31 March 2012

Saturday Supplemental - Subsistence

Anna Anthropy turns a personal struggle into a heartfelt game
Hey, weren't we just talking about that lady?

Kojima gets yelled at for pushing boundaries, but enjoys it
I may not care much for Metal Gear (Metal Gear!?), but I absolutely respect Hideo Kojima being a crazy person. Rock on, you movie-loving madman!

Videogames Politely Invade Smithsonian Art Museum
Some people say video games aren't art. (Wrong.) Some people say video games don't need recognition from the establishment. (Right, but maybe missing the point.) Now, here's Chris Kohler with the correct perspective.

Sticking the Landing
What? A discussion about Lost and Mass Effect 3, and I'm interested? It's not April Fool's Day yet, is it?

How Grand Theft Auto Jacked the House of Lords
One of several excerpts from a new book about Grand Theft Auto published on Wired this week.

Jimquisition: Konami
Konami was in my top five publishers for ages. What happened? I don't think I've played a good Konami game since Elebits (which was incredible, to be fair).

NightSky dev on Japanese game critics, ditching the term 'indie'
More Konami bashing! With two paragraphs dedicated to Kojima! I first read this article on Wednesday, and I honestly about that part until skimming it again just now. It's thematically fitting, though.

Australian capital receives R18+ classification for video games
What a grown-up move from the Australian government! Australia deserves two smiley stickers for this. (And a third if it can use the big-boy potty all by itself.)

Ubisoft - Don't buy companies for brands

Games 'would've died as a fad' if it weren't for 80s crash
If history is any guide, I'd say we're due for another mini-crash fairly soon. A few years, tops.

The '90s Revisited
Finally, in a week of downer links, here's a feel-good feature. The awesome dudes and dudettes at 1UP have produced twelve articles and charticles about video games of the 90s. Even if characters like Radical Rex and Socket the Duck make you wanna blow chunks, this retrospective is da bomb. But don't take my word for it!

Snake? Snaaaaaaaaaake!

30 March 2012

...These Are the Days of OnLive

And so, as quickly as it arrived, OnLive Week is coming to a close, but I expect that some day there will be more OnLive coverage here on Hot Lavy. One week wasn't nearly enough to discuss everything, and more games are being added all the time.

If I could pick just one game to add to the OnLive catalogue, it would probably be Oni or something, because, dude, I friggin' love Oni, but if I were to pick one game that would help OnLive as a business, I think it would be Madden.

Personally, there's nothing that bores me like football, and football video games aren't much better, but this isn't about me. There are thousands, maybe millions of people who buy video game consoles solely so they can play the latest Madden each year. Combine that audience with the theoretical future version of OnLive I envisioned yesterday, and you have the biggest thing to happen to video games since a little green pig gave a bird the finger.

A console-perfect version of Madden that you can post on your friend's Facebook Wall, or pull up on the company computer in your cubicle during your lunch break? That changes everything. Just like on TV, they could put in commercial breaks after every few plays and make it free-to-play. Roster tweaks and other upgrades could be integrated without players having to download anything. You could save and send replays (complete with interactive camera controls) that could be played on anything with an Internet connection and a screen.

This... this needs to happen.

(And then they should add Oni.)

29 March 2012

Like Sand Through the Hourglass...

I have opinions about OnLive!

I'll keep today's blog entry short - there are more than enough words in the full essay - but I ask you to please come with me on a journey... of the mind.

Dig, if you will, a future where games can be streamed across the Internet as easily as videos. No installation or lengthy loading times. Just hit play, maybe watch a short commercial, and then you're playing. I could embed a perfect version of Madden or a Sega Genesis game in this blog just as easily as I can embed a Genesis music video.

This future is coming, and it's closer than you might think!

28 March 2012

Your Driving is Suicide. I Hope You Have Thick Skin.

Here's a delightful little wonder from your friends at Synetic: The Funfactory that I never would have found if not for OnLive:

Intrigued, as I so often am, by the opening video's proliferation of explosions, guitar solos, and shades-wearing actors I've never seen before, I asked my bestie if she'd ever heard of the show Alarm für Cobra 11. She spent the vast majority of her life living in Deutschland, and it turns out that she did watch it on occasion. She tells me it's "well made" and "pretty tense," which surprised me. These are not phrases I would use to describe Alarm for Cobra 11: Nitro.

