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  1. Rock Band Blitz hit the gaming world last year to critical praise. The Harmonix-developed rhythm game looked to be another take from the blueprints of Frequency until it was actually played. Once you got your hands on a controller (no more plastic guitars!) and gave it a go, it was easy to see the differences. The biggest change is the addition of social features which connect players to their Facebook. Though this gate, gamers can tackle challenges or attempt to best their friend“s scores. It“s certainly an intriguing feature, but is it the sign of a shift? Your main goal in Rock Band Blitz is to get the highest scores possible on songs. Although the game itself only comes with a handful of songs, most players have probably accumulated lots of Rock Band Network DLC. No matter what song you play though the goal is always the same. You are meant to score major points on a song and skyrocket to the top of the high score charts. There“s nothing at all wrong with this, as it feels very arcade-like, but its implementation is odd. In order to get the maximum points possible you“re going to want to use power ups. Unfortunately, these power ups can only be purchased (per track) via coins. Coins might at first sound like a scary free-to-play scheme. Thankfully this is not the case - you gain coins through beating songs. This is one of the first strange design choices for the game. Why must you purchase these power ups on a song by song basis? Why isn“t just unlocking them enough? There would have still been strategy involved in selecting only a certain set of power ups on each track without having to pay for them each and every time. Grinding doesn“t seem to jive with the Rock Band universe. What do you get for maxing your scores? The whole point seems focused around competing against your Facebook friends. While there is nothing wrong with this on its own, it seems strange how the game basically is just a hub to that world. It doesn“t offer nearly as much competition between you and your “gaming” specific friends on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. Strangely, when you play a song it does pit you against “someone”. Unfortunately this someone isn“t even a real person but always the same set of fake players (named after Rock Band characters). Why, if the game is so competition-focused, do you not get to see how you fare against any other real player? At least there is a high score list to view after each song. Not your traditional rhythm game Now, what if you totally love the Facebook connectivity? That“s perfectly fine as it certainly is a new way to interface with the game. This leads into another strange choice by Harmonix - why aren“t there difficulty settings? Instead of giving you the option to play a game on an easy or other difficulty level like most other rhythm games out there, you are simply given one difficulty. I“m not aware of how Harmonix managed to port almost all the RBN library into the game but it must not be too hard to convert tracks. If that is the case it should have been easy enough to list all difficulties for each song instead of selecting one to use forever. It seems that Harmonix wanted to make a game that“s hugely accessible to the Facebook crowd. Aside from the complexity of how to best amplify your score, the game is designed to be quite simple. Having one difficulty setting is an example of that, as it keeps players contained to one exact note chart for each song eternally. The same can also be said for how the game does not grade, or rate you down for awful performances much. In games like Frequency and Amplitude you would fail out of a track if you couldn“t keep up. Here, you can play the song no matter what and still manage to score some points. There is little depth to the gameplay to make it truly rewarding. It feels great to trump a friend and brag to them about it online, but what reason is there to keep playing beyond that? You can hammer through annoying charts with the crummy default controls (or switch to superior “Freakish”) but it only does so much. In Harmonix“s earlier games you felt compelled to play as the lanes would stop playing their specified instrument if you weren“t taking care of them. You would get more than scores, you would get a sense of accomplishment for completing stages. Instead of two buttons per lane there were three, and that allowed for a fair bit more creativity than pressing the left and right ones a million times. Harmonix has definitely created a game worth playing but it may not be for the traditional rhythm game crowd. Rock Band Blitz easily ushered in Rock Band fans who had put their dusty guitars away but how long will they stay involved? It is a new way to play the songs you already bought - but is it a fun way? Again, there“s nothing wrong with making a fully arcade-like experience where you compete for scores. This is something that some enjoy and there“s no reason they shouldn“t. However, if other rhythm and music games take this path it may take away from what rhythm games have always had going for them. Rhythm games are fun. They increase in difficulty from easy to hard and you might struggle through them for hours, but eventually you“ll be able to master them. That feeling of becoming skillful at hitting buttons, strumming, or dancing is a simple pleasure that music games have been able to provide since their inception. Rock Band Blitz is strong when it comes to online bragging, but falls short of providing a whole experience. Many will disagree, but no matter how it looks, Rock Band Blitz isn“t your typical rhythm game. It is something else which hits close, but in fact may change the whole understanding about what players like from their music games.
