Limbo is the first entry in Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade.  It's a 2D platformer/ puzzle game with a simple design and premise.  Don't be deceived though, Limbo will test your abilities to the fullest.

Limbo follows a boy in his adventure to find someone.  There's no written story, no cinematic or interactions that reveal anything about our protagonist's motivation.  Limbo is a monochromatic world where you must continually move forward.

The design is simple with the boy and most objects being blacked out.  The background is filled with shadows and brilliant points of light.  It is enchanting and haunting at the same time.  The only sounds heard are the boy's foot steps and ambient noises based on his environment.

The game starts off as a platformer and then ramps up into a puzzle game.  The transition comes about an hour into the game.  The difficulty of the puzzles increases exponentially.  This can lead to some incredibly frustrating moments.  In contrast, once you figure out the solution, it's silly how obvious it was.

I played through it the first time with three over people over Xbox Live.  We made the game easier than it probably would have been by sharing tips and tricks as we progressed.  Still, Limbo was a fantastic little journey that was different from most games I've played.  It's easily one of the best examples of games as art because it leaves the player to interpret everything, from motivation to setting.

Limbo is available on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15).  It lasts three to five hours on the first play through and is much shorter once you know the puzzles.  It's well worth it if you're looking for something different to play.

Decide the fate of Carmine in Gears 3!

From the official Gears site.

"The fate of Carmine lies in your hands! For the first time in franchise history, Epic Games and Microsoft are giving fans the chance to decide the fate of a character in Gears of War 3. By purchasing avatar gear on Xbox LIVE Marketplace, fans and gaming communities around the globe will decide the destiny of the newest Carmine brother set to appear in Gears of War 3, with all the proceeds going to the Child’s Play Charity.

Keeping with the series’ tradition, Clayton Carmine will be introduced in the trilogy’s final chapter, and like Anthony and Ben, the newest rookie brother runs the high risk of meeting an early death. However, unlike in the previous games, the Xbox community will choose whether Carmine lives or dies by purchasing special Gears of War 3 avatar gear on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Starting July 29, two new avatar t-shirts will be available on the Avatar Marketplace on Xbox LIVE—one shirt reads “Save Carmine,” and the other reads “Carmine Must Die.” By purchasing the “Save Carmine” shirt, you’re casting your vote to let Carmine live in Gears of War 3. Conversely, purchasing the “Carmine Must Die” shirt means you want to see Clayton follow the fate of his brothers.

Fans attending Comic-Con International in San Diego this week will also be able to cast their votes early by purchasing real-life limited edition “Save Carmine” or “Carmine Must Die” t-shirts at the NECA booth (#3145) for $20.00. Gears fans can also visit the Xbox 360 booth (#5153) to be among the first to play Gears of War 3 Beast mode throughout the show. Finally, the team from Epic Games, including design director Cliff Bleszinski, executive producer Rod Fergusson, and lead writer Karen Traviss, will be signing Comic-Con–exclusive posters at the Xbox booth on Saturday, July 24, at noon PDT.

Child’s Play is a community-based games industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world. Through their network of more than 60 hospitals and through the generosity of their community of donors, Child’s Play raises millions of dollars each year to donate games, consoles, and toys to sick children. The proceeds from the sales of the “Save Carmine” and “Carmine Must Die” avatar gear and limited edition NECA t-shirts will go to Child’s Play, so cast your vote, donate to charity, and get cool Gears of War gear! Fans can get up-to-date information about the fate of Clayton Carmine by visiting

Published by Microsoft Game Studios and developed by Epic Games, the Gears of War franchise has won over 30 “Game of the Year” awards, sold more than 12 million copies worldwide, and redefined the third-person shooter genre for this console generation. The Gears of War series is exclusive to Xbox 360, and its riveting multiplayer action makes it one of the most popular titles on Xbox LIVE. The trilogy finale, Gears of War 3, will release on April 5, 2011, only on Xbox 360."

Carmine in Gears of War 3!

Finally!  Clayton Carmine has been revealed for Gears of War 3!  My multiplayer experience will be complete! 

What Grinds my Gears: Modern Warfare 2

What happens to games when they become popular?  They become filled with scammers and douchebags.  When playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I receive multiple messages from scammers (both text and mumbled voice), promising instant levels through the use of the mysterious 10th prestige lobby.

What is the 10th prestige lobby?  A fabled place where those who have leveled up to 70 ten times over can host a game where they set the rules.  Rules like, a single kill will net you a level. 

