PSN

The Sun Rises – Okami HD (PS3)

Okami HD is the remastered version of the PlayStation 2 title made by Clover studios and published by Capcom which was released in the UK back in 2006.

Set in the ancient land of Nippon (Japan); you play as Amaterasu, the reincarnated goddess of the sun who has been sent back to earth. Together with your little sidekick, a woodland sprite named Issun, you travel across the country in order to destroy the malevolent forces that are wreaking havoc on the land and its inhabitants. Over the course of the game you discover  new locations, take on ferocious creatures and collect new powers for Amaterasu’s ‘Celestial Brush’, making  better equipped to fight off the demons.

So what has been added to the PS3 HD version?

Well first up is obviously the graphics; the stunning sumi-e style art is back and now in glorious 1080p. Every detail is  a lot clearer than both the PS2 or Wii versions with cut-scenes and gameplay continuing to be pretty much indistinguishable from each other.

The music is elegant and fits perfectly with any setting, whether it’s a wide open field or the lair of a ferocious beast.

The combat is an excellent combination of melee action and the Celestial Brush, making Amaterasu a force to be reckoned with. The brush can be used outside of battles as well. You can use it to with help solving puzzles or just so you can change it from night to day; the Celestial Brush is a handy tool. There’s also a levelling system for the brush. Doing good deeds or by defeating bad guys will give you ‘Praise’. The ‘Praise’ can then be spend on enhancing your brush or gaining another life orb.

As it’s an HD remake on the PlayStation 3 the game wouldn’t have been complete without a trophy system. While some are challenging to get, most are just arbitrary achievements that you get for just playing the game normally, which to me seems pointless.

Speaking of pointless, Okami HD is compatible with the Playstation Move. Now, I don’t own the Move controllers, but I did try playing the Wii version of Okami when came out in 2008. If the Move controller is anything like the Wii version of Okami then it may be better to steer clear.

One last thing , I’m surprised that Capcom or Clover didn’t look into adding a remote play functionality for the Playstation Vita; considering the dual touch screens it seems like a fairly good idea; but oh well.

Overall Okami HD is brilliant remaster of a severely underrated PS2 game; Everything  fits perfectly together to deliver a wonderful game that leaves me feeling nostalgic. With an interesting plot , breathtaking graphics and a wide array of diverse characters, this game will keep you entertained for a long time to come.

~HeadphoneGirlZ


Papo &Yo: Much more than meets the eye

When I was looking at the new additions to the PSN this week I saw Papo & Yo. I must admit I was a little confused and intrigued. Watched the E3 vid for it and decided that it may be a bit surreal, but just the type of game I enjoy. The PSN description marked it as a puzzle platformer and I’d be inclined to agree, although more puzzle than platformer.

So, you are a boy, Quico, in this very unusual looking landscape of favelas and no one else around when you suddenly see another child. Of course you give chase and the game begins. Only the world around you is a bit dream-like and you can influence it in unusual ways by interacting with the chalk drawings on the walls. This is where the thinking begins too. The standard platform game has you going along a set route and just following it through, not here. In here your way will never be completely straight forward and you’ll pretty much always have to do something to create your path. Sometimes it’s easy, other times it takes a bit of thinking, but it’s always interesting. In the beginning it’s rather standard; pick up box and put on trigger. Very quickly though that changes and you’ll soon be moving houses and watching barrels fly through the air. Did I mention that this is a rather surreal game? Cause well, it really is.

Through the course of the game you’ll become acquainted with the other child and the big pink rhino, Monster. Quico’s relationship with Monster is an important one and something definitely worth mentioning, but I don’t want to spoil any of the metaphors for you. Suffice to say that the whole game, especially Quico & Monster, is a very well presented metaphor for the designer’s, Vander Caballero, very difficult childhood. By time you get to the end, I’m sure you’ll understand; I really found it was presented well.

I know I keep saying metaphor, but trust me when I say it has no effect on the gameplay. If anything it has a positive effect on the atmosphere causing a dreamlike, odd, weird world where you can do the unusual.

The controls aren’t complex, which is a positive thing I think. The last thing you want in a weird game is convoluted controls. At its heart it is a puzzle game though, so you really don’t need complex controls. My only problem I had with the controls was towards the end in a section that particularly platform-y. The double jump timing was being a bit pernickety, but once I grokked it I felt a bit stupid for getting frustrated.

Overall, I’d say get this game. It’s not expensive and I got between 3 and 4 hours of play and it certainly has some replay value. If for no other reason, but to see that great environment again. The art is very interesting and unique.  You really feel like you’re in the favelas.


