Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Halo: Reach is not like my new favorite game, Start the Party

There are supposed to be four seasons per year, but in our family there are five. We squeeze an extra season in between Summer and Fall and it's called Birthday season. Birthday season begins September 1st and continues through mid-October with some after effects reaching into November which, incidentally, is when it actually begins to feel like Fall here in Central Florida. Birthday season is a cherished time of year for us Burbanks. We like surprising each other with just the right gifts, fancy cakes, birthday decor, and all manner of celebratory events. September through the first week of October is like one unending birthday party.

I'm sorry, but Halo: Reach entered my life in the middle of Birthday season and, unfortunately, the game was a bit of a party pooper. Ben and I did play one evening. I created my character, which was, of course, the most enjoyable part of my gaming experience. I liked choosing my logo and the teal and white color scheme that donned my spiffy spacesuit. But then the sci-fi jibber-jabber started and I got the glazed eye that Ben knows so well where I'm staring at the screen but no information is actually registering in my brain. He filled me in on the mission and controls, but I think I distracted him because we accidentally lost the rest of our Halo team and it took a while to figure out where they were. We found our team near a dark, empty station which we explored. Then we went back outside and shot at some monsters, though I mostly hit ostriches, my fellow teammates, or nothing at all. Then I'm not sure what happened. Either there was a bug in the game or we couldn't figure out what to do next, so we quit, never to play it together again. I did try Halo on my own once. I repeated everything Ben and I had done the previous evening and then got stuck, again, at the same exact spot. I had far too many birthday plans swirling through my head to spend too much time figuring out how to continue through the game. Also, due to the crazy influx of game launches that somehow always coincides with Birthday season, there were several games that entered Ben's life that were more alluring to him, (Civilization V, Final Fantasy XIV, Dead Rising to name just a few) so he didn't put on the Halo: Reach pressure when I needed it.

Birthday season always brings an influx of video games into our household. Ben starts shopping for his own birthday sometime around March of each year even though his birthday isn't until late September. He is continuously scouring the internet for release dates and if a game happens to have a release date within plus or minus two weeks of his birthday, he sends me a link to it so that I'll know. Subtle.

He is difficult to shop for, mostly because he either gets everything he wants anyway or because I'd have to be a Computer Science major to understand what he needs. I have to import games from Japan or price compare computer parts or bid for obscure toys on Ebay. Birthday shopping for Ben is not for the faint of heart. To make matters worse, all of his friends and family are even more clueless than I am about what to get him for his birthday so they contact me for ideas. I end up giving away all my best birthday gift ideas, which leaves me empty handed.

This year, though, he bought the whole family a present for our collective Birthday season. The present was the PS Eye, a camera hooked to the PS3 with remotes you use as controllers that track your body movements, much like the Wii but with newer technology – improved responsiveness and better graphics. I rolled my own eye at him when he brought this one home, but had to take my eye rolls back when he popped in the demo for a game that was not only fun and silly and cute, but had an appropriate and timely title: Start the Party, my new favorite game.

Start the Party is a party game that involves mini games like in Warioware but less confusing, a bit like Mario Party but way more fun, and it comes complete with an adorable Little Big Planet-like aesthetic. With childlike delight, I whacked moles, swatted at bugs, nudged baby birds into their nests, and disabled advancing robots with my remote control. Ben said he hadn't seen a game make me giggle like that in a long time. Appropriately, he bought me Start the Party for my birthday.

I only experienced about 30 minutes, total, of Halo: Reach, so I don't really have much to offer by way of review. I guess the lack of review IS my review. Still, in an effort not to have Halo: Reach END my online reviewing party, I will conclude this very belated blog post by describing how Halo: Reach is not like Start the Party.

Start the Party: I never stopped smiling. Halo: Reach:I never started.

Start the Party: Offers many possibilities for dick jokes. Halo: Reach: Usually just involves calling your opponents dicks over a headset which I watched my brother do several hours per night throughout his high school career.

Start the Party: On an obscure planet you shoot at cute metal robots. Halo: Reach: On an obscure planet you shoot at ugly running monsters.

Halo: Reach: Offers me ostriches and Nathan Fillion. Start the Party: Offers me the chance to pretend pick my nose and draw horns and a mustache on Ben's face.

Halo: Reach: I get lost. Start the Party: Ben loses. Ba-da-bum!

I can't blame Birthday season entirely for my lack of game play. I have actually played several video games this past month that I heartily recommend. Chime is everything I want a video game to be, all wrapped into one pretty-sounding package. We've had several fun family game nights with the the PS3's version of Wii Sports, Sports Champions, especially the archery and ping pong games. Turns out I'm as bad at simulated ping pong as I am real life ping pong. Sad. I'm always a sucker for iPhone games like Zynga's Word Scramble Challenge. I fuss about people wasting their life away on WOW, but I could easily rack up hours playing word games on my iPhone.

Birthday season is coming to a close. The days feel crisper and the perfect pumpkin sits on my bookshelf awaiting its imminent carve. My birthday was one of the best ever, even though I turned a truly dreadful number. I was completely spoiled. I look back with very fond memories of my twenties and look forward, with excitement, to the next decade ahead. All our birthday festivities were a success. Ben got his long-awaited Chuck E Cheese birthday, lots of video games and an awesome toy dinosaur transformer that our son wanted so badly he climbed the dresser for it, toppling the dresser, the dinosaur, himself and my favorite vase. (All parties involved are fine). My son enjoyed his own birthday party almost as much as he enjoyed everyone else's. I even pulled off a cute Under the Sea themed birthday cake for his second birthday party despite the near cake-tastrophe of 2010.

Birthday season may have distracted me a bit from my game assignment progress, but I am back now - older, wiser, and ready to Restart the party.

My next game assignment makes me nervous like trying a first hit of cocaine might. I'm being forced to play Frontierville. I may be a bit scared of its addictive properties, but I will try it, sacrificing myself for journalism. If you don't hear from me in two to three week's time, please come drag me out of the frontier. Thanks, and enjoy your Autumn!

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