Swords and Soldiers for WiiWare

Thor, from Swords & Soldiers

I’ve been playing Swords and Soldiers on Nintendo WiiWare for the past week so. It’s billed as a “Sidescrolling, 2D Realtime Strategy game”, where the player takes control of one of 3 different factions: the Aztecs, the Vikings, or the Chinese. The generalization of real world races comes across as slightly racist at times, but Romino Games wasn’t going for accuracy. According to their February 8th press release:

“We’ve done plenty of research into the historic background of the three factions. And then we threw all of it out of the window, but made up some entertaining bits which seemed sort of more fun. Finally, we added some other totally irrelevant funny bits about hot sauce and bolted them on for maximum absurdity.”

And therein lies the first element of the game’s charm. It’s goofy and offbeat humor are less offensive then the cartoons I grew up with 20 years ago. The game’s lingo speaks to a younger generation of internet uses without alienating other games. There are achievements names like “4 the Horde!”, “RickRolled” and Viking’s saying “nom nom” as they eat barbecued meat.

The second element is the seemingly limited control you have over the on screen action. The player has 3 methods of interacting with the game:

  1. Building Units
  2. Casting Spells
  3. Choosing Paths – certain levels only

When you build a unit, it immediately starts marching towards the enemy base. Arrow sign post You can’t make it wait for more units, and you can’t have it speed up or slow down to keep pace with other unit types. This necessitates building just the right unit at just the right time, especially when resources are limited. For most of the spells you can cast, you’ll have to to choose a target. On certain levels you click an arrow to direct your troops to take either the high road or the low road. Often this doesn’t matter at all, but it can be used strategically to bypass the opponent’s forces, so it’s something to keep an eye on.

Initially such limited controls seems like they would make the game boring. Indeed, a player can button-mash their way through the Viking campaign as they get used to creating different types of units, upgrading, and casting spells. The Aztec campaign, which I have yet to complete, offers much more challenge, with many stages requiring well-timed spells and units and I imagine that the Chinese campaign will only offer more varied and exciting game play.

My bottom line: For the hours of fun an varied gameplay Swords & Soldiers offers, it’s well worth the $10.

Garfunkel and Oates

Garfunkel and Oates. I don’t remember what I was reading when I first saw the name, but I’m hooked like velcro. Before I go on, here’s a video of them playing one of my favorites, Me, You and Steve (warning: contains some curse words):

The duo consists of Kate Micucci, who you may have seen on Scrubs and Riki Lindolme who you had a brief role on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer among other things. I’m not sure how to describe them… nerd-folk? As I write this, they have 9 songs available for download on their website, all of which I’ve downloaded and listened to repeatedly. Being nerdy, I value wit above all other virtues, and Garfunkel And Oates’ lyrics do not disappoint. I’m hopeful for an album that I can give them money for and a tour that includes the east coast. In the mean time, give them some folkonomic love; download their songs, and watch their videos

If you’re like me and find yourself frothing for more, Riki made a short that uses 3 of Garfunkel and Oates’ songs called Imaginary Larry which I adore and also put some of her own songs on her website. Kate has her own songs on CD Baby, mySpace and iTunes. You can follow Kate or the band on Twitter.

Let’s Pizza

Unilever developed a pizza vending machine that bakes fresh made pies in under 3 minutes. While I’m sure it’s not as good as going to a pizzeria, I’d love to the option of having pizza right now.

Youtube Music Video Mashup

This video is hot. Essentially, this guy Kutiman grabbed youtube clips of people playing instruments and mixed them together. If you haven’t already, press the play button. If you aren’t digging it right away, wait until about 45 seconds in, when it really takes off. Who knew youtube could be a platform for jam band music videos?