E3 Sony Announcement PSN Plus for Europe

Okay so at E3 last night it was announced that the benefits of the PSN+ were going to greatly improve. As anyone in the UK/EU knows, this can often be very different for us here compared to those in the US. So thankfully the EU Playstation blog has pre-emptively explained how it will be for us here and the shinies for us.

Have a look here at the blog and it’s nothing but good news.


E3 Sony Conference

Last night I stayed up late and watched the Sony conference. Normally I don’t get to do this, but thanks to the bank holiday this year I could.  The conference was so chock full, it was a a mile a minute with the announcements and news. The time flew by.

There were a lot of great things, but a couple things especially stood out for me. The announcement of Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation for the Vita, Last of Us,  God of War: Ascension and Beyond.

First I’d really like the share with you Beyond. This is the game trailer for that now infamous concept trailer from Quantic Dream. That concept trailer has nothing to do with Beyond, but the game is using that technology. No gameplay in this trailer, but you certainly can get a good feeling of the atmosphere. It reminds me a lot of Alan Wake in feeling, and I mean that as a compliment.

[youtube http://youtu.be/dOZmToV8PJ0?hd=1]

Next let’s have a look at Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation. This is an exclusive PS Vita and it will hook into the Assassin’s 3 game on the PS3 and will unlock things in the console game. This is exclusive content and will introduce us to our first female assassin. I’m so very excited for this.

[youtube http://youtu.be/0RfsXnd6pC4?hd=1]

My last gushing point is Last of Us. It looks amazing and the combat is very intense. You have a companion in the game, but she is anything but helpless and this makes me happy. So glad to see games moving away from the helpless companion in games of yore.

[youtube http://youtu.be/dwWCrB13750?hd=1]

Everyone should have a look at the whole conference. There is some awesome things in there about Gods of War, PSN+, the Happy Potter Book of Spells, Assassin’s Creed 3 ship battles and so much more. Go look and get excited, I sure am.

[youtube http://youtu.be/vzYIFEjuEc4]

Closure

There’s a neurological phenomenon that we’re all familiar with, in one way or another. Artists use it to double the effectiveness of their pieces through ‘negative space’; puzzle books use it to make our eyes water; neurologists use it to study the brain. It’s called “closure”, and it lends its name to this surprisingly difficult indie game from Eyebrow Interactive.

“Closure” is what happens when your visual cortex sees an arrangement of shapes, shadows, or lines that should (when complete) delineate a single object — and fills in the gaps. Here’s a familiar example for you:

Try to not see the white equilateral triangle in the middle. Hard, right? Well, it’s almost impossible unless you have an atypical brain, so don’t worry. What’s happening is that evolutionarily speaking, your brain is adapted to interpret patterns of light and shadow in a way best suited to spotting predators, prey, obstacles, etc.

The creators of Closure have designed a game specifically to mess with your visual cortex: in this game universe, any object that is not lit doesn’t exist (apart from the character you play, light sources, and some crates). You’d think it wouldn’t be much different from games that force you to stay in the light. Nah. Think about it: you can make holes in the floor by redirecting lamps. You can ride a lift up the centre of a stone column if you have a moving spotlight.

In sum: so cool. And you have to retrain your brain, otherwise you’ll spend hours falling through the floor and getting stuck in isolated bubbles of water.

You can buy Closure on the Playstation Network. Find gameplay trailer and images from the game on the official website, here.

~ Alice M.


At Journeys End – Journey (PS3)

ThatGameCompany  has released its final game out of its 3 games that were contracted by Sony. Starting with Flow; where you navigate a series of 2 dimensional planes as a microorganism. Then there was Flower; a game where you play as a gust of wind collection flower petals in a variety of environments. Now there’s Journey, in which you play as a robed figure and travel through different environments in order to reach the mountain in the distance. Journey was released on the PSN earlier this month and has received nothing but praise from everyone I’ve spoken to, and after playing it I can understand why.

It’s clear that a lot of thought was put into the design. The environments are beautifully rendered and react to not only to what you do in it, but also its climate. The desert sands will shimmer and glisten when the sun shines on it and leaves a trail behind you when you move. Powerful gusts of wind will send you flying unless you find shelter in time; in colder climates your robe will slowly freeze and your energy will gradually decrease.

The use of music is quite clever aswell. The more exhilarating and action packed parts come alive with the use of upbeat musical scores, whilst calmer moments will have little or even no music, relying on the sounds of your footsteps moving through the sand or the howling of the wind to set the tone.

