Thursday, October 30, 2008

Coming to a videogame near you: The Beatles

The music of the Beatles is coming to the videogame world.

MTV Networks and Harmonix -- the game developer behind the popular "Rock Band" franchise – have joined with the Beatles' Apple Corps Ltd. to create a new interactive music game that will use the entire Beatles catalog (somewhere, Michael Jackson is smiling).

Developers say the game will be in the same vein as Harmonix's "Rock Band" franchise, but it will not officially be a part of the series. The game doesn't have a title or a firm release date (it's expected late in 2009).

Expect the game to take users on a journey through the Beatles’ career. Surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Fab Four spouses Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison, are involved in the vision and creative direction.

The music will come from master recordings of the Beatles' U.K. releases, but will not be remixed or remastered. Giles Martin, the son of original Beatles producer George Martin and co-producer of the Beatles' "LOVE" project, will serve as music producer.

What’s not clear now is whether any of the Beatles’ music will be available for download into “Rock Band” (which would make sense) or whether the new Beatles’ game will be compatible with “Rock Band” peripherals (that makes sense, too).

But it could introduce the band’s music to a new, younger generation -- and introduce the band’s members to a brand-new revenue stream.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Charlotte Bobcats going HD this season

Last season, the Charlotte Bobcats didn't make many TV appearances beyond a premium-tier package on Time Warner cable.

This year, the team is going HD.

Fox Sports Carolinas and sister network SportsSouth will televise 16 Bobcats games in high definition this year. The first game is Monday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. against the Detroit Pistons. The HD schedule includes three road and 13 home games.

This is another smart move by the Bobcats, who earlier announced plans to carry 70 of the teams 82 regular-season games on Fox Sports Carolinas or SportSouth. The coverage will be available, via satellite and cable, to many more Carolinas homes than were able to see the Bobcats last year.

Adding the HD may help gain the casual viewer, who enjoys the clarity of sports in high definition, which delivers a much clearer picture -- and better sound -- than its traditional counterpart.

To receive these HD broadcasts, you need an HD television and set-top box from your cable or satellite provider that is equipped to receiver the special signal.

Here's the complete schedule for the HD Bobcats games:

Monday, November 3 – vs. Detroit Pistons – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Friday, November 7 – vs. New Orleans Hornets – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Tuesday, November 11 – vs. Denver Nuggets – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Sunday, November 16 – vs. Orlando Magic – 5:30 p.m. ET – FSCR

Tuesday, November 18 – vs. Dallas Mavericks – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Saturday, November 29 – vs. Boston Celtics – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Saturday, December 13 – vs. Detroit Pistons – 7 p.m. ET – SPSO

Monday, December 15 – @ Atlanta Hawks – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Monday, January 19 – vs. San Antonio Spurs – 2 p.m. ET – FSCR

Friday, January 23 – vs. Phoenix Suns – 7 p.m. ET – SPSO

Tuesday, January 27 – @ Los Angeles Lakers – 10:30 p.m. ET – FSCR

Friday, January 30 – @ Denver Nuggets – 9 p.m. ET – FSCR

Friday, February 6 – vs. Atlanta Hawks – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Wednesday, February 11 – vs. Washington Wizards – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Wednesday, February 18 – vs. Indiana Pacers – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Friday, March 13 – vs. Houston Rockets – 7 p.m. ET – FSCR

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Some parents think videogaming is beneficial for kids

