Friday, January 29, 2010

Quarter-Note Corner: Q&A with Christopher 'Mazedude' Getman

Incoming Pull's Tim "Youngblood" Young recently had the pleasure of corresponding with one of the premier artists in the OC Remix community, Christopher "Mazedude" Getman. As part of the Quarter-Note Corner series, Mazedude decided to offer some insights into the music that he makes, as well as provide a couple special treats for IP's readers. Hit the jump for the full Q & A.


IP: Having studied music, myself, up until my second year of college, I've always enjoyed how the score of a movie can result in being more dominant than the story itself. How do you fell this translates over to video games?

Mazedude: Well in general some games are big on making the story a big deal, and some just want some sort of quick setup so you can start fighting. Me, I like the story games more. :) And I wouldn't say that the music is more dominant exactly, but there are certainly cases where it's better than the game. I remember Tommy Tallarico showing me a piece of the Advent Rising soundtrack while it was still in development, and he was real proud of it (with good reason). Then the game came out, and didn't do so well in the market. But I still listen to the soundtrack once in a while.


IP: You are a prominent artist in the OC Remix community. However, you remain on the fringe — so to speak — in terms of your musical selections. Games like Blaster Master, Deadly Towers, Ice Climber, Kid Icarus and Rygar are all titles that your have made remixes to that hardly anyone else in the community has touched. What is your motivation for selecting the scores that you do?

Mazedude: Heh, every game you listed was something I played as a kid. And that's what the remixing scene is for me in part — nostalgia. It's not just about "making cool music." If that's all there is, why pick game music music in the first place? Why not film scores or rock bands? The reason I like arranging the game music field is because in doing so I'm bringing back the memories of having fun as a child, and thus reliving the experience of hearing that song for hours on end while I played the game. So while it's not true for every single piece I've done, more often than not I like to pick music from a game that meant a lot to me, not necessarily what's the most popular. And plus, I'm very big on doing what hasn't been done before. And when I came along there were already a whole bunch of Mario and Zelda remixes, so I didn't feel the need to cover anything from those games specifically.


IP: Speaking of Rygar, this is one of my all-time favorite NES games. Not 10 minutes after my first play through when I was a child, I was turning the volume up on the television to experience the soundtrack in all of it's glory. You've remixed three Rygar tracks. I've caught flack for defending this game's soundtrack by many of my peers. Why did you choose to highlight the game's soundtrack for the music community?

Mazedude: Like many others, as a child I took a tape-recorder to the TV, and recorded my favorite game music so I could listen to it later, while doing homework or whatever. One of the games I recorded a lot of tracks from was Rygar. Not all of the music in it was great (what was the deal with that 4-note castle theme???), but a lot of it I just really loved. In fact, as soon as I learned how to write music in 4th grade, I dabbled with a brass quartet arrangement of the cavern theme. My first arrangement ever. Never got recorded or anything, but I remembered it many years later when I joined Overclocked, and decided to bring the theme back another way. I've done three Rygar tracks — the two featured on OCR, and my "Shadow Puppets" arrangement of the floating castle theme, available for download in the Bad Dudes EP # 1 here - www.baddudesmusic.com.




IP: Ok, this will be the last time I mention Rygar, but your Trippin' on Snails is one of the hippest remixes out there. Is there any hope of seeing a full cover of Rygar's soundtrack done in this style?

Mazedude: Well, I get bored very easily, and seldom do the same style twice. So that request is doubtful. But I'm glad ya like the tune; that happens to be my wife's favorite as well. :)


IP: Now that I got my fanboy compulsion out, let's focus on some other works of yours. Your latest piece for the Bad Dudes EP "Jingle All The Way," features your remix of Ghosts & Goblins, Ghosts 'N Condoms. How did you go about taking a four second clip of music and building it to what you did?

Mazedude: It took quite a few tries actually. I tried slowing it way down and make it Halloweeny with organs and bells... didn't work. Tried industrial, didn't work. Then one day I was goofing around with some synth samples and made that opening bit, and then just built it from there. If you listen carefully, you can hear the initial 4-second riff embedded into the chords, the bass line, the synth lead... it's all over the place. Sometimes it's slowed down, sometimes it's turned upside down, but it's in there the whole time. It's a technique that a lot of classical composers used to do back in the day: they'd take a motif, sometimes as short as 3 notes, and use that as a building block for an entire work. I guess this is my way of trying to do the same thing, but electronically.




IP: The Wily Malfunction lies somewhere in between genius and insanity. The anticipation of hearing the main theme's resolution at the beginning and then being smacked in the ears with Wily's malfunction, thus preventing the listener from hearing the resolve has got to be one of the most difficult things I have heard. It really serves as a great metaphor for Wily's robot designs. Your thoughts on this piece?

Mazedude: Well, the initial notion behind this work is as simple as "Hmm, I want to do a Megaman 2 remix... but EVERY theme has been done before... well, except for that chromatic and looping Wily stage theme... but how can I make that into a full remix?" This was a rare instance also where I'd work on it for a bit, put it down, come back a few months later, doodle some more, leave again, and so on. I couldn't decide whether to make the whole thing chippy (with the sounds in the beginning), or whether to have it switch over to standard electronica, or combine the two, or what. Eventually I explored all the options to a point where I was able to weave them together into a cohesive mix, and... there's the piece. Very difficult, but a lot of fun.