The cooperative play is where Journey truly shines. Throughout the game you may encounter another player navigating the ruins and you can choose to either leave them alone, or team up with them and face the challenges ahead together. There’s only a little change in the game play if you have a partner. If you run out of energy, they can restore it by either standing next to you, or by holding the “O” button. Pressing the “O” button will also make your character to emit a sound that resembles a bell, and a glowing symbol will hover over your head for a few seconds. These 2 tools are the only way to communicate with your traveling companion, which can make trying to convey anything rather difficult at times, but it also means there’s no way of using crude language or being offensive; which in my books is a huge plus for a co-op game. Your partner will change from time to time, if they quit, their character will vanish, leaving you to fend for yourself until you come across another player.

Overall I loved Journey. Simple gameplay, interesting use of co-op, delightful aesthetics and a charming way to waste a few hours. If you have a Playstation 3 there’s no reason why you shouldn’t add this to your collection as it’s only £10 and is worth every penny.

~ HeadphoneGirlZ


PSN Update – We’re coming back!

Sony are gradually bringing the PSN network back up in North America and in Europe. There’s an update for the PSN, but we knew that was going to happen.

So this is what we’ve got from the Sony Blog

Thank you for your patience and encouragement over the last few weeks. As covered in the post from earlier today, you can now update the firmware on your PS3 and change your password. Kazuo Hirai just announced that we have begun the phased restoration by region of some of the services, starting with online multiplayer functionality.

Please note that these services will take a bit of time to be turned on and rolled out to the whole region. The process has begun and some countries are being turned on now, so please be patient as we reach you.

In the meantime, now’s a great time to get your PS3′s firmware updated and change your password, both of which are required to get online.

So we’ll be waiting with baited breath for everything to come back up. You can do the update before the PSN is back up in your area, I have. And best to get in there before everyone tries doing it all at once.

I’m just happy it’ll be back up in time for L.A. Noire. W00T!



PSN-Gate

By now everyone who games is aware of the problem with the Playstation Network over the last week. There have been countless stories on all over the major and minor gaming news websites. With all of this attention there has been mass speculation on what has happened that caused Sony to take the PSN and Qriocity networks down.

The most popular reasons that have been batted around are a DDOS attack and an attack on the developer network. Both involving actual hacking attacks that garnered the attackers details of the members.

So whatever the reason behind the attack, it was still an attack. Even if there was negligence on the part of Sony with regards to their network, it was an attack. Okay sure, Sony should have had things locked down harder maybe.

We can be happy knowing that the credit card data was encrypted and they’ve always said that the security codes had not been taken. So even if they were negligent; they had been vigilant in keeping that secure. Although Sony have never said that credit card details were taken, but warned members just in case.

Through all of this over the last week, I have read many many articles on the outage and attack. The article contents were essentially repeating the same information over and over. It was the comments that actually angered me.

One theme that seemed the keep repeating what not only the blame being out on Sony, but that they brought it on themselves by going after GeoHot for the PS3 hack.

Now, I personally believe they did exactly the right thing be pursuing GeoHot for the hack, but I do know people disagree with it. To say that Sony should have seen this coming for pissing of “the hackers” is a load of bullshit. Seriously, they should have not done what they believed for fear of attack from what is essentially a ghost? No, that’s not right.

This is speculation at its worst. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Anonymous denied having made the attack. This type of speculation is just arrogant and probably from wannabes and script kiddies.

Something I think is easily being forgotten is that this was an attack. Even if Sony was negligent with their developer network security, they didn’t ask for this. No company wants to be attacked and they don’t ask for it. Sony did the right thing as far as I’m concerned. As soon as they knew they were being attacked they took it all down immediately. They have kept it down until they could securely bring it back up. Sure their communication probably could’ve been better, but I think they did the right thing with the networks themselves.

Out of all of this, we can at least hope that the networks are more secure and more resilient than they were previously.

~Donna


Playstation Network News Update

Got some news from from Sony regarding the PSN network and the compensation. I have more to say, but that’ll be another post. Click the link to read the news.

From the PSN Blog.


SOME PLAYSTATION NETWORK AND QRIOCITY SERVICES TO BE AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Phased Global Rollout of Services to Begin Regionally; System Security Enhanced to Provide Greater Protection of Personal Information.

Tokyo, May 1, 2011 – Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and Sony Network Entertainment International (SNEI, the company) announced they will shortly begin a phased restoration by region of PlayStation®Network and Qriocity™ services, beginning with gaming, music and video services to be turned on. The company also announced both a series of immediate steps to enhance security across the network and a new customer appreciation program to thank its customers for their patience and loyalty.

