Wii Fit Plus

Quick Thoughts:
  1. Another unique gaming interface for the Wii, this one is the 'balance board'.  This is really just a set of mini-games.  It has skiing, biking, jogging, skateboarding, snowboarding, bird flying (I have no idea what you really call it?), an obstacle course, and a bunch of yoga exercises (Complete with your own personal trainer).
  2. Obviously, this isn't your classic video game and I can't imagine that this would hit any gamer's top ten list.  Once you get over how cool the balance board control system is, there isn't anything here that will really hold your attention.
  3. Well, OK, there is one thing that will hold your attention.  This game is set-up to be a kind of fitness program.  The heart of the program is that the balance board doubles as a scale and tracks your weight.  If you want it to, it will track your calories and exercise (Based primarily on your entry).  I have a hard time believing that anybody would ever 'get fit' by just using the games provided.  But if you are doing your own exercise program, this weight tracking interface can really help show your progress, day-to-day.  The charts provided, while somewhat primitive, provide the views required to see how you're doing daily, weekly, and monthly.  And the game encourages you to set goals with specific dates so that you can hold yourself to your plan.
  4. Overall, it's neat and somewhat useful.  Nothing you couldn't do without some running shoes, a scale, and a notepad.  But the combination is fun and for a short gaming sessions, it's a welcome change to the usual shooters.


The Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion

Quick Thoughts
  1. I've played this game for more hours than any game on the 360.  Maybe 500 over about four years.  I've always played in bursts, very obsessively.  My typical single-game time is about 100 to 150 hours over about two to three months.  And I know most of the game very well.  It's very good today.  When it came out, in 2006, it was the best.  Of its type, of the era, and probably in the history of single-player RPGs.  Arguably, it was the highest quality game of all time (when it first came out).
  2. So why was it so good?  It has the benefit of being the first in the new (Now old) generation of HD games.  The graphics at the time were unbelievable.  And detailed.  On even the hugest TV.  That's become normal, but it wasn't in 2006.
  3. More than that, the gameplay and missions were well crafted.  The game pace moved along well.  Combat was exciting.  Plus the world was a huge sandbox waiting to be explored.  Character advancement was really well thought-out and balanced.  The number of different environments made it so the game was always throwing you another challenge.  The interaction with the NPCs was entertaining.  But the graphics on a big screen TV are what set it apart.  Superior graphics and overall high quality made it so the game could be fully immersive if you wanted it to be.
  4. I recently decide to play the game through again after playing Dragon Age: Origins; partly to see how the game stood up over time.  It had been more than two years since I had played Oblivion.  But it took me no time to remember where the good stuff was and how to slowly make a truly dominating character.  The missions were familiar, the gameplay felt a littled aged compared to the newer games.  The storyline didn't feel very original anymore.  I played anyway.  Building a character, watching them build skills and get more and more powerful as they slowly progress level after level, is the heart of any RPG.  It didn't take long before I was hooked again, routinely up at 1AM.  I just wanted to do ONE more thing, finish ONE more quest, get ONE more powerful magic item, get up ONE more level, etc, etc, etc... before going to bed.
  5. Yeah, it can be addicting.  I played for over 120 hours in this last stretch.  Once again, over a two to three month period.  I put it down about three weeks ago.  I don't think I'll ever pick it up again.  But who knows.  I've said that before.
  6. So how does it compare to Dragon Age: Origins?  Graphics are similar.  Gameplay is similar.  Superior story and characters are what really moves Dragon Age above Oblivion.  But, Oblivion holds it's ground.  Not bad for a first generation HD game.
Metacritic Score: 94

Fallout 3 (Xbox 360)

(Note: I finished playing this game shortly before I started Dragon Age: Origins, so the order of play in the blog is a little off)