IP: Super Mario Kart's Trippin' on Rainbows is another piece of your that sticks out in my mind of being pure gold. The beginning is very uneasy, but there is a calm once the muted trumpet comes in. And then, like a spring of hope, the main theme comes in with the trumpet being serenaded by a great alto sax accompaniment, all the while an industrial beat drives the piece. Your thoughts on this piece?

Mazedude: I don't even remember what my initial ideas on this were, but the piece pretty much took over once I started. I think this was my first foray into the realm of acid jazz, but once I got rolling it just took over and went all over the place. That's actually some of my favorite type of writing, where it just all happens in a rush and I'm not even sure what happened when it's over. And I also have a really hard time doing any single style by itself. Like, doing straight-up jazz is hard for me, but mixing it with acid and industrial elements, now that's more like it.




IP: And alongside all of the jazz and electronic beats in your pieces, you have Island of Zeal which is layered with so many colors that it's hard to describe. While the original has a steady, almost mombo feel to it, your arrangement's manner in how it layers the melody gives it the feeling of jazz, symphony and a boy's choir, all in one. How were you able to bring so much depth to one piece?

Mazedude: Ah yes, my very first piece on Overclocked, the one that started it all. I guess the inspiration for this came from a few places. I wanted to stay true to the original, but it felt rather empty at first in my version, so the added layers were more to fill it out than an attempt to make it sound deep. The oboe complimented the sitar nicely, the harp complimented the pizzicato, and so on. And I love playing with ethnic instruments in general, and since this was a piece with ethnic elements, but wasn't exactly supposed to sound like world music in a specific genre, I felt comfortable bringing in other exotic elements that wouldn't typically match... like the pan flutes, and choir.




IP: Surface of the Moon from Final Fantasy IV is both eerie and compelling, much like Super Metroid's Norfair Deathmarch. What does it mean for you to be able to explore the darker side of video game scores?

Mazedude: Well I like a good challenge, so I sometimes pick the stranger, more chromatic tracks to work from. I could list a whole bunch of pieces I've done from some very bizarre source material. Just check out my Earthbound mixes. Crazy. And plus sometimes they're just the tracks I like and remember the best; when I played through FF4 that moon music really grabbed me, as well as the Norfair theme. So when I tried to think of what to remix next, those came to mind.




IP: Can you give us any preview of what is to come from the mind of Mazedude?

Mazedude: Well I'm not one to give anything away that's not entirely finished, but I can tell you that I've finished some tracks from the upcoming Megaman 9, Tim Follin, and Wild Arms projects. And the Bad Dudes have joined with OCR for a "Heroes vs. Villains" project, where the Bad Dudes claim a villain to the corresponding hero tackled by an OCR-person. Read more here. I've claimed Mother Brain, while my friend, Big Giant Circles, is battling me and taking Samus. :) And ya know what, here's a special treat. I remixed a few themes from Kirby Superstar a while back for a remix project that I just learned has been canceled. So they're free. Enjoy.
  1. Mummy Dance - http://mazedude.com/music/Mzd-Mummy.mp3
  2. Samurai Kirby - http://mazedude.com/music/Mzd-Samurai.mp3
More ethnic fusion for ya.


IP: Is there anything else you would like to add to the interview?

Mazedude: Just to all the aspiring musicians out there, if you're looking to get into making music, make sure it's something that you have fun with, and only write music that you'll enjoy listening to. It's amazing how many composers out there never listen to their own work. Either they write for technical reasons, or because they want to sound like someone else, or because they're making what they think other people will like. And they're not happy doing it. Me, I listen to my music all the time, and I know full well that there's a lot of my work out there that people DON'T like. Because I didn't write it for them. I did it for me. :)


IP: Thanks, Christopher, for taking the time to let Incoming Pull's readers see the man behind the music. I know myself, as well as the gaming community, anxiously look forward to seeing what other remixes you come up with.

Mazedude: You're welcome. Normally this is where I'd plug my music website, but ironically haven't had the time to finish it yet. But stay tuned to ocremix.org and baddudemusic.com for fun stuff coming up. My next works include some more stylistic mimics, some bizarre homages, and even more crazy fusion.


IP: Thanks again, mate. I really appreciate you corresponding with me. (I'll keep holding my breath for a Trippin' on Rygar album.)

Mazedude: Dude, I really like how you asked about specific tracks. Usually the questions I get are vague and all-encompassing, like about what programs I use and stuff. It was fun to stop and think about specific tracks, and answer questions related to them. Thanks for that. I hope your readers enjoy the interview.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Radio: ICP Live! Episode 35

It's usually right about now that all of the great end of the year releases start collecting dust and we, gamers, start wondering when the next great game will come out. Well, thanks to all of the 2009 delays, we don't have that problem. And, boy, is there a lot to look forward to. Instant message us during tonight's show and join in on the conversation. You can listen to ICP Live! tonight at 9 p.m. EST on UltraWorld Radio.

