The Backlog: How to Talk to Your Child about Flavor Flav edition

Flavor Flav is a touchy subject for youngsters. DJ Hero has a dedicated Flavor Flav button. Well, no; it's technically a "sample" button that triggers a set of predetermined samples when playing a mix. But unfortunately, the default sample set is the first of two sets of Flavor Flav clips, including the infamous "Yeahhhhh boyyyyyyyeeeee!"

Experts agree that Flavor Flav can present a number of daunting questions that are difficult for a young child's mind to process. We're pleased to announce our upcoming parent's guide to teaching your child the truth about Flavor Flav -- and why he isn't so scary after all.

Unfortunately, we still haven't figured out how to just make him go away.

Backlog get money get paid


"Get money, get paid." It's a classic pursuit-of-happiness phrase, a self-evident truth we should all adhere to. Without money, we aren't getting paid, no? And what does one do when this "paid" status is finally reached? I don't know about you, but in that position I'd feel accomplished and willing to purchase exorbitant varieties of goods. Maybe, once I was "paid," I could afford to buy contraptions such as a gold-plated PlayStation 3. However, I'm currently not getting money, and as a result I'm not getting paid. So I must use the little resources I have to intelligently scour for deals on games I'm interested in.

The point is, you should see my Google calendar. For the past few months I've persistently added upcoming game deals to my calendar, and other things like free Xbox 360 themes and avatar rewards. Websites like Cheap Ass Gamer are excellent tools to help you save cash. Digital distribution services on the PC have shown me throughout 2009 that you should never pay full price for any game, big or small. There have been simply too many noteworthy deals from Steam, Direct 2 Drive and Impulse to list in this backlog.

So, I've been playing my old games lately, getting as much mileage out of them as possible while I wait for other titles to drop their price; Modern Warfare 2, Rock Band 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 were my sources of entertainment this past week. All those number twos are starting to look like a math problem by the way: (MW²) x (RB²) x (L4D²) = Enjoyment/Time. Clearly I know nothing about math anymore, but I'm basically implying that the more I play these games -- two-thirds of which are still very new -- the more I feel I'm getting my money's worth. And as far as Left 4 Dead 2, Nick and I joined up with two other people for the four pack Steam discount, bringing the grand total of each PC copy to $33.75. Like I said, don't pay full price for anything, if possible. Oh, and I got Modern Warfare 2 as a gift. So, that doesn't really count.

The rest of December is looking fantastic for cheap gaming. Christmas gifts are an obvious focus, but soon Direct2Drive's "24 Days of Christmas" sale (where a new game is on sale for 24 hours each day, and it's generally 50% off its normal price) will be featuring Torchlight and Machinarium, each for $10. Having played the demos for both, I'm extremely tempted to just pay full price right now so I can satiate my crazed hunger. But, without getting "paid," I'll hold out for the $10-per-title sale on D2D. Also, Xbox LIVE Arcade will be briefly dropping the price of Shadow Complex (a game we expertly discussed on a past podcast, if I may be so bold) for a week, from $15 to $10 starting December 21st (or from 1200 to 800microsoftpointsicon). I'll finally snatch that up too.

In an optimal situation, I wouldn't hesitate to pay talented developers every penny they deserve, but I'm not in an optimal situation. They're still getting my money in the end. And that's better than resorting to pirating, right?

Editor's Note: Doug shot a video on his iPhone 3G S of me playing "Groundhog" by Noisia on expert, arguably the toughest song in the game. This made me feel inadequate because 1. I did pretty terribly on the song and 2. I only own a video-less iPhone 3G.


So now that the strange trailing finals week is complete, it's time to play some damn games.

