New website and blog!!!!!

After over three years of blogging here we’re finally shifting over to our own website. The new site can be found here and we will be posting all of our content there from now on. Thanks to all of you that have been reading through various RSS feeds! Please do redirect your feeds to the new one at:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/randomprodinc/xmMN

There’s even a sweet little email subscription option on the main blog page, emails aren’t spammy and only come once a day max! So get subscribing and keep up with our posts! http://www.randomprodinc.com/blog

Nintendo 3DS launch titles announced


Nintendo today announced the full line up of 3DS games that will be launched on 25th March along with the console. In total there are 13 different launch titles catering for a wide range of gaming tastes! These games can all be seen in the table below:

Personally I’m a little disappointed that Nintendo aren’t launching any major titles of their own other than Nintendogs and PilotWings (A mii based flying game) on the day. However they have listed a few of the games that will come out in the following weeks / months, including: Kid Icarus, Star Fox, Ocarina of Time 3D, Mario kart, Paper Mario, and Animal Crossing.

Nintendo’s own games aside, it is also nice to see some other major publishers releasing games on launch. I am particularly excited to see how the Lego games, Street Fighter, and Splinter Cell play out in 3D. Plus who knows! There might be some suprise releases announced nearer the time! There’s still over a month to go.

Little Big Planet 2 Review

After playing through Little Big Planet 2 for a few weeks I can solidly say that the game is AWESOME! Though I didn’t really need to wait a few weeks to realise this, as the game has been amazing since day one. The levels are aesthetically well built together, with clever featues crammed throughout! This and the inclusion of various new features such as power ups and the sack bots just add to game when playing alone and with friends! My only dissapointment with the game was the lack of “Go! Team” in the soundtrack! But that’s something I got over quickly enough.

Little Big Planet 2 brings a whole new storyline to the game as Sackboy has to defeat the evil Negative-a-tron, a monster that takes all good in the world and makes it.. well.. negative. The story mode also brings in a complete new set of 3D creator characters that aren’t card cut-outs to the side! These characters are continuous throughout the game, aiding in narrating the game, and making the player aware of their objectives. This and the inclusion of new bonus levels such as survival, challenge and versus levels has seen Media Molecule take Little Big Planet to a whole new level since the last game.

As mentioned, Little Big Planet 2 brings an assortment of new features including power ups, controllable creations and sack bots. The power ups really add to levels as players are now able to grapple and lift any blocks, or other sack bots above their heads and throw them. No more slow dragging!  These features give an enhanced playing experience in both single and multiplay modes. In multiplay particular I find the grapple amusing as you can just shoot and drag other players, or grapple along with them.

Now the sackbots are a collection of tiny robots that are completely customisable in create mode. You can control pretty much all the aspects you need to in their personality and abilities, as well as looks! For example you can make them good or bad, able to jump or not, able to use power ups, and even dress them up like normal a normal sack person! The sackbots aid players in completing various levels throughout both story and online levels. Their survival also affects the end score and items you receive.

Finally there are various controllable creations, such as a rabbit. When controlling the rabbit for example, sackboy can jump super high and crush objects as he lands on various breakable objects. When controlling the dog sackboy gets to blast objects out of the way with supersonic howls, and the round.. ferret.. like hamster.. thing.. lets you roll through levels at high speed with the boost ability which basically lets you fly! Even though you already get to fly with the BEE!!! A creation that allows sackboy to shoot down enemies and objects whilst flying through levels to complete them. All in all the controllable creations were a nice little feature that gave more variation to the 2d mario-esque run and jump levels.

As with the last game, LBP2 encourages players to play along with friends or random people online as levels include x2, x3, and x4 features that require assistance in order to get a full 100% end score. This and challenging side levels which are made less stressful with a bit of help successfully encourage players to interact with each-other and co-operate as they go on to complete the game. I’ve personally found that multiplayer has been one of the most enjoyable features of Little Big Planet 2 for me, as I’ve always had a thing for co-op style game levels, so the ability to play ANY level in a co-op style. It’s also safe to say that I’d be nowhere near 100% on the gobotron shooter challenge level had I not played it with friends!

Another familiar feature is the ability to play through other players published levels. This feature of the Little Big Planet games has molded the games so you can pick them up any time and do something  completely new. With all the new features in create mode that incorporate the games various new power ups, and sack bot players, users are able to create new and challenging levels that give that little bit extra to the gameplay. The sackbots can be modified to look like normal sack people, sizes of which can be altered! The best use of this I’ve seen so far was a level where you could walk into a sackbot and control it and its gun like a giant robot! To top this off, at the end of the level the author gives you a controllable zombie character for your own levels! Which is another feature of LBP I’ve always loved! The ability to share your creation with others to use in their own levels.