At the moment he’s got seven videos in all, plus a “making of” video, all of which are worth watching and can be seen at Thru-You [via Gizmodo]

Healadin Guides

Paladin IconI’ve been playing a Holy Paladin in World of Warcraft for several years now, with time off between the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions. Since hitting level 80 and getting into heroic instances, I’ve been trying to absorb the collective wisdom of paladins holier then myself, in order to become the best healer I can be.

I started off with the Holy Paladin Guide at elitistjerks.com, based off recommendations by the folks at The Instance podcast. The Elitist Jerks guide goes into great detail about each tool in a holy paladin’s arsenal, plus it covers glyphs, consumables (potions and food), add-ons and talent builds. It focuses on where you want your holy paladin to end up, so parts of it may be out of reach if you’ve just hit 80, but the talent builds and glyphs are easy and inexpensive ways to boost your healing as soon, or even before you hit level 80.

The second guide, which I only recently discovered, is Paladincraft.net‘s Pre-Raid Gear List for Paladins, specifically their Holy Gear Guide. As the name implies, this guide gives you some very basic guidelines for what stats a holy paladin will need to get into level 80 raids, and then lists gear that will help you meet that criteria, arranged by slot, along with where to acquire each piece and suggested enchants. This guide is great because it helps someone new to level 80 focus on which heroics to run and which reputation to grind as they build up to raiding.

As far as caveats go, searching for the Elitist Jerk’s guide always leads me to an old version of the post, but the latest is stickied in the Elitist Jerk’s Paladin class mechanics forum. Also, much of the information that I linked directly to may be out of date as soon as Patch 3.1 drops. Consider yourself warned.

A Boy and His Blob (Wii)

One of my most cherished, and most lent, NES cartridges was A Boy and His Blob. In the game the player controls a boy, who is aided by a blob like creature. The blob can assume different forms depending on the flavor of jelly bean he is fed. Together they explore the sewers, gathering enough treasure to purchase yet more jellybeans and vitamins that they use to poison the evil emperor of Blobolonia, freeing it’s people from his merciless rein.

I was excited to learn (from Joystiq via GoNintendo via Nintendo Power)that a new Wii Boy and His Blob was in development by WayForward Technologies. I was ecstatic when I saw the artwork as I’m a big fan of the hand-drawn art stye. There aren’t really any details beyond what’s in Nintendo Power, but I look forward to hearing more about this game and hopefully purchasing it.

(not so) Recent Concerts

Since my last update, I’ve been to two shows at the Middle East in Boston. I’ve been sitting on this post for weeks and weeks now, and in the interest of getting things off my plate, I’m posting it as-is without any images.

The first show took place downstairs and featured Freezepop, with The Information [myspace], The Main Drag[myspace] and Michael Hensley. The Main Drag’s performance was so much better then I had expected from such an early act. Their cover of LCD Sound System’s All My Friends is to die for. The Information is another great northeastern rock band that I really enjoyed. I’ve picked up “8 Track”, but I’d really like to get their other album as well. Freezepop played for an hour and a half and put on a great show. Their stage presence perfectly balances being larger-then-life rockstars and down-to-earth scenesters, and it feels like they show is a dialog with the crowd. Icy roads made it so I didn’t get home until 4am.

The second show was upstairs and featured Casiotone For The Painfully Alone [myspace], with Clue to Kalo [myspace], Musee Mecanique and Pants Yell. I went to the show for Casiotone and I wasn’t disappointed by Owen Ashworth’s performance (although he wasn’t set up to perform some of my favorite songs). The other bands weren’t my cup of tea, but the beer was good (Sam Summer and Harpoon Munich Dark on tap) and my friend Karl lives within walking distance of the club, so everything worked out fine.

I Never Liked You

I just read through the graphic novel I Never Liked You by Chester Brown. It was a pretty quick read for me, and what the New York Times described as a “troubled youth” was – for the most part – a typical nerd youth. Although the story ended on a low note and left me feeling empty and depressed, it did leave me hungry for more of his work and I’ll be checking out Louis Riel from the library as soon as I get a chance.