I paid co-managing editor Nick a visit earlier this week and got to give DJ Hero a try. And I now believe the hype that Nick has been giving it the last few weeks. It's so easy to dismiss the game — especially given Activision's recent track record with music games — but it's actually, from my brief impression, very well thought-out and put together. The aesthetic is interesting and makes sense with the music on tap; the licensed characters spinning records for you look great (especially Daft Punk); and, most importantly, it's a very fun game to play. Giving the fake wheel of steel a spin on medium, I felt active but not totally overwhelmed at first — there's a lot going on in the game, but it feels manageable. It scratches the multi-tasking, switch on the fly itch that many other great games get right as well.

DJ Hero feels like the sort of evolution of the Konami Beatmania games that the original Guitar Hero was of Guitar Freaks. Besides lending a more Western touch to the soundtrack (Anglo-American rock for GH, American hip-hop and electronic music for DJH), both games also evolve the core gameplay mechanic while retaining the basic concept — and the difficulty. Watching Nick take a stab at one of the hardest sets in the game on Hard drove in not just how deep the gameplay here can be, but also how fun it is to watch somebody proficient at a music game.

I also FINALLY started up Batman: Arkham Asylum, borrowed from Nick as well given my free time. God is it good; the only real complaint I have is that you can definitely tell it's an Unreal Engine game — it's got that ugly plastic doll look to the characters, especially when the camera pulls up close during cinematics. The, I can't say enough good about it. The controls fall right to hand simply and easily, everything works like it should, and the puzzles and set-pieces the storyline guide you through are interesting and very fun to play. Looking forward to continuing on with the game and seeing what waits later on. What an experience.

Also got more time into NCAA 10, Forza Motorsport 3, and Brütal Legend, the latter of which I'm re-warming up to despite its (numerous) gameplay flaws. Forza 3 saw a DLC pack drop this week, and I feel like a total consumer whore for giving in to temptation....but it's so good. 11 more cars for the game, including a few more super-advanced racing cars...mmmm. Awesome.

Apparently it's okay to feature a violently racist character in a game so long as she never refers to her scapegoat by the real-world name.


I bet you thought I was gonna talk about DJ Hero! Yeah, it's a blast, and I'm getting close to five-starring every song on expert, but it wasn't the biggest draw for me this week.

My PlayStation 3 and I haven't always been on the best of terms. I succumbed to her siren song last summer when the temptation of a Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle and the short-lived ecstasy of being a college graduate motivated me to pick one up and see what this HDMI nonsense was all about. While it has since proved itself to be the absolute best DVD upscaler I've ever seen (really -- it's gorgeous), most of the console-exclusive games Sony fans have boasted about have all struck me as lackluster. LittleBigPlanet, though bursting with charm, wasn't as tight to control or easy to navigate as it should have been; InFamous was a marvelous platformer with an unforgivably terrible story with characters even a mother couldn't love; and Resistance 2 and Killzone 2 were both gorgeous and perfectly playable, but nowhere near as memorable for me as the Halo or Gears of War franchises.

Somehow, I forgot about Valkyria Chronicles, the much-lauded action-strategy gem that gamers either didn't play or absolutely fell in love with. It's even more embarrassing because I've owned a copy for almost a year now, but for whatever reason -- maybe the stereotypical anime illustrations and voice actors -- I never gave it more than an hour of my time. That changed this week when I sat down to give it another shot, and stood up after three hours and four chapters had passed in the game. I'm hooked, without a doubt.

What's there to say? It's brilliant. It's the most creative and purely fun tactical strategy game I've played since Advance Wars was released eight years ago. The game flows along seamlessly, despite the relative mediocrity of many of the voice actors and the sometimes-uncomfortable combination of manga-style storytelling with a pseudo-realistic Europe in World War II. If I were to pick one exclusive game to convince somebody why a PlayStation 3 is worth owning -- something unique and memorable -- Valkyria Chronicles is the one. Sure, Uncharted 2 is an incredible adventure, and the whimsy and charm of Ratchet and Clank is unparalleled, but nothing else out there plays like Valkyria Chronicles. Games this creative and engaging are rare lately, so if it's within your means to play it, I highly recommend doing so.