On tonight's show:


• Epic Games, Final Fantasy fanboys and Dante's Inferno.

• We rock out to some Super Nintendo Classics.

• We explore all of this past week's hottest gaming headlines and game releases, as well as this week's retro best and worst power-up.

• And we discuss what games we are the most excited for in 2010.


If you have any questions or comments, post them on this story and we will try to get to them when we are on-air. You can also reach us on Yahoo instant messenger @ incomingpull or hit us up on any of the numerous ways to contact us (hint: you can see the list in the sidebar on the right).

Seriously, it's a LIVE show. Why not IM us and join in the conversation?

"This kingdom shall fall, and from the ashes shall arise a new order that will shake the very foundations of the world!"

As always, you can stream the entire show in the player below, or you can click the download link under the player to save it to your hard drive for eternity. You can also subscribe to the ICP Live! podcast and be alerted when a new show is posted or even listen in on your iPod.

Take note that this will be the final episode uploaded to Gcast/Garageband.com for podcast hosting. If you have been keeping up with our podcasts using that service, you will need to resubscribe using one of the available links in the right sidebar.

alt: Incoming Pull Live: Episode 35
[Download The Podcast]

Make sure you check out DJ Kestral every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on UltraWorld Radio.

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Radio: Quarter-Note Corner Live! Rygar

Take a listen as Incoming Pull's Tim Young reviews the soundtrack to one of the Nintendo Entertainment System's gems, Tecmo's Rygar, in this edition of Quarter-Note Corner Live!


alt: Quarter Note Corner Live! Episode 1
[Download The Podcast]

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Retro Review: Crackdown

A few months ago I talked about a tech demo that was released showing the new physics engine for the upcoming sequel to Crackdown. I had never played the first game. Its big push was when the game was sold new players got free entry into the Halo 3 demo. This was slammed on by various people in the gaming community until they played the game and they liked it. Since I had a lapse between when I got Mass Effect 2 and I really didn’t have anything worth playing, I picked up a used copy online and decided to give it a go.

Crackdown is the story of a city completely over run by gangs. There are 3 major areas within the city prime, and your job is to take out the crime lords. You can’t do this directly, instead you have to find and take out the lieutenants, but not necessarily. The way it works is that each lieutenant has something special about them. They are good with tech, make gang members better with guns, or something like that. If you take out the lieutenants, they the gang lord is not as tough. You have to take out all the LT’s in order to trigger the final gang lord, so it’s really a matter of choice in which order you weaken the gang. Still, you can go into any section you want, but without upgraded skills or systems, going into an area that is above your level will get you killed pretty quick, not that the game isn’t going to kill you pretty quick regardless.

Skills are broken down into 5 main sections: Agility, Strength, Guns, Explosives, and Driving. Agility is upgraded by finding and collecting orbs located on top of buildings around the city. The rest by simply using performing actions associated with those skills. So far only driving has been useless, but more on that later. Most of the weapons you have in the game come from fallen enemies, which can be a bit of a problem. The game doesn’t differentiate which weapons you have and which you still need. Plus, since you only can keep weapons you take to a supply point, it’s easy to miss weapons. While not a complete game-breaker, it is annoying.

The game physics are interesting, but can cause some problems. Since you are essentially super human, the more agile you are the higher you can jump. Getting to the top of a building can be annoying, since the only way up is to jump to ledges and then jump up. This begins everyone’s favorite graphics game “Can I grab that?” Plus there is a bad habit of pushing away from a building when you jump up, which causes you to fall and lose all the progress trying to get where you want to go. After a couple of level-up’s you are jumping from rooftop to rooftop covering 50 feet. That is cool, but the sickening “THUD” when you land, along with the loss of your shields and half your health makes jumping into combat tough. Especially since you can only do shooting combat while you are in the air. No flying kicks, no landing ground stomp attacks, nothing. Speaking of which, the melee has some problems as well. If you get too close to a wall from elevation and try to shoot the enemy, you tend to gun-butt the wall a lot. The only way to level up your strength is through melee, so running up to a group of enemies to up your strength can get you killed.



Driving is a joke, but thankfully you don’t have to do it. The game physics, while cool for blowing a body up and keeping it in the air with a succession of rocket fire is cool, plowing through a crowd because cars can’t take a corner at 30 MPH without losing all traction is completely lame. But nothing in the game requires you to drive outside of car race challenges, so it’s the biggest of deals. Shooting tends to be a bit wonky. The auto-target works well, and you can target body parts, but I am not sure why you would want to since you don’t capture anyone.

Ultimately the question must be asked, is this a good game? It’s not bad, but it could be better. This isn’t a game where you marathon through several levels and enjoy a good end boss. This is more a “man my day sucked” and you just grab the rocket launcher and blow the crap out of everything for half an hour or so.



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Monday, January 25, 2010

indie Lounge: Sharks, Puzzles and Tetris

Games nowadays lack the great pick-up & play of the good ol' days. Thankfully, there are plenty of indie developers willing to take the reins and deliver a great five minute experience. Incoming Pull recently sat down and decided to take a look at three titles, Miami Shark, Continuity and First-Person Tetris.




