The Phantom Menace

Sorry for only one update last week, but my laptop is pretty much out of commision for awhile (and until it is up and running again, I'll probably just keep to one update a week, but hopefully that won't be for too long).

Anyways, This week since there are no noteworthy movies to talk about (I mean really, it's enough of a joke that Miss Congeniality 2 even got released), I'm going to talk about two great little budget titles (because normally budget title=awful game, but there are rare exceptions) you can pick up for your Xbox that break from the huge splurge of Racing/FPS/Sports titles out there. This was always my biggest complaint against Xbox live-Why pay for an online service that offers such a limited variety? And for awhile, it was really true, as the only title to really break from the mold and offer something unique was Crimson Skies. And don't get me wrong, I love nothing more than getting a few hours of Halo 2 on most nights, but I also like something that makes Xbox live a unique experience, and I think I confidently say there are several titles that do that in addition to the two I'm talking about here (namely Phantasy Star Online & Splinter Cell).

First up is Worms 3D. Now, the Worms series has been around for probably over a decade now, and it's a very charming and simple idea-you and your team of cute worms blow the crap out of other worms (usually up to 3 other teams of 4) with weapons ranging from bazookas to exploding sheep. Now, anyone who's a math wiz will have a huge advantage since things like distance, angle and wind are serious considerations if you really want to strategize, but it's really just a fun little game you can pretty easily pickup and offers plenty of online & multiplayer bang for your buck. My only complaint is that the camera can be fairly atrocious at times, but I'm willing to be a lot more forgiving of this in a $20 title than in a $50 one. And trust me, there are few better moments of joy than blasting your opponents' last worm into oblivion with something as over the top as a full blown air strike or a Holy Hand Grenade.

Second, and much more unique is Phantom Dust. Now, the reviews so far have said this is a lot like a card game and while that is true in many aspects that isn't really fair to people like me who believe card-based video games are the work of Satan himself (Pokemon's an easy target, but just try playing the card games in any rpg lately, they are becoming a disturbing staple in that genre). I guess saying Phantom Dust is like a card game is just a result of trying to classify it into some genre, because the truth is there's NO game out there quite like this one. It's one of those rare oddities that escaped from overseas for us lucky few who are bold enough to take a risk on such an oddball but unique and entertaining title. You do collect and assemble decks of sorts of powers you collect that all have distinct advantages and disadvantages (and much like a card game, once your deck runs out, you are screwed), but not in the traditional complicated card game way. PD manages to keep it as simple and/or as complicated as you like depending on your choice of arsenal (do you go for the big one time powermoves, the advanced defensive ones, or a mix?). And much like Worms 3D, it does have some camera and balance issues, but it's just an incredibly fun thing to play and well worth your $20.

But the real gem of each of these, like most niche titles, is the smaller community of gamers. I like be able to find a bunch of people to play Halo 2 with online at any time of the day, but in having these games less than a week I've already ran into people I've played before, and that's actually I good thing since I know I won't be dealing with some homphopic racist prepubescent idiot who is also high and or drunk like I do on occasion when playing the more mainstream games.

That's all for now and hope to see you online...

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