Following a criminal cyber-attack on the company’s data-center located in San Diego, California, U.S.A., SNEI quickly turned off the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services, engaged multiple expert information security firms over the course of several days and conducted an extensive audit of the system. Since then, the company has implemented a variety of new security measures to provide greater protection of personal information. SNEI and its third-party experts have conducted extensive tests to verify the security strength of the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. With these measures in place, SCE and SNEI plan to start a phased rollout by region of the services shortly. The initial phase of the rollout will include, but is not limited to, the following:

• Restoration of Online game-play across the PlayStation®3 (PS3) and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) systems
• This includes titles requiring online verification and downloaded games
• Access to Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity for PS3/PSP for existing subscribers
• Access to account management and password reset
• Access to download un-expired Movie Rentals on PS3, PSP and MediaGo
• PlayStation®Home
• Friends List
• Chat Functionality

Working closely with several outside security firms, the company has implemented significant security measures to further detect unauthorized activity and provide consumers with greater protection of their personal information. The company is also creating the position of Chief Information Security Officer, directly reporting to Shinji Hasejima, Chief Information Officer of Sony Corporation, to add a new position of expertise in and accountability for customer data protection and supplement existing information security personnel. The new security measures implemented include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Added automated software monitoring and configuration management to help defend against new attacks
• Enhanced levels of data protection and encryption
• Enhanced ability to detect software intrusions within the network, unauthorized access and unusual activity patterns
• Implementation of additional firewalls

The company also expedited an already planned move of the system to a new data center in a different location that has been under construction and development for several months. In addition, PS3 will have a forced system software update that will require all registered PlayStation Network users to change their account passwords before being able to sign into the service. As an added layer of security, that password can only be changed on the same PS3 in which that account was activated, or through validated email confirmation, a critical step to help further protect customer data.

The company is conducting a thorough and on-going investigation and working with law enforcement to track down and prosecute those responsible for the illegal intrusion.

“This criminal act against our network had a significant impact not only on our consumers, but our entire industry. These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cyber-security. We take the security of our consumers’ information very seriously and are committed to helping our consumers protect their personal data. In addition, the organization has worked around the clock to bring these services back online, and are doing so only after we had verified increased levels of security across our networks,” said Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President, Sony Corporation. “Our global audience of PlayStation Network and Qriocity consumers was disrupted. We have learned lessons along the way about the valued relationship with our consumers, and to that end, we will be launching a customer appreciation program for registered consumers as a way of expressing our gratitude for their loyalty during this network downtime, as we work even harder to restore and regain their trust in us and our services.”

Complimentary Offering and “Welcome Back” Appreciation Program

While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, the company is committed to helping its customers protect their personal data and will provide a complimentary offering to assist users in enrolling in identity theft protection services and/or similar programs. The implementation will be at a local level and further details will be made available shortly in each region.

The company will also rollout the PlayStation Network and Qriocity “Welcome Back” program, to be offered worldwide, which will be tailored to specific markets to provide our consumers with a selection of service options and premium content as an expression of the company’s appreciation for their patience, support and continued loyalty.

• Each territory will be offering selected PlayStation entertainment content for free download. Specific details of this content will be announced in each region soon.
• All existing PlayStation Network customers will be provided with 30 days free membership in the PlayStation Plus premium service. Current members of PlayStation Plus will receive 30 days free service.
• Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity subscribers (in countries where the service is available) will receive 30 days free service.

Additional “Welcome Back” entertainment and service offerings will be rolled out over the coming weeks as the company returns the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services to the quality standard users have grown to enjoy and strive to exceed those exceptions.

SNEI will continue to reinforce and verify security for transactions before resuming the PlayStation®Store and other Qriocity operations, scheduled for this month.

For more information about the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services intrusion and restoration, please visit http://blog.us.playstation.com or http://blog.eu.playstation.com/


Stacking: A Review

So I was perusing the PSN a couple weeks ago and found Stacking in the latest releases. The description kind of intrigued me, but I wasn’t sure still so I hit the internet for a trailer.

Basically you’re a the smallest doll in a Matryoshka Russian stacking doll.  This is key to the gameplay as you get things done by stacking into other dolls with different abilities that are bigger than you. You use the abilities of the other dolls to solve the puzzle that is in front of you. Genius. To make it even more interesting each puzzle has several solutions. This of course extends the game time if you make sure to solve all of the solutions and can be a little mind bending as you try to think of other ways to resolve something.

