Category Archives: General Gaming

Musical Monday IX – the unabandoning

Musical Monday

Something really great happened last week. A gamer in the outskirts of the town of Rugby was finally able to rekindle his enjoyment of gaming. With his consoles finally reclaiming the much more significant role they had previously been known to enjoy in his life, and inspired by the helpful placement of Monday, he thought to himself ‘what better time to finally sit down and create the ninth episode of Musical Monday?’

And so it became known. Almost ten months after the previous episode Musical Monday once again washes up on the shores of The Formula Magician. So put that sand castle construction project on hold for just a moment, and let’s have a listen of some of that video game music we all love.

Purple and gold sit proudly in second and third place on my list of favourite colours. They’re colours shared both by my Musical Monday logo and the main character for my first game this week. It was a game that was thoroughly enjoyed by both myself and my sister Kirsty back in those fabled days of the original PlayStation.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon had everything we could have hoped for from one of our favourite series at the time. It had an interesting storyline, all of the characters that helped Spyro on his journey were likable (well, maybe Agent 9 was an exception. I can never seem to find as much love for him as the others). It also had the skateboarding mini-game that me and Kirsty lost hours enjoying as it provided more entertainment than any actual skateboarding video games have ever managed to match.

We found our copy of Spyro 3 last week and wasted no time in returning to the early days of Spyro’s gaming career. The series has never really been able to provide the same touch of excitement since the arrival of the PlayStation 2, and the quite disappointing Enter the Dragonfly. Kirsty also discovered the secret to performing the Raging Ripto skateboard trick. We had only managed to pull this trick off once before, but now Kirsty can do these time and time again, and has since taught me how to do it. Needless to say, poor Hunter no longer stands a chance in those face offs he challenges you to.

Anyways, onto my chosen theme. The music from the level Frozen Glaciers brought the memories of this series flooding back when we arrived in the snow-covered world. This world remains well known for the great yeti boxing match for the grand prize of Bartholomew’s ball, which could easily be one of the game’s most frustrating sections. The frustration would melt away, even on the frozen fields, once you left ringside and allowed this music back into your living room. Such a calming theme that I could happily listen to for hours.

The second game I have chosen for this week’s post is also enjoying a spot on my ‘currently playing’ list. I finally finished the story of Jak II this past weekend. My original plan, as you can imagine, was to move straight onto Jak 3 to continue the story. Unfortunately I realised that I’m currently unable to do this thanks to my decision last year to buy and download each of the Jak and Daxter games individually from the PlayStation Store. This left me without Jak 3 and, with the family holiday and an A2 textbook purchasing spree coming up, limited funds to commit to buying any new games. My attention was there for the taking. Then came a voice.

“Hey, madhatters13! Why have you never played me? Remember when you spent an entire night downloading me in all of my 7GB of glory? Why do that for nothing? You know I’m an excellent game, and don’t even get me started on how many times I’ve heard you listening to my soundtrack. Forget all those other games! Just click my icon, and prepare for a fantastic journey. How about it?”

In my defence, my mind did jump straight to my usual disclaimer that games may be left abandoned for indefinite periods of time. I couldn’t deny it did have a point though, so I took it up on the offer. I clicked Shadow of the Colossus on my PS3’s XMB and have loved every moment of it since. I’m currently on my way to the fifth colossus, Avion, which has been promised to be a pain just to catch. So far things are going pretty well though and I’ve only been reduced to the height of a pancake once. This came curtsey of the third colossi’s sword.

The soundtrack I have chosen has always been one of my favourites ever since I first heard it while listening to the game’s soundtrack. The Opened Way does a fantastic job of building the excitement and tension while you are struggling your way up and attacking the colossi. Hanging on for dear life as each head shake and sudden movement sends Wanda flailing around and leaves you hoping that he doesn’t lose his grip completely. That’s also happened twice to me so far, and it didn’t make for a fun sight seeing Wanda falling from those heights.

