Shank: Gorgeous animation, questionable narrative

Gamer Dude: Can I play Shank?
Me: No
Gamer Dude: Awww, why not?
Me: Because it’s a game called “shank,” I don’t think I need to elaborate.

As you can see from the clip above, it’s a beautifully animated game done in a dramatic comic book style. The story of Shank can be told from two different perspectives: single-player campaign and cooperative campaign. The protagonist, Shank, is a mobster hitman whose MO is avenging the death of his girlfriend, Eva.

Players control Shank and can choose from three different kinds of weapons: melee weapons (including a chainsaw — sigh), firearms (of course), and a pair of knives (to shank with, I imagine). The cooperative mode activates Shank’s able sidekick, Falcone. As in many multiplayer campaigns, this game requires players as the characters to collaborate and combine moves to complete “hits” and advance the story.

EA Games, who released Shank in 2010 calls the game “a side-scrolling beat ’em up” game and I say this is an accurate description. Designed by Klei Entertainment, the game is available for play on Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

Some may call me hypocritical because, as you’ve seen in other reviews, I’ve allowed Gamer Dude to play similar storylines (eg. Assassin’s Creed). Maybe I am, but for me, it’s all about context for the violence. Also, Shank is no Assassin’s Creed. Case in point, the action of Shank seems to center exclusively on executing violent deaths as part of Shank’s revenge plot.

CONCLUSION:

Shank is a straightforward, one-dimensional game with graphic violence at the forefront. While I love the art and animation in Shank, I can see little benefit to having this game in my home, and no value in allowing my kid to play it.

VERDICT: NO DICE 

Xbox One or PS4? Choice is yours.

Not sure if you’ve heard the news about Xbox and Playstation — they’re soon unveiling their newest consoles: Xbox One and PS4 respectively. Microsoft is currently taking preorders for Xbox One and Playstation is taking preorders for its PS4. At my house the debate about which one GamerDude will choose to spend his dough-re-mi on is anyone’s guess.

Today we found this fantastic music video from Machinima which provides some insight  into the gamer’s console choice dilemma:

*note, it gets a little sweary at the very end of the video. The swears are bleeped (for comic effect), so if that kind of thing bothers you, skip the end (or the video — your choice).

Trolling for Good?

I was on YouTube the other day doing some research for MOMmentary and I stumbled on video blogger, MinnesotaBurns’ video, COD4 Hacker Rehab (below). MinnesotaBurns aka Trollarch CEO, Burnsy, and John Trollsten, started his channel January 2011 with the intent of trolling gamers (usually kids) who’ve hacked games (usually Call of Duty 4 and World at War). He calls the game hackers out, records the conversation, and, as in the video below, attempts to turn cheaters into good sports.

Not all of MinnesotaBurns’ videos are SFW (or family friendly) though. GamerDude and I watched/listened to the video featured above and I was surprised at the level of support my boy had for MinnesotaBurns’ methods. Game Hacking is apparently a common and reviled activity. Among gamers and gaming platforms alike, hacking is an absolute no-no. According to XboxLive:

“We’ve designed the Xbox LIVE service to help create a place where our members can interact and have fun online. To help protect that experience for our customers, the Xbox LIVE Enforcement team monitors the service for behavior that violates the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct. Violations of the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and the Code of Conduct can result in a variety of actions, up to and including a permanent suspension of a console from connecting to Xbox LIVE.”

I’m interested to see how well a Trollarch staff-assisted rehab goes. MinnesotaBurns is compelling because he’s part tongue in cheek, part irreverent, and part big brother to the kids he calls out on his YouTube channel. It’s clear he’s passionate about gaming as well as the gaming community, and his efforts to maintain the integrity of these online games seem legitimate (though his methods are sometimes questionable — see Mom & Granny Rage video by Trollarch Director, TrollMunchies).

I know some may view Trollarch activities to be a form of online bullying, and maybe it is. I asked GamerDude what he thought and he said he didn’t believe it was. I’m inclined to agree, but I’ll admit I haven’t even come close to completing a thorough review of all of the MinnestoaBurns and Trollarch videos.

What are your thoughts folks?

Games & Content Will Influence Success.

Cautious optimism. Currently inhaling news & info about Playstation 4. One thing I’ll say is the games look spectacular in this video (click!).

Edit: Just read JC Fletcher’s Joystiq report about Playstation 4’s backward compatibility — me likey! 

PlayStation 4 will stream PS1, PS2, PS3 games

 

 

Tech News Condensed

Hey folks,

Here are the highlights from Sony’s PlayStation event tonight. Probably will have more tomorrow in all the post-announcement buzz.