That is not a complaint.

27 March 2012

Skip It

I hate reviews that end with, "Fans of the genre should check it out, but everyone else blah, blah, blah." And yet, here we are, as OnLive week continues:

For the sake of focus, I tried to limit how many comparisons I made to other games in my critique, but Bridge It's "build something, test it, adjust" approach is not inherently bad, It's actually quite similar to one of my favourite series ever, The Incredible Machine. I think I would need to play more Bridge It to fully articulate why it does and doesn't work, but the biggest problem I found in my time was one of abstraction. The pieces offered in The Incredible Machine are so exaggerated that anyone can predict their functionality at a glance. The differences - visually, functionally - between a tennis ball and a bowling ball are profoundly apparent.

Maybe there's an Incredible Machine/World of Goo hybrid hiding within Bridge It for those who spend more than a few minutes playing, but I'm not impressed enough with what I've seen so far to look for it.

26 March 2012

Worst. Headline. EVER .

It's OnLive Week! All week long on Hot Lavy, we'll be writing about games available on the big, puffy cloud that is OnLive.

The temptation to spend eight bucks on Comix Zone has been gnawing at me since it hit the Wii's Virtual Console. Thanks to OnLive, I was able to play as much as I'll ever want to play without paying any money, which sounds like faint praise, but I am now a genuine Comix Zone fan. Why hasn't this game gotten a sequel, or at least been ripped off?

25 March 2012

Sunday Free Game - dys4ia

The last game I played by Anna Anthropy (also known as auntie pixelante) was Mighty Jill Off, which was most notable for combining 8-bit-style platforming with kinky leather sex-wear. It wasn't the worst, but it didn't do much for me.

dys4ia keeps the pixel art and overt sexuality, but it gives it a purpose. Where Mighty Jill Off was a traditional, challenging platformer, dys4ia drops almost almost all pretense of playing like a game (despite its impeccable design), and instead leverages the abstraction and interactivity of the medium to tell an intensely personal story. It's not a game, but I've never seen a movie or read an essay that gave me such a clear understanding of the challenges and motivations of a transgendered person. This is a brilliant and engrossing use of the form, and a story that could not be so eloquently expressed in any other way.

24 March 2012

Saturday Supplemental - Wings of Wax

Making of a Myth: The Grueling Development of the Original Kid Icarus
The original Kid Icarus sure is a likeable game, despite not being any fun to play. The reason: It was made almost entirely by one guy who didn't have time to finish it.

So here's a bill to put warning labels on videogames

Disney Epic Mickey 2 Exists, is a Musical
Epic Mickey 2? Don't care. An action game that's also musical? Eeeee!! I've tried to convince people to let me make a musical game before, and you wouldn't believe the resistance I encountered. That Disney is willing to invest millions of dollars in an experiment like this is a huge deal.

One Year Later: The Tragedy and Triumph of 3DS
As a poor person, I still don't have a 3DS, and that's increasingly upsetting.

A lot has been said about Kickstarter recently - I'm working on an article of my own - but when Bill Harris has opinions about a hot topic, they're usually worth reading.

Inafune: The Hope of the Japanese Industry?
Thank you, Inafune, for your willingness to be the bad guy.

Kid Icarus' Soundtrack is Better than You Think
I thought it was pretty great, already, but it really is better on the Famicom Disk System.

I'm finished!

23 March 2012

I Say! Just Bully!

If the concept of Bully - an open-world sandbox game from the makers of Grand Theft Auto, set in a New England boarding school - appeals to you, you probably played it when it was released for PlayStation 2 in 2006, or perhaps you played the "Scholarship Edition" re-release in 2008. I got the Wii version this Christmas, and finished playing through the main story earlier this week. It shows its age a little, but that concept is still unique even six years later. It's just a shame Bully doesn't quite deliver on the potential of its premise.

Still, I highly recommend Bully. I'd rather play a game that aims high and misses the mark than something safe and familiar. It's not Rockstar's best, honestly, how many games can compete with GTA III? This is awfully good.

Of course, "Rockstar" is not one company. Bully was developed at Rockstar Vancouver, which is far removed from Rockstar North in Scotland, where the majority of the GTA series was developed. At the same time, Bully was co-written by GTA scribe and Rockstar North vice president Dan Houser, so there's a clear connection, but the lineage is convoluted, to say the least.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I wish we could see a little more of that diversity. I'm sure Rockstar - all the Rockstars - has put enormous effort into unifying so many studios as a single brand, but it feels like every game they make now is Grand Theft Something. It's all outlaws and redemption and drama, and it's getting stale.