[Video upload credits: Spyro: Year of the Dragon -Ronaldowen273 | Shadow of the Colossus – ZEROxxCross]

Camp NaNoWriMo and X360A tournaments – a summer multitasking exam

Apologies for using that forbidden word in the title. Now the A Level exams are all finished for the year it’s left a void in my time that used to be comfortably filled with revision. Not to allow complacency to creep in our lecturers have given us a fair pile of exam questions from the exams we’ll be living in fear of eleven months from now to compliment our summer studies. You are all going to be studying over the summer, right? I’m planning on putting quite a bit of time into practicing my maths. I’ve heard some scary stories about Core 4, so I think I’ll need every advantage I can grasp over the next year. The grades I’m aiming for are AAB, which would nicely meet the entry criteria for both of the chemistry degrees I’m interested in studying at the University of East Anglia, which secured its place as my first choice university last weekend. I never got around to writing a post giving my thoughts on how my exams went this month, but if you are interested I’ve written a brief summary alongside my fellow A Level students over on The Student Room. I’m much more confident than last time it has to be said.

The post-exam feeling of emptiness I have been feeling should be very short-lived now. Two upcoming events hope to flood this free time in a manner similar to a bucket full of water cascading into a poor, unsuspecting jug, which consequently flies off the counter causes two of the family cats to vanish upstairs in a blur of black and white fur. I guess that scenario wouldn’t do the kitchen floor much good either. Best not to try that out later. These events happen to be Camp NaNoWriMo and the X360A Genre Tournament.

In a showcase of better preparation than November my novel has been named more than ten minutes in advance of the event starting. Over the weekend I hope to give a bit more structure to the fragments of plot I have floating around my mind, pulling enough of them together to make a strong start in the opening week. My last attempt fell victim to middle-of-the-month syndrome and the words needed each day started to rise dramatically as my writing time fell. They met somewhere in the middle, and my dreams of reaching 50,000 were over from that point. This month has all the advantages over November: there are no two-hour round trips to college; there are no exams looming in the near future to prepare for; more of my friends are participating so there’s more compet… team spirit. My friends will likely finish before me, but I’m confident I can land my arrow on the 50,000 word target this time.

My other activity in the coming weeks will see me once again showing some attention to my Xbox 360 as me and my partner Judge Bergan team up to fight for ‘not last place’ in the Genre Tournament on X360A. I’m not terribly brilliant at even getting close to the podium in these tournaments as they combine two things I’m quite bad at these days: achievement hunting and playing games consistently. They are always great fun though and my 360 enjoys the promise of daily use, so I’ll always keep putting my name down. The first genre will be chosen tomorrow. I hope it’s RPGs (which means Random.org will pick fighting) as I’ve had a desire to go back to playing Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2 and Oblivion recently.

Action will also be a good genre for me. Being a huge Harry Potter fan there’s no real reason for why I haven’t played the two Lego Harry Potter games yet. They’ve been sitting on my infamous ‘to-buy’ list since release and, as they also sit happily in the rather large list of action games, it would be a perfect time to add them to my collection. Twelve teams are entering the competition, and any correct guesses of my and Mr. Bergan’s final position six weeks from now will entitle the guesser official and unquestioned use of the title ‘psychic’ in all future discussions.

My half marathon at Coombe Abbey is now just two days away. Looking ahead to Sunday’s weather has given me a sense of relief. Light cloud and 17°C sounds perfect for running to me. Wish me luck and thanks as always for reading.

Let’s catch up and make a trophy list

Today marks the beginning of the final holiday of the academic year. A welcome opportunity to take a breather from the piles of revision and call half-time on the exam season. What better time to flick on the lights here on the Formula Magician and bring my blog back to life once more. I hope no spiders have moved in since I last posted.