Enjoy!
Joshua

PlayStation 4:
– PC-like architecture. x86 CPU with an “enhanced PC GPU” for graphics
– 8 GB of RAM
– New Dual Shock 4 controller – more rounded with rubberized grip and “enhanced rumble capabilities”
– Controller has a touchpad on top in the middle, a share button, and a headphone jack.
– Controller also has a stereo camera that can track the 3D position of the controller through a light bar used to identify players.
– Users can download or update games in the background and digital titles are playable even as you download.
– Ability to live-stream your gameplay and friends can even help out by taking over the controller.
– Social network will use real photos of people, real names and mobile apps that…

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Super Meat Boy — Super Gross — Super Good

Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I fell in love with the creators of indie game, Super Meat Boy, months before I let my son buy the game. Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes’s story of writing, producing, and finally releasing their game on Xbox 360 formed part of  award-winning documentary Indie Game: The Movie, which I saw last winter. So when my son asked to buy it over the Christmas break this year I was pleased to say yes (and he was pleased to hear it).

Super Meat Boy has done exceptionally well with game critics and reviewers. IGN’s Daemon Hatfield says it’s “one of the best modern platformers,” adding “[i]t’s infuriating, exasperating, and arduous, but it’s also delightful, thrilling, and hilarious.” And he gives the game two nines (out of ten) in presentation and gameplay.

The ESRB gives Super Meat Boy the rating of T(een):

Super Meat Boy
Platform: Macintosh, Windows PC, Wii, Xbox 360

Rating:

     Teen Rating Symbol
Content descriptors: Animated Blood, Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor, Language
Rating summary:This is a platformer game in which players help an animated cube of meat (Meat Boy) rescue his kidnapped girlfriend. Players run, leap, and cling to walls throughout each maze-like level to avoid a variety of hazards (e.g., meat grinders, spinning buzz saws, propellers). Meat Boy leaves behind gooey red liquid when he lands on these hazards, causing him to disappear in a red spray of blood. Some cutscenes also depict instances of violence: Meat Boy is blown up by a rocket, resulting in cartoonlike blood; a girl stomps and dances on a character named Dr. Fetus, causing puffs of blood to appear. The game also contains an instance of bathroom humor: after a toilet gets flushed, a brown character, Brownie, emerges and emits flatulence. One cutscene also depicts a character who sticks out his middle finger.

So what does this non-gamer Mom have to say about the game?

While I don’t disagree with the T-rating, I’d allow kids under the age of 13 years to play it, depending on their temperament and their level of exposure to some of the themes in the game. I love Meat Boy’s relationship with Bandage Girl; though it’s his job to rescue her, he’s not just being chivalrous (and reinforcing sexist themes). Meat Boy’s a bleeding mess without her — Bandage Girl’s his strength and he needs her to help him stop bleeding, which to me is a lovely message to reinforce.

Sexual/Adult Themes & Language

While there’s no overt sex in the game, themes of sex and abortion are manifested by the villain, Dr. Fetus, a top hat wearing, black gloved fetus in a jar.

Drfetus

Your level of comfort with the game may depend on how comfortable you are with these topics. In our house, my husband, a cradle-Catholic, is the most uncomfortable with this game specifically because of the presence and role of Dr. Fetus. Abortion is never mentioned, nor is it an aspect of the game. I’m not even sure the game developers were aware of the underlying symbolism in the game — certainly it’s lost on my son who’s only aware that Dr. Fetus is a malevolent, antagonistic, and rude character.

Oh yes, and in case you missed it, Dr. Fetus is also infamous for flipping the bird. There’s no swearing, nor are there any other profane gestures, but this aspect of the game may be a deal breaker for you.

Violence & Gore

As I’ve already mentioned, Meat Boy is a bloody mess. Literally. As he moves through the game he leaves a trail of blood splotches, which can also be helpful breadcrumbs showing players where they’ve been. Aside from Dr. Fetus, Meat Boy faces numerous buzz saws as he makes his way through levels in his journey to Bandage Girl. As you can imagine, Meat Boy becomes a splattering mess when he comes in contact with a buzz saw. And he dies, returning to the beginning of the level. According to my son, “You die a lot.” (said with a certain level of graveness)

In addition, Meat Boy faces the challenge of escaping a hospital that fills with blood. But it’s not just blood that contributes to the grotesqueness of the game; Dr. Fetus also makes a likeness of Meat Boy out of his feces and names him “Brownie“.

brownie_super

Closing

As Hatfield says, this game is frustrating (my son concurs). There’s a lot of dying and repeating levels, which can be difficult on some kids. My son loves the game and sometimes dislikes playing it for this reason. If your child has a tendency towards frustration, you might want to reconsider this game.

VERDICT: RECOMMEND FOR SOME KIDS 11 YEARS PLUS