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Wall Street is being occupied, the glaciers are melting, and Justin Bieber is releasing a Christmas album. I’d say it’s long overdue for a new issue of Power Up!

Earlier this year, London Bridge was literally falling down. Many places in the old town were falling down and burning because of the riots . Not only that, the media establishment and Parliament were fanning the flames with the news about Rupert Murdoch and News of the World hacking into the phones of famous and not so famous people. You know videogames are part of the mainstream culture when they’re being used for political commentary.

 

Meanwhile, Sesame Street continued its long time domination of the videogame industry with this secretly recorded tape showing legendary game designer Tim Schaefer desperately trying to pitch Sesame Street’s hungriest venture capitalist on his latest idea.

Cookie Monster would make an excellent videogame critic. Here’s how you’d know if you have a surefire hit on your hands.

Doctor Arkanoid

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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

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

Workers of the World Unite! It’s time for another edition of Power Up!

Six Days in FallujahIn Power Up 4! on April 8th, I wrote about Konami Digital Entertainment working with Atomic Games in North Carolina to produce Six Days in Fallujah, a Playstation 3 title that recreated this well known battle in Iraq. Now it appears that Konami is ‘bugging out’ of the project according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper. The company received many negative comments and e-mails from the United Kingdom and the United States that were highly critical of the company’s plan to publish this game. Game Politics also reports that the president of Atomic Games made comments at a recent Konami sponsored event that seemed to imply Iraqi insurgents were consulted during its development.

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Once upon a time a wise old game developer wrote a one page sheet that he called ‘The Ten Commandments of Game Design’. There are other game developers who have since written their own interpretations, but the  commandment I always tried to follow was this one:

‘Thou shalt design the game for the player and not for thyself.’

It’s really quite simple: Design the game for the person who will be playing it, not for your own gratification. Unfortunately, there are a goodly number of game developers who still make games that they want to play and therefore they assume everyone else will want to play. Every year several thousand game titles are released; the overwhelming majority of them are financial failures. Video game publishing is like any other entertainment industry. You churn out a mountain of dreck and hope some real gems will turn up.

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Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the Power Up trail!

ToddlersHow young is too young for children to start playing video games? Take a look at some interesting stories from Citizen Gamer that deal with this controversial question. What do you think?

Speaking of kids and computers, there’s a news story from Kentucky about $300,000 USD in federal funding to develop a computer game that teaches middle school and high school students about protecting themselves from online predators.

Here’s a story that emphasizes why it’s important for parents to scrutinize what kind of video games they buy for their children. A mother bought a new Playstation Portable console for her six year old son at a Wal-Mart in Manatee, Florida. The little boy turned it on and discovered all kinds of pornographic images concealed in the PSP memory card. You can view the news report here.

There’s plenty of crude, offensive language to be found in online game chat. Microsoft’s XBox Live Channel recently came under fire from American gay and lesbian activists for its policies on this matter.

Should there be a ‘sin tax’ on video games because some of them are considered violent? In Europe and the United States, the issue is starting to receive more attention than in past years. Here’s a story from the Hartford Examiner in Connecticut.

It might surprise you to know that there are several billion people in the world who don’t play video games because they can’t afford them! But a San Diego based company called Zeebo is hoping to change that with their development of a low cost video game console that can be sold in countries like Brazil, China, India, Russia, and other emerging markets.

Doctor ArkanoidDoctor Arkanoid

Maddie and Hannah Modelling Birthday Mii Shirts

Maddie and Hannah Modelling Birthday Mii Shirts

Planning birthday parties for children is an annual ritual that drives most parents insane. Even the most loving, patient mums and dads are sometimes brought to their knees by birthday party madness! I’ve likened the experience to wrangling a herd of cats high on catnip! Over the years, I’ve planned, organized, and entertained kids’ parties with a wide variety of themes, from the Olympics to pirates, princesses to Star Wars. So imagine my surprise when Dan, my close friend of many years and father to my adorable nieces, recently asked me to help with a Nintendo Wii birthday party. The idea for the party came from the birthday girl, my now 10 year old niece Hannah. (Note – Clever child! Takes after her uncle you know!)

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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.