Author - Judgeman

Sam and Max: They Stole Max’s Brain! – A PC Review

Sam and Max are at it again with the release of Telltale Games newest Sam and Max episode, They Stole Max’s Brain! We left Sam and Max at the end of The Tomb of Sammun-mak with Sam finding his partner’s brain had been removed while Sam was in the bathroom. Sam now not only has to find out who stole the Devil’s Toybox, but also has to locate and re-insert Max’s brain before his body starts to smell worse then it already does.

Story (Waring: This section contains spoilers):
The story of They Stole Max’s Brain begins where The Tomb of Sammun-mak leaves off. Sam has returned from the bathroom to find that Max’s brain has been cut out and removed. Seeing his friend’s brainless body lying on the floor is enough to send Sam over the edge. In a quick flash back sequence, Sam remembers his interrogation training and uses it on the two mole cultists that were guarding the Devil’s Toybox. I will talk about this new game play technique in the next section, but I have to say that it was a neat deviation from the norm with Sam and Max games. Armed with the knowledge that the fiend who stole Max’s brain also took the Devil’s Toybox, Sam hits the town in a blind rage to find out where Max’s brain is. He interrogates Frankie the Rat, a European Tourist, and one of General Skun-Ka-Pe’s old minions to discover that it was indeed General Skun-Ka-Pe who took Max’s brain in order to run his toy-searching machine.

Sam follows the trail of clues and it leads him to the Museum of Mostly Natural History. There, he finds Max’s brain in a jar of Grandpa Stinky’s brain preserving Demon Broth. He also finds both General Skun-Ka-Pe and Anton Papierwaite battling over who will control the Devil’s Toybox. Deciding to join forces in order to defeat Sam, Skun-Ka-Pe and Papierwaite put aside their differences and focus on summoning every toy in the universe in order to complete their goals. General Skun-Ka-Pe will get the universe to control while Anton Papierwaite will rule the Earth with his master, Yogg-Saggoth. While I do not want to spoil too much of the story for you, just know that everything goes horribly wrong for Sam and Max and they soon find themselves on a world that has had it’s history completely re-written, and it’s Max’s job to sort it out.

Telltale Games continues the strong story writing with this episode. The beginning section that had Sam interrogating other characters, was completely told in a noir style, with inner character dialog and even the nice cut scenes showing Sam driving past various neon signs. Once Sam enters the museum, the style of the game returns to the style that has been used for the last two episodes. Sol, the museum guard cockroach, makes his appearance in this episode and is a very nice addition to the Sam and Max mix. This episode still has a ton of nice pop culture references, but my favorite has to be the Hindenburg meets Lovecraft line as Sam burns the tapestry of Yog-Saggoth and, of course, the Black Flag reference.

As I said earlier, the biggest gameplay difference in They Stole Max’s Brain is the interrogation game mechanic. Instead of just conversing with the other characters, Sam has to interrupt their speeches in order to gain information. You can call them a liar, threaten them with bodily harm, or use the noir button to convince them of what you want them to believe. This new game play only lasts for the beginning of the episode, then you switch back to the tried and true game play of the Sam and Max franchise when you enter the Museum of Mostly Natural History. Once Max’s body has been revived, to a certain extent, you will also have access to the toys of power from the other episodes, like the fortune telling viewfinder and the telephone of teleportation.

The rest of the game is done in the point-and-click adventure style that we have come to know and love. They Stole Max’s Brain is much more closely related in gameplay to the first episode, The Penal Zone, than the second episode of this season. The game play is linear and forces you to collect clues to solve the puzzles before you move on. Even when you enter the alternate Earth, you will still play the game the same way as before.

While this episode does not have a huge change in gameplay, like The Tomb of Sammun-mak, the interrogation sequences worked very well to spice things up a bit.

Graphics and Audio:
The graphics are exactly the same as they have been throughout this season of Sam and Max. However, for the first time this season, I did experience a couple of graphical glitches. These glitches were very minor and did not disrupt the gameplay, but were noticeable all the same. For instance, when Sam went to shoot Max’s body that was disguised as the Hindenburg, the gun was completely sideways and not pointing where Sam had to shoot. Very minor glitch, but noticeable nonetheless.

The voice acting in They Stole Max’s Brain is as fantastic as it has been all series-long. Sal, the museum guard cockroach, is particularly good this time the cynical nature of how the character is voiced is always entertaining. I also ran into an audio glitch that, while not game-breaking, were still noticable. The audio glitch occurred whenever I heard a boom from the thunder, it seemed to short out all sound from the game for a few seconds. Again, nothing major at all, just something to note.

