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Penny Arcade

April 8th, 2005

03:40 pm - OurColony.net: The First Rule of Viral Marketing Club Is...
With the race to be the best next-gen console well underway, Microsoft is getting the buzz out (quite literally) with OurColony.net, a website that swears up and down it's not a Alternate Reality Game, and has the mascot of a insect (which personally reminds me of a Coheed and Cambria design], but that's another story.) The gamem8ker, the head of this place, invites one and all to join up and form colonies to answer questions, solve riddles and the like for a greater prize. At first, it would appear that this has nothing to do with anything at all, but there are a few things that give it away.

First, the flash-goo portal that you see when you first go to the website. Refresh it enough times, and you'll eventually see what looks like a powerbutton. Look closely at your X-Box, and it pretty much looks like the same one. Two, the first riddle has to do with finding the ISBN number of a book about the X-Box. Three... well, just look at all the other teams. Team X-Box, Project Xenon? C'mon...

Supposedly, the rewards for completing these puzzles are glimpses into Microsoft's next X-Box, but at this time I really do not know because I'm not in a team. Unfortunately, the website is buggy to say the least? I haven't been able to confirm if I've actually been logged on, but we do have our own little place there. If you want to play along, I made a colony (hopefully) which is called "Chemical-X.NET". So, if you want to join in, all you have to do is:

1) Go to the website, and type in play at the prompt.
2) Click on join existing team.
3) Type in the password : 71886851 when it prompts you to. (Alternatively, 60875921 for the furry colony...)
4) Fill out some basic heueristics. (Nothing major :P.)
5) If you make it this far, post on the forums they have set up?

I can't even get into the place myself, the colony grows too quickly it seems. I'd say shame on Microsoft and insert something witty, but Microsoft jokes are old hat and write themselves.

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April 6th, 2005

11:38 pm - Nintendo to Competition: Do YOU have your own playhouse?
Taking a page from Apple's playbook, Nintendo has their own destination for all things N-related. Nintendo World, a two-story complex in New York City's Rockefeller Center, filled with the latest and greatest games and goodies to try that Nintendo has to offer. And of course, more merchandise then you can shake a stick at.

It's an interesting move by Nintendo to say the least. With the recent rumors of their newest home console floating about, the true successor to the Game Boy coming by the end of this year, does this mean we are going to see something from the Nintendo crew at Nintendo World's grand opening? At the very least, I want a name for the next console, please?

Another note is that there's going to be a Pokemon Center (You heard me...) that has exclusive merchandice (Gotta buy them all...) and special events. A Pokemon Center though? Does this mean that more are on the way? Will little kids travel around the country, and the world collecting badges? Heck, will Nintendo employ gym leaders? I swear, at this moment, Nintendo is creating these critters in test tubes. Just you wait...

[Source: http://www.cubed3.com/]

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11:03 pm - Amplitude - Music for the Masses - 8.5
Rhythm games. What comes to mind when you think of them? Foreign music? Raver wannabes, jumping up and down on a metal pad, who should never be allowed within fifty feet of any dance floor? Grizzled hippie folk playing air guitar, or working their fingers on a keyboard with a speed that would make Mavis Beacon proud? Of course, most of the games I refer to are based on the Bemani line of video games, all of which can be found at arcades all around the world, most of which originate in the East where these sort of games have a greater popularity. While all of these do cater to the niche group who follow the genre here in the west, and follow it more rabidly then the American Idol competitions, it also alienates the gaming body at large who would never touch one of these games with a ten-foot pole.

Massachusetts-based Harmonix brings something to the gamers en masse with their offering, Amplitude, for the Playstation 2. Like most music and rhythm games before it, Amplitude is easy to pick up and play. After picking a difficulty level, you have a selection of songs from various genres, 26 different songs when the game is fully unlocked. As mentioned, if you were put off by these games before due to high-pitched female vocals, or strange techno music, Amplitude's got you covered. Songs range from the more mainstream P.O.D, Garbage and Blink 182, to the more obscure Komputer Kontroller, or the drum 'n bass stylings of Dieselboy. Regardless, there is something here for everyone. No cutesy J-Pop here.

Like any good DJ, Amplitude brings some of the mainstream...

Each song, or 'level' is composed of various tracks connected side by side on a cylinder (ala Tempest), representing various instruments that compose the song. When you first enter each level, the various instruments are turned off, making the song a shadow of its former self leaving you to pick up the slack. Each instrument track is then composed of subsections, which contain a sequence of targets (either a left, a middle and a right one) that when blasted release a note, or other lyric of the song. The targets in these sections need to be blasted in succession because first of all, to keep that particular instrument working, until it turns back off again and secondly to keep your lifebar filled. If you fail to complete the pattern or decide to just consistently skip subsections, you lose a bit of life. The trick to getting a good score, not to mention completing the levels themselves, is to switch from one track to another, trying to keep as many of the instruments 'on' as possible.

...with the more delightfully obscure.

This might be a issue because the levels themselves are eye candy in themselves. As you move along the song tracks, the area around you is filled with a tour de force of eye candy. Lights and other effects flicker with each beat, screens of animations and videos of the artist play on scenes, its just as fun and interesting to watch as opposed to play. Overall, the graphics themselves don't hold much of a candle to recent PS2 titles such as God of War, or the Metal Gear Solid series, but in terms of presentation, it does everything right.

Aside from the basic gameplay, Amplitude also offers a innovative remix mode. This functions as a map editor, but can help foster your inner producer/DJ. Tempo changing, reverb effects are available to fool around with and you can even bring in a friend for collaberations. It isn't anything as complex as MTVs Music Generator or anything offered on a computer, but its robust enough that you can make your own dance mix to Papa Roach. Gothy-emo kids need to groove too once in a while...

Multiplayer is there for those who want it. A battle mode to score the most points, the remix mode, or if you're feeling adventurous, take your skills online. Similar to that of Halo 2's matchmaking system, the central server tracks what difficulty level you've completed to help find players for your jam sessions. Lag was easily manageable, but there aren't too many players out there. This is alright, as the multiplayer is more of a added bonus to those who have a network adapter and is there for those who want a break from playing Final Fantasy 11 or SOCOM online .

This picture doesn't do the game justice. Amplitude is digital crack for your pupils.

Bringing pick-up-and-play gameplay, with a solid listing of artists and great use of effects, Amplitude shows that the Western Hemisphere can rock just as hard as the Eastern. At the very minimum, give it a rental. Amplitude is a true diamond in the rough.

8.5 out of 10.

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