Quick Thoughts
  1. It took me a while to start this game.  I played it briefly when it first came out.  I liked it, but I didn't think I could give it the time commitment I wanted.  I find with RPGs you really want to be to fully engross yourself with the story, the mission, and your characters.
  2. Once I started, I found that the game was easy to get obsessed over.  The game map is basically the greater DC area, set well after a nuclear holocaust.
  3. The game combat and leveling system is very well-balanced and rewarding.  The missions are fun (they do get a little repetitive).  If you like first-person shooters, but a want a wider world with a greater variety of missions, then this game will suit your tastes.
  4. I can't say the story of the game really held together for me.  The first ingredient for science-fiction is whether or not I can suspend belief.  I try to start by giving any sci-fi the benefit of the doubt. But little things kept bugging me on this one.  Would society really have re-started this particular way.  I had a hard accepting that people would make bottlecaps their currency or the fact that a town would form around a 'live', but undetonated, nuclear bomb.  If radiation is everywhere and it makes you sick, why wouldn't people move-away from DC for another local.  OK, yes, nitpicky.  That said, I enjoyed the story as a hook that made you explore the world.  It's not a bad story, just not as gripping for me as other RPG storylines.  This is at least partially a matter of taste.
  5. I think the xbox live achievements fit in well with the RPG mentality of pursuing rewards as a (false) status symbol.
  6. Character develop is very rich.  Lots of options as to how you want to defeat the enemies you'll meet in this game. Focusing purely on kicking-ass can mean you miss some other opportunities. Like if you can gain the skill to hack a computer terminal or use your 'charisma' to persuade on NPC to tag along with on the mission.
  7. My complaints about the realism aside, this is a very complete and filled-in universe.  The details help paint a world that's very robust and graphically amazing (by 2008 standards - which are still great to my eye).  The game play is excellent.  Even without the game add-ons (Which are very good by game add-on standards), there are at least 70 hours (and I played for well over 100 hours) of solidly fun gameplay.
Metacritic Score: 93

Dragon Age: Origins (Xbox 360)

Quick Thoughts:
  1. This probably the best RPG story-line I can remember playing.  The characters were rich.  The plot was robust.  The options you made actually changed the outcome of the story in measurable ways.  The writers were outstanding. 
  2. Characters could specialize in lots of fun ways.  I found using stacked area affect spells particularly rewarding.
  3. Did I mention that the story-line awesome.  I mean, you save the world all the time in video games.  But this time, it really did seem like you were saving the world.  Fans of Tolkien would be impressed.
  4. Graphics were good. The 360 has spoiled me in terms of my expectation for great graphics.  They were good here, not outstanding.  It didn't matter.  Every other game element was great.
  5. OK, I do have one complaint.  At certain points in the game it becomes apparent that it was designed for the PC.  When the combat gets really difficult, you want to control all the member of your party at the same time.  With the 360 controller, this can be cumbersome.  With a mouse and keyboard it would be much easier.
  6. That compliant sounds pretty major.  It isn't.  The combat gets a little harder than maybe it should be, but diligence will get you through.
  7. I'm looking forward to playing through again using another character type (If I get around to it).
    Metacritic Score: 86

    Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox 360)

    Quick Thoughts:
    1. Really great online experience.
    2. However, the 'in-room' play makes the game.  The cooperate style and the split screen are excellent.
    3. I actually think I liked the first one better (Probably because it's a little easier).
    4. As first-person shooters go, this is outstanding stuff.  Killing zombies is a great time.
    5. Not much in the way of a story-line.  Also, the game play is fairly linear unless you're doing the multi-player.
    6. The new weapons are a nice touch.  I was especially fond of the chainsaw.
      Metacritic Score: 89

      Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360)

      Quick Thoughts:
      1. Fun, fun, fun
      2. The crash scenes are awesome
      3. The controls are easy and the graphics are terrific
      4. The open world feels vast at first and there is lots of room to explore
      5. I'm not sure on the long-run replay value of the game.  After you've played for a couple months and explored the map pretty fully, there is not much more to do.
        Metacritic Score: 88

        Bioshock (Xbox 360)

        Quick Thoughts:
        1. Great first person shooter
        2. Excellent Graphics
        3. Fantastic Storyline
        4. It's and older game by now.  If you haven't played it, you can pick it for cheap on Ebay.
          Metacritic Score: 96