MIAMI SHARK

What would have made Miami Vice better? How about a giant shark that races towards the city eating and destroying everything in its path? Miami Shark allows the player to control a shark with the single goal of eating and destroying everything you can until the time limit runs out.

Along the way there are many things to eat, such as swimmers, scuba divers and ducks. But the real fun is using the shark's size and weight to wreak havoc. By dipping low into the water and then coming straight up, players can launch the shark into the air, allowing the beast to land on boats and yachts, resulting in a fiery explosion of death and destruction.

However, the best part is when you catch you eye on an airplane flying overhead. With a big enough jump, the player can launch the shark high enough to bite down on part of the plane. Then, by repeatedly pressing the "down" key, players can drag the airplane to its doom. There's nothing like seeing the captain yell, "OMG! Shark!"


CONTINUITY

Be prepared to get stuck. Continuity is a puzzle game that had this writer scratching his head quicker than I had though I would. The premise is simple. Get a key to unlock the door to the next level. However, the difficulty is in the execution.

Much like a cross between a platformer and a slide puzzle, Continuity will have you struggling to match up the right areas of the level to successfully navigate to the key and door. If you're in the mood for a mind-bender, try Continuity.


FIRST-PERSON TETRIS

No disrespect to Brentalfloss, but this ain't your girlfriend's Tetris. In First-Person Tetris, players rotate the falling blocks by rotating the entire screen. It's mind-bending, fun and nauseating all at the same time. For added effect, players can opt to play in dark mode, where only the blocks can be seen.

And how about those movies on top of the old television? Tombstone and Mission Impossible FTW!


And as always, take it away Mega 64!



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Friday, January 22, 2010

Quarter-Note Corner: Darkworld Jazz

Each Friday, Incoming Pull features a musical selection for your listening pleasure. This week's piece comes from OC Remix community member, Gux, with his rendition of Dark World from A Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, titled Darkworld Jazz. Hit the jump for the feature.

From the moment the piece starts, the listener can't help but be lured in by the lone trumpet carrying the all-too-familiar melody. It's almost like the smooth and laid back sound takes the place of the game's hero, Link, inviting listeners to once again, brave Hyrule for another time. And then in a nice touch, Gux hits us with a hip piano solo in the middle of the piece. Nothing is forced and the bass provides a nice walking beat for the piano to dance on top of.

OC Remix creator, David "djpretzel" Lloyd, had this to say:

"Hot diggity damn, just who IS this 'Gux', and what right does he have to contribute a Jazz ReMix of the Zelda 3 'Darkworld' theme with a beautiful, REAL trumpet solo? VERY slick here, I gotta give Gux major props for pulling off a very successfull Jazz mix that sounds like it could be right off a professional arranged album, with a bitchin' horn solo that blows me away every time I hear it. Nothing too fancy as far as notes, but the tone, processing, and articulation are all impeccable. Combine that with a lounge piano backup and an acoustic bass with 'tude, and you're downright DANGEROUS. This is the exact type of contribution I started this site to recieve, and it ranks as one of my favorites to date.


Follow this link or click below to hear Gux's Darkworld Jazz.



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Opinion: To Achievement or not to Achievement.

About a month ago when I pre-ordered Mass Effect 2, I decided that to do another play through of the first game to get all the decisions for the second game set up the way I wanted them to be. Whiney LT dead, check. Annoying alien counsel dead, check. Alien sex, check. Something else I decided to do was to try to get every achievement in the game, since at that point I had yet to get a 100% achievement on any game.

Now for the record, I don’t that much about getting achievements. Out of the 13 full retail games I have played since I got my 360, I have none that are 100%. The two closest games are Fallout 3 with 1200/1550 and Mass Effect 1 which currently is at 1150/1200. The problem is that the last achievement requires reaching level 60 with your main character. Since I started the game from scratch, even with the two DLC packs, the game set to the highest difficulty, and doing everything I could, I could still only get my character to level 53. As much as I enjoyed Mass Effect 1, despite all its faults, I really don’t want to go through another play through to get that last achievement. Mass Effect 2 has bonuses for transferring games over. As far as I can tell from what has been reported, the level needed for the best bonus is only level 50, so I am covered there. So technically I don’t have to go back through the game YET again to get a game bonus.

Still, it’s one lousy achievement. It’s staring at me, mocking me from a distance about how I am so close to “finishing” a game. The weird thing is that while I have gone for a “full” game finish with achievements, I do enjoy going for achievements. Usually it’s for the oddball achievements, the ones where you have to do something out of the normal flow of the game. For example, in Batman: Arkham Asylum: I got 5 points for catching my own batarang and another 5 points for gliding over 100 meters. Those were fun. I am not sure why this bugs me so much. I have never cared about achievements, but then again I never tried to get all the achievements.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Radio: ICP Live! Episode 34

Console and PC gamers are always debating which platform provides the strongest first-person shooter experience. It's always been conventional wisdom that the de facto platform for shooters is PC, but now that analog controllers and console technology has improved, is there a new king of platform shooters? Instant message us during tonight's show and join in on the conversation. You can listen to ICP Live! tonight at 9 p.m. EST on UltraWorld Radio. On tonight's show:


• Sony's Motion Controller, Half-Life 2 and Mass Effect 2.