  2. Christmas is just around the corner. While most responsible people have their shopping all done and gifts wrapped, there will always be the kind of people who wait until the last minute to get it done. Fear not, as we at Game Podunk have come up with two lists of last minute downloadable gift ideas for the gamers in your family. In fact, we comprised a list for those who need to shop for family friendly titles and a list for the more 'hardcore' gamers. Oh, and did we mention that it's all affordable too? Most console games are expensive, especially considering the economy nowadays, and though there's many that are well worth their higher asking price, we'll be focusing on quality games that are under $25. Check them out below! For the Whole Family Journey Platform: PSN (PS3 only) Price: $14.99 (USD) Offical GP Review A beautiful game that puts more focus on a deep, emotional narrative; exploring the vast scenery; and relying on random strangers to help you reach your goal; Journey is a game that doesn't just have stunning art but offers anonymous online players to help others who might be having some trouble getting to the huge mountain. This PSN only title might be on the short side (clocking in at 2 to 3 hours) but everyone in the family will want to play it over and over again. Rock Band Blitz Platform: PSN (PS3 only), XBLA Price: $14.99 (1200 MS points) Official GP Review Chances are, you've owned at least one entry in the peripheral instrument-based Rock Band series. And maybe you even splurged and got the full set: guitars, microphone, and drums. Rock Band Blitz takes the fun part of the series and makes it more accessible by removing the need for all those instruments. It comes with 25 tracks but you can also import your Rock Band 3 DLC to jam out to. It's also great to know that you can use the 25 tracks from Rock Band Blitz in Rock Band 3 whenever the hankering to dust off those plastic instruments. The Unfinished Swan Platform: PSN (PS3 only) Price: $14.99 Official GP Review Another short game that still manages to deliver on stunning graphics and touching story, The Unfinished Swan has players use their imagination and the ability to toss black paint to uncover the vast white world around the orphan Monroe as he sets out to find the titular unfinished swan in his favorite painting of his mother's. Crashmo Platform: 3DS eShop Price: $8.99 Crashmo is the follow-up to last year's eShop puzzler sleeper hit, Pushmo. It expands on the puzzle gameplay introduced in the first game by adding the ability to push blocks around the grid and in turn, letting blocks stacked above fall down. There are new special floating blocks and other puzzle elements added as well, ultimately making this a much more complex and satisfying game overall. For puzzle fans, this is quite possibly one of (if not the best) third person 3D puzzlers out there right now; don't miss it! Playstation Plus Platform: PSN (PS3 and Vita) Price: $49.99 for 12 months; $17.99 for 3 months Okay, maybe this one is cheating a little (since the higher tier subscription is over $25) but if you own a PlayStation 3 and haven't purchased a monthly subscription to Sony's PlayStation Plus, then you're missing out. Available in three month ($17.99) and twelve month ($49.99) purchases, it averages out to about $5 a month. The PlayStation Plus service doesn't just you give the ability to use the 1GB of online data storage for game saves; each month, Sony offers free games to your library as well as huge discounts on select titles. The catch is that free games are only accessible while your subscription is active, so it's comparable to a service like Netflix; however, any discounted titles that you pay for are yours to keep forever. For the More Experienced Gamers Fez Platform: XBLA Price: $9.99 (800 MS points) If you have a lover, family member, or friend who“s been begging for a game featuring a fez hat (Santa