Final Thoughts:
Sam and Max: They Stole Max’s Brain continues the great storytelling and fantastic voice acting that has become synonymous with this entire season. They Stole Max’s Brain! introduces the noir gameplay style that has Sam interrogating characters to locate Max’s brain. While this episode did have some graphical and audio glitches, these glitches were so minor that they did not interrupt game play at all and may even be fixed prior to release. If you have been following Sam and Max this season, then you absolutely must pick up the newest episode. If you have yet to get into this new season, you really should go back and start at episode 1 before moving onto They Stole Max’s Brain! They Stole Max’s Brain is available today for the PC and PlayStation 3.

Alice Cooper Track Pack Hits Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero

Activision has announced that the Alice Cooper Track Pack has gone live for download for both Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero. We previewed the Alice Cooper Track Pack last week in The Weekly Setlist, so you can take an in depth look at my thoughts on the tracks that are available. The Alice Cooper Track Pack is now available via Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 440 Microsoft Points, from the PlayStation Store for $5.49 and the Wii Shop Channel for 550 Wii Points.

Metal Gear Solid: Rising E3 2010 Trailer

Konami Digital Entertainment announced the very first trailer of the new Metal Gear Solid game called Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Metal Gear Solid: Rising is a third person action game that will use an entirely new engine and will feature an updated look for one of the franchises main heroes, Raiden. Raiden, who was last seen in 2001’s Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty, will be completely re-imagined with upgraded cyborg components resulting in a new fluid style of game play called ‘Lightning Bolt Action’.

Team Fortress 2 Hits the Mac Today

The PC versus Mac debate has now become a full fledged war, on Team Fortress 2. Valve Software has announced that Team Fortress 2 is now playable on the Mac starting today and is free to play until June 13th. Mac users and PC users will be able to face off against each other in 2Fort, Badlands, and other great Team Fortress 2 maps. However, Mac users who log in before the free weekend is up will get one thing the PC users will never see, earbuds to put on any of the classes in the game. So get out there and fight for your side, Red versus Blue and Mac versus PC!

The Games of the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo

As E3 quickly approaches, one question comes to the fore front of my mind. What games will be shown at E3? Well, what I have here is a partial list so far of what will be at E3. As always, this list of games can and will change at a moments notice.

2K Games
Mafia II
Sid Meier’s Civilization V
Sid Meier’s Civilization V (Digital Deluxe Edition)
Spec Ops: The Line

505 Games
Naughty Bear

Gray Matter

Battlestar Galactica Online

D3 Publisher
Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction
Ben 10: Ultimate Alien

DTP (Digital Entertainment Pool)
Drakensang: Phileasson’s Secret

DreamCatcher Interactive
Arcania: Gothic IV

See the rest of our Games of the 2010 E3 list, After the Break!
EA Sports
EA Sports MMA

Electronic Arts
Dead Space 2
EA Sports Active 2.0
FIFA Soccer 11
Madden NFL 11
Medal of Honor
NBA Live 11
NCAA Football 11
NHL 11
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11

En Masse Entertainment

Hudson Soft
Deca Sports 3

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Def Jam Rapstar
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
N3: Ninety-Nine Nights II
Rocket Knight
Rush’N Attack Ex-Patriot
Saw II: The Videogame
The Cages: Pro Style Batting Practice

Little Worlds Studio
Animal Color Cross
Color Cross
DJ Mix Bob Sinclar
Sea Pong

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge — Special Edition
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
Star Wars: The Old Republic

MTV Games
Rock Band 3

Crafting Mama
Greg Hastings Paintball 2
Zumba Fitness

Fable III
Gears of War 3
Halo: Reach

Microsoft Game Studios
Project Natal

Namco Bandai
Ace Combat: Joint Assault
Clash of the Titans
Dragon Ball: Origins 2
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2

Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove

Dragon Nest
Dungeon Fighter Online

No Publisher Announced
Color Cross

Paradox Interactive
Commander — Conquest of the Americas
Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade
Ship Simulator 2010: Extremes
Victoria 2

Perfect World Entertainment
Battle of the Immortals
Forsaken World
Heroes of Three Kingdoms

Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring

Sony Computer Entertainment of America
EyePet: Your Virtual Pet
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Gran Turismo 5
Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip
Move Party
SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs
TV SuperStars
The Fight: Lights Out
The Shoot

Sony Online Entertainment
Free Realms

The Last Airbender: The Movie
UFC Undisputed 2010
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw Online
Warhammer 40,000 MMO Project [untitled]Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

Tecmo KOEI
Quantum Theory
Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll
Warriors: Legends of Troy

Trion Worlds
End of Nations
Rift: Planes of Telara

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
F.E.A.R. 3
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
Scribblenauts 2
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

cdv Software Entertainment
Divinity II: Ego Draconis
Divinity II: Flames of Vengeance

Which ones am I personally looking forward to getting my hands on?  Well, for that answer and more keep checking in here for our E3 staff previews within the next couple of weeks!

