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Games
GamelogoBy Australian Ninja

Remnants & Relics. Buttonhole *Special* Feature

Welcome dear reader to Remnants & Relics, the first in an ongoing series of features looking back at various aspects of yesterday's video games. This series is one that I'd hoped to kick off many months ago, but I just haven't had the time to do it justice, until now. So consider this your opportunity to put on your best pair or rose-tinted glasses, open up a luke-warm can of clichés and prepare to hop aboard the way-back-machine.... It came from beyond two dimensions! -A Look Back at Isometric Gaming-

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Toons
ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

ACMI Day Tripper

Welcome Buttonhole readers to another feature that is so choc-full of goodness that I've divided it into several sections. The top half is about the Indy video games showcased at ACMI. The bottom half is about the Pixar exhibit. It's ridiculously long and all terribly interesting to read, so you may as well read it in two halves, or just the parts that interest you. After reading about the ACMI exhibits on their website and getting more than a little excited, I decided to make the perilous trek to inner Melbourne. With time on my side and money stuffed in my pocket I ventured forth to the train station. Once on board I passed the time by staring out the window, reading a volume of Dark Horse's Concrete and snacking on tasty fruit. Arriving at Flinders St, I wandered around until inevitably finding my way out of the rat-maze like station.

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Toons
ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Classic Comic-book Review. Kraven's Last Hunt

"Here lies Spider-Man - Slain by the Hunter" So reads the grave of one of histories greatest superheros. "But he's not dead, is he? What happened to everyone's favourite web-slinger? Spidey seems to be alive and well now, what with his three movie deal and a string of monthly Marvel comic-book titles to his name, so why was he buried six feet under? The year is 1987. The company is Marvel. The character is Sergei Kravinov also known as 'Kraven the Hunter.' Back in the 60's Stan and Steve (Lee and Ditko, respectively) churned out a heap of cool villains for the title "Amazing Spider-Man." Doctor Octopus, The Cham

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24: PS2 game box 24: The Game. PlayStation 2 Review

Time is on Australian Ninja's side

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Australia

Sun, 11 June 2006

Aussie_N6 by: Australian Ninja

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The following takes place between my lunch break and my afternoon nap.

Welcome to 24: The Review. During your stay you'll be pleased to know that terrorists will frequently fire guns at your head, bombs will explode all around you [unless you defuse them quickly] and soon your ear will be bleeding from loud mouthed CTU agents who are addicted to calling you every ten seconds on your high pitched mobile phone.

24: The Game is a 3rd person action game - most of the time. When you are not running around shooting terrorists you'll be driving through LA or defusing bombs and hacking codes via simple puzzle mini-games. The show's cast play their respective roles in the voice acting department and bring to the game that kind of authenticity that the best licensed games are known for.The game plays out as if it were one whole season of the show. While this means the game takes place over 24 hours, the game does not take that long to complete, and the "hours" are really just the cut scenes between the stages.

In 24 it's your job as everyone's favourite angry man Jack Bauer; CTU [and cohorts] to thwart those no-good-nik terrorists with their nasty old plans to kill via bomb, poison, radiation, earthquake or just creating a good old hullabaloo.

While playing 24 I rented some episodes of 24: Season Two to watch. The game sparked my renewed interest in the TV series. Previously I'd watched Season One of the show but never a single episode since then. Going from the game, to the show and back to the game - I'm a happy camper. The cut scenes are excellent and play out just like the TV show - with those stylised split camera boxes/ panels 24 is known for. The voice acting is gold and I feel that the game compares favourably to the show. It captures the high tension drama and "what will happen next" feeling of the show to a tee.

Jack Bauer, the man with a six pack. But not abs, I'm talking about a fresh six pack of pure rage-ahol; and he's about to crack open another can. If there's a job that requires a man who is angry, driven, slightly unhinged, angry, with a hair trigger temper, who's angry and who shouts 90% of everything he says, if that job needs filling - then no one is more qualified than Jack Bauer.

24: PS2 game screenshot 1
Jack be nimble
While the main playable character is Jack, other sections are played through as Tony, Kim, Michelle or Chase. The variety of characters and playing styles kept things fresh for me. One minute you're storming a large ship at the docks, next you could driving on the highway pursuing a baddie in your SVU, then defusing a bomb, hacking a code or password [simple puzzle minigames] or interrogating a suspect.

The interrogations were a real highlight for me. They were also annoying and a pain in the ass, forcing you to replay them, fumbling your way to a successful outcome. But how can you pass up the opportunity to have an angry Kiefer Sutherland at your control? At the press of a button you too will be screaming phrases at panicking suspects along the lines of "Tell me where the snipers are TELL ME NOW!" with excessive shouting and gun to head waving in the grand old Jack Bauer tradition.