The idea is that you pay 1200-1600 Microsoft Points ($15-$20) for a match and you'll snag some easy levels.  What boggles the mind is that you don't unlock new weapons or skills.  All you get is a title and emblem.  Something that can be earned with time and dedication.

That's assuming the seller is on the up and up.  More often than not, you'll pay the price and then never hear from the seller again. 

I can't say I feel bad for those that fall sucker for this.  Don't pay someone to complete the game for you.  The entire point is to enjoy the game and eventually earn these things on your own.  Unfortunately, I have to waste my time and feed these messages to my ignore list.

Xbox's summer of arcade

July 21 - Limbo
July 28 - Hydro Thunder Hurricane
August 4 - Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
August 11 - Monday Night Combat
August 18 - Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Buy all five and get 1200 free Microsoft Points.  Buy three and get 400 points.

Too many buttons on a controller?

Bob over at Insert Token posted this question.  I typed up a rather long opinion.  What is yours?

From an outsider's perspective, it can be intimidating. The Xbox 360 controller has 11 buttons, plus two analog sticks and a d pad. But everything is intimidating if you lack knowledge. Think of your first day on any job and how scared you were of messing something up. The same thing applies to controllers.

Because of this, just like training a new employee, I start with easier games to initiate those unfamiliar with the controller. As they grow more comfortable with the controller, I increase the complexity of the games played and soon enough they can use the controller without difficulty.

I'm of the opinion that if a chimp can learn sign language, you can learn how to use a controller. You just have to get rid of the mindset "There's too many buttons, I'll never learn to use it." You are awesome, you can do anything, including kicking your kid's butt in their favorite game.

This fear is why motion controllers have become such a phenomenon. The problem with this is that, in my experience, the motion controls are nowhere near as responsive. Often, I'm left flailing and getting the same results as the carefully orchestrated movements in the instruction manual. I'll gladly take a classic controller over motion controls any day.

The other issue is that I play games to relax. I don't want to jump and windmill my arms like I'm having an epiliptic fit when I'm playing a game. That's not relaxing. I work hard for a living and work out every day on top of that. Somedays I don't want to get out of bed, let alone jump up around the living room as a form of entertainment. With a regular controller in hand, I can relax comfortably on my couch with a cool Mountain Dew at my side and just immerse myself in the game of the week.

If you're still thinking controllers have too many buttons, consider for a moment, PC gaming. Imagine having an entire keyboard laid out before you with a mouse that can open all sorts of menus and perform any number of functions. How many keys (buttons) are there? How many possible combinations could be used in a game? Suddenly the Xbox controller is a lot less intimidating.

Like I said before, "You are awesome, you can do anything." So pick up that controller, learn it, and take your kid/friend/loved one to school.

No more 1 vs 100 for Xbox Live

Today is a sad day for everyone on Xbox Live.  Microsoft has announced that they will no longer continue 1 vs 100.  This is an absolute shame.  For the past two seasons, Kim and I would log in almost every night to play.  It was fun and different.  It made for an excellent break from sawing the Locust Horde in two.

For the announcement, click here.

Gaming backlog

I have a lot of games.  Last count put me in the lower 200s.  I have a lot of games I need to review.  I have a lot of games that I need to beat so I can review them.  I feel kind of trendy typing this up on a laptop.

Supposedly the folks at Penny Arcade have this same problem, only they don't do so many formal reviews.  They've put into place a white board with a gaming schedule on it.  While I like this idea, it frightens me that my collection has reached a point where I need to set a schedule to make sure I'll play every game I buy.  At the moment, the games I own but have yet to beat are:

Alan Wake
Devil May Cry 4
Divinity 2
Final Fantasy XIII
Infinite Undiscovery
Overlord 2
Prince of Persia
Red Dead Redemption
Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope
Tales of Vesperia
X Blades
Mass Effect
Dead Space: Extraction
Monster Hunter Tri
Trauma Center: Second Opinion
Persona 4
Phantasy Star Potable
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
Haunting Ground
Pokemon: Soul Silver

Add to that any of the numerous MMORPG's I'm currently playing and I have a nasty backlog.  So what I ask is, how large is your gaming backlog halfway into 2010?

Gears of War

Epic games have been in the business of revolutionizing the gaming industry. They started with Quake and continued with Gears of War. It was released in November 2006.

Gears of War follows the members of Delta Squad on the planet Sera. Players assume the role of Marcus Fenix as he fights the subterranean race of Locust Horde. The Locust are hell bent on wiping out the human population and it’s up to Delta to find a way to map their massive subterranean tunnels and deploy the Light Mass bomb and wipe them out.