SteelSeries Kinzu Optical Gaming Mouse – A Review

SteelSeries has just released two new gaming mice, aimed at the hardcore gamer. The Kinzu Optical Mouse and the Xai Laser Mouse have been designed by professional gamers to give you the most responsive mouse you can find. In this review, I look at the little brother of the two gaming mice, the Kinzu Optical Mouse.

Kinzu Technical Specifications
– Ambidextrous lightweight ergonomic finger-tip / palm design
– Slip-resistant coating for superior mouse grip and control
– Gaming Grade optimizations for pro gaming CPI values
– CPI toggle for on-the-fly high & low sensitivity adjustments
– Customizable report rate between 125hz-1000hz / 1 ms response time.
– 3200 Counts Per Inch
– 9375 Frames Per Second
– Acceleration on/off toggle via software
– 50 Inches Per Second and 20G of acceleration
– Low-friction high-performance polyethylene feet

Design and Quality
The Kinzu Optical Gaming Mouse is a very standard looking wired mouse. It has a three button design (left, middle wheel, and right) with the SteelSeries logo on the palm rest. The slip-resistant coating on the mouse feels comfortable while in your hand and will actually do its job of keeping the mouse from slipping out from under you. The Kinzu’s design is also ambidextrous for the lefties out there and is very light weight to keep fatigue down in those marathon gaming sessions. The Kinzu operates with 9375 Frames Per Second at a movement speed of 50 Inches Per Second. The Kinzu is very smooth and reduces all jitter that you would find in mice that are not so gamer-centric.

I did run into two negatives with respect to the actual design of the Kinzu mouse. The first being that it only has three buttons. For my first person shooter testing last week, that was no big deal, since I never used the extra buttons of my previouse mice to play those games. When playing an MMO like World of Warcraft, however, I usually assign various actions to my fourth and fifth mouse buttons. The second negative I found is that the Kinzu Optical Gaming Mouse is very small. I play using a ‘palm grip’ on my mouse, and found that the mouse felt a bit too small in my hands. For those of you that have big hands and use a ‘claw hold’ on your mouse, this should be no problem for you.

The Kinzu Optical Gaming Mouse is very simple to install and is designed this way so you can take it to LAN parties without having to worry about complex install processes. The Kinzu can be a plug and play mouse, ready within seconds after you plug it into an available USB port. The second option for the Kinzu is to download the available software from SteelSeries. This allows you to set up to three profiles for the mouse as well as set its configuration to fit your needs.

In my week of testing the Kinzu Optical Mouse, I ran it through my standard gaming tests and used it in two completely different style of games – World of Warcraft and Team Fortress 2. I created two profiles for myself using the very simple-to-use SteelSeries software, one for my MMO games and the other for my FPS games. I could turn up the acceleration of the mouse for my FPS profile to keep the enemy in my sites, then switch profiles with the acceleration turned down to play my MMOs.

As previously-mentioned, in regards to playing MMOs, I did miss the fourth and fifth buttons tremendously. For MMO playing, the more buttons you have means the more you can bind to them and the less you need to drag your mouse around to activate a spell or equip an item. Other than missing those buttons, the Kinzu performed wonderfully in terms of sensitivity and movement. There was no jitter in the Kinzu’s movement and it was very accurate during my gameplay. Now, we all know that MMOs are not the benchmark for the performance of these mice, so let’s take a look on how the Kinzu helped me in my Team Fortress 2 experience.