The multiplayer interface has been altered too to make it a lot easier to find genuine fun to play levels, rather than the “PLAY THIS GAME FOAR PHREE COSTUMEZ N ST00FZ!” traps that were spamming the Little Big Planet 1 online world. This is avoided with the inclusion of “MM Picks” levels – chosen by the people over at Media Molecule, these levels are generally all awesome and really make the best of the new features presented in Little Big Planet. There’s also a cool levels feature thats presents loads of top rated community levels that are equally as awesome. They even managed to help out people like me who can never pick which level to play with the “Dive in” feature that throws you into a random multiplay level with a random group of players.

It’s clear with Little Big Planet 2 that Media Molecule have really outdone themselves. The game was definitely worth the wait, and I can’t wait to see what DLC packs they release for this game over the coming year as even now I’m struggling to put it down!

 

10/10

Inception within Smallville?!

This post WILL contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.

This weekend saw the return of the final season of Smallville following its mid season break. In many ways after the cliff hanger left at the end of the previous episode I was hoping for something a little more as to explanation of what happened, rather than the boring old “LOL! Government set you up! LOL”. That however doesnt mean that I hated the episode! I infact felt that despite its poor cliff hanger pick up, that it was an interesting episode.. though there was just something so familiar about the whole … oh wait! Inception.

In the past Smallville has arguably taken on movie inspired stylings to various episodes, the most prominent example being seen in the ‘Cloverfield’ style engagement party of season 8. A style that is clearly repeated in the latest episode as much of the base workings reflect that of the dream world, and the ability to invade and control dream worlds whilst protecting them with built in security to “Remove the intruder like a virus”.

I think it was extremely unfortunate that had such a rushed style to it, with large chunks missing between someone being one place then suddenly being on a roof ready to escape.. The whole in between being the bit that would have build on it more and made it more interesting was .. well.. scrapped apparently!  This links with my other criticism, which is that the episode was a bit too jumpy, hopping around characters far too much, which led to any action that was within the episode being shoddy.

I also think too much was played on the whole “Why wont Clark trust Chloe” part. I think this would have been better had Chloe not been revealed to be truthful so early, it would have left more suspense with the viewer and made it more tense to watch. I dont think the approach of the government even increased the tension after this, as once some of them were out you knew Clark and Lois would be out eventually.. choose a weaker character to trap!!!!!

The only question now is.. Can Clark fly outside of the dream world?

All in all it wasn’t as good as a normal episode of Smallville for me, but still had some strong points. I just think it’s unfortunate such a good idea for an episode was condensed in such a way!

6.5/10

Black Ops – First Strike

Something that was released this week was the first DLC for Call Of Duty: Black Ops. Now, for those familiar with the series, this is a huge deal, because the only thing more anticipated than this is the actual release of a new game. So it’s a big deal.

This map pack was released on Tuesday and it includes 5 new maps: 4 multiplayer and 1 zombie. And they are pretty good, and have some pretty wicked features. I’ll start with Berlin Wall. This is an awesome level set in Germany, surprisingly, by the Berlin Wall. The level features a load of buildings which provides good cover and sniping positions as you’d expect, but also there is this area where if you step inside, you’ll get blown apart by turrets. This area is denoted with red on the map and the floor, but tread carefully as you may not spot this as you’re running from your mates. I personally liked this map. Made me think a lot more about the whole gameplay aspect of the game and how to use my environment to an advantage.

The second map is Discovery which is set in the Antarctic. This level is pretty good as shows some of the snowier areas of the game, even though there are a lot of other snowy maps. This map features a lot of bigger, warehouse type buildings but combines it with more open landscape. You can see the northern lights, and somewhere down the bottom is a snowy bridge that you can blow a hole out of. That’s pretty sick to be honest. Makes those pesky RC things less of an issue. I did like this level, but not as much as the others.

The last map i’m going to talk about is Stadium, which is AWESOME!!! Well, i like it. It is held in a stadium area, as the name suggests, and there is a hockey rink involved, but sadly you can’t jump on it, which would have been awesome. But if you shoot the puck and the scoreboard, wicked stuff happens. There are also some other nice little things you can shoot which do things, but i’ll let you find them. This level features a lot of little places to jump and hide behind, but is pretty open, so bring close combat weapons to this fight and you will stand a far greater chance of success.

The other two maps are Kawloon and Ascension, both of which add completely new game play areas to the multiplayer and zombie modes respectively and are pretty sweet. All in all, for 1200MSP it’s not too bad a deal, but as with most of these map packs, is still a little over priced. I’d give it a hearty 7/10.

Zune: A music streaming experience

So, the lovely people over at microsoft gave me a month trial of their Zune music service and I gotta tell you, it was really great. And this came as a surprise considering a lot of people had told me it was lame and other such things.