A new survey from Sony Online Entertainment claims that parents across the country think that playing videogames has some benefit for their children.
Who knew?
The results were published in the November issue of Family Circle magazine and suggest that parents are seeing improved hand-eye coordination plus better problem-solving and typing skills.
The survey also suggests that game-playing is teaching kids to think strategically because many games require you to follow rules, think tactically and make quick decisions.
Yahoo!’s website, Shine reaches 10 million women per month and hosted the survey last June. It showed 87 percent of those parents surveyed actually playing games with their kids (and I’m guessing there’s a lot of Wii-playing going on).
Of all the numbers revealed – 75 percent of parents find increased hand-eye skills; 84 percent see improved typing skills; 72 percent say their kids play online most of the time – I found this most interesting:
More than 80 percent of the respondents say their kids play in a common area of the house.
I’m not big on games being in a kid’s room or letting them play endlessly. But games, the right kinds of games, can have a benefit. And the key is choosing age-appropriate and ratings-appropriate games for kids, so the experiences can be positive.
“Family video game nights are becoming incredibly popular with the variety of games out there,” said Linda Fears, Family Circle’s editor-in-chief. “Parents and children of all ages are finding games to play together, no matter what each person’s experience level.”
• November 15 is “National Gaming Day @ your library.” Libraries of all types will participate in a national videogame tournament and an attempt to establish a record for the most number of people playing the board game "Pictureka!" at the same time. Information? Contact your local branch.
• Electronic Arts has partnered with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook to provide team ratings and scouting reports for the upcoming “NCAA Basketball ’09,” which drops Dec. 2 for Xbox 360 and PS3. Blue Ribbon has compiled stats for 28 years. EA Sports will utilize its scouting reports and data to drive its college basketball videogame.
• The trailer for the upcoming James Bond film “Quantum Of Solace” looks phenomenal. The videogame drops Nov. 4, but a preview is up. Players can get redeemable codes for exclusive content in the game. At various points in the web game, gamers are encouraged to “get rewards” from the official Quantum of Solace video game, and once they click for rewards they’ll be sent to the rewards page where they can enter the code and gain special access to exclusive concept art, screenshots and more – the only way to access these video game assets is to play the web game. On the rewards page, players can also enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a PLAYSTATION 3 computer entertainment system, as Activision is giving away one PS3 per week for the next eight weeks.

New games for Sprint cell phone users

Do you have a Sprint cell phone? If so, you'll soon be able to play some new games on it thanks to a partnership between Konami and Sprint. It means Sprint subscribers can access "Contra 4" and other popular Konami titles, including "Frogger," "Castlevania" and "Metal Gear Classic."

* "Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2009" was shipped Tuesday and features the strength trainer and life coach from TV's "The Bigger Loser" taking gamers through a serious training program using the Wii Balance Board. Players must complete fitness tests using an ever-changing series of workouts. Modes include Weight Loss, Strength Training, Intervals and Hill Climb.
* Bowlers rejoice! "Ten Pin Alley" hit the Wii today. Up to four players can bowl using nine characters and six "worlds." There are five different game modes in case you get tired of simply rolling your ball. There are also more than 100 trick shots to master.
* I just know you all have been waiting for "Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ," and I'm here to tell you it's in stores now. The Nintendo DS game features the famous fairy tale characters going after waves of zombies, ghosts and goblins. You use the DS Stylus to bomb, duck and gouge your enemies. You play as Little Red (who wields a shotgun), or as Japanese hero Momataro.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Want game cheats? This site's 4 U!

There’s a new web site that is designed for one purpose: to help you cheat at video games.

The site,, launched today with a big library of cheat codes, hints and achievements – and it’s easy to use. You type in the game you want to find cheats for, and it acts like a Google for cheaters, tracking down the hints and codes you’re usually after.

Future plans for the Web site include user registration, community features, mobile readiness and viral widgets.

“We wanted to simplify the experience of finding and extracting cheats so gamers could get back into their games as quickly as possible,” said Chris Radtke, vice president of editorial for UGO Entertainment, the company behind the site. “Gamers have been clamoring for better and quicker access to reliable and accurate information.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Facebreakers the game may knock you out


EA Sports, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 **1/2

Like most boxing games, this one relies on timing, skill and memorizing button combos.

Basically, you turn this on, pick a venue to fight in, and go. (If you want, you can upload an image that will help to create a fighter in your likeness.)

