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Sack BoySunny days! Oh those sunny, sunny days,

Ain’t nothing better in the world you know, than lying in the sun with your Nintendo…

Well, maybe you ought to keep it in the shade 🙂

It’s a hot summer Sunday afternoon here in Vancouver. So the good Doctor thought now would be a perfect time to catch up on the video game news with another edition of ‘Power Up!’.

It’s hard to believe that the Sony Playstation 3 title Little Big Planet has been out for not quite a year. This highly creative, imaginative, award winning platform style game just passed a major milestone – one milllion user created levels! To mark the occasion, Sony Computer Entertainment released a video that showcases a range of levels crafted by talented players:

What surprises me is that there are so many people out there who own a Playstation 3! One of the original comments about Little Big Planet was that it seemed the sort of title you might find for the Nintendo Wii.

Speaking of Nintendo, they announced some very interesting titles at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) last month. New games are coming out that make use of the Wii balance board. There are approximately six million boards currently in North American homes thanks to sales of Wii Fit. If you’re a fan of Sega’s Super Monkey Ball, then prepare to be challenged by Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll, coming out in 2010. The game play is controlled by using the balance board.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii was introduced, featuring Mario, Yoshi, and all the characters we know from the Mushroom Kingdom. It astounds me that I’ve known Mario now for…28 years! I’ll never forget that first fateful meeting beside the butcher counter of the local corner grocery store at  the Cadboro Bay shopping village in Victoria back in 1981. If I only knew then how my infatuation with Donkey Kong would lead to getting involved in the video game business…

And finally, a game for everyone’s inner pirate to roam the seas and plunder the islands for treasure and glory! Telltale Games is unleashing new episodes of the classic adventure comedy Monkey Island for the PC and the Wii. It’s fair to say that this series, originally created by Lucas Arts in the 1990’s, is renowned for its clever use of comedy and all things piratical. In this installment, Tales of Monkey Island, our swashbuckling, wet behind the ears hero Guybrush Threepwood and the love of his life Governor Elaine Marley confront the maggoty, treacherous, overly ripe zombie ghost pirate Le Chuck.

Adventure, gold, romance, and monkeys! Arghhhhhh! Tis’  the pirates’ life for me!

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

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Sergeant PepperIf there’s one thing I’m grateful for in my life, it’s that my parents had a huge record collection when I was a child in the 1960’s. I was raised in a home where music was always played. One of my earliest memories is dancing wildly to Collette Renard singing a song from the comedy Irma La Douce when  I was three years old. My mother said I spun around and around and around. I was introduced to folk music from Bob Dylan, The Weavers, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. My parents’ collection included the controversial musical Hair. At eight years old, I knew the lyrics to Age of Aquarius by heart. But if I had to name a group that was the soundtrack for my childhood, it would be the Fab Four from Liverpool – George, John, Paul, and Ringo.

There are so many Beatles songs I can associate with my childhood. I remember hearing ‘I’ll Follow the Sun‘ when I was five years old. ‘All You Need is Love’ as we drove along a highway in rural Ontario on a rainy day when I was eight. ‘Yellow Submarine‘ buying vanilla chocolate chip ice cream at Britannia Bay in Ottawa on a hot summer afternoon when I was nine. I also remember my mother refusing to let me see the animated movie ‘Yellow Submarine‘. In retrospect, maybe she was right. The imagery of that film was really psychadelic. Or maybe she feared I’d turn into a flower child like some of my babysitters 🙂 My most favourite memory is hearing ‘Maxwell’s Hammer‘ on my grandfather’s enormous sound system at Glen Lake in Langford, BC, when I was ten. When I turned twelve, the songs that marked the passage into my turbulent teenage years were ‘Hey Jude‘ and ‘Let it Be‘.

Even though the band long since dissolved, and George and John departed this world for the ethereal Strawberry Fields, the music of the Beatles still endures decades later. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise and enthusiasm when it was announced at this year’s 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) that The Beatles: Rockband for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii, will make its global debut on September 9, 2009 – the same day as the re-release of all their albums.

