Backlog: Clever Unifying Theme Goes Here edition

Okay, fine: So maybe we didn't put our thinking caps on this morning to figure out what ties all three of our Backlog entries together. It's possible that we didn't get enough sleep because some jerk woodpecker just had to poke the hell out of a dying fir tree about five feet from a certain editor's bed for roughly three hours. Maybe that same editor grew frustrated in hunting down a hilarious .jpg and drew a crude comic to vent his frustration instead.

Who knows? It is a mystery. So why don't we just file it away for now and move on to more pressing matters?

Lovely.

Here's the skinny: Nick is up to his old tricks, Doug is off the friggin' deep end of football-induced insanity, and Aaron just really, really hates free stuff.

Nick:

In case you ever decide to plagiarize our wildly successful business model, you might want to take note of a few key details about technique and approach. For example, the first thing I do before writing my Backlog contribution is make a list of every game I've played over the past week. This allows me both to prioritize my article's structure and, in a rare instance of introspection, determine how much relaxation I've afforded myself in recent days.

That last part is a lot more important than I've allowed myself to realize recently. With so much pressure on my shoulders to find a new job and move back into the city – pressure that is primarily self-imposed – I haven't had much time to play games, read books, play music, visit with friends, or just be a pleasant, mellow human being.

That's going to change. I don't think it's foolish to suggest that someone can still have fun even while looking for work.

So here's my pledge to you: Next week's Backlog will mention at least one new game, and it will be a minimum of 147% more interesting to read. (Don't you worry about the math -- that's my forte.)

But because you're already here and it'd be rude of me to shove you back out into the cold, let me get you up to speed. I've begun work on my most ambitious project yet in Minecraft: the construction of an underwater city. And no, it's not that underwater city; someone's already recreated it anyway. I love how Minecraft makes it remarkably simple to take a concept and make it real in a shared online experience.

Speaking of Rapture, I've wrapped up Minerva's Den, the self-contained narrative add-on to BioShock 2. It's an interesting piece of content both within the BioShock universe and in terms of what a ten-dollar downloadable add-on can do for a game, and I'm hoping to get a review posted next week.

Beyond that, I'm trying to get back up to speed on pro drums in Rock Band 3 and enjoying some good, old-fashioned masochistic fun with Demon's Souls on PlayStation 3 and 100 Rogues on iPhone. Something about a high-stakes, brutal, remorseless roleplaying game is just so damn compelling to me. I just need a good safe word.

Doug:

Ah, video games. Just last night I put the wraps on my second playthrough of Mass Effect 2, saving the universe in quite the heroic way — and not losing a single crew member on the so-called suicide mission. I’ve still got a little content left to experience in the game, but I could go back through all I’ve already played for a third time quite easily.

Put a little more time into Super Street Fighter IV as well. Nick and I decided that if there’s ever a Silicon Sasquatch office, we’ll definitely have a dedicated SSFIV setup. I’ve loved fighting games for a while, but SSFIV is just about the pinnacle of balance, playability, and fun. I'm really, really terrible at executing combos on the standard 360 pad, though.

But neither of those games are the one I poured time into. Nope. That would go to the ever-present black hole, my addiction, Pro Evo Soccer 2010. If you’ll excuse me for a moment…

(Editor's note: At this point, Doug has stood up and hastily pulled on his Arsenal soccer shirt. He is speaking in tongues. I'm calling the police.)

Seriously, it’s the time of year I start caring a lot more about European soccer. I’m always following along, but now that college football is done and the NBA playoff race hasn’t heated up, it’s time for soccer. Plus, Arsenal’s still in all four competitions, should win the Carling Cup (first silverware for five years, yay), and could still win the League for the first time in forever, so it’s time to pay attention.

I don’t know how much time I’ve dumped into my main Master League save, but I reckon I’ve played as major Italian club AS Roma for almost 60 hours. Now on my fourth season with the giallorossi, I’ve made some big-money purchases, developed players, and have quite the attacking team. I was using Roma’s stock 4-4-1-1 for a long time, and while it’s a fun way to play, it felt a bit too reliant on whoever is playing AMF (which, to begin with, is Francesco Totti). I loved how Roma’s attackers would switch positions and move fluidly, but I needed a new formation. Getting spanked by Real Madrid in the Champions League final precipitated change, so now I’m playing a more fluid 4-3-3 with a stock back four, DMF and two CMFs, and two SS and a CF up top.

The brilliant thing is that, by buying players who fit into multiple roles, I’ve created a midfield and attack setup where I can play total football until my black little heart explodes. My midfielders rotate responsibilities, my forwards swap positions on the field, and it allows me to do revel in why I love PES 2010: play going forward is much, much more organic and creative than FIFA’s recent games have been. With FIFA, it’s always felt like the best way to play is to put a ball through, spring the offside trap, and go one-on-one with the keeper. With PES, sure, that’s a way to do it, but you can send crosses into the middle of the box, to the far post, in early, and — crucially — you can attack and build in numbers, chipping away around the 18-yard-box until you find a way through.

It's far from a perfect game — if my other favorite Konami soccer game, Winning Eleven 9, is too quick on the whistle, than PES 2010 is far too stingy awarding fouls, and free kicks are impossible to score on. However, it’s interesting enough to keep me going until the 2011-2012 season games are out this fall.

Aaron

Demos are a good and bad thing. They let you give games a preliminary test run before you put down a lot of money. At their best, demos preserve your wallet from waste; at their worst, well, demos let your girlfriend spend an hour playing a god-awful CSI: Criminal Some Bullshit or Whatever game on Xbox.

My girlfriend and I were spending a nice morning off from work together, hanging out and browsing the Xbox marketplace to kill time. I had just finished Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (which, in short, pissed me off a great deal due to idiotic puzzles that truly deserve their own classification in the realm of "fuck this shit") and made her sit through the entirety of the Dead Space 2 demo. Now, my girlfriend wasn't upset or put out by my gaming choices the other day; in fact, she enjoyed watching the Prince defy gravity and an unassuming space engineer rip apart demon babies.

However, when I gave her the controller and asked her to pick the next game to play, she went straight to the demo section and downloaded that shovelware CSI demo. It was shit. Horrible, poorly designed shit. The worst part is, I found out that Telltale Games puts these things out! We both did our best to solve the mystery of a car wash cocaine murder, but after nearly an hour of lifeless voice acting and mind-numbing puzzles, we threw in the towel. Now we'll never know "whodunnit," and if Gil Grissom caught wind of our performance, he'd be upset yet passively bitchy. That's the beauty of Grissom.

As I've demonstrated here in a very brief bit of writing, videogame demos are a beautiful thing when used right. In the wrong hands, though, they can be a nightmare. Overall, the CSI demo was a learning experience, one that told me how easy it would be to make a decent crime scene adventure game if given to the right team.

After the demo extravaganza, we finished out the day playing Kingdom Hearts. Since I've never even touched the series before yesterday, it was fun to sit down and see what the fuss was all about. I'm starting to be excited for the next installment on PS3, no less. It's nice to play a Square-Enix game from a time before they started to suck at making RPGs (Final Fantasy XIII says hello).