Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas gifts: gaming ideas

Guess what I discovered! My hair doesn't look so horrible if I style it in a messy way! I used to do that a while back with a different cut after I accidentally discovered my hair will curl a bit if I make a little effort. So all is not lost!

I also remembered something else that hairdresser was chatting to me about. She was telling me about how she has a Tetris game on her cell phone and that she was a little addicted to it for a while. Well, I was thinking about that, and I realized something. There aren't that many games that are girl-friendly. And by girl-friendly I don't mean the games video game companies felt compelled to produce for the woman/girl market. Games they think are designed "just for us" (like the plethora of losing weight games or how to cook for the DS or Babiez), are actually kind of demeaning. It's such a close-minded view of what girls like and it makes me sad to think that people still seem to believe these are the only things we're interested in. I also figure that people are probably looking for Christmas gifts about now, and I hope this gives you ideas for maybe a less traditional girl gift. We don't all like getting soap and candles either, thankyouverymuch.

And as you've probably figured by now, Idle Husband works in the video game industry. Therefore, in a very short period of time, I think I've learned more about video games than I have in my whole life. I've also played more different types of games than I ever have in my life, so I think I've kinda figured out what I like and that there are game options out there for us gals. So, as a girl that loves intelligent video games, I thought I'd make a list of some of my favourites. I'm going to focus on portable games and computer games. You know, I would have given my left arm to have had a portable gaming system when I was younger (and by younger, I mean 3 years ago). Having one now is really great. It makes boring times (like in an airport or a waiting room) that much better, so don't knock it till you try it.

Playstation Portable (PSP): Nifty little gadget that can access the internet, store music and pictures, and whatever else I haven't realized yet.

The first game I played on this system was Lumines. It's almost like Tetris, only instead of lines, you have to create squares. It can be really frustrating at times, but it's also really addictive. It has a pretty swell dance-type soundtrack which is great if you're into that sort of music. After a while, I played with the sound off. I'm still trying to beat Idle Husband at this, but I think he's officially the master at this game.

Oh, Patapon. I'm still playing this game and it's my third playthrough for Patapon 2 if that tells you anything. Basically, it's a rhythm game. Like Guitar Hero, if you like, only you memorize different rhythms which in turn command the patapons to do something. Walk forward, attack, defend, jump -- that sort of thing. You have to get your timing right, though, you can't just pop the rhythms in at any ol' time, you have to keep it up like playing a song. When we first got this game, I was reluctant to play it. Sure, it was super cute, but I didn't think I'd be able to remember the commands and I just thought I'd suck at it. But one day, IH left it and I was alone and I decided to give it a try. After that, I was hooked (he never did get to finish the game). The basic premise is that you're their god and they're calling you Mighty (who doesn't like that?) and you have to take care of them by taking them hunting and keeping them from harm -- it gets really addictive because of that! One thing, though. I think it's important to play the first version of this before the second (plus it's twice as much fun for you!). Is the second far superior? In my mind it is, but if you play the second without playing the first, I think you'd get too dependent on the Hero patapon and not really use the commands properly. It's a whole lot more engaging if you're mixing it up and getting them to perform many functions in a battle rather than relying solely on your Hero to win it for you or to protect your entire army the whole time. Also, this is one you can't pause halfway through a level which is frustrating sometimes. And I can't do anything else when I'm playing it. I can't listen to music or have a conversation -- nothing. All my concentration has to go to the game otherwise I'll screw up and the patapons will die and then what kind of a horrible leader would I be?

I also enjoyed Loco Roco. It's the cutest game ever! The graphics are cute, the music is cute, everything about it! Basically, you use the keys on the top of the PSP to tilt the screen left or right in order to roll your Loco Roco to the finish line. As you go, you eat fruit that makes you grow larger, but you're not larger as one entity, you're made up of many, so if you get hurt, one of you dies and that's not good. Both 1 & 2 are really fun and not that difficult to pick up. They just released a shorter, kind of 2 1/2 version called Midnight Carnaval, and I find it super hard. In fact, it's so hard and frustrating that once I got to a level I couldn't get through, I just gave up and stopped playing. When it's so hard, it's frustrating, and it stops being fun. So definitely don't get that version unless you enjoy a challenge and know what you're doing.

I was in between cute games when I discovered God of War. Idle Husband had it sitting on his shelf, and I thought, "meh. I'll try this and see how it goes. I need something to play." And then I actually enjoyed it. Yes, it's killing and monsters and typical boy stuff, but there's also little puzzles you have to figure out in order to progress plus there's a really intriguing story, too. The controls were easy for me to pick up (I like fighting games when I can just hit any button and be guaranteed a pretty smooth move) and even though it was 3D, I wasn't in charge of the camera which I really like. I hate having to move the camera and walk and fight and all that other junk. I'm not coordinated enough for it. 3D is hard enough for me as it is.

