Currently Hurling Controllers / Mice At… – Grand Blox Auto

May 15, 2008

Here it is, your bi-weekly look into the gaming exploits of Splash Damage. While Grand Theft Auto 4 continues to maintain its firm grip on our gaming consoles and makes us tumble into bed at completely unreasonable hours, Boom Blox took the office by surprise and managed to win people’s hearts and minds in an instant.

There are also a few other, less mainstream (and thus, according to conventional internet wisdom, infinitely cooler) games being played here inside the Splash Damage blimp – read on to find out what they are, and don’t forget to share your recent virtual adventures with us in the comments!

Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
I finished off the main GTA4 story line and now I just need to pick up some more achievements for the satisfaction of having more than Steve – ‘the Achievement Whore’ (I’m just jealous). πŸ™‚ The game is fun but a slow starter; it’s got a few minor bugs but nothing that spoiled the experience. I found it a fair bit easier than San Andreas with the final mission being the only one I needed to retry more than twice. I really like the introduction of the mobile phone as it brought with it some cool game mechanics, however keeping all your friends pleased got to be a bit of a chore.

The less is said about Steve’s immense ‘luck’ with Boom Blox on the Wii, the better.

Metal Gear Solid is coming at the end of the month, wooo! I should be sufficiently GTA’d out by then. I’m just left pondering, with 100 Liberty City flying rats destroyed and another 100 to go, will I really be doing the city a service by removing them all…

Flavius ‘Flawe’ Alecu (Programmer):
I’m playing as much GTA4 as I can find time for, trying to catch up to everyone that’s finished or almost finished the game. I’m finding it a bit hard to get through the story though as I always seem to get a pedestrian in front of my car or that ever so appealing jump you just have to make with a motorcycle. After a couple of hours I usually remember what mission I started but get disappointed very quickly when I realize I can’t complete the quest by throwing grenades all over the place, so I get back to running over hot dog salesmen.

When I get bored with wrecking cars I switch games and play some Ratchet & Clank. I got that game fairly late so I’m still working through it. It’s very appealing and even if the story reminds me of a cheesy cartoon, it’s still fun since it actually feels like you’re playing through cartoon movie and not a game with the occasional cut scene. And it’s pretty hard to stop playing as I often find my self captured by the magical power of the physics behind the animation of Ratchet’s ears.

Still waiting for Fallout 3. To get myself in the right mood I’ve ordered my Fallout Collection box to remind me of how cool it is to not kill rats in the basement of your mother’s house while waiting for your best friend to come tell you that you are a hero and need to save the world, but kill them in the underground system of a bunker after the world has been blown up by nuclear bombs.

Paul ‘MoP’ Greveson (Artist):
Still ETQW!

Matt ‘Anti’ Lowe (Production Coordinator):
Well Trackmania Nations Forever came out shortly after I last posted in this here blog and I’ve been playing it alot. The nighttime tracks are cool as are the hoop check points that I can hurl myself through in mid-air, but most of all I love the awesome dirt sections mainly because I seem to be better at them than other players which makes a change!

I’ve also gotten quite hooked on Boom Blox on the Wii. It’s essentially virtual Jenga; the various game modes available are nothing radically new and I’m sure many of us would have played them before had we not then needed to tidy up afterwards! But that is the strength of the game – it lets you do all the things Jenga wouldn’t and it’s surprisingly good fun as a result, especially in multiplayer. The Steven Spielberg aspect of it all does just seem like a cheap marketing trick though, there is nothing radically different about this from other good puzzle games.

I’m keen to play Mass Effect on PC when it comes out in a couple of weeks. I’ve wanted to play this for a while now but as I still don’t have an Xbox 360 I think I’m going to go ahead and buy this version instead. I’ve heard it’s the best alien sex sim on the market!

Ben ‘mantegra’ Davis (Artist):
I do not own a console but felt compelled to get an Xbox 360 just to play my own copy of GTA4. And I have to say it was well worth it! The game is probably the longest game I have played to date. There was a long weekend right after GTA4 came out in the UK- how convenient πŸ˜‰ – and I spent 4 full days and nights trying to complete the game and eventually I did. I heard there were multiple endings (multiple being 2) and I managed to complete the other ending the other day and I felt a little disheartened considering how they are both similar in circumstance and both endings take place in the same location.

I found multiplayer quite fun at the start but lacks the substance to keep playing for hours on end. The multiplayer is probably best used for parties when your mates are around or online. Overall it was the best gaming experience I have had in a long time considering how long and how much content is in the game. And the graphics are pretty impressive considering how large the actual city is.

Another game which I have played for Wii lately has been Boom Blox. It is surprisingly interesting considering the way in which you have to throw the ball to knock the blocks over. Like all Wii games it is pretty fun and light-hearted but not something which I would play by myself.

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
Grand Theft Auto 4, then. It’s been such a conflicting experience for me. On the one hand you’ve got a stunningly large sandbox environment with more content in it than you can shake an analogue stick at – there’s always something new to discover or a little detail that you absolutely did not expect to find in the game. It’s a really impressive technical and artistic achievement that is unlikely to be rivaled by anything else this year.

Unfortunately, the whole thing (at least for me) is marred by some fairly fundamental flaws, though Rich tells me they’re all acceptable because San Andreas had them, too. Anyway, rather than harping on about that and risk getting bludgeoned by him in the process, I’ll leave it at that.

The other new game I played this week was Boom Blox, a title I hear was personally designed and crafted by Steven Spielberg’s beard and glasses. It’s a very fun party game and I totally flattened the three other unlucky chaps playing it with me, but (as Ben points out) it’s not something I would feel compelled to play in single player.

Rock Band finally comes out here in the swimming kingdom next week and (despite the horrendously excessive price gouging) I can’t wait to pick that up. Guitar Hero III is starting to get a wee bit repetitive, so this potential replacement comes just at the right moment for me.

Aubrey ‘Bezzy’ Hesselgren (Game Designer):
It probably goes without saying that GTA4 has had its fair share of my spare time, but I’m also giving some indie love, trying out Noitu Love 2 and Every Day Shooter. I still find it surprising that both of these titles were single-man teams, especially Noitu Love 2, whose production values are excellent, as well as exhibiting some fantastically easy, instantly rewarding combat, and relentlessly cool Boss design. Everyday Shooter is great in its own way, but I still have a few misgivings about the lack of analogue support – if there were a strong game play reason for having 8 way firing, I’d accept it. In this case, mapping 360 degree freedom to 8 directions isn’t really cutting it for me, but there’s more than enough inventiveness in the changing game rules to get me over that hump.

Boom Blox has had a brief play. One of my favorite designers, Doug Church, was involved in the prototype stage (which makes for an insta-buy for me – he was also involved in Frequency [Harmonix’s precursor to Guitar Hero], and was a designer on Thief and System Shock – that’s some range!), and the rest of the team at EALA have pulled it beautifully to fruition by designing very inventive puzzles around the simple premise. The throwing gesture feels so natural – beautiful kinaesthetics.

What are you playing this week? Sound off in the comments!