Ah, Team Fortress 2… Tell me, why can’t I quit you?!? This was the perfect week for me to test the Kinzu in Team Fortress 2, what with the war going on between the Demomen and the Soldiers of the world. I chose my side (Soldiers FTW) and logged in, armed with the new Kinzu mouse. This, for me, is where the Kinzu was right at hime. The extra buttons I have used on other mice were not missed here. The accuracy of the Kinzu was fantastic and it allowed for some very smooth gameplay. The lightweight design reduced any type of hand cramping or fatigue that I normally experience whenever I play for too long. The Kinzu also showed its durability by surviving my temper tantrums during the week…

Steelseries has developed a very solid entry-level gaming mouse for those of us who do not have truck loads of disposable income. The Kinzu Optical Gaming Mouse is a very lightweight and durable mouse with incredible accuracy and smoothness for a much smaller price tag then it’s bigger brother, the Xai. The Kinzu will feel good in your hands for those marathon gaming sessions – although for me it could have been a tad bigger. The Kinzu’s easy installation also makes it perfect to take with you to a LAN game with your buddies or a full-on gaming competition. The Kinzu Optical Gaming Mouse retails for $34.99 and is available now.

*SteelSeries sent one Kinzu to test over the course of several weeks.

Valve to Clean House in Team Fortress 2

Valve announced today that they will purge any and all items that have been acquired in Team Fortress 2 through a third party idling applications. Valve usually has a no tolerance view on any type of cheating or abusing of the system, but they did not have a policy like this prior to making this announcement. This time, they are only removing the items that were gained by cheating, next time it will be all items in the individual’s inventory. Valve claims that this will only affect 4.5% of the Team Fortress 2 population.

The good news, however, is that if you are one of those people, like myself, that never used the idling applications, you will be given a new hat. Valve has also increased the chance on people earning hats in game overall.

Team Fortress 2 Gets the Full Classless Update

As we mentioned 2 days ago, Team Fortress 2 announced the beginnings of their next update, The Classless Update. Well, the update is complete and ready for download, so what exactly did we get this time? Four new maps, a new play mode and eighteen new hats that I can never seem to get. It’s a solid update, however I can’t help but to be a little disappointed that we didn’t get a class update. Yeah, I know we got two last time, I’m greedy.

Here is a list of the new content:

* Added King Of The Hill game mode.
* Added custom animations played by the losing team during the post-win state. They are moved into third person camera to enjoy them.
* Added lots of new hats.
* Added koth_Viaduct.
* Added ctf_Sawmill
* Added community map Arena_Offblast
* Added community map Cp_Yukon

Spy Sappin’ My Unlockables!

Valve has made some big news in the month of March. No, it was not any type of E3 announcements, but an update to their online first person shooter Team Fortress 2. The Sniper/Spy Update was the largest for Team Fortress 2 so far, containing new achievements and unlockable weapons for both the sniper and the spy and new community maps. There was one more item the update contained that literally blew away the Team Fortress 2 community, the new unlockable system… (cont.)
Prior to the sniper/spy update, players had to earn their new toys via the Steam Achievement System. A player had to successfully complete a number of achievements prior to reaching the class’s milestone reward. These unlockables occured once you reached 10 achievements completed, then at 16 achievements, and finally at 22 achievements. With the new system implemented on May 22nd, the unlockables were now rewarded randomly, regardless of what class you were playing. You could receive any of the available items whenever the system randomly decided to give them to you. This would also include duplicate items. Why duplicate items? Valve announced that they are planning to allow item trading later in a future patch.

My personal feelings on this news was mixed at best. I am a huge fan of Team Fortress 2 and love playing for the unlockables. My frustration is that the last few class updates center around classes that I don’t play. So, if I wanted to get the unlockables for that class, I either had to spend countless hours getting beaten and burned in game, or go to an achievement farming server. With the new system, I got to play my heavy and still have a chance to earn the items. Sure, I hated getting items that I already had and not getting the brand new toys for the sniper and spy, but I understood what Valve was trying to do. I also see how frustrated a player could get by not getting the items through the achievement system. I personally had enough achievements to have all 3 sniper items, but only had 1 due to the random drop system. I saw the benefit to both systems and also saw how each system was flawed. The reaction from the Team Fortress 2 community was a little more one sided then mine.

Valve stated that this update to the unlockable system was due to the demand from most of the Team Fortress 2 community wanting to have more access to the items. The reaction on Valve’s own Team Fortress 2 forums were telling a different story. The majority of the postings on the forums from community members were extremely critical of Valve’s new system, comparing it to the drop system from a very successful MMORPG. It seemed that Valve may have misread the desires of their Team Fortress 2 players in regards to item unlockables.

So, what do you do if you are Valve? Well, give the people both. As of May 29th, Team Fortress 2 players will now be granted the random unlockable items, that also include hats, but will also be able to obtain their items through the nerfed milestone achievement system. The milestones now require far less achievements to unlock. I logged in on Friday and received all of the items that I’ve been missing since the beginning of the update. I see this as the best of both worlds, you now have two paths to reach your unlockables, the achievement system or the random drop system.