Category Archives: Gaming

Bananagrams addiction

BananagramsNicky and Kate introduced us into one of the most entertaining games I’ve played for a while – Bananagrams – whilst we were down the coast a couple of weekends ago. A sort of free-form scrabble, you form a scrabble grid of words (without a board) with however many letters you are allocated – 21 in a short-handed game (2-4 players). When you complete the grid, you shout ‘peel’ and everyone takes another letter from the face-down pile in the middle and you try to fit it into your grid somewhere, often having to restructure swathes of it. If you can’t place a letter, you can ‘dump’ it in exchange for three new letters from the central pile.

The winner is the first to complete the grid once the central tile repository has been exhausted and shout ‘bananas’. Sub-games include longest word, min/max word length, thematic consistency to all words, sentences, rude word construction and so on.

Addictive in the extreme, and only £8.49 from Amazon! Stocking filler-tastic.

Tetris battle and social gaming

tetrisbattleAmanda and I have got a little hooked on Tetris Battle – a competitive, Facebook-integrated game that does what you’d expect it to. Getting lines bumps the opponent up, with bonuses for hitting ‘bombs’ and getting multiple line-completions in sequence.

Given how busy life is at the moment, these sorts of quick social game are all I have time for. Are there any other good ones I should look out for / avoid on pain of addiction?

House of the Dead: Overkill and the b-movie tradition

The House of the Dead: OVERKILL - Promotional poster

I used to love light gun games, Time Crisis and its ilk, and in my PS2 days invested a disproportionate amount of money sourcing games and accessories. Ironically, since the games have become more accessible (in the wake of the Wii), I’ve not played any at all. But this weekend, visiting Matt, I was exposed to HoTD: Overkill, a spectacular overdone piece of B-Movie Zombie-killing light-gun action.

There are just a few hours of collaborative gameplay built into it but they’ve milked everything they can from the format pretty effectively, and its a lot of fun.The thing that makes it stand out, though, is the spectacular b-movie scriptwriting. Random plot jumps, totally stereotyped lead characters, disgusting but entertaining plot twists and progressions. Lots of fun.

The dialogue, especially when initiated by Detective Washington, is offensively fun. If you’re of an age and can cope with sweary misogyny interspersed with random introspection, check out a selection of his best quotes here.

Things I did when I was young

chess pieceHaving a child, as I’ve noted, sparks memories of your own childhood. Two in particular rose to the surface recently, and whilst neither is quite appropriate for Emily’s current state of cognitive development, they’re definitely ones I’d like to consider when the time comes.

The first was mental arithmetic. I must have been 6 or 7 years old, and my father – a trained corporate lawyer with a self-professed inability to deal with maths to any significant degree – started me off with some mental arithmetic workbooks. I’m sure I cheated at the time – I had a good memory and memory trumps calculation every time – but in time I definitely took in enough tips and tricks that to this date Mathemagic is a skill I carry with me and use on a daily basis. Admittedly my numeracy is a cause for some gentle mocking derision from my wife (“waaaaaaaah!” I can hear her say), but its inestimably useful.

The second was chess. My parents took us early on to classes with the Malaysian master, one Peter Long (and Jimmy Liew, an International master). Peter and Jimmy are still around somewhere, living the corporate life with some chess on the side, but at the time they ran chess classes for kids out of a house in suburban KL. It consisted primarily of Peter and Jimmy playing multiple games of chess simultaneously, against the clock, against all of us, and whilst I’m sure I didn’t think I enjoyed it that much at the time, I look back on it fondly and maintain some basic faculty with the game. My dad used to make us read books of openings and the like – in the hope perhaps that we would become the next Garry Kasparovs (it was the 80s, a heady time in the world of chess), but my sister winning in the under 12s category at a National tournament was the extent of our triumph. I did later tournament a little in the UK under the watchful eye of my Stowe English and chess teacher, Steven Thompson, acquiring a middling ranking on the UK chess circuit. But it’s been a long time, and we don’t currently even have a chess set.

So I’ve got a few things to buy before Emily hits the stage of cognitive development where either of these things might prove interesting, and have an enduring stack of gratitude for my parents for exposing me to stuff like this.

Also, chess sets are apparently expensive.

