Monday, 23 February 2009

CallMeSarge Gaming Journal - 23rd Feb 2oo9

Monster Trucks Nitro

I am working up to a big post on CoH. This is not it.

THIS is probably one of the most pleasing sub £10 games I have purchased (perhaps beaten by PixelJunk Eden) and is the reason I have not completed Flower yet. Pollination can wait when there are physics based puzzles to solve with my monster truck!

Years ago a mate called Toby got me hooked on a game called Elastomania. You navigate your 2D motorcycle through a series of complex levels, collecting apples and finding a daisy that ends the level. Mastery of the finely balanced leaning mechanic was essential to progress, and it became a strange 'Pass the Keyboard' multi-player experience. I would occasionally wander through the house during a party to find some poor soul (usually the worse for wear) grinding away at one of the trickier later stages in the game. It was simple, homebrew, and totally addictive.

Monster Trucks Nitro, by Red Lynx, is a progression of that game (And obviously the Trials games too, but I played them less and I like the oldschool version, so segue a go go). The levels are time based, and herein lies the challenge. A bronze medal will unlock the next level (so far), but gold medals give you the shineys. In game bill boards hint at some kind of off-road formula one car – sweet!

The aesthetic feel and sound affects are spot on, and the blue monster truck with flames on it reminds me that as a child, I was truly convinced that my fathers choice not to invest in one of these for daily transport was a huge mistake. The gameplay puts a smile on my face – judging the balance just right as you launch your truck off a ramp, over a canyon, and on to a row of school buses confirms some deep, childish knowledge that despite what my fore brain is telling me, monster trucks are really fucking cool. Only one thing could improve the game for me. Ok two things. More levels. And a Bowler Wildcat.

1 Line Summary: More fun than Flower.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Cheesy Potatoes, Chocolate desserts, and whatcha been drinking.

OK, so I've written about games and the art of swearing without swearing, time to hit the food. I am a big fan of the English food writer, Nigel Slater. I think his approach to food is spot on, and here are some recipes from his Kitchen Diaries that I have cooked lately.

Cheese smothered potatoes. This is proper winter food, and ranks up there with Swiss Rosti to me as being one of the best ways to cook potatoes. Floury potatoes are essential, and being in the UK, I tend to favor the King Edward. Why wouldn't I? The Cheese is as important as the potatoes here. Taleggio smells strong but tastes mild, melts like mozzarella but is less stringy to my mind. Having acquired your cheese and potatoes, as well as onion, olive oil and garlic, you are good to go.

Slice the onion finely, slice the garlic finely, heat them gently in a frying pan with the olive oil. You want them to soften for 5 minutes. Whilst they are softening, slice your potatoes to 3mm thick slices. You can also slice the cheese now as it will save time later. I choose to cut the rinds away, you can do as you please. Put the potatoes in the pan with the onion, cover, and cook for 25 mins at the same low heat, turning once. They should be a light gold in parts, and soft to the point of a knife. Lay the sliced cheese over the spuds and cook for a further 3-5 mins so the cheese melts over the potatoes. Serve up. Whether as a main with a salad, or as a side to grilled meat (I love this with lamb), these potatoes will impress.

Sometimes we do eat out on valentines day, this year we decided to have a meal at home. The main course was grilled lamb, chickpea mash and spinach, washed down with a sparkling rosé, but I would like to tell you about the dessert. A home made chocolate dessert is a food of love, and I'd like to think that this one sealed my status as the Barry White of our kitchen.

You'll need 200g of dark chocolate, the best you can lay your hands on. Greene and Blacks 75% cocoa did it for me. 200g of caster sugar, some Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread, 3 eggs and some ramakins. Interesting aside – in my younger years, I was convinced that 'I know you got soul' was by Eric B and Ramakin. Fail.

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over simmering water. Separate the eggs, put the yolks in a blender and the whites in a bowl. Add the sugar to the yolks and blitz till thick and creamy. Enlist the help of your significant other to whisk the whites till solid-esq and peaking like home made clouds. Fold the melted chocolate into the yolk mixture. Add two teaspoons of chocolate spread, in this case the afore mentioned Nutella. Fold the whites into the chocolate yolk mixture. Make sure no big drifts of white are left. Butter your ramakins, pour the mixture in, and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. They look like a cross between souffles and cakes. Dust the top with icing sugar and serve warm from the oven. This recipe makes four, so you have two for the next day. Serve with pouring cream.