Much of what goes on in the main missions involves shooting a lot of bad guys, while achieving some objective. Like "find and defuse the bomb." Standard stuff really. The shooting action reminded me a lot of 'Winback' for the N64. Crouch behind objects/ walls and pop out with the press of an action button, then return to cover. This play mechanic has been used in many games and fits in well here.

The weapons are decent. Available is the usual assortment of handguns, machine-guns, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and a few different high powered rifles and semiautomatics. I always enjoy a good gun battle and the one that just thrilled me was the Bauer vs. Helicopter rooftop battle. It parallels Snake vs. Liquid in the Hind D - so much that it felt like I was playing that same battle again. I mean that as a compliment. The main difference is that where Snake and Liquid used rockets, Jack and the Helicopter use machine guns [or whirling turret of destruction as I call it.] I died on this stage more times than I care to remember. But when I finally beat that chopper there was a real sense of satisfaction. That was the moment I knew that the game was worth playing despite its minor issues.

The other major highlight was being Tony Almeida running away from another similar helicopter later in the game. The stage takes place on the waterfront and sees Tony running from cover to cover as the helicopter relentlessly pursues him.

At one point he makes mad dash along a walkway next to a glass wall and into a large building. When he runs the walkway the helicopter fires, shattering the glass wall all over the show and he barely survives. That stage/ scene was just one of those rare action game moments where you just stop and go "Wow that was really cool."

The driving stages are enjoyable, but the controls for those sections are a bit dodgy. While I liked these pursuit and escape driving stages, the police chase stages totally annoyed me and I feel they should have just been left out of the game altogether.

The bomb defusing, door code and computer hacking mini-games were surprisingly fun. They really mix up the stages, so that you don't get bored of the same style of gameplay. It's the kind of varied and interesting pacing I'd like to see in more games.

Overall 24 is a good looking game. The likenesses of the actors are well modelled, except that they look like they are made of plastic cheese or something. The skin textures seem to be the thing that's odd. But it's hard to pinpoint, after a while you get used to it though. The biggest tragedy, in my opinion, is that the luscious, heavenly Kim Bauer [Elisha Cuthbert] is a shadow of her TV counterpart. I didn't think the likenesses was that big a deal until I hired those episodes of 24 Season Two I mentioned earlier. Coming back to the game, it was jarring just how unreal the character models looked. Here, I am referring to the cut scene facial models, used in close ups, phone calls etc. During play, the characters look fine.

As I said earlier, the voice acting is great and all the actors voice their respective characters. So, all together, the presentation is quite impressive. In fact the whole package comes together nicely to really immerse you in the world of Jack Bauer, CTU and 24.

While the game is nice to look at, it's rough around the edges as is common on the PS2. Overall the game was very impressive in its looks, but if you slow down and look close at the graphics they seem a little dull. But that doesn't affect how the game plays in any way, it just made think "I wonder how this would have looked if it had been optimised for the PS2?" Sammy's note: I thought it had been. The game was developed as a PlayStation 2 exclusive.

One thing I have noticed about great licensed games is the sound quality. The sound can really make or break a licensed game - well the ones that relate to TV and film in their cinematic style anyhow. Fortunately for us 24 sounds great. The voice acting is as good as it gets, the gun sounds are satisfying while the music adds adequate dramatic tension in just the right moments.

I'm amazed at how a game that is fun, [but rather average is terms of pure gameplay] can be transformed into a totally immersive experience thanks to top notch audio. Take any of the EA Lord of the Rings games. Good fun yeah? Well try playing one with the sound off. You'll soon see average gameplay tarted up with fancy sound and nice overall production values. Is it cheesy, is it a cheap trick? Yeah, to a degree, but in the case of both LOTR and 24 - the illusion is pulled off in spectacular fashion. Like, if you've ever watched a magician in real life, or on TV - you know from the get go that they are there to bullshit you. You know it's a con, but that doesn't stop it from being a great act. And so it is with 24: The Game. Average but fun gameplay + quality voices from each of the shows actors + movie quality sound/lush presentation = hell of a good time.

While I really enjoyed playing 24, is has its downsides. Most missions will require multiple plays to reach the end. At times the frustration factor can get high. Like pissing me off so much that I stop playing the game for three days to avoid going insane. I'm being totally serious with that statement. [It was the second police chase stage for anyone curious].