I’ll begin with the computer aspect of the service. This of course runs through the Zune application for windows, which has a pretty swell interface, and just generally looks pretty flashy. With the Zune Pass as it’s called, you get access to every song they have on their database, in a very similar manner to Spotify. And like Spotify, you can download the songs to your computer for offline listening should you need to ever go offline. Which, let’s face it, will never happen unless your net just cuts out. Anyway, another thing I noticed was the quality of the audio was slightly better on Zune than Spotify. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but it just seemed better, though that could have been the software. Another awesome feature on Zune is it’s Smart DJ playlists.This is very similar to how last.fm runs things. For those of you who are unfamiliar with last.fm it’s a service where you can search for an artist and then listen to music that is related to that artists. Well, smart DJ is very similar where you have a main artist and then it creates a playlist with songs from that artist and then similar artists. One advantage to this, is that you can see what is coming up next and can skip straight to a song you know, or skip a couple that you know you hate. It is a great way to find new music.

The next aspect to the Zune Pass involves your xbox 360. Yes, that’s right guys, you can stream the music straight to your xbox and have it play through your killer sound system attached to your xbox. This is a great way to listen to music, as not only does it mean you have it playing on, potentially, the best speakers in your house for the best quality, but it adds a really cool background image for the music. It’s hard to explain, but please enjoy the screen shot that will try and explain it better than my words. The Smart DJ feature is also present on this version of Zune too, which is awesome and means that if you’re having a party, you need not worry about making a killer playlist, let Zune do it for you. That’s what I did, and I turned out just fine. With the xbox version, you cannot save the songs to your hard drive as far as I’m aware, but if you can, that’s awesome, and I need to know how!

The final aspect to the Zune Pass involves your Zune device. That’s right you crazy cat Americans, if you have a Zune device that has the capability of accessing the Zune marketplace you can access this awesome service. And have no fear anyone outside America, you get this service right on your Windows Phone 7 device. It’s pretty awesome. Now, the features of this version are very similar to that of the PC version to be honest, you can search for a song and stream it straight from there, or you can choose to download the song for listening later. You can’t however access the Smart DJ playlists but I’m going to assume that’s to save you on data costs as using your mobile network to stream music can be quite an intensive thing to do. One last killer feature is that you can sync your music from your computer straight to your Zune device, and as most feature the whole new wireless sync dealio, it means you can have seamless access to what you have on your computer, on your Zune device. I can’t figure out if it goes the other way, but to be honest, I’ve downloaded everything to my laptop anyway and then synced it for on the go listening.

In my honest opinion, this is a great media service, though the media database at the moment isn’t as big as Spotify, I can only assume it’s going to keep increasing over time, and for £8.99 a month – $14.99 in the America place that’s over the sea – it’s a real bargain. And even though films aren’t included in the Pass, you can still find them in the same place. Almost perfect media integration! And here’s one more picture for you, if this doesn’t way you, i’ll be hurt!

Sony NGP / PSP 2

Sony today send out a press release announcing their next generation portable entertainment system, which they have chosen for obvious reasons to codename “NGP”. The system will make its debut at the end of 2011, and promises to deliver “the ultimate portable entertainment experience.” At least that’s what sony are saying.. But we may infact be seeing a direct competitor for Nintendo’s up and coming 3DS.

Reading over the press release my first thought was that this could be the heavily rumored PlayStation phone. Fortunately I read on to discover that it is infact basically just the psp2.

The NGP brings wifi and 3g connectivity to Sony’s latest gaming device, promising infinite possibilities for its users to encounter, connect, discover, share and play with other users no matter where they are. The device will also feature various developer built applications that will enhance the devices general experience for users. Taking it past the focus of whatever game you have in the device, a bonus for anyone who gets bored of the same thing easily like me!

One of the most interesting announced features for is the multi-touch pad on the back of the device, as well as the one on the front. This presents a new three dimension-like motion for gamers through touch, grab, trace push and pull movements of the players fingers. Personally this will be the most interesting part to see executed. For a long time touch features on the casings of even iPhones have been desired by users. So to finally see it on a device will be awesome and hopefully a interesting new level of gaming will be achieved, similarly to when touch screen games first came out with the iTouch and iPhone.

 

The NGP combines touch features with the duel analogue stick features that make playing games on the playstation so playable. This will give an interesting new level of non-intrusive touch responsive gaming as your hands are no longer blocking the scree constantly, something that really annoys me when I’m playing Sonic on the iPhone… so to avoid this is great!

Other features noted in the release include:

  • A “Super oval” Design!- Yes they actual use the term “Super”.
  • A live area where users can interact with others, even possibly stalk them through a feature called “Near”.
  • Two cameras! One on the front and one quite obviously placed on the back… Though it woulda been awesome if they were both on the back and made it 3D!!!! But no.
  • A new game medium placing media onto flash memory cards… The latter probably being the feature that will make the NGP more costly as flash memory sizes vary.

 

From the press release this seems like it could be a good portable gaming device from Sony, maybe even something that will allow them to re-contend with the Nintendo DS! But of course we’ll have to see how it comes out first.