• We rock out to the Minibosses and NESkimos.

• We explore all of this past week's hottest gaming headlines and game releases, as well as this week's retro best and worst power-up.

• And we discuss if the PC is still the primary platform for shooters.


If you have any questions or comments, post them on this story and we will try to get to them when we are on-air. You can also reach us on Yahoo instant messenger @ incomingpull or hit us up on any of the numerous ways to contact us (hint: you can see the list in the sidebar on the right).

Seriously, it's a LIVE show. Why not IM us and join in the conversation?

"You and your friends are dead."

As always, you can stream the entire show in the player below, or you can click the download link under the player to save it to your hard drive for eternity. You can also subscribe to the ICP Live! podcast and be alerted when a new show is posted or even listen in on your iPod.

alt: Incoming Pull Live: Episode 34
[Download The Podcast]

Make sure you check out DJ Kestral every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on UltraWorld Radio.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For anyone interested, the train crossing bars in Uncharted 2 during the train scene are in fact, signal lights and not crossing bars, Nate!

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How-To: Subscribe to Incoming Pull

Incoming Pull has just recently turned 1 year old and we'd like to take a moment to share with our readers the ways in which they can subscribe to us and get updates to the blog and podcast as soon as they are made available.

We'll be going through some logistical changes to our podcast over the next month and don't want any of our readers or listeners to miss out on the great video game content that we love to dish out.

There are three primary ways to subscribe to Incoming Pull (not in a monthly fee kind of a way). They are:

Subscribe via Email 
Subscribe via Reader
Subscribe via iTunes


We are also aware that there are countless other devices and applications out there that offer the ability to subscribe to RSS, Atom and Podcast feeds and to make sure that no one is left without a way to subscribe, we offer this URL to anyone that falls outside of one of the above three boxes (you know who you are):

http://feeds.feedburner.com/incomingpull

We look forward to sharing another great year of video game news and reviews with all of you.

Thank you!


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Monday, January 18, 2010

Retro Review: Shadow of the Colossus

There are some games that go beyond fun and entertainment. They aim to illicit feelings within the player, choosing the ability to invoke an emotional response rather than focus on precise and crisp gameplay. Team Ico's Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games.






Released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, Shadow of the Colossus stood apart from not only other games at the time, but from all games across the industry's lifespan. Unlike other adventure games where players must destroy armies of lesser creatures in order to confront the boss of the level, Shadow focuses only on the boss. There are no minor enemies, only bosses.

The story is quite simple. Wander travels into the Forbidden Land — a vastly unpopulated land — to slay 16 colossi as a means to bring his dead girlfriend back to life. And that's about it. But what is surprising is the depth to this basic story.

Hardly any dialogue and narration are within the game. Everything is about hunting down each colossi in the large open world and defeating them, all with the help of your faithful horse, Agro. But the story is more than just a simple cliche.

The colossi are titans, putting any other game's boss battles to shame. They are a mixture of organic, inorganic and architectural elements, who tower over the beautiful and diverse landscape of the Forbidden Land. Yet, despite their sometimes monstrous appearance, there is a subtle vulnerability to them that makes each one stand apart from the others.

When the player finally tracks a colossus down, he or she must first figure out how to scale the titan. After doing that, they must traverse the titan's body in order to track down its sigil, or weak point. This is really where the battle heats up. Depending on the colossi, the player may have to stop traversing in order to hold on to the titan's fur as it shakes, spins in the air or dives in the water. Players have a limited amount of time that they can grip a colossus before they fall off, so finding the time to rest is limited.

Most of the colossi requires that the player use part of the environment to expose its sigil. In this way, Shadow has been described as a puzzle game. But the most important aspect to the combat is its ability to further the narrative.

There is a strange dichotomy that happens within the player when confronted by one of the colossi. At first, the player is filled with the drive to expose the creature's weakness and then exploit it by repeatedly stabbing a sword in its sigil until the colossus falls. Often times, the camera is panned in such a way that the player can see the face of the titan as he or she is killing it. It's the killing blow where the player is faced with the game's truism.

These beautiful — and sometimes defenseless — colossi are all unique and once one of them falls, the world will never know the sight of them again. It is up to the player to realize the impact of their actions as they see life leave the eyes of each fallen colossi. After death, a statue that represents each colossi shatters, further showing how the creatures will fall into legend and mythology.

At some point in the game, it is up to the player to feel remorse and be saddened by the selfish actions of the protagonist. Wander is an antihero. His purpose is noble, but the ends do not justify the means. Or do they? Perhaps it is up to the player to decide after all. One thing is for sure, the game's narrative revolves around the player's emotions, not the characters'.