I think there is a time to bitch, and a time not to bitch. Don't take this as a personal [but valid] criticism of 24, so much as it is a criticism of what happens too often in games in general. Feel free to skip to the final paragraph if you like. I'm going to state again that 24 is a fun game, I LIKE it and had a great time playing it. But I strongly feel that too many American games developers are lazy pricks when it comes to play testing. Now I don't expect every game to be perfect, I don't expect every game to be as thoroughly tested as a first party Nintendo title. But when an enemy is shooting me point blank in the back - I expect to be able to turn around and return fire. In practice it sounds simple enough. So why then in 24 can this not be done? Why does the camera force you to face forwards, even if you press the button to 'snap' to the direction you are facing? Why does it not allow you to turn around and target even if you manually swing the camera around to face the enemy? This takes about four seconds, resulting in losing half your health. Instead you can either use a particularly awkward and dodgy elbow against an off-screen enemy you cannot see, or you can run backwards until you can see the enemy on screen then target them. The elbow knocks them over, but they keep getting up so the best tactic is to run backwards. I wish this was the only silly part of 24 but it's not. However it is the worst and more play testing would have made it painfully obvious that this issue needed addressing before release. To be fair though, most licensed game developers get some sort of pressure from the corporate monkey-nutted goons who know nothing about games to get the product out the door ASAP. But you know what? Shit like that doesn't change unless enough people speak up. 'Quality control' are not words just to be thrown around, people. I'm not trying to be overly negative, but I don't feel I'd be doing my job as a contributor to Buttonhole.com.au if I just lied, or glossed over things in my review. So take this manly chunk of a paragraph with a grain of salt.

24: PS2 game screenshot 2
Cigarettes will kill you
24 was one of my favourite games I've had to review so far for Buttonhole. 24 was also the review game that made me swear the most at the TV screen while playing it. Nowhere near as much swearing as when I play Spiderman, but I'm sure you're sick of hearing about that by now. It has a few hiccups, but nothing so big that it will stop you from playing to the finish.

It takes around fifteen hours to complete and features a good variety of different types of gameplay. The 'action' stages with Bauer and Chase makes up about 70% of the game. The driving puzzles and interrogations make up the rest. Any stage, once completed, can be selected from the "previously on 24" menu. Also from there, you're able to replay any of the cut scenes; you can even play then all continuously if you've got a couple of hours to spare.

Cool scripted sequences, lots of explosions, proper voice acting, Old Angry Man Bauer and plenty of guns to shoot and terrorists to kill. A grand day out in my opinion. Remember, it all takes place in one day, however impossible that may seem. Fans of 24, you are in for a treat.


by: Australian Ninja

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Can't be stuffed reading all that? This sentence is for you: "Fun game, worth playing"

Overall:
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Toons
ToonlogoBy Borgieman

Manifest '07 Report

Ninja's note: Once again, it's time for another Buttonhole report on the Melbourne Anime Festival, otherwise known as Manifest 2007. If you missed Ichibod's feature on a previous Manifest, check it out here. This Manifest coverage comes to you courtesy of forum regular and newest Buttonhole contributor Borgieman, a cool guy who knows his Anime and has been known to play a video game or two. So read on true believers! A Day at Manifest 2007

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Toons
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Only Yesterday. Anime Review

The problem with having favourite films is that every time I watch another Studio Ghibli film it becomes my new favourite. It kind of renders the word 'favourite' meaningless when every Studio Ghibli film takes my breath away. Still, I can't complain about being thoroughly entertained by this whimsical and insightful film, "Only Yesterday". This gem was directed by Isao Takahata, well known for his anime film Grave of the Fireflies. Although Only Yesterday is a light hearted film that ambles along at a leisurely pace, it still manages to explore themes such as love, work, family relationship struggles, following your dreams and country versus city living. In the film, the main character Taeko decides to take a working vacation in the country, getting away from her office bound job and unexpectedly starts t

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Toons
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Speed Grapher V1. Anime Review

Well, "I don't like it" was my initial feeling when viewing this Anime for the first time. Subsequent viewings haven't changed my views a great deal. Nothing really stands out as being absolute shit but it seems that this series tries too hard. It's almost like they were more interested in creating something 'edgy' and confronting but sadly forgot to include an even remotely palatable story. The hero of this particular piece is a bloke called Tatsumi Saiga. Tatsumi is a photographer and a veteran war journalist for whom taking photos has become somewhat of a fetish. Although he seems to have become jaded - nothing is worth wasting his film on - that is, at least until he stumbles across an exclusive club for the mega rich

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