The Backlog: The Decapitating Kanji of the Dead edition

Where did all the writing go?

Unfortunately for you, dear reader, our goal of posting fresh, thirst-quenching content at least once a day didn't occur this week. We apologize for that; It's a busy season for those of us in graduate school and those of us looking for jobs. But you're not here for excuses! You're here to about read what videogames we've been playing -- the most important segment of our daily lives, of course.

Nick's been hoarding mad "lewt", I've been rekindling my passion for zombie killing and Doug's been using his DS to hone his prowess with the Japanese language.

Wait...is that even a game?

Despite the obvious similarities, this is not an homage to The Secret of Monkey Island. This disembodied head is just irritating.

Nick:

You'd think that I'd be knee-deep into Titan Quest, having picked it up for a mere five bucks last weekend. Or maybe you'd assume I'm relentlessly improving my Firefight scores in Halo 3: ODST. At the very least, you'd be absolutely certain that most of my free time has been spent feeding my fetishistic love for the Rock Band Network beta.

The truth is, I barely touched any of them. I've got two reasons for that, and neither of them is gonna make any sense.

The first reason is the oft-maligned Too Human, Silicon Knights' biggest gamble and most controversial release. Critics and gamers alike expressed almost universal disdain for the game, and I can see why: The plot is baffling, the voice acting is pathetic, the art and enemy design are painfully uninspired and the game is incredibly short.

It is, by most accounts, a colossal failure. So why can't I stop playing it -- even after I already beat it?

Between the ludicrous amounts of loot to gather, the relatively replayable dungeons and the adrenaline rush from taking down hundreds of enemies in mere seconds, Too Human has brought me closer to the euphoric destruction of games like Diablo II than anything else has in recent years. It's a very uneven package, and though I'm a little ashamed to admit it, I've gotten way more than my money's worth out of it.

The second reason why I've avoided the mainstream in gaming is the officially licensed Skee-Ball game for iPhone. Developed by Freeverse, the 99-cent app delivers a surprisingly deep physics-based game with hilarious bonuses redeemable with tickets won in the game. Glittery pencils, fake mustaches, little cheap plastic dinosaurs, Peruvian Flute Band CDs -- all the crap you coveted as a child at Chuck E. Cheese is lovingly reproduced. The game also features clever integration with ngmoco's Plus+ network, a sort of Xbox Live for various iPhone games.

Ah, memories

Aaron:

As I mentioned last week, I acquired Titan Quest for $5. I have to say it's much more fun than I expected. Nick may be satisfying his craving for Diablo-like gameplay through Too Human, but I'd wager Titan Quest is a better companion for those loot-oriented needs. It's a shame that the title faded from most gamers' memories.

It's been another slow week for me otherwise -- most of my time has gone to reading, being social and looking for work. But I've surprised myself with a new-found appreciation for Left 4 Dead. The game wowed me when I first played it, but the honeymoon was incredibly short. Since January I've rarely touched it, instead turning to Team Fortress 2 for online FPS fun. But with the release of the Crash Course DLC this week I'm reminded how clever and sustainable the L4D concept is. Thanks to L4Dmods.com and its collection of well-made community campaigns like Death Aboard and Heaven Can Wait, I'm actually anticipating the upcoming sequel.

Next week, Halo 3: ODST will be arriving from Amazon. Thanks to a 10% Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) discount and an Amazon sale that took $10 off the game, I feel much more comfortable spending $44 on what I largely feel is an expansion to the core Halo 3 game. Debate that point with me all you want, but I'll at least be able to enjoy co-op and Firefight with my friends now.

Learn 4 Dead

Doug:

In an ironic turn, the most time I've spent playing games this week has actually been for class! Along with an online marketing simulation game for my marketing class, I've been taking advantage of one of the most useful games I have — DS Rakubiki Jiten — in my Japanese classes.

Anybody who's studied a foreign language knows how essential dictionaries are. Especially with Japanese and Chinese, having access to an electronic dictionary that can provide both meanings and how to write words in both languages is an extremely useful tool. DS Rakubiki Jiten, then, turns your average humble Nintendo DS into a Japanese-English electronic dictionary. At the relatively good price of $50, I bought my copy of DS Rakubiki Jiten through an import shop a couple of years ago and have found it vital to my study of Japanese ever since.

Considering that most electronic Japanese dictionaries cost at least $200 — and that, unlike those entry-level models, the DS Rakubiki Jiten allows you to use the bottom touch screen to write in kanji that you don't recognize — it's highly suggested as a valuable way to improve one's study of Japanese.

I've also gotten a bit more seat time with Madden NFL 10 — that game suffers from terrible rubber-band AI trying to keep games close — and Peggle on iPhone. I also got the chance to go to Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade in Portland on Wednesday; it was a night where a $5 cover charge got you into the arcade and from there, all the games were set to free play. I spent some time with my friends on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, a little bit of Street Fighter II, DDR, and Bubble Bobble.