Where Gears is truly revolutionary is the gameplay. It is played from the third person perspective. It uses a cover system that has since been mimicked in nearly every shooter made since. The “A” button controls everything from sprinting to enter cover and taking evasive maneuvers. Popping out of cover is as simple as holding the left trigger to take aim and the seemingly never ending horde of enemies.

To make things easier, players have access to an impressive lineup of weapons. They run the gambit of handguns to shotguns and crossbows that fire explosive arrows. The fallback, good for any situation weapon of choice is the Lancer. It’s your standard machine gun with a twist. It has a chainsaw attached. This makes for an excellent way to dispatch of foes in a very personal manner.

There are numerous multiplayer modes to play in addition to the story. Players are grouped into teams of four, one side playing the members of Delta and the other playing as the Locust Horde. Matches are split into standard deathmatch and a capture the flag mode.

Graphically, Gears set a standard in 2006. The game has aged well considering this. Despite this, Gears is a dark and gritty game. The graphics fit the theme of the game very well as it is a story of survival in a harsh and terrifying world filled with monsters.

Gears is an enjoyable game but is not without flaws. Often when using the Lancer, I would perform the animation and see an enemy who was in front of me be teleported five feet away. The game is also plagued with lack luster AI. When played solo, the AI takes control of your partner Dom. Dom has an annoying habit of soaking up enemy rounds and refusing to take cover. Then he has a tendency to die. This wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t give a game over and send you back to the past checkout. The final boss is especially tough because of Dom’s inability to perform. Thankfully, there is the option to play with a partner through splitscreen or Xbox Live.

Gears or War is a turning point for games. Not so much for the story as the way the game is played. What flaws existed have since been fixed and the game improved in the sequel. Still, no one can deny the impact this game has had on many games released since.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 DLC returns

I bought Marvel Ultimate Alliance a while ago and then purchased the DLC.  My brother-in-law purchased it a few months after me and was unable to find the DLC.  Turns out it was a limited time offer.  Yet I never read anywhere that this was the case.  To compound the issue, players with the DLC couldn't play with those that did not have it.  The player base as effectively grouped into two, the haves and the have nots.

Well, there has been a lot of complaining on that point.  Now the DLC has returned.  But once again, only for a limited time.  You only have until December 31, 2010 to purchase the DLC.

For those not in the know, the two primary DLC are as follows:

Juggernaut playable character

Psylocke, Magneto, Cable, Black Panther, Carnage and four new simulation missions.

Why your tech wants to murder babies

I have a love hate relationship with working on computers.  Generally, I love the technology and by relation, fixing said technology when something goes wrong.  But when people can't take simple precautions such as installing an anti virus program or not opening every email and clicking every link, it makes me want to do bad things.  I just spent six hours doing work like this.  While it is easy, my inner rage is rising.  The catch 22 is that if people took the time to learn how to do these little things, I'd lose 80% of my business.

World of Warcrack

Well, I'm back on the crack pony.  The editor and my good friend Bob Presswood of Insert Token paid me in WoW accounts for contributions to the July issue (order yours today!)  I thought it was fair.  But now I must manage my addiction to this game.  And I really need to get Dirtelf some better gear.  It's been nearly a year since I've played.  So if you play on Mannoroth and are an Ally, drop me a message and we'll get something going.

July 2010 Release Calendar

July 5
Furry Legends  (Wii)

July 6
Persona 3  (PSP)
Despicable Me  (Wii, DS, PS2)
Crackdown 2  (360)
Tournament of Legends  (Wii)

July 7
Monkey Island 2: Special Edition  (360, PS3, PC)
ArmA 2  (PC)
Blacklight: Tango Down  (360)

July 9
Battlfield 1943  (PC)

July 11
Dragon Quest IX  (DS)

July 13
DeathSpank  (PS3)
NCAA Football 11  (PS2, PS3, 360)
Mytheon  (PC)

July 14
DeathSpank  (360)

July 16
Puzzle Quest 2  (DS)

July 20
7 Wonders II  (DS)
Trackmania  (Wii)
Arc Rise Fantasia  (Wii)
Need for Speed World  (PC)

July 27
BlazBlue:Continuum Shift  (360,PS3)
Starcraft 2  (PC)
Clash of the Titans  (PS3, 360)
Ace Combat: Joint Assault  (PSP)
Guilty Party  (Wii)

July 30
Commander: Conquest of the Americas  (PC)