Have noticed I am drinking more this year. Don't worry, weekends only. I am a huge fan of bitter, especially from small regional brewers, but have decided to try and cut back a bit. So Larger is back on the menu, Corona and Heineken for preference. I love wine but as my partner is nearly teetotal, I rarely buy bottles as they don't get finished. I bought a bottle of vodka back from Moscow in December, and Bloody Marys have been prominent as a result. I have a 10 year bottle of single malt that gets visited occasionally, but Friday always seems to end with me, a can of coke, and my good friend Jack Daniels. It's funny, having a drink seems to make me play pool better – but it does not work for CoH!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

CallMeSarge Gaming Journal - 7th Feb 2009

Prince of Persia - PS3

Started it today, managed to put about 3 hours in. Initial impressions are good, took me a while to get adjusted to the 'automatic' nature of the controls – only one button to wall run – but I picked it up quickly. Exploring the world is the main hook here, and the inability to die does not bother me at all. The boss fights seem to be the biggest niggle so far, and one of them had me frustrated for about 10 minutes ( a long time to be fighting an 'invincible boss') until I figured out how to do what the game wanted me to do. So far there have been a couple of good boss battles and a couple of lame ones. Considering I picked it up for £10 from my buddy Russ, so far it seems money well spent. I don't spend as much time on the PS3 as I do on the PC, so it will be interesting to see how far through I get. At the moment, I feel motivated to try and hit the end, I guess the only thing that would stop me is a really hard boss battle with a stupid mechanic that I could not do. I'm not holding my breath.

The dialogue between the Prince and Elika is great, and the 'take it or leave it' approach Ubisoft has used to the back story is a good idea in my opinion. But there can't be that many people out there who are really hyped on Prince of Persia lore – can there?

1 Line Summary: A great hangover game (barring the bad boss battles)

Fallout 3 - PC

Continuing on with second character, and playing as Evil. Finished the Operation Anchorage content, and was less than impressed overall. Very combat focused, and not much in the way of the dark, messed up twists that are the standout moments of the main game. However then end of mission loot was well worth it to me (yes it IS all about the loot), and I will pick up the next to DLC packs as and when the become available – although I resent the fact I have to do it through GFW-Live. Why not Steam?

I am still enjoying the game, and I have probably played close to 100 hours now. I think I will play on until I have seen all I can see, I am still motivated to head out into the wastes and look for random stuff. I may post some spoilerfic thoughts on this later on – best let people play it themselves for the time being.

1 Line Summary: If the DLC was on PS3, those 100 hours would have been more comfortable.

Dawn of War II Multiplayer Beta - PC

I am just not getting on with it as well as I had hoped I would, though I feel this is more to do with me than the game. I loved DoW I, and bought all the expansions, which in turn led me to Company of Heroes.

DoW I was really all bout the compstomp for me. I play online in 3v3s and 4v4s regularly, but the mass blobbing and fast tech driven strats (Dark Crusade's Space Marine Fast Tech to Grey Knights and Chaplain anyone?) did not make it a heart pounding competitive experience. It was more about the satisfaction of building a huge army and sending them out to smash puny humies or lay waste to heretics. The best fun to be had (for me) was comp-stomping against the improved AI skirmish mods that came out, with a friend or 3 vent.

CoH Rocked my world though, and while I was never able to rise above level six (USA/Wehr/PE), 1v1 Automatch is one of the most intense multiplayer experiences I have ever had. A victory can make me smile all day, while a loss can make me do things I'll regret later (like playing 3 more games with the same faction and loosing 3 times). Anyway, so there are my Relic RTS credentials.

I get what DoW II is trying to do with the smaller battles and more intense gameplay, I just cannot tell what the hell is going on at the moment. Tech decisions seem so important that I am worries about upgrading until I see what my opponent is fielding. The VPs seem to drop really fast too, so matches tend to be defined (if not decided) in Tier 1. It is a multiplayer Beta after all, so everyone started from the same place – as a Soulstorm owner, a week early I might add. It just seems to miss some of the charm that DoW I had. In DoW I, the models seemed clear, if a little cartoonish. In DoW II, I find it much harder to differentiate between units. It gets a little easier when they start firing. I think I am going to reserve judgment, but I have to say initial impressions are leaving me a little under-whelmed. I have the feeling that my time playing DoW II will be limited to single player and compstomps – which may be no bad thing.

1 Line Summary: To soon to say, but I am not ecstatic.

Company of Heroes – PC

After some time with DoW II MP Beta, this is like coming home. Jumped on for some random 3v3 pickups, and really enjoyed it. I guess if I get to understand DoW II as well as I do CoH, maybe I will get into it in the same way. Still, an orbital bombardment is no V1 rocket, if you know what I mean...

Give me a yell if you see me in CoH – CallMeSarge or SonOfSarge.

1 Line Summary: Still the my favorite game of all time.