For me, Shadow of the Colossus is a tragic and beautiful game. Amidst these epic encounters lies a sad truth that waits to be awakened in the player. It is this emotional connection that is the essence of immersion. The scale of the colossi, the manner of exploration and the impact of the story on the player all make Shadow stand apart from any other game. It's not only one of the greatest games in the PS2's library, but one of the greatest of all time. There will never — nor should there be — another Shadow of the Colossus.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review: Uncharted 2, as close to cinema as it gets

As publishers and developers begin to invest more and more money into blockbuster titles, gamers are growing to expect top-notch voice acting, beautiful scores and enriching stories. With this evolution, the boundary between video games and movies is beginning to blur. This is the case with Naughty Dog Studio's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

Uncharted 2 follows the story of Nathan Drake as he works to uncover the mystery behind Marco Polo's deadly trip to find the mythical city of Shambhala. The game is filled with exciting gun fights, daredevil platforming and puzzle solving. As cliche as the story and characters are, Naughty Dog's ability to mix gameplay and the in-game cinema makes the Uncharted 2 an amazing experience to play through.

Everything about this game works. The voice acting is superb and some of the best in the industry. Each line is delivered with accuracy, with none of it sounding forced or unnecessary. In the same vein, the script is not only well-written, but an enjoyment to take part in. The characters interact with each other like you would see people interact in real life. Some games have characters that feel plastic, but the characters in Uncharted 2 draw a feeling of familiarity. If possible, these are the types of characters you would want to sit down and drink a beer with.

The art direction deserves its fair share of accolades, too. Borneo, the Himalayas and the ending of the game are some of the most beautiful images I've ever seen rendered in a video game. In fact, the excitement of the game pained me at times, because I was unable to just stop and admire the game's beautiful scenery.

The controls are crisp and it shows in the gun play and platforming. Drake's ability to scale walls and make gut-checking jumps are easy to pull off, yet still provide the player with a great sense of accomplishment. On top of all of this is a multiplayer that is both functional and fun.

But the one thing that makes Uncharted 2 shine above all other games, is its cinematic quality. The game is very much like a Hollywood blockbuster title that you would see during the summer months. This is what the fourth Indiana Jones movie should have been. Exotic locales, mercenaries, a love story and one twist after another, Uncharted 2 delivers on a scale that Hollywood almost always falls short of hitting.

This is a game that is deserving of all of the "Game of the Year" nods from publications.

In short, Uncharted 2 makes owning a PlayStation 3 worth it. If you get the chance to try this title, don't pass on the opportunity. It seriously is one of the best-built games, for not just 2009, but ever. Uncharted 2 could be the best single-player action-adventure title you'll ever play.



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Radio: ICP Live! Episode 33

Cinema has fully embraced 3D. What used to be reserved for B-rated drive-in flops is now being utilized in today's blockbusters. It was only time before it came to gaming. Instant message us during tonight's show and join in on the conversation. You can listen to ICP Live! tonight at 9 p.m. EST on UltraWorld Radio. On tonight's show:


• Capcom, allegorical epic poetry and Madden.

• We rock out with the Megas and Entertainment System.

• We explore all of this past week's hottest gaming headlines and game releases, as well as this week's retro best and worst power-up.

• And we discuss if 3D is the future of gaming and home entertainment.


If you have any questions or comments, post them on this story and we will try to get to them when we are on-air. You can also reach us on Yahoo instant messenger @ incomingpull or hit us up on any of the numerous ways to contact us (hint: you can see the list in the sidebar on the right).

Seriously, it's a LIVE show. Why not IM us and join in the conversation?

"One toot of this whistle will send you to a far away land."

As always, you can stream the entire show in the player below, or you can click the download link under the player to save it to your hard drive for eternity. You can also subscribe to the ICP Live! podcast and be alerted when a new show is posted or even listen in on your iPod.





alt: Incoming Pull Live: Episode 33

[Download The Podcast]

Make sure you check out DJ Kestral every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on UltraWorld Radio.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For anyone interested, the train crossing bars in Uncharted 2 during the train scene are in fact, signal lights and not crossing bars, Nate!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

News: A million nerd voices silenced, for now

IGN is reporting that during a conference call, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello was asked to discuss the company's upcoming plans for next year, and briefly mentioned its "major MMO" title, presumably Star Wars: The Old Republic.

After a couple of call-backs and updates, Bioware confirmed that Star Wars, The Old Republic has a target launch date of Spring 2011. Sean Dahlberg posted this information on the official forums.

Now I must admit that I am really split on a Star Wars MMO. The part of me that has enjoyed Bioware games thinks that the game has potential to be a really good game. Having the game set long before the movies allows for a lot of freedom in story telling. The first KOTOR game was a good game. A little too easy once lightsabers came into play, but a good game none the less.

My reservations come into game balance. With half of the character classes having force powers, I really don't see how any semblance of class balance can be maintained with PVP combat between the force classes and the non-force classes. Not that it will matter when the game launches. So many of the people that manage to get into the game will be playing a force character that it won't be an issue to start. I already went through this with one MMO, I am not sure I would go through it with another.




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Review: Summer Sports: Paradise Island (Wii)

In an attempt to save other people from the pain that I recently experienced, I'd like to say up front that this game is not worth the $15 that GameStop sold it to my wife for. It will be returned to the store for a refund after my work day today.

