The Backlog: Backlog to the Future edition

Time for a mea culpa, guys. I was hoping to broadcast this backlog at its regularly scheduled time ("whenever on Friday, I guess") but unfortunately ran into a snag where I was unable to use my computer. Something to do with driving through planned communities in Wilsonville in the middle of the night; I don't know, let's not dredge that episode up. Anyway, the short version is I invented a time-traveling DeLorean and traveled to the past to get the backlog posted on time.

Everything was going just fine -- I survived an adventure in the wild west and I made Biff look like a total dweeb -- but unfortunately, I ended up getting totally distracted by the same exact scenario and wound up just where I'd started. Except it was now Sunday.

Oh well. I guess I should be grateful; for a while there, I was kinda worried I'd end up creating a time paradox.


I hate to be The Guy Who Brings In Real Life all the time...but this week has been finals week, and all I've really had time to do is play a little bit of stress-relief NCAA Football 10 at night once, and then burning my iPhone battery a bit continuing on with Plants vs. Zombies.

I know that it's always a discussion amongst certain core gamers, but seriously: PopCap makes some great games, period. Not great casual games; not great iPhone games, or baby games, or whatever other pejorative you want to tack on. PvZ, Peggle, and Bejeweled are all some of the best examples of quick-fix gaming available; the steady stream of hits that PopCap has managed makes them one of the developers and publishers with the best track record out there right now, too. It's rather amazing when you stand back and think about it.

The other part of real life I wanted to throw out there is more related to the site: I'm going to be traveling with my graduate program in Japan, South Korea and China for the next month. If you have any ideas or topics you want me to cover, please send comments or e-mails and I'll take them under suggestion. I'm going to have a whole week to myself in Tokyo to do some exploring, and I definitely plan on hitting up nerd mecca at least once.


I'm going to drop some knowledge on you, dear reader. I lost five hours of my day to a haze of space-faring political machinations and plasma-cannon combat.

It's not as if I made a vehement attempt to spend that much time in one sitting on a game, but Sins of a Solar Empire is no mere game -- it's a process, a chess-like series of calculated risks played out in a plodding, theatrical manner by its spaceship and planet economics dramatis personæ.

Sins caught my eye after it was released two years ago. For a few months in 2008, I played the game for countless hours online with a friend; we, two armchair generals, allied and alone against numerous CPU nemeses, spread our culture and Gross Galactic Product across the vast reaches of the large-sized galaxy maps (which recommended six to eight players at least -- a number we scoffed at). But even after coming to love Sins' unique take on strategery, my interest waned and remained dormant until this past Tuesday. The only reason I'm playing it again is because the wait for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is too much to bear.

So, Bionic Commando found its way to my doorstep last Saturday. Five hours in and I'm fairly tolerant of the game's problems, which vary in intensity from the faint (a difficult to master swinging mechanic) to the foul (a dispiriting take on the acquisition of collectibles). It's not a "bad" game like some reviews claimed, but it's definitely not worth more than $8.99 -- the price I paid for a new copy through Amazon. If you do happen to play Bionic Commando, just enjoy it for the graphics and the combat, and be done with it. Do not attempt to gather all of the collectibles and finish every challenge like me, unless you also like sucking the fun out of your gaming experiences.

In other backlog news, this week's recipient of the award for Game I Should Have Played Because Tyler Kept Asking Me To is The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Here's what I know: it involves time pie, it looks like a mix between 1800s political cartoons and Twisp and Catsby and it apparently plays a lot like Braid. Maybe I should download the trial. Or maybe, just maybe, I should quietly wait for Amped 3 to arrive.

That's right: I ordered a used copy of an Xbox 360 launch title that I previously had zero interest in (and zero knowledge of). Why? Well, I was linked to a video from Giant Bomb. This nearly hour-long look at Amped 3's numerous cutscenes has shown me the brilliance of the game's insane humor, especially after the 20 minute mark. The video's claim of Tim and Eric-like influence was at the back of my mind before it was even said. And that, friends, is why I'm excited for Amped 3. I smell a Retrospective in the air.


I began playing Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars Director's Cut on my iPhone earlier this week. Without a doubt, it's the most accessible traditional adventure game I've tried for my phone. While The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition and Beneath a Steel Sky were both good games, their interfaces left a lot to be desired. Broken Sword is built upon the same adaptations that were in Beneath a Steel Sky, but the control scheme is a lot more polished and intuitive this time around. The sound quality, voice acting and visuals are all top-notch, and the experience has been very engrossing. It's currently available for five bucks on the App Store -- why don't you give it a shot?

Being the fiscally irresponsible person I apparently have become, I picked up Heavy Rain this Tuesday. I have some serious reservations about the game and its creators (other than Guitar Hero 3, I really can't think of a more disappointing game in recent years than Fahrenheit) but after about four hours immersed in the experience, I'm utterly amazed at what Heavy Rain shaped up to be. I've long been a proponent of interactive fiction -- involved, intricate stories that mold to your actions -- which is a fledgling genre if ever there was one. Most people who go out to buy a game probably expect the gameplay to be the main attraction with the story functioning as window dressing. Heavy Rain delivers just the opposite. It's a compelling experience with a surprisingly elaborate amount of nuance and variation based on your actions, and while the controls are sometimes frustrating, they're more than adequate to suck the player in to the experience. If you're at all interested in how interactive storytelling works, Heavy Rain is perhaps the boldest experiment yet.

And of course, I'm still tromping through BioShock 2 in my Big Daddy suit. (No, not that suit.) What began as a modest successor to a groundbreaking commentary on games has taken form over the past few hours into something much more substantial: a brilliant game in its own right, and a significant improvement over its forebear. And despite the widespread criticism surrounding the multiplayer component, I've been getting my kicks blasting splicers apart for the last couple weeks. I think it's a pretty inspired take on class-based multiplayer, and it's sure a lot more interesting than Modern Warfare 2's modest (at best) improvements over Call of Duty 4's fiendishly addictive online scene.