Thursday, April 27, 2006

Going pro

I became a search engine marketing guy. Today I got my Google certification to show for it.

The more I study Google AdWords, the better the whole system seems. It's easy to use it all wrong, effectively burning money on zero-value contacts, and effective use does necessitate forethrought, planning, upkeep and general knowhow. I'm not saying it's some arcane art which takes months to understand - indeed, the basics are very easy to grasp, just that it's complicated enough to warrant the use of a professional to handle it for you.

Enough shop talk. What's relative (AdWords pun, I am so sorry) is that proficiency with professional tools means more money to spend on games. And games-front, it's been exclusively Advance Wars Dual Strike for me. I'm on the second planet of Knights Of The Old Republic II, but really the lure of Nintendo's strategy goodness is much stronger than the Force. Yesterday, I was thrilled to have to try a mission four times before finally overcoming it.

I've tried to participate in my wife's Animal Crossing Wild World mischiefs (by digging hidden holes and stomping on neighbor's flowers), but even my King Tut mask (which is awesome) can't put up a fight.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On pain, and introducing the Handan DVB-T 6000

I've now been using the Nintendo DS for some time. Yesterday, I played for close to four hours. This is mostly a note on ergonomics. Playing the amazing Advance Wars DS, I have absolutely no problem with ergonomics. With Animal Crossing, it becomes an issue after a prolonged stay in the virtual village. (Say, half an hour in my hands.)

But I've played a little GBA F-Zero on it, and it's so excruciating, you'd swear it was meant to inflict pain. I literally can't pass a single game without gritting my teeth in agony. Seriously, I'm not going to buy any straight-on action titles for the machine. Yes, Castlevania may warrant an extended test-run on a friend's copy... Then again, it's really not the ideal environment for those kinds of games, either.

But Advance Wars really does rock a lot. The campaign is ideally challenging - you'll make progress, but the highest ranks take some doing. The additional single missions are very challenging: I haven't been so thoroughly beaten in too long a time.

In totally unrelated news, we bought a Handan DVB-T 6000 digital receiver/HDD-recorder to replace the old VHS VCR. Installation was easy - and free and very able Finnish suport was available on the phone even at 20:57 when I had a problem! The image does seem a little worse than on our previous (non-recording) digital receiver, but otherwise it's swell. We've only tested the thing so far, but the menus seem easy enough and I'm having high hopes. I do think I'll be watching more TV in the near future, if only because it's so easy to "bookmark" shows for later viewing, without the need to manually enter showtimes and so on. It very much eliminates the need for a separate TV guide, too.

Not that there were too many choices in the matter. We weren't willing to pay more than 500€ for the thing (it was 427€), we had to get a twin-tuner model and it had to have a minimum of 160 gb of HDD space. There was a whopping two models to choose from, then, and one of them was getting consistently better reviews. We thought that we had to give up the chance to get data out of the machine, but they've actually added two-way connectivity as a software update to the USB channel. Cool.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Mecha does the 360

I'm a sucker for mecha. That is, fictional Japanese machines of war, typically meaning giant humanoid robots wielding swords and machineguns. So Xboxyde's new images of the forthcoming Xbox 360 Gundam game have me positively excited. Xbox is sorely missing out on mecha. There's only the legendary Steel Battalion, but I don't have the kind of money to buy it. There is a handful of disappointing titles available, but nothing to match the Playstation's Armored Core and Gundam games.

This would be the second reason to get a 360. Last night we checked out Oblivion over at a friend's (med-spec) PC. It was sweet: just like Morrowind, only better. The advances didn't feel like major, it was still the same game, but suitably advanced. The graphical splendor was indeed impressive, but on the other hand the more realistic surroundings made the shortcomings of the gameworld's logical consistency only more grating. That was the first time we thought that maybe we should check out the 360.

Then there's Xbox Live Arcade, which sports the likes of Smash TV, Mutant Storm, Geometry Wars and whatnot. The "XBLA" has interested me from the get-go, but buying a brand new console just to play "old games" doesn't seem like a very smart thing to do.

With Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (I actually used to play in a Ghost Recon clan on the PC) and the new Japanese RPGs coming out, maybe this summer would see me buying a 360. But so far there have been really too few reasons to do so, especially since we don't have a HDTV telly.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Nintendo DS

We bought a blue Nintendo DS. I haven't been terribly excited about it before, but I am a satisfied customer, now. The plastic looks and feels a little cheap, it's not very ergonomic, it's really quite large and the second screen feels gimmicky. Nevertheless, the whole package does work. And buying one of the colored versions also makes it look a lot better. Personally, I would've preferred the pink one, but my wife wouldn't accept it.

I've known a long time that I must get a Nintendo handheld. We've been thinking about the Gameboy Advance SP, but the DS is newer and it plays the GBA games. What really landed the deal, for us, was Animal Crossing: Wild World. We both played AC on the Gamecube a lot, and this is simply a better version of the same vision. There is one problem, though: the controls feel a little awkward. I don't know if it's because I'm left-handed or what, but I can't find a satisfactory method to control AC for an extended period. Then again, it really is best in frequent but short sessions. The upper screen is almost useless. I think Wild World is the only game, to date, which I've bought on release.

In addition to Animal Crossing, I really wanted Advance Wars: Dual Strike. It kicks butt. I appreciate the challenge: I've already had to yield one mission and I haven't been getting straight S grades. It does some interesting things with the upper screen, but mostly it's redundant. The touch interface works fine, though you don't need it.

Games I'm looking forward to on the DS include the new Pokémon (Diamond/Pearl), the new handheld Zelda (Phantom Hourglass), New Mario Bros, Zookeeper and some Castlevania. Yes, mostly updates to previous GBA successes, but hey, whatever.

I haven't got around to checking out the Wifi abilities of the console yet, so more on that some other time. Looking forward to head-to-head Advance Wars. And crossing animals, of course! Imagine the babies of today: they won't recognize a cable when they grow up. Yes, we used need those on our controllers. Yes, they maimed people, lying around in livingrooms, creating deathtraps and unsolvable knots.

In geek-related news, they rolled out the new Coca-Cola Light. It's okay. I did prefer the old one. I would've loved to post a link to a cool Coke site, but disappointingly ain't worth a visit.