The first Rockstar game I played - back when the company was still called DMA - was Lemmings. There's the proof that these guys are capable of diversity. Or what about Space Station Silicon Valley? That's another one that predates the Rockstar name, but forget Grand Theft Auto III - that was the company's best game.

Anyway. Bully. It's good.

22 March 2012

Blonde Hair With Pink Highlights

Here's the final segment in this week's feature. Try to hold back the tears.

I wanted a picture of Kate wearing some kind of flowers. These seemed like a dumb thing to want. Why would there be a picture of Katy Perry wearing flowers. Flowers are not for wearing. I forgot about the flower idea, and made this:

Then, just for funsies, I thought I'd search for "katy perry flowers," which, of course, returned a few hundred thousand results. Why are there so many photographs of this woman? Why is the Internet?

21 March 2012

Blue Hair

Teenage Dream is unquestionably front-loaded, but we've saved some fun for the back end of this lengthy feature.

Remember when Eminem first started to get popular? Remember all the controversy? Those songs are so quaint now. I guess there was some uproar over Katy's Seasame Street appearance, but no one seems bothered by her songs. Is it a sign of changing times, or is rap music just that much scarier to conservative Americans than pop?

Not suggesting that we should get upset about Katy Perry songs, by the way. If anything, I'm glad that we're not freaking out over some dumb pop songs. Yay, us.

20 March 2012

Pink Hair

Who's ready for more Katy Perry?

By the way, I actually love Teenage Dream to bits. It's easy to mock, but if you should know better than to look for meaning in today's radio-friendly pop music. It's dumb, it's shallow, and I have no respect for Katy Perry as a person, but, hey, those songs are darned catchy.

19 March 2012

Katy Cats

Like Aerosmith, KISS, and Journey before her, Katy Perry has made the transition from music to games.

Part of me worries that I'm behind the times for making jokes about Teenage Dream a year-and-a-half after its release, but these songs are still on the radio, and Adam Conover and friends released a Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) parody last week, so this is still okay, right? Plus, I doubt anyone has gone to the same convoluted extremes I have to say that Katy Perry songs teach questionable lessons.

This is the first in a four part series, so I hope there are some fans of slightly-dated pop music and esoteric Japanese-exclusive video games in the audience.

18 March 2012

Sunday Free Game - Mega Miner

Jeez, these weekend segments need better names. Terrible!

This week's game is not terrible. It's not great either, but I played a lot of it, so that's something, I guess.

There's not too much to say about Mega Miner. It's harmless. It's about as fun as Solitaire, which is to say, not fun at all, but there's an appeal in reducing a complicated mess to something neat and orderly. Solitaire gives you a shuffled deck and asks you to sort it; Mega Miner gives you a shadowy plot of dirt and gems and asks you to dig through it. It's mindless and repetitive, but pushing that little drill to and fro helped clear my brain when I was stuck while writing this week's articles. I left it open in a second window, and clicked on it when I needed a minute to think. After a few days, I had mined every square of dirt.

Again, nothing special, but it was a gentle reminder that the "upgrade" genre isn't so bad. I needed that after Burrito Bison Revenge filled me with such bile.

 Picture not related.

17 March 2012

Saturday Links: At Least Until I Think of a More Clever Title

Missing Songs in Jet Set Radio-HD Shows Need for Game Preservation Movement
Embarrassing. To an outsider, this may not seem like a big deal, but anyone who's played the re-release of Crazy Taxi will tell you otherwise.

Strange Mario designs didn't almost make Super Mario 3D Land, says director
It seems Koichi Hayashida is a hilarious jokester. The phrasing of his quote is adorable!

Welcome to the #molyjam2012
A game jam based on the insane ideas of a Peter Molyneux imposter's Twitter feed. This is a real event that is really happening. This is amazing.

What Happened to Gaming's "Middle Class?"
The dissolution of the middle class might be the worst trend in video games today. I'm glad someone at a major games site is shining a light on this problem.

Two Ways To Think About Nothing
Not about games, specifically, but about art, generally.