gets that request all the time), FEZ has got you covered. This little puzzle-platformer puts you in the 2-dimensional shoes of a little guy named Gomez. Living without a care in his 2D plane of existence, Gomez comes across a strange artifact that grants him his game“s namesake, which allows him to shift the dimensions of the world itself. In this game, players must solve puzzles and clear levels with this power as they help Gomez save the artifact that granted him the fez before it gets ripped to shreds. Spelunky Platform: XBLA Price: $14.99 (1200 MS points) Here“s a game that“s perfect for Indiana Jones, if he was into video games. Providing him with tons of cave exploration, rope-swinging action, and his biggest fear – snakes, he“d certainly feel right at home with Spelunky. This game has you playing as an explorer who stumbles upon a cave filled with treasure. The cave isn“t any normal cave, however... Seriously, before digitally gift-wrapping this downloadable, make sure the gift“s receiver can tolerate dying a billion and a half times, because this game is hard. Mainly, the hardcore difficulty is a result of the game“s randomized cave layout. Once you die and are transported back to the beginning of the level, you will quickly notice that the level has become completely different from what you just played before. This means you will have no choice but to die, die, and die again until you manage to beat a level in one go. Fortunately, Spelunky is also quite funny, so you“ll have something to help you calm your frustration a bit over the holidays. Mark of the Ninja Platform: XBLA Price: $14.99 (1200 MS points) Whether your loved ones love ninjas or just enjoy sneaking into the kitchen for late-night snacks without being seen, Mark of the Ninja is a stealthy little game that“s sure to take them by surprise. In this stealthy action platformer, you play as a ninja assassin sent to find the truth behind his mystical tattoos, which amplify his powers at the expense of his mind“s slow destruction. The story is an interesting one with a variety of different choices, which is sure to keep you invested while hiding in the shadows, sneaking up on victims of your razor-sharp katana, and doing whatever else ninjas are prone to do. And with such slick controls, being a ninja has never felt better. Trine 2: Director's Cut Platform: Wii U Price: $19.99 (on sale for $14.99 until 1/4/13) Non-Director's Cut version also available on Steam for $14.99 regularly, as well as on XBLA, PSN, Mac OS X, and Linux. If you or your loved ones had the opportunity to purchase a Nintendo Wii U, or are getting one for Christmas, Trine 2: Director“s Cut is a great downloadable title to add to its library. It“s not only an insanely pretty game, but it“s so good in general that many of the more expensive games currently out for the console don“t even match it. This physics-based puzzle-platforming title puts players in control of three heroes, each of whom have been bound to a single entity, and the player must switch between the three as they try and find out how to progress through each level. Tokyo Jungle Platform: PSN (PS3 only) Price: $14.99 Official GP Review Tokyo Jungle is without a doubt one of the most unique games of the year. Set in a bleak, post-apocalyptic future where humans have disappeared, you play as one of 40+ different animals who either used to be household pets or have escaped from the zoo, and your only purpose is to survive in the iron wilderness of a Tokyo that's been overrun by nature. Though the mechanics are somewhat simple (eat, mate, defend yourself, and survive), the random variables the game presents (weather, pollution, what animals are in a certain areas) all make each playthrough a fairly unique experience and one of the must-play games of the year. Article was written by Jordan Haygood and Elizabeth. You can follow them on Twitter as @KaptainJ and @TheLiztress.