We were looking for a game that would fill the gap that Wii Sports and the original Games Party create by not having a Mini Golf or Volleyball game. The wife thought that she found the answer with Summer Sports: Paradise Island which offers volleyball, mini-golf, basketball, horseshoes, lawn darts, badminton and croquet.

To be honest, this game doesn't even really deserve a review, but potential renters/purchasers do. Please don't waste your money on this game, or at least don't say you weren't warned. The animations are choppy at best. The camera angles in the mini-golf are horrible to the point of making some courses frustratingly unplayable. There is a dribble mechanic for the basketball games, which sounds way, WAY cooler than it really is, and to top it all off... there NO SPLIT SCREEN viewing for multiplayer. That's right, you are forced to both share the same view of the board, which makes for a terrible gameplay experience.

Trust me, if you want a sports game for the Wii that is fun for the whole family... this ain't it. This... is shovelware at it's finest.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Feature: Happy Birthday, ICP!

It's been a wild and crazy year here at Incoming Pull. This little piece of retrospect is due to the fact that the site had its one-year anniversary this past Thursday. Don't worry, this isn't a post littered with traffic charts lifted from Google Analytics. Let's be honest, this isn't some end of the year presentation to my investors. You're readers, and you deserve more.

To be honest, this site is still going through a bit of an identity crisis. What started off as a member of the Warhammer Community Promotion Initiative, has grown to a site featuring breaking news and the newest trailers.

What started off as a simple blogger sharing his MMO journeys with the Internet, has grown to a team of writers and a weekly live radio show covering a wide range of today's — and sometimes yesterday's — industry-related news.

From here on out, though, I would like to get back to a more "opinion-driven" site. We'll still cover the news and newest video game trailers, but we'll also have more reviews, more commentary and more features. Also, we may also look at doing more retro reviews — both through print and video — of some of yesteryear's games. We may also look into analyzing music in video games, including weekly features on a particular piece or composer. As a wonderful addition, ICP may also be another portal into the inner workings of the industry, as we now have a professional developer on our writing staff to provide insight.

Thanks to everyone who has continued to support this site through either your readership of the site, listening to the weekly radio show, or through linking from your personal sites. You are all why we do this.

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News: Robert Yocum, ICP featured on Multiplaying podcast

One of ICP's own, Robert "Virtual Reality" Yocum, was a featured guest on the Multiplaying podcast. He did a great job of not only representing ICP, but gamers in general. He provided a great addition to a great podcast. You can find the podcast here.
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Friday, January 8, 2010

News: Xbox Live Game Room with classic arcades are coming

Save up all those Microsoft points, because they are going to be spent soon. It seems that Xbox really wants the Xbox Live Experience to be a full part of the 360's system, not just a flashy animated way to buy games and downloads.


One of the first announcements by Microsoft from CES (though leaked a couple of times earlier) was the addition of an 70's to 90's style arcade full of retro quarter munchers available for purchase from $2.50(240pts) to $5.00(400pts) each. The full purchase price gets you cross platform usage (360 + PC), while the lower price gets you either/0r for the same game. Or you can try a single play for $0.50(40). The game room itself is developed by a third party company, Krome Studios, who brought you Viva PiƱata: Party Animals and Star Wars: Republic Heroes.


The actual arcade is a fully realised game room, and you can visit your friends rooms, or they can visit yours. Set to launch in Spring 2010, the game room itself will be free to download and will several features including:


  • In-game voice chat
  • Avatar support
  • Cross-platform leaderboards
  • Achievements
  • Local 2 player support
  • Onlive multiplayer for XBL Gold members [and we just lost Tim]

Joystiq.com has been following the story from CES, and has done several updates on it, along with posting a trailer video for the game room. If nothing else, it will look cool and give you some use for your avatar.





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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Radio: ICP Live! Episode 32

We're back from holiday and, boy, does it feel great to talk about video games again. We've got a solid show planned tonight, filled with symphonic video game music and the potential for heated debates. Instant message us during tonight's show and join in on the conversation. You can listen to ICP Live! tonight at 9 p.m. EST on UltraWorld Radio. On tonight's show:


• Iwata confirms that the Wii Zelda sequel is coming this year.

• No Frogger Record for you!

• We explore all of this past week's hottest gaming headlines and game releases, as well as this week's worst power-up.

• And we talk about how Blizzard's latest action has ignited the topic of Big Brother in video games.


If you have any questions or comments, post them on this story and we will try to get to them when we are on-air. You can also reach us on Yahoo instant messenger @ incomingpull or hit us up on any of the numerous ways to contact us (hint: you can see the list in the sidebar on the right).

Seriously, it's a LIVE show. Why not IM us and join in the conversation?

"Join the Nintendo Fan Club today, Mac!"