This is a game that is all about thinking. It especially encourages thinking outside of the normal gaming box when trying to solve these puzzles in order to move forward in the game. This stacking and unstacking is super simple to master and once you’re inside other dolls you can use their abilities with ease.

Probably the most amazing thing about Stacking is the animation. Double Fine have managed to take flat limbless characters and give them real personality. The graphics are lovely and really lend to the game. The music/sounds also are very well done and work perfectly. Have a listen to the sounds you hear when you’re stacked into different dolls.

Overall I’d say this is a gem well worth getting it. It’s not a long game, but it sure is a lot of fun. I really wanted it to be longer just so I could keep playing it.

~Donna


Scott Prilgrim vs PRobertson

Usually I’m not one to advocate movie tie-in games. Generally speaking games made to tie-in movies are a bit shit. Just this once though I will break my rule. Truth be told, I’ve been waiting more for this game than the movie. As you may have guessed, the movie I’m referring to is Scot Pilgrim vs The World. I haven’t actually seen the movie yet. I will eventually, but just not gotten there yet.

No, my main reason for anticipating this game has a name and that name is Paul Robertson. He’s the artist that drew the game. I’ve been following him for quite some time and really love his artwork.

PRobertson is pretty much made of awesome though. The guy is a master of 16bit art. To add to the package he’s a bit on the twisted side of odd, which is nothing but a bonus in my book. I bought the game though on the PSN the day it came out. It’s a side scrolling beat ’em up which I think we can all agree his art is perfect for. The game is 1-4 players which is great cause you can play with friends like we used to do in the arcades. Luckily no massive roll of quarters are needed to play this game for hours.

I don’t know what to say, just go buy it; it’s on the PSN and XBox Markeplace. My hope is that this will help Paul and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see him doing more “retro” games in the future.

I do not recommend clicking that link to his page at work by the way. It’s not porn, but there are naked pope dressed women involved.


Buying from the PSN

I swear the PS Network Store is going to kill me or at least make me broke. I have never ventured into the Xbox 360’s store even once and was never tempted. The way they do the pricing by having you buy points always put me off. I want to know how much I’m paying up front and not some arbitrary point amount MS has assigned to thhe game.

The PSN Store got me a few months back with the additions to Dead Space. From that moment on I was truly addicted.  Every Thursday I check the store for what’s new and worthy of my attention. And almost every week there’s some game that’s been released that I want. And unlike the xbox 360 store, I actually kniw how much I’m paying for the game I’m buying.

Last week saw me give way to my carnal desire for yet another puzzle game and Zuma got downloaded. I also grabbed Asteroids on crrack, Super Stardust HD.  Me and City were istantly addict4d to Stardust and played it most of the weekend.

This week sees me Numblast, another puzzle game, and Topatoi The Great Tree Story, a 3D platformer, have both found their way onto my PS3 somehow. It’s really hard to say no to games when they cost less than a tenner. This of course is always my excuse.

As I sit here writing this I’m very impatiently waiting for Numblast to finish downloading so that I can play it before I have to start working.  I fear I may lose my life to this simple little game though. Puzzle games are seriously going to be the death of me.


Patapon 2 = Digital Only

As mentioned here, Patapon 2 will be a digital only release in North America. Now while I can understand the irrational attachment to having a physical UMD disk, I really do think this is the way forward. I have an irrational attachment to my physical disks, but I’m trying to let that go and embrace digital only releases. I like the idea of being able to just pay and poof I’ve got my game. No more waiting for the postman and hoping it doesn’t get lost. No more cursing at the cost of postage or hunting down a site that doesn’t charge me postage.

I actually have several small games on my PSP and PS3 that are digital only. And ya know what? I’m actually rather happy with them. They’re on my HDD or mem stick and if I like I can download them again whenever I like should I lose them. So all those people bitching about losing it forever if they lose their memory stick can fuck off. And those saying that memory sticks are exensive, they can fuck off too. I paid £20 for my 4GB memory card for my PSP. That’s cheap.

I do think digital only prices for major release games should be cheaper than what buying them physically. Here in the UK Patapon 2 is £20 from the PSN. I can buy it from Game for £18. Not a huge price difference, but it’s enough for me to buy it from Game instead of buying it directly from the PSN digitally.

Besides, if people hadn’t noticed, this is the future. Memory and HDDs are getting cheaper by the day. There’s really little reason these days to have a hard copy pther than an irrational attachment to it.