  3. Jordan Haygood

    Review: Rock Band Blitz

    Developer: Harmonix Publisher: Harmonix Platform: XBLA, PSN Release Date: Out Now ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the XBLA version of the game Put those plastic instruments down, because this installment of the Rock Band series isn't quite what we“re all used to. In fact, Rock Band Blitz is only about half of a Rock Band game, with the other half being something completely different. And all you need to play the game is $14.99, a standard controller, and enough free space on your hard drive to hold the game and its 25 tracks. So is the game worth the trouble, or is it just a waste of space like the fake instruments filling your closets? The answer is simple: if you like rhythm games, buy this one. Once upon a time, Harmonix created two controller-based rhythm games known as Amplitude and Frequency. These games had you shifting between different layers of each song, playing the guitar part one moment and jamming on drums the next. Rock Band Blitz can be seen as Rock Band and these two games mixing together to create something new to the Rock Band series. Well, I can“t really say it“s completely new, as this idea was played with in Rock Band: Unplugged for the PSP and Rock Band 3 for the Nintendo DS, I guess you could say that Rock Band Blitz is a more refined version of what those games had to offer. The game is fairly simple. There is no campaign mode, so all you do is pick the controller up and play through a song whenever you feel like it. Each song takes you down the streets of “Rock City,†akin to the scrolling note “highways†of previous Rock Band games, with different colored lanes corresponding to the drum, bass guitar, lead guitar, vocal, and keyboard parts of the songs. Unfortunately, the vocals can get insanely confusing at times, depending on the song, because you will often have to keep to a rhythm that doesn“t exactly have a steady beat. Still, it“s all fun nonetheless. The game“s controls are pretty standard; each lane gives you left and right notes that you hit by tapping the D-pad and a face button, the left and right joysticks, or whatever controls suit your fancy. And the more notes you hit down one lane, the higher that lane“s multiplier rises, which in turn allows that lane to earn you more points. However, you can“t stay on one instrument throughout the song and expect the multiplier to keep rising, giving you no choice but to switch lanes if you desire a high score. And once you raise the multiplier for each part by at least one, a checkpoint will increase the cap by three greater than the part with the lowest multiplier. For example, if you had four parts at 3x, but one at 1x, the max will only rise to 4x. As such, one of your main goals throughout each song should be to jump between each lane and increase the multiplier for each as much as possible before you hit the next checkpoint. Doing so will maximize your score, which is the main objective of the game. Another way to maximize your score is through the game“s “blitz†meter. If you hit notes consecutively, this meter will fill up. Once full, you will begin moving down the lanes faster and faster until you miss a note. This increase in speed is complimented by a bonus to your score, so it helps not to miss notes. Of course, missing notes is a little bit too hard in this game. With only one difficulty setting and only two sides to each lane, this game lacks the kind of challenge the main series has. But it“s not the main series, so this pick-up-and-play aspect can also be seen as a fun little break from shredding that plastic guitar on expert mode. Once you complete a song, you are scored with the classic 5-star system. And depending on how high a score you receive, you are awarded accordingly with both “blitz cred†and coins. Blitz cred is sort of like experience, and the more you increase your blitz cred, the more power-ups you unlock. Unfortunately, you need to collect coins in order to use these power-ups. Normally, this wouldn“t be a problem, but the payout for each song is so much less than you need to truly take advantage of the power-ups. As you could imagine, this can often take some of the fun out of the game. When you can afford to use power-ups, though, the game gets a bit more fun. Power-ups come in three flavors – overdrive power-ups, note power-ups, and track power-ups. Overdrive power-ups are triggered in a familiar sense, in which you play glowing white notes to gather enough energy to use them. These power-ups offer several score-boosting benefits, such as temporarily doubling all your multipliers (star power, anyone?). Note power-ups are a bit more exciting, providing you with fun little mini-games of sorts that you play by hitting purple notes throughout the songs. Perhaps the most fun of all of these is the pinball note power-up, which launches a large pinball that increases your score the longer you keep it on the streets. Lastly, track power-ups are a bit simpler, including such powers as raising your score by switching lanes at certain points. Unlike its older brothers, Rock Band Blitz isn“t a game where you can jam with friends at a house party. Instead, this arcade game gives you a Facebook app called "Rock Band World" that allows you to connect with your XBLA/PSN friends who also own Rock Band Blitz and happen to be on your Facebook friends list. You can either play cooperatively to earn extra blitz cred or you can choose to initiate “score wars†and destroy your friends“ high scores. You can even watch other players“ scores throughout each song as you try to surpass them. It“s just unfortunate that you have to be on Facebook in order to make the most out of this game“s multiplayer potential, rather than simply relying on your XBLA/PSN friends list alone. Overall, Rock Band Blitz is a nice little game that any rhythm gamer should pick up. With fun gameplay and plenty of songs to play through, this game will often have you saying “just one more song!†And if the game itself wasn“t enough, guess what – the entire soundtrack doubles as DLC for Rock Band 3. How about that! Furthermore, Rock Band 3 DLC is also playable in Blitz for even more button-mashing good times. So whether you“re interested in the game itself or just interested in the DLC pack, for $14.99, Blitz is definitely worth the price. Pros: + Fun gameplay that doesn't require plastic instruments + Power-ups are a nice addition + The soundtrack doubles as DLC for Rock Band 3 + Rock Band DLC can be imported Cons: - The coin system is a nuisance - You can't play cooperatively with friends without connecting to Facebook Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Following the footsteps of its brethren, Rock Band Blitz is a fun little arcade title that any rhythm gamer should pick up.