We just got Little Big Planet for the PSP because we enjoyed it so much on the PS3. It's got a really cute handmade look to it. Some of the levels look like they're made of cardboard or felt and I really like that artistically. You also have the opportunity to design your own levels and dress up your little sackboy however you like. I haven't played this whole game yet, but it runs the same as the PS3. Platform, though 3D, start at one end, end at the other, collect clothes, stickers, whatever for your little sackboy along the way. I stopped playing this for the time being and I'll probably pick it up later. I found the controls a little difficult, moving from foreground to background, and I find it really hard to see what you're doing. It's really zoomed out, probably so you can view the entire level for it's artistic qualities, but it's zoomed out a little too much. Also the loading times are too long or I'm too impatient, either way I don't like staring at a blank loading screen longer than I have to. Otherwise, it's easy to play and cute and they have a really great indie soundtrack that makes it even more entertaining.

Nintendo DS: portable system that opens like a book complete with touchscreen.
Well duh. Of course I'm going to mention Super Mario Brothers. It was one of the only games I'd been playing until IH came along (I can play Super Mario 3 in my sleep). When he first heard how much I loved playing Mario, he immediately (and most generously, since we didn't know each other that well at the time) loaned me his DS so I could play it. I've since played it through, oh, at least 10 times. It's one of those classics that never gets old and this version, to me, is tops because of the graphics and game play. It's easy to pick up, easy to get through, there are interesting new abilities, and you can always return to it and play through the harder areas again to get the star coins or find the secrets. I especially like how it's set up like Mario 3, but it has more options for quick saves, reasons to actually get the star coins, ability to use a stored item, and it saves your progress when you're halfway through a level. Did I mention it's cute, too? Well it is. (Have you figured out that one of the key components to my gaming is that it has to be cute?)

Rhythm Heaven is another fun musical game. It's basically a bunch of minigames, each with a different character, premise, and song. You tap along to the songs making sure to hit the screen on the right beat. It can be very challenging. I really liked this one and so did IH. It's had a bit of a negative effect, though. The songs are so catchy that we're still singing the tunes (some with our own made-up lyrics) even after having finished the game several months ago. They just get stuck in your head so easily! Fair warning!

Yoshi's Island is along the same lines as Super Mario, only you play as Yoshi with a baby version of the Mario gang riding along. This gives you different abilities depending on which character is riding. It's kinda neat in the way it's set up, too, because you view both screens as part of the level. Even though this game features baby versions of the Mario gang, it was in no way a baby version of a game. I found it to be, at times, incredibly difficult. Some levels I had to play through multiple times just to pass them. Also, whenever you get hurt, your baby flies off and starts crying and you have a certain amount of time to get them back on. I have to confess, I couldn't stand the sound of the baby crying the entire time. When you're going through those hard levels, you could lose the baby 50 times (at least it feels like that much), and then the crying thing gets really annoying. That being said, it's still fun to play and definitely worth it.

Obviously, Tetris is also a must-have. The DS version has classic Tetris along with other versions of the same concept. My favourite is Push, where you start in the middle and battle against the computer to push them down into the flames below. Also, if you have a friend with a DS, you can play against each other even if that friend doesn't have Tetris. It's also a good game to play if you're not looking to advance or make progress or maybe if you don't have enough time to finish a level. You can play and feel absolutely no guilt for shutting it down halfway through a game. Good for waiting in line or at the doctor's office. (I should have taken this along the last time I went, but I wasn't expecting them to have removed all the magazines from the waiting room due to H1N1!)

Computer Games: If you have a laptop, these are perfect! And if you don't, they're also perfect!

Zuma is super addictive. I started playing this online for free (just in little tester spurts) and it was fun just playing like that. They've now released a new and improved Zuma which I really like as it's the same concept but with more variety. Basically, what you do is shoot different coloured balls to make groups of 3 or more, thereby elminating them and shortening your line so they don't fall into the waiting mouth. Once you get a certain amount of points, the balls stop coming and you complete the stage by getting rid of all the balls, making sure they still don't slide into the mouth. Simple, right? Well it gets faster and tougher, but it's still really great to play and oddly, I still don't seem to tire of it.

Plants VS Zombies is so. much. fun. We played this one to death (no pun intended)! And it's easy (but not too easy)! Plant sunflowers, make sun, plant plants that shoot, bomb, freeze, or stall the zombies to keep them from coming into your house to eat your brains. There's a lot of strategy that goes into it, though, and you'll want to find the perfect lawn set up to keep the zombies out. It's so much fun when you unlock the endless levels because then you can really shape your lawn into a zombie killing machine! And yes, even though this game has zombies, it's uber cute. Trust me! Once you start, you'll have to finish it -- or at least play until you collect all the plants for your zen garden!

Another one I started out playing online in little free demos was Cubis. Match up the coloured squares to make them disappear. Easy but addictive. I loved the colours and, oddly enough, the sound they make when they disappear or break or dissolve. I like weird sounds. It also has enough modes to keep you interested and some of them can be quite challenging. This was a game I really enjoyed playing while talking on the phone. It kept my hands busy, but didn't interfere with my ability to have a conversation. Perfection!

Well, I hope that makes the world of gaming less intimidating while also giving you some ideas for Christmas gifts. Don't feel like it's only a market for guys and kids! Anyone can play and enjoy these games, you just have to find what's enjoyable for you.

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