You win by knocking your opponent down three times, or by filling up your “facebreaker” meter and pulling off your special move. You'll quickly discover that every character's attack style has strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited.

There are tournaments and cool head-to-head play options, but this is the rare game that I felt could be a little easier. Even the softer levels are a bit tough.

If you get a little too jab-happy, the computer will adjust to punish you for it. The computer fighters also execute “death” moves efficiently, and its combos – called “stun attacks” – can temporarily leave your character, rather Glass Joe-like, open to punishment.

“Facebreaker” has potential, but could use a little smoothing over if/when they decide to do a Version 2.0.



Electronic Arts/Mythic, for the PC **1/2

I found this so-called “epic” title a little less than epic. It's got all the makings of a blockbuster – huge worlds, great characters, solid storyline – but everything just moves too slow. It's like trying to pass on I-85 in a Yugo. You press the gas pedal but not much happens.

The story, as I said, is actually pretty cool. A plague strikes “The Empire” and turns regular people into flesh-eating mutants. Eventually, the mutants and the remaining humans go to war.

Each group has tanks and other weapons, and as your side progresses, you earn action points that allow you to pull off a multitude of skills (just don't use the “flee” button to escape trouble too often, because it drains your action points).

This game gives you the feeling of really being in a fight. And it's incredibly deep; “Warhammer” is designed so you can't beat it quickly. But I have to be honest: I'm not sure I'd have the skill – or patience – to wade all the way through this.


Namco Bandai Games, for the

Nintendo DS ***

Another good game for America's No. 1 handheld. As the new Digimon Tamer, you go after the strongest and most dangerous Digimon in the wild.

Once you capture the Digimon, you train them for more than 50 competitions. How you train and treat your Digimon will change the way they fight and act, and there are more than 200 digi-characters to interact with.

Namco says there are 25 hours of gameplay here. Some good gamers might get through before that, in which case a rental might suffice. But it's definitely worth a look.

Play videogames, fight breast cancer

EA Sports is releasing a special version of “Madden NFL 09” to coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It's the same game, but has a limited-edition packaging with a pink ribbon, the international symbol of breast-cancer awareness.

Proceeds from “Madden NFL 09 Pink” will benefit the Deanna Favre HOPE Foundation. Deanna Favre, wife of “Madden” cover athlete Brett Favre, started the foundation after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 at age 35. Since overcoming the disease, Deanna Favre has committed herself and the foundation to helping underserved and underinsured women who have breast cancer.

“Madden NFL 09 Pink” will be available in Target stores this month.

Games for the holidays

Gamespot, an online gaming site, has released its list of the most anticipated games of the upcoming holiday season.

In alphabetical order, they are: “Call of Duty: World at War” (PC, Nov. 11); “Dead Space” (PC, Oct. 20); “Fable II” (Xbox 360, Oct. 21); “Fallout 3” (PC, Oct. 28); “Far Cry 2” (PC, Oct. 21); “Gears of War 2” (Xbox 360, Nov. 7); “Guitar Hero: World Tour” (Xbox 360, Oct. 26); “Left 4 Dead” (Xbox 360, Nov. 17); “LittleBigPlanet” (PS3, Oct. 21).

“Mirror's Edge” (Xbox 360/PC, Nov. 11); “NHL 2K9” (Wii, out now); “Prince of Persia” (PC, Dec. 2); “Resistance 2” (PS3, Nov. 4); “Rock Band 2” (all consoles, out now); “Soul Calibur IV” (Xbox 360/PS3, out now); “Spore” (PC/Wii/DS, out now); “Tales of Vesperia” (Xbox 360, out now); “World of Witchcraft: Wrath of Lich King” (PC, Nov. 13).

‘The Hardy Boys'The longest-running book series of all time debuts on the Nintendo DS this spring.

In “The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks,” players assume the roles of Frank and Joe Hardy, who have been invited onboard a luxury rail line traveling from Paris to St. Petersburg, Russia. Players will search for hidden clues, explore the train cars, interrogate passengers and solve interactive puzzles as they hunt treasure and attempt to unlock a century-old secret.

