Friday, October 20, 2006

Madden on Nintendo Wii: Groundbreaking?

The upcoming Madden football for Nintendo's Wii system looks like it could be groundbreaking.

Players will have more control over players than ever thanks to Nintendo's new two-piece control unit. You can use a jumping motion with your hands to jump, or a stiff-arm motion to stiff arm. It's the first big leap in videogame innovation in some time, or appears to be. I can't wait to test it.

For now, check out the
demo video on You Tube



-- Disney has a new series of DVDs, "Disney DVD Game World" that are essentially video games that play on any standard DVD player. These family friendly games combine elements of classic board games and immesive 3D video games and are each tied to Disney characters and worlds.

The first two titles in the series will be "Disney Princess Edition" and "Disney Dogs Edition." In "Princess," gamers compete to be crowned as the new Disney Princess. In "Dogs," you go after a blue ribbon challenge.

Both games have all new animation and allow players to interact with Disney characters in games, activities and trivia questions.

DISH Network offers two-way high-speed internet
EchoStar, parent company of DISH Network, has introduced a new high-speed internet service delivered via satellite. DISH customers can bundle the high-speed internet service with their current DISH subscriptions.

The new high-speed internet is provided by WildBlue and is a two-way satellite service. EchoStar promises packages with up to 30 times faster speed than dial up.

It won't rival cable internet for speed, or the highest tiers of DSL, but the new venture offers choice, especially for those who haven't had it before.

"Our customers living in rural communities have endured the slower speeds of dial-up simply because they haven't had choices when it comes to high-speed Internet service providers," said Jim DeFranco, executive vice president at EchoStar. "Now have access to affordable broadband Internet via satellite with speeds comparable to DSL or cable modem - without the need for an additional phone line."

Consumers can sign up for service through authorized DISH Network retailers. Packages start at $49.95 per month and include multiple email addresses, web hosting space, and 24/7 DISH Network technical support. A separate satellite dish is required to receive the high-speed Internet service; however an additional phone line is not necessary.

EA: Big on PlayStation 3

Electronic Arts has more than 30 games in development for the PS3. At launch next month, EA will deliver Madden NFL 07, Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 07 and Need for Speed Carbon. EA will release eight to ten games more games by late March, including Fight Night and Def Jam: ICON.

”This is only the beginning," said Paul Lee, president of EA Studios. "In the months and years to come, developers will take greater advantage of the PlayStation 3’s cell processors and blu-ray storage capacity to create games of stunning depth and texture.”

CPCC To Host Innovation Conference

Central Piedmont Community College is hosting the Consortium for Innovation on Friday, October 20. Founded in 1992, the Consortium is an initiative of ten community colleges in the Netherlands which tries to improve vocational education by simulating experiments and benchmarking with other community colleges internationally.

While in Charlotte, the group will visit CPCC on Friday and attend the League for Innovation’s 22nd annual Conference on Information Technology (CIT), which will be held at the Charlotte Convention Center October 22-25. The CIT conference explores model programs, programs and services and allows educators in community colleges across the country the opportunity to share ideas and keep abreast of the latest in information technology.

Former Duke star Redick cover boy for new college hoops game

J.J. Redick is the featured cover athlete for 2K Sports' new College Hoops 2K7. The game will feature a new Chant Creator, an enhanced Coach Mode, and what the company calls an "even more realistic college game atmosphere."

The Chant Creator, allows the gamer to control the excitement of the crowd by constructing custom chants to play during key moments of play. Gamers are given a multitude of options to customize in-game chants, including drum percussions, letters, words, mascots, states/regions, and more.

In addition, over 200 fight songs have been added to further enhance the overall college atmosphere in College Hoops 2K7, as well as more than 50 new default crowd chants and new cheerleader routines, mascot dancing and new gyms. With Chant Creator, countless combinations can be created to give each team’s fans a distinct sound, immersing gamers even deeper into the emotional atmosphere of College Hoops 2K7.

The coach mode allows you to move up and down the sidelines as your favorite coach, call plays and make subs. 2K7 is the only college hoop title to include likenesses of actual college coaches including UNC's Roy Williams and Villanova's Jay Wright.

By leveraging the PS3's SIXAXIS wireless controller, players on Tony Hawk Elite will be able to balance and steer skaters through every rail grind, manual, revert, ollie and combo, as well as control slow motion nail the trick moves as they compete to be a part of Tony Hawk’s elite project 8 team.