  4. Jason Clement

    Playstation Store Update Overview 8/28/12

    This week's update is quite a big one. Not only is The Walking Dead: Episode 3 finally out, but Rock Band Blitz finally released as well as the stand-alone version of Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker HD, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, and all three Ratchet & Clank games along with the bundle for all three. And that's not all either. There's just about something for everyone this week, so check out the list below! PS3 Full Games Record of Agarest War Zero - $24.99 PSN Games Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD ($19.99) The Walking Dead: Episode 3: Long Road Ahead ($4.99) Rock Band Blitz ($14.99) Ratchet & Clank ($14.99) Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando ($14.99) Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal ($14.99) Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD ($14.99) Lights, Camera, Party ($29.99) PS Vita Games Madden NFL 13 ($39.99) PS2 Classics Psychonauts ($9.99) Bundles Metal Gear Solid HD Edition Bundle ($39.99) Game Demos Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 (PS3) Dungeon Twister Trial (PS3) Lights, Camera, Party (PS3) Rock Band Blitz (PS3) Playstation Plus Full Game Trial Record of Agarest War Zero Instant Games Collection Ronnie O“Sullivan“s Snooker (PS Mini) Exclusive Avatar Pack Lights, Camera, Party! Avatar Bundle – $0.99 Discounts inFAMOUS Collection (10% Off) – PS Plus Price: $35.99 God of War Collection (w/God of War Origins) (10% Off) – PS Plus Price: $35.99 Ratchet & Clank Collection: Full Trilogy (10% Off) – PS Plus Price: $26.99 Lights, Camera, Party! (50% Off) – PS Plus Price: $15.00 Space Channel 5: Part 2 (40% off) – PS Plus Price $2.99 Spelunker HD (50% off) – PS Plus Price $5.00 Spelunker HD Championship Area 2: Nasty Cave With A Stream (50% off) – PS Plus Price $1.00 Spelunker HD Championship Area 3: Fiendish Ancient Ruins (50% off) – PS Plus Price $1.00 Spelunker HD Championship Area 4: Frigid Icy Depths (50% off) – PS Plus Price $1.00 Spelunker HD Championship Area 5: Ancient Creature“s Fossils (50% off) – PS Plus Price $1.00 Spelunker HD Championship Area 6: Cave Of Glowing Moss (50% off) – PS Plus Price $1.00 Last Chance (Leaving on 9/4) DUST 514: Closed Beta All Access ($0.00) The Walking Dead Episodes 1 – A New Day – ($0.00) The Walking Dead Episodes 2 – Starved for Help – ($0.00) DUST 514: MERCENARY PACK (50% off) – PS Plus Price $10.00 For sales and new add-ons, see the full list on the Playstation Blog. What games are you getting this week?