‘The Other Season'

When 2K Sports releases “NBA 2K9” later this month, fans will be able to participate in “The Other Season,” a unique online league that turns the tables on fantasy basketball.

The idea: You get drafted, and every stat you score online becomes a point for your owner's fantasy team. The owners: Eight real-life NBA players – including Boston's Kevin Garnett and former Duke star Carlos Boozer of Team USA and the Utah Jazz – who will be competing for charity.

The draft will be held Oct. 28 at 12:01 a.m. Register at

Online golf game

Today, San Francisco-based World Golf Tour ( plans to launch a free, high-definition online golf game with social-networking capabilities. The game requires no download and captures real courses like Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Gamers can play others online, upload videos and create profiles.

‘War World'

Last Thursday, Ubisoft made “War World” available for Xbox Live Arcade. It's a third-person shooter that relies on tactical gameplay and puts players in combat situations on a war-torn planet. “War World” is rated T for Teen and boasts 100 levels.

Want to play for Madden 09 City Championship?

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg County public library is sponsoring a “Madden 09” tournament on the Xbox 360. Three preliminary rounds have been completed, but there are still five to go. Times and locations for the tournament are:

Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1-4 p.m., South County Regional, 5801 Rea Road, 704-416-6640.

Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1-4 p.m., Mint Hill, 6840 Matthews-Mint Hill Road, 704-416-5221.

Monday, Nov. 10, 3-7 p.m., Freedom Regional, 1230 Alleghany St., 704-416-4221.

Saturday, Nov. 15, noon-4 p.m., Main Library, 310 N. Tryon St., 704-416-5200.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 1-5 p.m., Matthews, 230 Matthews Station St., Matthews, 704-416-5000.

You have to register because there are only 16 spots available at each location. Preliminary winners will get prizes, and the finals will be held 1-4 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Main Library. The city champ wins a $50 gift card from GameStop.

‘Blitz: The League II'

Looking for an alternative to “Madden” to get your football fix? Acclaim's “Blitz: The League II” debuts this week.

This version has a new story mode written by Peter Egan (who scripted ESPN's “Playmakers”). The game includes precision-aim tackles, player-controlled touchdown celebrations (cool), plus the return of intentional late hits. Football legend Lawrence Taylor, the former Tar Heel star, returns as the game's cover athlete and star linebacker for the New York Nightmare.

2 new titles for WII

Namco/Bandai games has released two new titles aimed at getting kids off the couch and moving around by playing the Nintendo Wii.

“We Cheer” allows up to four players to create cheerleaders and perform cheers using your Wii-mote as pom-poms.

“Active Life: Outdoor Challenge” has more than a dozen minigames, including river rafting, mine-cart racing and log jumping. It comes with a specially designed pad that you put on the floor and jump on.

Design your own game

Coming this holiday season is Microsoft's new Community Games service, which will allow game players to become game makers. It's being called the YouTube of videogaming. You'll download the Game Studio development tools, for free, and then start designing. For $100, you can join the XNA Creator's Club so your game will be reviewed by other community developers. I'm figuring a few people will create some titles that will become massive hits – and make them massive bucks.

Video fun for girls

Always glad to see titles aimed at girls. We don't have enough. EA Casual Entertainment is releasing two this week.

“Littlest Pet Shop” (Wii, PC, DS) is a pet simulation aimed at 6- to 10-year-old girls who will adopt pets and earn Kibble Coins to feed them by solving puzzle games. It's inspired by Hasbro's Littlest Pet Shop, popular among girls.

“Boogie SuperStar” (Wii) allows girls to sing current hits into a microphone and do dance moves that are captured on screen using the Wii's motion-sensor technology (that little bar that sits on top of your TV). Popular artists like Alicia Keys, Maroon 5, Rihanna and Kayne West have songs in the game.