Molyneux: Milo was too emotional for the games industry
Yet more Molyneux, but look at that headline. Who could resist the chance to link to an article like that? Pete's full quote is as insane as you'd hope, although he kind of has a point. (But still.)

16 March 2012

Bimmy and Jimmy

Edit: It's working!

I watched a terrible movie tonight and spent hours creating high-quality content based on it, but I can't get my .gifs to animate on the site.

I'll post an update if I can get it fixed. Otherwise, please take my word that it was simply too good for the Internet to handle, and that you are missing out on a real treasure.

Until then, live the code of the dragon.

15 March 2012

Who Are You?

I think the best recent development in writing about video games is the rise of personal perspective. Games journalists/critics/whoever are finally being allowed to embrace their distinct voices, and discourse surrounding the medium is improving as a result. We're seeing a wider variety of opinions, and a greater understanding of how games affect us. To me, that information is more useful that knowing how good the graphics are on a scale of 1-10.

This is my first attempt at a personal essay on Hot Lavy. I don't think it's particularly effective, or even particularly personal, but I look forward to further exploring this style.

14 March 2012

Those Turtle Boys

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the best movie ever made. Now, usually when you see the word "best" in a sentence, it indicates an opinion, but, no, that is fact. It is the perfect movie.

Today I learned that a new Turtles movie is in production, which I'll take as an excuse to write about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on NES, because how often can I write about a 23-year-old game and pretend I'm being timely?

This is also a fine opportunity to remind you that the attract mode music from that game is bodacious.

13 March 2012


Wario is your master. Bomberman is your enemy. Wha, ha, ha!

While writing this, I kept thinking about other series that could benefit from a Wariofication. There's probably another article in that idea just waiting to be written, but I'll give you a big hint about my number one choice: The main character already has a weirdo doppelgänger.

12 March 2012

For More Vibrancy

Remember on Friday when I said I was going to right some smaller, quicker material this weekend? This was supposed to be one of those small, quick pieces.

I'm not really satisfied with the end result, but I think there's promise in this format. We'll see if I can bring it all together a bit more cleanly next time, now that I know my goal.

In other news, Chairlift is pretty cool.

11 March 2012

Where Were They Going Without Ever Knowing?

Big congratulations to CoCo & Co for their win at this Independent Games Festival Student Showcase for Way! My praise is coming a little late, but don't read too much into that - this is a game that is very much worth a few of your precious Earth minutes.

I went into Way without really knowing anything about it, and I'd recommend you do the same. Don't read any descriptions, don't watch trailers; just play this super clever game.

Way was up against some serious competition, but of the dozens, maybe hundreds of IGF Student Showcase entrants I played this year, I don't think any other so deftly balanced enjoyable play mechanics with artsy subtext.

Chris, Cynthia, Walt, Hugo, Paulwei, and Katherine - I tip my hat to all of you.

10 March 2012

Saturday Supplemental - A New Weekly Feature

You know who writes about video games on the Internet? A bunch of people. Here's are some highlights from the week:

Peter Molyneux Says Controllers Are So Over
If you follow video games, this isn't news to you. Ol' Pete has been ranting about the agony of having touch an icky plastic device since the prenatal days of Kinect. I'm pointing to this article less because I think it's necessary to drive ourselves into a tizzy every time Peter Molyneux makes a bold proclamation, and more because this quote marked a personal turning point. I read this, and it finally clicked that Molyneux is some new form of nudist. "How can you even touch a controller!? It's so constricting and unnatural!"

Yasuhiro Wada Recounts the Making of Harvest Moon
This year's GDC provided plenty of stellar post-mortems on games new and old, and I think this was the best of all, though I may be biased my my love of Harvest Moon. It's a tale of deeply personal gamemaking, struggling against a poorly run business, and fun facts. Who would have guessed that farming was added so late in development?

Jason VandenBerghe Gave a Presentation at GDC
And I'm happy for him. He's a developer who doesn't have the huge following of a Molyneux or a Wada, but every time he opens his mouth it's clear that he loves video games in a way few others can match. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to make it to GDC, so I didn't hear the presentation, but the conclusion presented in this recap is the perfect argument against every misguided and unfounded statement my instructors made in game design school.

SimCity Has Nothing to Hide
1UP has taken a new direction in the past few months, and the site is absolutely killing it. Almost every article is worth reading, but I'm tipping my cap the above coverage of the SimCity, as well as this second article, because in describing two different sides of the same game, they've gotten me excited for SimCity for the first time in well over a decade.