May has been a pretty good month for me so far. I was picked as the monthly interviewee for the monthly Subscriber/Staff Spotlight on X360A. I didn’t need to be asked twice, and quickly took the opportunity to pour my heart out, laying claim to the title of longest interview so far by quite some margin. May 14th was also my birthday (note to self: update about me page). My Dad bought me a Google Nexus 7, which I was delighted by. It’s already proved invaluable in my exam preparations, allowing me to access resources no matter where I am without needing the computer (a tech revolution for me, as I’ve never owned a laptop). I’ve also been quick to take the opportunity to add Broken Sword 1 and 2 Director’s Cuts to my gaming collection. I know; my gaming backlog is already a tear inducing length, but what harm will two more games do?

There is no doubt that the last few weeks have been full of all the fun that comes with exam season for all of my fellow A Level students. I hope everyone has done as well as they’d hoped they would. I am tempted to say the worst of it is behind me now, seeing as I’ve sat five of the seven exams I’ve had to look forward to. I hesitate to announce this though, because next Monday will see me entering the exam hall with a heart filled with dread, ready (maybe) to face the F212 biology exam. The sheer volume of information that you need to understood for this exam outweighs any of the other exams I’ve taken so far, and with the added spice that comes from how biology exam questions are worded, I know it’s going to be a very enjoyable 1 hour 45 minutes for everyone who has the privilege of taking it. Wish us all luck.

The half-term in my world usually brings with it a terribly high risk of procrastination setting in. It starts with my heart and mind full of tasks and activities I’d like to do, and ends with everything exactly how it started with me stood wondering where the time went. In an attempt to address this I’ve borrowed 95% of the PS3’s trophy system idea and have forged my very own half-term trophy list from the finest Valyrian steel. For some choices, it’s crucial that I complete them, such as my fundamental biology and chemistry revision, whilst others are less important, but undoubtedly more fun and quirky activities I’ve wanted to try (or get back to) for some time. I’m also proud to say that at least 20 minutes of creative thinking went into giving them vaguely interesting names. I will be happy to consider it a week well spent if I can complete the majority of the targets I’ve set myself.

That’s about all for now. I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend. I am planning on posting here quite a bit over the next week (at least I will if I want the trophy :)), but for now I’ll leave you with a piece of videogame music that I wish played in Rugby’s marketplace.

The Sky+ box has also been sent into overdrive, recording the five hours of The Middle that Sky have been kind enough to air this afternoon.

[Video credit: JaneDutohlav]

5 years on PSN: The Musical – Year 1

The 14th February marks the day when my PlayStation Network account turns five. The ingredients for the cake are in the cupboard and ready to go, but since Musical Monday has been feeling left out recently, I thought it would be neat to run through some of my favourite games and most memorable pieces of music that my PS3 has allowed me to bring into my home. If everything works out these posts will all be finished by the dawn of February 14th and this month will take the title of most active month of posting for me on here.

Let’s start with the game that began my PS3 gaming experience, Ridge Racer 7. This is a game that takes all the physics of driving and drops them in the trashcan outside the studio. What you’re left with is a brilliantly unrealistic masterclass in the art of drifting. Cars flying around corners sideways is normal for this game, and for this reason both singleplayer and multiplayer were never unable to provide enjoyment. Progress far enough in this game and you were rewarded with a rocket-powered limo and a vehicle that’s closest comparison I can think of is the Shagohod from Metal Gear Solid 3. It lacked the missile launcher of the Shagohod, but it didn’t look much like your average car either. Let’s call it the happy medium for now. The soundtrack was brilliant throughout, and here we have one of my favourites. My ‘lucky music’ as it were.

My second choice for year 1 is still my favourite third-person shooter, and was the first game that I put any significant amount of time into playing multiplayer. Please welcome Warhawk to the spotlight. During my time playing I reached the lofty rank of Command Sergeant and was somehow able to obtain the Master Tank Medal, the game’s mid-level commendation. Warhawk may have been criticised in some camps for being an multiplayer only game, but I had many fantastic evenings playing it with my friends. In my opinion it also has the best capture the flag model on the PS3. Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten around to buying Starhawk, but the happy memories of the shenanigans me and my friends got up to while playing Warhawk will remain forever more.