This idea for this game was originally championed by George Harrison’s son Dhani. It was presented to Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono –  the majority shareholders of Apple Corps. It was developed by Harmonix in collaboration with Apple Corps. The game follows the history of the Fab Four – you actually choose which Beatle you want to play. Are you the enigmatic John? The contemplative George? The cool Paul? Or the mellow Ringo? The instruments are modelled on the drums and guitars used by the Beatles. The soundtrack includes 45 original titles remastered by the engineers at the Apple Corps studios. There’s also actual in-studio dialogue from the Fab Four as well.

I have no doubts that The Beatles: Rockband is going to be incredibly successful when it makes its worldwide debut on September 9. There was a huge reaction to it at E3, especially when Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr showed up to give their blessing. I couldn’t help but find it amusing to see the mostly 20 something audience wildly cheering for a group who played before most of them were even born! <Insert snide comment about these gosh darned kids today and their music> 🙂

On another note, it strikes me that a new cultural threshold is being crossed when a video game becomes a platform to acquaint and re-acquaint people with such a global influence as the history, music, and visual style of the Beatles. It’s almost a ‘karma’ sort of thing that the son of a Beatle would bring forward this idea and help to make it happen. Somewhere George Harrison must be smiling.

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

Plants Vs ZombiesGawd I hate zombies! Drooling, moaning, shambling, undead brain eating vagrants! Nothing ruins a summer barbecue like an army of zombie freeloaders intent on having your brains for an entree’! You can’t argue with them, reason with them, or toss them out of your yard with a pitch fork. They just keep coming in endless maggoty masses.

No wonder they’re so entertaining 🙂

Pop Cap Games recently released Plants Versus Zombies; the most hilarious, incredibly entertaining game I’ve played in a long time. If you haven’t heard of Pop Cap, the company started in 2000 and is well known for its collection of ‘casual’ games, including Bookworm, Insaniquarium, Zuma, and many other titles. Their most famous title is Bejeweled, released in 2002, which was downloaded 25 million times and generated $100 million dollars in revenues. Unlike video games you buy at a store, casual games are available online and offer players demo versions to ‘try before you buy’. The growth of the casual game market has exploded in the last five years. According to the Casual Games Association, global revenues for casual games in 2007 were $2.25 billion dollars. People can play them on Apple, PC, and mobile devices. They’re also available for video game consoles through XBox Live and the Nintendo Wii.

Most video games featuring zombies go for horror and suspense – but this title is all about humour and nonsense, a commodity sorely lacking in most video games. I mean, how can you take a zombie bobsled team seriously?

In a nutshell (or walnut shell), this game is about holding off the zombie hordes from eating your brains by defending your house with an army of powerful plants. You collect sunlight with sunflowers and choose from a wide variety of packaged plant seeds that you grow and use against the zombies. The way you collect seed packets reminds me very much of fantasy card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon.  The battle rages from the front yard to the backyard. Even your pool isn’t safe! In a clever twist, the game shifts between day and night. Plants that work in sunlight don’t always prove effective in moonlight. By the way, these zombies may be thicker than mud, but they’re not completely brainless – they scraped up enough living neurons to develop their own rancid arsenal. I mean, when is the last time you saw a zombie in a wetsuit riding an undead dolphin? Or a zombie driving a ‘Zomboni’ across your yard?

Plants Versus Zombies features a slew of dastardly clever mini-games, a puzzle mode, a survival mode, and even a ‘Zen Garden’ you grow by collecting plants that appear during play. There’s also a fiendishly fun puzzle called ‘I, Zombie’ where the tables are turned – the player commands the zombie horde.  ‘Crazy Dave’ offers up items and unusual advice about dealing with the undead.

Need one more reason to play Plants Versus Zombies? Check out this very funny music video:

Braaaiinnnnnsss! Need I say more?

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

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Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum!, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anthony Gurr and Doctor Arkanoid - Revelations From the Inner Sanctum! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.