As always, you can stream the entire show in the player below, or you can click the download link under the player to save it to your hard drive for eternity. You can also subscribe to the ICP Live! podcast and be alerted when a new show is posted or even listen in on your iPod.





alt: Incoming Pull Live: Episode 32

[Download The Podcast]

Make sure you check out DJ Kestral every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on UltraWorld Radio.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Preview: The potential of OnLive

If any piece of technology in 2009 caused people to flip their shit more than anything else, it would be the upcoming OnLive service. While I had seen a lot of coverage of the device, I never really understood how it was expected to work. I have a general understanding of bandwidth limitations, and the device never really made sense. I don’t doubt the potential of the technology. After all, the company is founded by Steve Perlman, and his pedigree in advancing computer technology is solid.

The YouTube page has an hour-long full technical demonstration at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. The demonstration is technical, but it’s not so complex that the average gamer couldn’t follow it completely. I am not sure if this project is the pure definition of “overly ambitious,” but if they can get this to work and pull it off, it could fundamentally change games and gaming as a whole. If nothing else, it’s worth checking out.

http://www.youtube.com/user/OnLiveUTube

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Review: Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (Wii)

Here at Incoming Pull we review a lot of MMORPGs and Shooters... I mean.. A LOT! Mostly because that's what we tend to prefer to spend our time playing. We all like the story-telling aspects that those games deliver and the emotions that come along with them. However, once in a while we do like to get behind the controller of a different kind of game. Something that's just pure fun, and that's exactly what Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam is all about.

I spent a lot of time playing this quality selection for the Wii over this past weekend, and I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts on it to get the week off to a good start.

Let me just put this out there off the top. I wasn't a skate boarder. Sure, I surfed around on one from time to time, but I never even learned to properly ollie. I spent most of my adolescent days on bikes and blades (roller blades), but even then never got in to the X-Games type of stunts and tricks that were and still are so cool to watch. However, none of that stops me from thoroughly enjoying a Tony Hawk video game. My first experience was with Tony Hawk 3 on PS2, and let me tell ya, they seem to have only gotten better from there.

Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam is a new spin on the skate boarding games that I've
played and seen in the past. There're no half pipe ramps and no peddling necessary. It's all downhill... start to finish (hence the name). You start off on a quarter pipe ramp to gain momentum and then all hell breaks loose. The Wii motion controls are a perfect fit for this type of game. I'm sure that it would play fine on a PS3 or Xbox controller too, but the Wii Remote goes beyond "fine" for the downhill turns, jumps and grinds that this game throws at you to no small degree. From leaning into a turn, avoiding cars or keeping balance while doing a Frontside Railslide, you'll be tipping the controller back and forth for hours. You can even go as far as punching and kicking the other racers (or pedestrians) out of the way to improve your position in the race. This game is so addictive that even my wife and son got in on the action and didn't want to stop for meals and bed time.

There are a variety of events that you can participate in. They vary from multi-player races to single-player, objective-based runs like getting the most points from tricks in the allotted time limit or beat a locked opponent one-on-one to unlock him/her. You can also unlock new outfits and boards for your characters as well as create a custom character to board with. The locations that you get to visit include San Francisco, Hong Kong, Machu Picchu, Rome, Chicago, Edinburgh Castle and the Swiss Alps. As a matter of fact, check out this video preview of all of the locations.


Tony Hawks Downhill Jam Locations via Noolmusic.com

So, to wrap up this review, I'd give Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam a 9/10 for pure entertainment value. If you have a Wii and you haven't given this game a go, I'd recommend running out to rent it tonight!

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Review: Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen (Wii)

Happy New Year to everyone out there in ICP Reader land! To start the year off right, I completed Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen for the Wii. My son and I started playing it on New Year's Eve and then this morning, Optimus laid The Fallen to permanent rest.

The motion controls and the ability for a second Wii remote to join in as a remote weapon system for co-op play was the perfect way for my son to get fully involved in the game while not being frustrated or overwhelmed with controlling a character in the environment and staying alive through combat.

Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is a third-person shooter that puts the player in control of many of the main characters from the movie, both Autobot and Decepticon. I found this switching back and forth to be an interesting attempt to tell the same story from both sides of the coin.

The game loosely follows the story of the movie but stays solid to the actual movie plot of stopping the Decepticons and The Fallen from powering the Star Harvester to bleed our Sun of it's energy. Although there's no sign of Megan Fox's attractive body, or Shia Labeouf's rediculous hair, the game does stick much closer to the movie story it was modeled after than the movie does to the '80s cartoon from which it was born.

The graphics are as to be expected from any Wii game, and the shooter-style controls are also the typical configuration of other Wii shooters, but the game play itself is smooth and entertaining.



The story line is mostly progressed via cut scene videos that allow for the player to easily transition from one character to the other to participate in the action and the cinematics do a great job of leading in to the next mission or boss battle and then generally present the result of your success on the overall story.



In addition to the story, there are many bonus unlocks that you can collect as your progress through the environments. You can unlock images, videos and new models to use in the versus mode (which I didn't play). Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to go back and look at everything that I had unlocked, but I do know that it wasn't all just from the new movies (i.e. some classic '80s Transformers stuff is included).

Overall, I'd have to give this game a 7/10 because of it's available co-op that was great for me and my son, and the use of the motion controls to help pull the player in to the on-screen action. And let's face it, what's not cool about destroying buildings, ancient Egyptian ruins, aircraft carriers, buses and tanks as a giant biomechanical being?

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