09 March 2012

Wipe Away the Tears

It's over!

After spending four days in a row on a single subject, I'm going to try a different approach this weekend, with a collection of bite-sized chunks on a variety of subjects.

As if there's been a consistent approach thus far.

08 March 2012


As much as I'd like to pretend I'm an old pro when it comes to this Games Journalism stuff, I'm a beginner. Sometimes that manifests in my liberal use of non-descriptive terms like "stuff." Other times, the amateur part of my brain flips through an issue of an old magazine and thinks there might be a day's worth of content to squeeze out of it.

Three days later, and it looks like there's yet another day remaining after this. Whoops.

07 March 2012

I Wanna Publish 'zines

Hot Lavy's look back at a self-destructing Sega continues today, but there's still more to come.

Like I said yesterday, Sega Visions was an unapologetic attempt to sell video games and accessories (so many accessories), but it wasn't a totally banal and soulless rag. There's a pair of fascinating essays on the need for an independent ratings board (what would be the ESRB) by Sega of America President Tom Kalinske (!) and Sierra On-Line co-founder Ken Williams (!!!). They're well-written, and avoid talking down to the magazine's young audience. How different the video game landscape would be if Sega's mature and thoughtful side had found proper footing!

06 March 2012

I Had Visions

Sega Visions magazine comes out today's article (the first of a multi-part feature) looking pretty bad, but don't be fooled!

For the uninitiated, Sega Visions was Nintendo Power's Sonic-tinged counterpart of the mid-nineties. In other words, this was Sega's means of communicating/advertising directly to fans at the low, low price of just $3.95 an issue. Previews, reviews, maps, cheats, reader letters - all the expected features, all padded with no shortage of more direct advertisements.

Like Nintendo Power, it's a rather obvious attempt to sell kids video games, which is exactly what us kids want. Grown-ups tend to look down on magazines like this because grown-ups don't get it. Kids rule; parents drool!

05 March 2012

Going Downhill

SSX stands for "Snowboard Supercross," right?

It did until last week, when the revisionists at EA pulled the ol' switcheroo with the latest release in the series. Now, according to official SSX canon, it's "Snowboarding, Surfing, Motorcross," although there's still no surfing or motor-Xing to be done. Apparently someone is not merely proud of the story he penned for a goofy snowboarding game; he's so proud that he obliterated the previous lore. You go, snowboarding video game scenario writer!

I say why stop there? This is the kind of brassy trailblazing that opens the door to all manner of fresh ideas for sequels.

And so I present...

The Future of SSX

04 March 2012

Thrown to the Wolves

Today brings us the exciting conclusion to yesterday's crispy, crunchy review-style snack treat:

Burrito Bison Revenge: Once You Pop, the Tedium Don't Stop - Part Two

If you've played the game or read the review, you know it doesn't take much skill or concentration to play. I would start a round, build up a little momentum, leave the room to prepare a tasty meal, and come back to find the round still going with no input from me.

I found other ways to remain productive while consciously wasting my time, but eventually I had to find some way to keep myself entertained while playing - not the best sign of a fun game - and used the opportunity to catch up this week's 30 Rock.

My congratulations to the nerds writing that show - I was impressed enough by the casual references to mainstream games like Mass Effect 3 and Grand Theft Auto in a network sitcom, but a nod to a controversial gag from a geeky Web comic based on video game culture? Way to go deep.

03 March 2012


I adore bad ideas.

Is it a good idea to spend the first six paragraphs of a game review musing about processed snack foods? Absolutely not!

We'll get to the good ideas - consumer-targeted reviews of big-budget games, hot-button news topics, thoughtful discussions of intellectual matters - but I wanted to kick off the site with something dumb and trivial.

Burrito Bison Revenge: Once You Pop, the Tedium Don't Stop

The plate tectonics are shifting and this site begins is sputtering out of my head at last. It's too early to accurately guess what shape it will take when it finally cools, but I know what I hope:

If you already love video games, then I hope this site reminds you why. If video games aren't your cup of tea, I hope this site changes your mind, or at least helps you find an appreciation for the medium.

Taken as a whole, video games a dumb and trivial and bad and good and brilliant and important and beautiful and hideous. They're all of this and more, and I love them.

Let the eruption commence.

Welcome to Hot Lavy.

- Jake