Archive for January, 2009

List: Podcasts I listen to

January 3rd, 2009

To celebrate the fact that I’m up to date on all my podcasts. In alphabetical order, from iTunes:

  • 1UP FM. Weekly review of new game releases and previews.

  • 1UP Yours. Weekly discussion of new games and other video game industry things.

  • Apple Keynotes. Yes, I’m a fanboy. So sue me.

  • Battlestar Galactica. The audio quality is normally terrible, but Ronald D Moore’s episode commentary does make up for it.

  • Coverville. One of the best music podcasts out there, dedicated (duh) to cover songs.

  • Crikey. Production needs some work, but still some interesting political commentary from some of the people behind the newsletter.

  • Downloadable Content. The Penny Arcade podcast. Hardly ever updated (they’ve done two since June 2008), but a must listen when they do – a horrifying glimpse inside the minds behind the webcomic.

  • Escape Pod. A Science Fiction short story podcast. Short SF is a perfect fit for audio, although I seem to end up skipping about half the stories these days for one reason or another.

  • gdgt weekly. Gadget nerd podcast. Lots of discussion of new cell phones and such.

  • Irregular Podcast. Pretty much impossible to describe. Weird and insane.

  • Joystiq. Computer and console games discussion.

  • Lan party. PC games discussion.

  • Lyrics Undercover. From the makers of coverville, a 5 min dissection of some song. The only paid subscription podcast I have.

  • Napoleon 101. A detailed (~45) episode history of Napoleon’s life. Now finished with the main run, and doing some special topics. If you’re interested, start at the start.

  • Retronauts: History of computer games, going into a different title each week.

  • The Talk Show. Mac and Apple discussion.

  • The Biography Show. From the maker’s of Napoleon 101, each episode looks at the life of some historical figure.

  • Wall Street Journal. Technically pay, as this is a freebie with my subscription. The front page and selected stories from the WSJ. A good way to start the day.

Game Review: Mirror’s Edge

January 3rd, 2009

Mirror’s Edge, by DICE, published by Electronic Arts.

I don’t play a lot of games all the way to the finish. The current pile of unfinished games includes Assasin’s Creed, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Super Mario Galaxy and Psychonauts. So the first thing to note about Mirror’s Edge is that I actually finished the game.

The game itself is a mixture of very entertaining and frustrating. The basic parkour free running sequences are a lot of fun. But some of the rest of the game needed more work.

There are really three types of game built in to the game:

  • free running parkour sequences, where you have to get from one end of an environment to the other, often chased by enemies.

  • puzzle sequences, where you need to use the parkour moves in a more precise way to navigate around a room, usually to get higher. Usually no enemies chasing you.

  • combat sequences, where you’re fighting enemies directly, either using hand-to-hand or weapons you’ve picked up.

I loved the first type of play – innovative, exciting, and has the best ‘fall of a cliff and die’ effects of any game ever. The puzzle gaming was also a lot of fun – occasionally frustrating (when you fall all the way down and need to make your way back up), but satisfying in the same way that most puzzle games are.

The big problem with the game for me, right up until the last bit, was the combat. Firstly I made a choice to play for a PS3 trophy for not using guns – a mistake, as while you’re encouraged to not use them, you need to from time to time. That made my life a lot more difficult. But even taking that into account it’s just not that enjoyable, a lot of needless death until you accidentally find the way to get through the sequence. Unlike the first two types, I never really felt like I was getting through because of skill, just luck.

The last fight sequence in the game turned me around, a little. I realised that you could plan everything out precisely, and treat the combat almost like another puzzle sequence. That made the (difficult) final encounter a bit more palatable, but still it would have been nicer to have a good running sequence instead as the finale to the game.

Overall, it’s a superb game worth playing. The plot isn’t really worth mentioning, but the gameplay is mostly a lot of fun.

(Hey, I’m back! Don’t expect too much – I’m just going to post stuff as it occurs to me. Some weeks nothing, some weeks lots of things).