inspire other developers and publishers to take a chance. After all, this is the first stand alone table tennis game in ages and the basic design principle is a very positive one.
I had some time tonight to update the downloads on my Xbox 360 with the latest demos and Xbox Live Arcade stuff. Three games in particular that I got to try were "Test Drive Unlimited", "Ridge Racer 6" and "Blazing Angels: Squadrons of Doom". Only one truly stood out, and from the title of this posting, I think you can figure out which one...