NB post edited following some memory prompts and helpful searches from my Dad and cousin Michelle. Thanks!

Heavy handed PR – Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever for PS3

This is a flavour of heavy-handed PR-ing that I normally attribute to former newsroom editors rather than long-time video games comms pros, but I guess when you’re PR-ing the ‘longest’ if not ‘most heavily anticipated’ video game of all time (“FOREVER is a reference to how long its been in development) the pressure might be on:

Ars Technica tells the full story of how a blacklist threat was issued for negative reviewers of the new Duke Nuke’m game.

"Too many went too far with their reviews…we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom," the company tweeted. "Bad scores are fine. Venom filled reviews…that’s completely different," another tweet read.

I guess this is one video game you have to be careful with, before, as Duke might put it, you "rip off its head and s**t down its neck." –> although in this case, the Duke turned on his own, with 2k Games firing the PR in question fairly swiftly.

My heart goes out to the guy, though, if his apologies (see the Ars Technica piece) were genuine. It can be heart-wrenching if a project you’ve put a lot of soul into gets universally panned. However; I’m a little dubious at how much the PR can have contributed… after all, the job of PR-ing one of the biggest names in gaming wouldn’t be as emotionally involved as, say, developing it in the first place….

Cloud gaming

OnLive_Logos_1Another @geowgeow pointer, I was reading about Onlive this week. A gaming service that streams the entire gameplay experience to you in a thin-client model – so you could play the game on the modern equivalent of a dumb terminal whilst graphics rendering, game processing, etc. happens in the cloud. For Onlive, the dumb terminal could be a PC, Mac, iPad or TV. Fiendishly clever innovation, one of those ‘new business models’ we keep talking about.

There’s a video explaining more here. The game line-up is pretty awesome, and it looks like you can either buy or subscribe

Wow. Who’d have thought broadband speeds were up to this? Well, mine isn’t with its mediocre 3mbp/s download speed and < 1 mbp/s upload, so I suspect a test of the service would be worse than futile, even if I had time for gaming… but it’ll certainly save people money on PC upgrades if it works!

It launches in the UK later this year according to Wired… one to watch!

Defense of the Ancients and RTS nostalgia

I have done a lot less gaming over the last few years and on the whole I’m glad of it – I’m happy being busy with friends and family.

But there is a category of games that inspires nostalgia – real time strategy games, of the school of Dune 2, Command and Conquer, Warcraft and Red Alert. Maybe because Dune 2 was one of the first PC-games I really got into, maybe because they provide a cerebral challenge as well as an entertainment hit, maybe because most of those games have a cheesey semi-interactive sci-fi or fantasy narrative running through them… but whatever the reason, it was with interest that I saw that one of the games my friend Noel introduced me to years ago – a Warcraft 3 map mod called ‘Defense of the Ancients’ – has a spiritual successor called (from the creators of DoTA) called League of Legends.


Unlike traditional RTS games, DoTA (and LoL) aggregate the RTS elements with more traditional RPG elements (uplevelling your characters, spellcasting) and with tower defense gameplay… AND make it social, so you get to (if you want and can persuade them to play) take out your friends.

Whilst I can’t quite see myself performing this degree of gaming orchestration again, I note with some amusement that there is a LoL tower defence game on the iPhone… so that might do it for me.

Army of Darkness defense – iPhone game review

Army of Darkness Defense Review for iPhone and iPod Touch

I used to spend a lot more time gaming than I do these days – the slightly dormant PS3, Xbox and Wii attest to that. But the iPhone has proved a good platform for the occasional gaming fix.

The newest addition to my games library is Backflip Studios‘ 59p game – Army of Darkness Defense. Based on the 1992 Sam Raimi film Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness – it sees Bruce Campbell‘s character face off against an army of ‘Deadities’ – undead warriors from the film – in a side-scrolling tower-defense game.

Huge fun. Original voices, clever upgrades to weapons and units, decent graphics for the gameplay style and compelling enough that you’ll be able to resist most of the in-game purchases – coins for upgrades – and instead just play the game obsessive compulsively until you clear wave 50 of the Deadites. There’s some slowdown when the waves get big – bring on the dual core iPhone 5 – but it’s not too bad.

My only significant criticism of the game? Only 50 waves… I’m hoping that a software patch will add a bit more variety to it.