Shopping at Amazon

Amazon’s Associate program is the only financial support this site has. (Yes, there are also Google AdSense banners on the page. I expect those to generate some actual income around the time the sun finally gutters out and the last man on earth is left staring into the lonely void.)

If you plan to shop at Amazon for Christmas or Hanukkah this year, please consider accessing the Amazon site through my links, such as the one below. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and I get 4%-6% on each sale just because you click through from this page.

Thanks.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=staofpla-20&o=1&p=12&l=ur1&category=amazonhomepage&f=ifr

RPG/ADVENTURE GAME OF THE YEAR: Mass Effect 2

Role-playing and adventure games each used to have their own category in the Games 100, back in those crazy days when Roberta Williams roamed the plains and gold boxes stuffed with floppy treasures and code wheels were stacked on every shelf. 

I’m pretty sure I remember my predecessor/boss, Burt Hochberg, even having separate categories for different kinds of adventure games, such as “humorous” and “science-fiction,” but the again Burt was always pretty specific about his game categories. This may merely be a gin-induced false memory, but I swear I remember him asking me once, “Tommy my boy, do you think we should give an award for Best Puzzle Game Played With Marbles”? (In my memory, Burt always sounds like Jackie Mason for some reason.)

Well, “RPG” has become a remarkably fluid category. It’s almost de rigueur for action games nowadays to have some element of role-playing (achievements, skills, leveling), thus blurring the lines. Meanwhile, the graphical adventure genre cratered about a decade ago and never really recovered, no matter how hard Telltale Games keeps trying to bring it back. I have so few in each category that they wound up being combined. 
Meanwhile, “Action” games have grown like the giant fungal mats of Oregon. RPGs are becoming more actiony and action games are becoming more RPGish. What is Red Dead Redemption? Clearly there is a role-playing game at the heart of it, but the part of me that finished every Gold Box, Baldur’s Gate, Ultima, Might & Magic, and Wizardy game balks at calling RDR a real RPG. It’s just … not. 
My dividing line is usually stats. If a game is has character building, races, classes, stats, skills, experience points, leveling, narrative, and questing, then it’s an RPG. If it’s missing any of those features, then it’s probably not an RPG. Unless I think it is. It’s pretty confusing. 
Well, this year was kind of a no-brainer for the RPG award. BioWare is one of the finest purveyors of RPGishness around, and Mass Effect 2 is a wonderworld of riches. The second outing sharpens the gameplay, expands the universe, and delivers a new, even more compelling storyline. Although the original had the look and control of a third-person action game, it was an RPG in its particulars. The sequel streamlines the combat and pushes it a little more to the forefront, but does so without sacrificing any of the character and narrative depth that made the original such a hit.
2010 was also the year I got serious about digging deeper into DragonAge, and I have not yet reached the bottom. It’s a truly beautiful piece of work.

App O’ The Mornin’: Flight Control Review

Grade: A
Price: $1

If, like me, you hadn’t pick up Flight Control because it looked like a boring traffic-pathing game, go ahead and rectify that error right now by springing for the1-buck download. You will not regret it. You can come back and finish the review later.

Flight Control might not seem like a hot purchase, since it appears to nothing more that a dry air traffic control game. Although it is an air traffic control game, there’s nothing dry about it. Everything is crisp and professional, from the appealing graphics (done in the style of those hilarious Emergency Landing Cards that inform you of the most comfortable position in which to meet your fiery doom) to the cocktail lounge soundtrack. I’m not sure where the developers, Firemint, came from, but they sure now how to make a game.

The gameplay itself is so perfectly wedded to the touchscreen format that I can’t imagine it existing on any other platform. The games is based around 5 different single-screen landing field layouts. Planes and helicopters of differing sizes, speeds, and colors enter the map, and must be sent to the correcting landing spot without plowing into any other aircraft. This is done by drawing a path, which the aircraft will follow.

The action starts slowly, but soon gets fairly tense as the skies crowd and different kinds of planes enter the patterns. You’ll have to juggle intersecting paths and suddenly-appearing aircraft while trying to get everyone lined up and on the ground safely. If two planes crash into each other, the game ends. The goal is to land as many planes as possible before this (inevitably) happens.

There’s a WiFi/Bluetooth mode that lets you handled the traffic duties with a friend, as well as a number of special achievements, such as keeping an aircraft airborne fore 5 minutes straight.

Flight Control is on the short-list of must-have apps for any serious app gamer.