Blair Witch - title

Blair Witch, as an intellectual property, is in a frustrating place similar to the Alien franchise. Both were innovative horror films that set numerous standards and conventions within their sub-genres, and which have been copied and ripped-off numerous times. Sci-fi games from Starcraft, to Metroid, to System Shock, to Dead Space have all taken heavy inspiration from Alien and Aliens. So much of the iconography of Alien and Aliens have been borrowed by these games, that when someone comes along with a game based on the Alien intellectual property, it's hard for that game to not feel like it's derivative of one (or all) of the myriad Alien impersonators.

the Blair Witch Project has similarly left a mark on the horror landscape. It single-handedly popularized the "found-footage" genre against the backdrop of a creepy, supernatural forest. Games such as Outlast, Alan Wake, and even Resident Evil VII all have a little bit of Blair Witch in their DNA. So when a game comes out that actually bears the "Blair Witch" name, it's kind of hard for it to stand out in the larger horror landscape.

Plenty of games (such as Outlast [LEFT]) have used tropes inspired by The Blair Witch Project.

This is the case with Lionsgate and Bloober Team's new Blair Witch game, exclusive to Microsoft platforms. Nothing that Blair Witch does feels particularly new or creative, even though most of the game's ideas are competently executed. Using a camcorder as a tool for navigation, exposition-delivery, and puzzle-solving feels pulled straight from Outlast or Resident Evil VII. Wandering through the woods and defeating monsters by pointing a flashlight at them gives me flashbacks to Alan Wake. Navigating the forest and occasionally picking up other people's trash also reminded me of Firewatch. Eventually, the whole game descends (rather predictably) into P.T. territory -- but, you know, without all the nuance or careful pacing that made P.T. so unnerving.

Who's a good doggy?

Blair Witch's most innovative feature is probably the dog companion (named Bullet), but even that feels pulled straight from Fallout 4. I probably would have been a bit more impressed if not for the fact that Bullet seemed to lose relevance as anything other than a monster compass, for a large chunk of the middle of the game. Without having healing items or ammunition or any other consumable supplies, the ability to send the dog out to find things feels like a sorely under-utilized mechanic.

Bullet is very well-introduced, and is integral to the early levels of the game. He finds clues for you, fetches key items, guides you to the next objective, and warns you of potential danger, all completely organically and without breaking immersion. But after a couple of hours, he just runs out of things to find and things to do. The puzzle shift away from using the dog, and more towards using the camera to do everything from manipulate the environment, to navigate mazes and looping paths, and even spotting monsters.

Your emotional support dog, Bullet, serves an integral role throughout the game.

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Amazing Spider-Man game banner

Prerelease promotional material really soured my interest in this game to the point that I waited over 6 months to pick up a used copy cheap off eBay. And the movie ended up being sloppy and wrong on numerous levels. And Edge of Time had caused me to lose faith in Beenox’s competency as a developer of Spider-Man games.

So there was a lot stacked up against this game, and I went into it gritting my teeth and ready to be furious. Maybe I set the bar a little bit too low, but I ended up enjoying Amazing Spider-Man. It cut a lot of corners and is easy and boring, but there’s enough good ideas in here that I’m actually excited to see if Beenox gets another chance to hopefully knock one out of the park.

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Amazing Spider-Man game - web swinging without physics Amazing Spider-Man game - web swinging without physics
Spider-Man can swing without anything nearby for his webs to stick to, including over the tops of parks and the city skyline itself.
This instantly pulls me out of the game experience everytime it happens.
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Wii U - multi-screen game

Wearers of glasses beware: the Wii U is determined to give you eye strain!

I got a chance to sit down for a while with a friend's Wii-U tonight. I managed to make an avatar and sign up for the Nintendo network, as well as try out an hour or so of ZombiU. I have to say that I was not impressed with either the hardware or the software.

First and foremost, the controller, despite its size, is actually pretty comfortable to hold. It is lightweight, and the cradles nicely in the hand. The screen is bright and vibrant; and sound is clear, but probably better with headphones. Button placement on the right side felt a bit awkward for me. It might just be my familiarity with PlayStation and Xbox controllers, but I didn't like having the buttons below the right stick, and they seemed a bit too close. I frequently missed the 'X' button (the top button), which was annoying because it was the most commonly-used button in the game I played.

I really wasn't digging the screen on the controller though. The avatar creation and network sign up screens annoyed me because most of the data input is done on the controller screen, but the TV screen presents a lot of information. The password screen was particularly annoying, since all the messages were displayed on the TV, and I just didn't see them because I was focused on the controller screen.

ZombiU - boxart (North America)

I like survival horror, but I'm so sick of zombies...

On top of that, even a brief time with the system exposed me to a glaring problem for myself (and likely many people): I am nearsighted. I need glasses in order to see at a distance. I'm not blind to things that aren't directly in my face, but after about 6 to 8 feet, things start to get fuzzy, making reading text or discerning other very finely-detailed information hard. I wear glasses, but I don't like to wear them to look at things up close. I often take them off when using a laptop, using a cell phone, reading a book, looking at a computer monitor, writing or drawing, and other "point blank" activities. Wearing my glasses for such things often causes my eyes to strain and gives me a headache (and probably further degrades my vision).

I can already tell that games that require the player to constantly shift between focusing on the controller screen and the TV screen will be very uncomfortable for me, since I'll either have to keep taking my glasses off and putting them back on, or I'll have to deal with the eye strain when looking at the controller screen. Perhaps Nintendo needs to release Wii-U-branded bifocals!

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In my previous blog, I discussed my experience with the 2002 XBox game Steel Battalion. At the end of that blog, I mentioned that I had read that Microsoft and Capcom are developing a new Steel Battalion game, and that I would give my opinions on such a game in a future blog.

Well, I didn't wait long to write that "future blog".

Here it is!

According to this Joystiq article, Capcom and Microsoft are developing a Kinect-enabled version of Steel Battalion for the Xbox 360. The game is titled Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor and looks more like a remake/reboot than a true sequel.

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My playing Steel Batallion

After almost 10 years of curiosity, I finally had a chance to play the 2002 XBox game Steel Battalion. If you're not familiar with Steel Battalion, it's a very unique, niche-market game about piloting giant mechs (which the game calls “Vertical Tanks” - or “VT” for short). The thing that makes this game unique is that it comes with a massive, cockpit controller, that contains approximately 30 buttons, two joysticks, and a set of foot pedals.

As you can imagine, the game did not sell terribly well 10 years ago. It was released with a very expensive $200, distributed in very limited amounts, and could only be played with the included behemoth of a controller. That's right, the game did not support the standard Xbox controller. This was before Microsoft's controller support mandate. So it's resale practicability was limited - it was an all-or-nothing package. As a side note, I'm kind of curious now to know if Steel Battalion's controller was a contributing factor for Microsoft's decision to mandate that all Xbox 360 games and peripherals support a mapping to the standard Xbox 360 controller. I'm sure that Guitar Hero was probably the primary catalyst, but Steel Battalion may have played a part in it too.

Anyway, a friend of mine was able to find a fully-intact and functional copy at a local used game reseller for a very reasonable price, and he picked it up without hesitation. Good move, friend! He invited me over today to try it out, and I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to play this unique game.

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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