Ubisoft has launched the new Rayman Raving Rabbids website. Fans of this new Rayman episode will find themselves immersed in the crazy world of the Raving Rabbids, discover unforeseen situations, play exclusive mini-games and much more.

-- Is videogaming an art? Manifesto Games will host an online panel discussion on the topic next week at at the channel #gamesandart. It begins Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 9 p.m.

Expected to be the first in a series of IRC panel discussions Manifesto Games plans to offer, participants are by invitation, but the discussion and subsequent Q&A session is free and available to anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection. While all panelists in this upcoming discussion are in some way involved with games, they represent a range of skills and viewpoints and topics to be discussed will include:

• How is art defined in a technological society?
• Are games art and why or why not?
• Should game designers and developers aspire to art or is entertainment enough?
• If games are art, what should the aspirations of the field be?
• How does the growth of technology effect games as an art form?

-- OPPO Digital, Inc. ( has released a 20-inch LCD TV/DVD combo, which it claims is "perfect for every gamer’s perfect multimedia center." The enhanced-definition (not hi-def) unit is $599.00.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Get Twisted Sister's latest: at Gametap

To celebrate its first birthday, GameTap, an online game and entertainment portal, is streaming Twisted Sister's latest CD, "A Twisted Christmas." It's the final album of the celebrated band's 30-year career. The stream is available five days, through next week, before the highly-anticipated CD debuts at retail outlets.

In addition, subscribers of GameTap will get exclusive access to all-new, original GameTap TV shows featuring Dee Snider and the band.

“With GameTap, we’re connecting with fans in a way you just couldn’t back in the 80s and 90s,” said Dee Snider, lead singer of Twisted Sister. “It’s about building buzz for our CD, sharing our story through the videos and interviews, and talking about the games and music we love.”

Along with more than 600 games and 400 shows that GameTap’s network currently offers on demand, starting now and continuing through Christmas, subscribers and Twisted Sister fans will be able to:

* Get inside the band’s head on October 17th, as Dee Snider and Jay Jay French talk about the band’s new album, their 30th anniversary and their 9000th performance on a brand new episode of Quick Hit
* Laugh it up while Dee Snider takes his turn in the hot seat with Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast on November 16th
* Watch an exclusive performance of Twisted Sister’s new song “Heavy Metal Christmas” on the new show GameTap Tracks on November 30th
* Experience the fun as the heavy metal legends get animated by the twisted minds at Soup2Nuts in a special Christmas episode of GameTap TV’s popular series Computer Lab

The CMP Game Group, organizer of the industry-leading
Game Developers Conference (GDC) and producer of the Webby Award-winning, has created, the first website dedicated to unbiased career guidance in the video game industry.

The site provides comprehensive editorial coverage of career and workplace issues and offer resources to get into the game industry, including school and employment listings, tips, and networking support.

Clubhouse Games: Part of Nintendo's "Touch Generation" series this is perfect mindless fun for your DS. Nintendo says it's the perfect thing to play when you're spending an average of 23 minutes waiting on your doctor, or you're sitting at the DMV (that was me last month) in a long line.

Clubhouse games features hit board game titles like backgammon, checkers and bridge. This is video gaming anyone can get into easily. You can also play people using the wireless DS interface. At my buddy's house, I played chess with his neighbor next door -- while his neighbor was next door (Rating: 3.0/5)

Dance, Dance Revolution Supernova: People say videogaming leads to a sedentary lifestyle, right? Wrong. Konami's new PS2 game comes with a big mat you lay down on the floor and get on your feet and dance with.

On screen, you see vibrant 3D backgrounds, more than 70 songs and 100 minutes of music to get your groove on with. You try to keep your feet on beat by touching pads on the mat. It's kind of like Twister, only more interactive. You can even hook up with your EyeToy camera and go online with your moves. There's a simple tutorial mode to help you get started and a workout mode to help your chubby gamers get his or her groove back.

This is a fun addition to any game library (Rating 4.0/5).

NBA '07, The Life Vol. 2: This is actually three games in one. You practice, play and live. You do press conferences, sign an agent and play games -- albeit without play-by-play announcers. I don't see a lot different from the 2006 version, which wasn't the greatest game ever, but I like the new white halo effects which help you find soft spots in the defense and rebound.

