Backlog: Spring Forward edition

Welcome to this week's Backlog! I'm your typist-guide -- my name's Aaron, but you can call me Aaron -- and it's my job to introduce our content. So let me do that.

Today is a good day, and not just because I'm totally fond of our latest contributions about games we've all played during the past seven days. No, that's all fine and dandy. What I mean in calling today a good day is that the atmosphere is different -- finally. I can feel the air warming. I can see the daylight growing longer. My roommates are busy cleaning their rooms, watering their plants and putting on airs for guests who are showing up this weekend. People are emerging from winter's woolen grasp and it's visible on the faces around me. Spring is fuckin' here.

How nice.


Spoiler: I too am writing this on my iPhone, but it's for a different reason - my stalwart MacBook has a slight problem that should be easy to fix. Thank god for small miracles.

However, I've been gaming like a fiend this week. I finished Limbo and feel like that is a beautiful, awesome game that gets a touch too obtuse, puzzle-wise, at the end. I guess I'm not smart enough to figure out how to do some of those puzzles.

I played a couple demos, too. I dont play tennis at all, but Top Spin 4 I may have to buy. It's definitely the successor to Virtua Tennis, is fairly simple to pick up and play, but looks fantastic and has great depth. Tennis games are great same-couch multiplayer jams, too. Add in a sweet-looking single-player mode and this could be a fun sleeper.

MLB 2K11 was really sharp, graphically, but it's just kind of eh. Sony's MLB The Show series is much better.

I also finally got a proper taste of CoD: BLOPS. Yeah, that's the volume turned to 11 24/7. Thanks but I'll pass.

What I've been spending way too much time on is drifting in Forza 3. I got the itch after watching a recap show about the 2010 Japanese D1GP series, and impressed with the array of cars and relative street car resemblance they bore. It's a good match for Forza's tuning capabilities.

I perused Forza's official forums and found that the first post of their Drifting subforum tuning thread had great tips for adjusting setups, so with knowledge in hand, I set out building and tuning a small fleet of cars. And painting! I now have a team of Castrol and Falken sponsored drift machines with authentic U.S. Formula Drift numberplates. It's my personal fantasy made real.

Actually drifting is a whole different style from normal "grip" driving. The lines around the track are different, and car control is a bit different, too. Throttle control is paramount. It's fun to practice, though, and a lot cheaper than burning through all those tires in real life! It also makes me excited for Shift 2's drifting modes.


I've taken a swing at so many games over the past two weeks (which astute readers will recognize that I was absent from the last 'log, due to generally fuck-upery). To list all of them and what I've beaten and/or stated would be boring, so let me try a different approach: I'll discuss one game! That's better, no?

Dead Space 2: What the hell was that? It lived up to the developer's namesake, that's certain, but I certainly have some opinions about the game now that I've finished it. While Dead Space 2 is the best sequel I've played in 2011 (Dragon Age II will triumph in the end, you watch), it's also a game that tries very hard to be hated. Survival horror is dead, and should rightfully be until 10 years have passed and devs run out of ideas again, and what's left of that old genre is Dead Space: an action-y creature that writhes within and embodies the shriveled carcass of the original Resident Evils, but still does a lot of things wrong to make it unforgiving -- and not in a satisfying, challenging way.

The presentation is top-notch, even perfect. The atmosphere is scary and I love it.  The sound design makes me long for my 5.1 stereo set up. In so many ways, Dead Space 2 doesn't appear to have its faults, but I think they're readily apparent. It's how stupid the game is. Dead Space 2 is brain dead, and it's because you're given an open world design as far as the weapons and RPG-lite elements go, but no really indication that your choices in upgrading your RIG, stasis powers or weapons are the "correct" choice. And don't tell me the choices aren't right or wrong when you die repeatedly because your weapon doesn't have the best reload speed or some other missing Excel stat sheet number.

It's entirely possible I'm simply awful at Dead Space. Regardless, the game doesn't get off of the hook for its lack of intelligent or logical progression just because it offers a New Game+ mode. It's not fair to give a bevy of upgrade choices as an illusion of freedom and then punish the player for not chosing the "right" load out on moderate difficulty. Offering a second go-around with your (poorly) updated equipment and the chance to find more power nodes is not a proper consolation prize.

Anyway, the game was good!


I'm writing this backlog contribution on my iPhone about two hours outside of Austin. It's been an insane week, what with packing, saying my goodbyes, bingeing on all my Oregon food staples (much love to Cornucopia, Café Yumm! and Dove Vivi) and driving a billion hours across half the country. Unfortunately, that leaves no time for games.

Seriously. I haven't so much as touched an iPhone game since last weekend. But I think it's only appropriate to point out that the last game I played in Portland before hitting the road was Rock Band 3 (of course). I'll miss playing it every couple weeks in Portland -- but I won't miss shoving all my fake instruments into the trunk of my car each time.