The music I have chosen comes from the pre-1.3 version of the game. The old main menu music still makes me smile today.

My final choice for year 1 comes from one of my favourite video game developers, Naughty Dog. Having already won me over during the PS1 and PS2 days with the Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series, it went without saying that their PS3 newcomer Nathan Drake would be finding his way into my home. Uncharted didn’t disappoint. It had my favourite video game setting, hidden away in the islands and jungles of lands far sunnier than my home. It had three brilliant protagonists in Nathan, Sully and Elena Fisher. And to top it all Naughty Dog had even included a few trinkets to remind us of their past games. The soundtrack fitted beautifully with the game, and I still don’t think it’s possible to listen to the title music without having an urge for adventure surging through your veins. This was my favourite of all the games I played in year one, and here’s Nate’s theme in all its adventurous glory. Please give us more, Naughty Dog.

Musical Monday VIII – “Let’s go!”

Musical Monday returns for its 8th episode this evening, hoping that it can bring a little smile as we look back on some great video game music. I found it rather more difficult to choose what games to include this week, due to all of the brilliant games my friend James reminded me of on Saturday. Hopefully I will get around to including all of these games in a Musical Monday post eventually, but for this week I have chosen two franchises that we both love: the ever popular Lemmings, and everyone’s favourite holiday destination Silent Hill.

Let’s start with Lemmings. As far as I can remember this was one of the first franchises that I played when I first started out on my gaming career at the wee age of four. At this age there was a large element of trial and error involved with trying to complete levels, especially in the later stages. I quickly lost count of the number of times I managed to trap my lemmings in a hole I’d told them to dig where the only escape is a perilous drop into some unkind elemental nasties, resulting in certain death. The good thing about Lemmings though was that even in the face of complete level failure you could still have one last bit of fun before retrying. This was to give those poor guys five precious seconds to live before blowing them sky high. I can’t begin to imagine what thoughts went through their minds in these last moments of life, although I think there may have been some curse words in there somewhere. In the later levels failure became a much more common occurrence, and my little end-of-level mini-game was to see how much destruction I could cause to the landscape with the final explosions. It was almost a disappointment if a lemming’s death didn’t take anything else with it. I still enjoy playing Lemmings on my PSP from time to time, and I don’t think any other games have ever allowed you to quit a level in such style.

And now to a world that couldn’t be further from the colourful and jolly lands the lemmings inhabit. My first experience of Silent Hill was when a demo of the first game came with Metal Gear Solid. This was also the only time that I have played any of these games by myself, and after scaring myself silly in that elementary school, I decided that I would only ever play it again if friends or family joined me. I do enjoy playing these games, but even now my imagination always gets the better of me when that radio static kicks in walking down those deserted streets, so I can promise that you will almost certainly never see me playing them when the darkness of their world is shared by our own. So far I have managed to soldier my way through Silent Hill 2, 3 and 4 with my Dad. My favourite of those would have to be Silent Hill 3. Even though it successfully managed to scare me faster than any other game I have ever played with those overly cheerful looking, but blood covered bunny costumes in that theme park. I liked the main protagonist Heather more than her counterparts from the other games, although there isn’t that much between her and James Sunderland. Even though I was almost always too scared to play it alone, I would sometimes brave putting the game on just to listen to the opening music before the days of YouTube made it so much simpler. I wouldn’t venture passed the main menu screen if no-one was willing to join me in playing it though.

I’m not sure why Silent Hill has always had this effect on me. I can play other survival horror games like Dead Space and Resident Evil and do little more than jump at some of those sudden attacks. I haven’t played Slender yet, but I’d like to see which of the two categories that fits into. I have a rough idea.

That’s all for this week’s Musical Monday. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to these soundtracks as much as I do. If you still have an appetite for more video game music goodness after reading this I’d certainly recommend hopping into your boat and setting sail for No Tune Unturned on Twitter, where a new tune hops into the spotlight each day. I definitely think it would be worth the trip.