The Life's weakest point is ease, it's too easy to beat. You'll find that out as you start your career with a series of mini-games to develop your skills. During gameplay, the white halo will light up for a guy who has the best shot. He almost always makes it if you get the ball to him. Even the best players in the world, the guys from Greece and Argentina (OK, I'm just kiddin'), miss open shots sometimes.

Something else that I could've done without was the emphasis on performing showtime moves. Do three in a row and your teams' levels are all boosted. You become like an all-star team and start creaming your competition. This one got old quick (Rating: 2.5/5).

Danny Phantom, Urban Jungle: My 6-year-old likes this game about a kid Superhero who fights a ghost and large weeds (seriously) in a Mario-style fun-fest for the DS from THQ.

This is a top-rated kid's show that attracts 33 million viewers to Nickelodeon each month. In the game, yo take control of Danny's Fenton Flier and will have to learn a new "Freeze Power" to defeat the evil enemy, dude named Undergrowth, who is trying to turn Danny's real world into a forest. (Rating 3.0/5)

The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: This game is based on the popular Cartoon Network show of the same name. Of course, it's popular to everyone but me. I've never seen it. Up to four players can play on PS2. You choose one of 15 characters from the show. You can play in "Mission Mode" where you try to reach 45 different goals, sort of Mario-like, or you can just try to beat the cartoon brains out of one of the other characters.

Each character is unique has his or her own set of abilities and I'd imagine in four player mode, for folks who watch the show, this could quite entertaining. Me? I just thought with all of the violence here, however cartoonish, this game should not have gotten an E for everyone rating (Grade: 2.5/5).

Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2: You've played this game before. You're a cartoon character with serious ninja skills and you battle other like-skilled characters, mostly from a side-on view. This is another TV show turned videogame that I've not seen.

The first edition ranked in the top five games for Nintendo's Gamecube every month since it shipped last March, so the sequel has been rushed out to capitalize on the success. The new game has twice as many characters, up to 23, and twice as many environments. You can have four-player battle royales and there are more game choices for single-person play. But even with all the cool training modes and skill development, this still feels like a lot of games I've played before. But it's done quite well (Rating: 3.5/5).

SOCOM: Combined Assault: Sony sent me a demo disc for this upcoming title. It's a sequel to one of the company's best ever game series. There's an all-new four-play cooperative play mode plus improved enemy tactics.

The final version will contain the full online SOCOM 3 online game and the new PS2 title will have 32 player maps and will have crosstalk functionality with the PSP version. This demo got me drooling for more. Looks good.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Near Wardrobe Malfunction, Great Music for Janet Jackson in "20 YO"

It's been 20 years since Janet Jackson's breakthrough CD, "Control," and in that time, she's become one of the most popular female artists of all time, the best in-concert female artist of all time, one of the most consistent female artists of all time and, in some circles, one of the most villified female artists of all time.

Since the infamous accidental wardrobe malfuction at the 2004 Super Bowl, Jackson has become a punching bag for media and cynical fans. There was supposed to be a piece of clothing left over her breast when Justin Timberlake pulled her top off but truth is, the whole move should've been left out. Jackson apologized for the incident, like Timberlake apologized for it, but for some reason, for Janet, apologizing isn't enough.

The incident introduced her to scores of people and media who hadn't heard her music and many media people bought into the fact that this "stunt" was somehow decided to re-engerize a sagging career, reporting it to the masses. Truth is, Jackson had a No. 1 album and No. 1 hit pop song, both called "All 4 U", in 2001 -- plus one of the highest-rated live concert showings in HBO history -- and was readying a summer 2004 release called "Damita Jo."

When she did the duet with Timberlake, Jackson didn't yet have a project to promote and her record company mistakenly rushed out a bad single, "Just A Little While."

Turns out the album, "Damita Jo," was another in a consisently strong line of work from Jackson. It was her "Dirty Mind," but Jackson has always talked about sex and shown off her body. This was nothing new. But to the new members of the media who were now covering her, it probably seemed like overkill, given what she'd just been through -- and they were probably right. Jackson should've toned down her image a bit, at least for awhile.

The album got strong reviews and had platinum sales. It didn't do Janet Jackson numbers, but if you believe what you read, Damita Jo was a flop. It didn't go multi-platinum mainly because radio wouldn't play it and MTV wouldn't play her videos for "I Want You" and "All Nite," two songs that would've been out-of-the-park hits at any other point in Jackson's career.

And now, comes her latest project, "20 Y.O." reflecting the 20 years since "Control." This is the best pop/R&B album to come along this year, breezing past strong efforts from Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, a good record from Beyonce' -- and smashing lackluster efforts from Ciara, Rihanna and Fergie.

This is the album most of the young female pop stars want to make. It debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top 100 album chart this week with sales of just under 300,000. It's chock full of hits. The car-bumping slow-jam duet with rapper Nelly, "Call On Me," is a toe tapper that's already shot to No. 1 on Billboard's R&B charts twice.

The current single, "So Excited," samples Herbie Hancock's classic, "Rock-it," and freshens it with good results. There really isn't a bad song on the album, save for the final track, "Love 2 Love", and throughout Jackson pays homage to her earlier work through samples and memorable cord lines.

I'm not sure if radio is going to be friendly to this project, but there are tons of potential mega-hit singles, mainly the fifth track, "Do It 2 me," a drum-less club-bopper and the kind of track Jackson hasn't done before. It's hard to get out of your head. "This Body" will remind you of "Black Cat" with a heavy bass line and finds Jackson playing the role of magazine centerfold for a man dreaming of her really coming to life.

On the second half, the album mellows out with great results. Just when you think "Daybreak" is the perfect happy song (and the perfect successor to "Escapade"), along comes "Enjoy," with its kids-singing-the-chorus ending and the solid ballad, "Take Care," which is something anyone who's been in a long distance relationship can relate to.

Virgin Records sent me a special DVD packaging of the CD, which includes a 20-page color booklet of Jackson pictures and lyrics. You also get a free online download to a remix of "Call On Me," which will fit nicely on your iPod. The DVD has tons of behind the scenes footage and shows Jackson filming the video for "Call On Me," dancing so hard she very nearly pops out of her top creating the aforementioned Wardrobe Malfuction II.

As soon as it happens, she smiles at the camera people, embarrassed and surprised. I think if people get past the Jackson backlash and listen to the music here, they might be surprised at how good it really is (Ratiing 4.5/5).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Pass the time with online Murder Mystery

I like a good mystery so I was happy to try SR Entertainment's new online live-action game, Mystery At Mansfield Manor

It's a live-action murder mystery acted by real people where you choose actions via a click of the mouse. Slow internet connections can be frustrating but the game is almost like watching and playing an episode of a serial TV show like "Vanished" or "Kidnapped" or "Lost."

You play as a detective, Frank Mitchell, who is about to retire. He's sent to investigate the murder of a weathly oil man and when you arrive at the mansion, you take control of Frank's actions. As you play, a clock in the upper left hand corner counts down the time you have to solve the murder.

For $7 you get unlimited access for four days and start by questioning the victim's maid and other suspects. You have to figure out who's lying and find the best clues. There's more than two hours of video and multiple endings.

It's a nice change of pace from slamming your thumbs all over your PS2 remote (Rating: 3/5).

-- id Software’s DOOM is available now for the Xbox 360 via download from Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade. The game is available in most worldwide markets for 800 points and is rated “M” for Mature by the ESRB.

Originally created by id Software, and developed for Xbox Live Arcade by Nerve Software, DOOM delivers all the original nightmarish demons and hellish zombies in enhanced graphics supporting High-Definition displays along with 5.1 Surround Sound. Gamers can also unlock a full array of achievements and access leaderboards featuring match-making capabilities for the ultimate Deathmatch competition.

-- NAMCO has released a new trailer for Snoopy vs. the Red Baron, giving fans a brand new look at the upcoming title featuring Snoopy, Woodstock and the rest of the Peanuts gang.

In the game, Snoopy imagines himself as a virtuoso flying ace on a gallant quest to defend the skies and save Charlie Brown from the evil Red Baron.

-- Mobliss has launched a mobile phone version of the TV hit, Deal Or No Deal. Timed with the fall launch of the hit game show on
NBC, casual gamers and hard-core fans can test their luck against The Banker while on the go. Click here for more info.

-- WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 demo is now available for free download via Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. The demo will let players battle in a RAW arena exhibition match featuring World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) SuperStars Triple H and Kane in either single player or two-player, head-to-head game play mode. The demo comes less than seven weeks before the game's scheduled release on November 14 for the Xbox 360, PS2 and PSP.

-- Consumers can visit for a free assessment of what upgrades a computer might need. It's an interesting software that is often dead on, based on my tests using several different set-ups.