Gaming in Kuwait

Post by Mark

If you’re into video games the video above is a bunch of interviews with some professional video game players on gamers in Kuwait. Not too exciting to watch unless you’re really into this. [YouTube]


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Desert Tycoon

Post by Mark

Desert Tycoon is an iPhone game created by two guys one of whom is Kuwaiti Abdullah Al Zabin. The game is similar to SimCity but in this case you are based in the Gulf and you start off as a humble Bedouin. Step by step you build your business empire of real estate, business, energy, and tourism assets with the aim of basically turning your city into an Arabian metropolis like how Dubai is today.

The cartoon graphics are great and the music fits the game perfectly. More importantly the game is free and available to download from the iTunes store right now. [English Version] [Arabic Version]

Update: I got an email from Abdullah with some details regarding who they are. This is what he had to say:

A brief background about us. Myself and my business partner Ali Diab started Lumba in January of this year with a simple premise: build the next generation Arab mobile entertainment company. We are based in San Francisco, actually in the same shared office where many of the [now] large mobile game developers (Pocket Gems, SuperCell, Kabam, etc.) started over the past 3 years.

Our team consists of:
– Product Managers that worked for AdMob, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Bain
– Artists and Illustrators that worked with Pixar, Dreamworks, Fox, and Disney
– Software Engineers that worked for Google
– Music composer and producer who scored music for console game titles on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. He also produced music for Kelly Rowland, Rick Ross, Black Eyed Peas, and Nicole Scherzinger

We are taking it upon ourselves to tastefully fuse Silicon Valley tech with our Arab cultural roots for all our mobile games. We hope our first, Desert Tycoon, is representative of that.


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Review: The Nintendo Wii U

Post by Patrick

Wii U 1

It’s pretty impressive that a company founded back in 1889 still exists today and is considered one of the most innovative and creative companies in their field. Nintendo has survived throughout these years not by sheer luck, but by being able to adapt to markets and get ahead of the game. Nintendo didn’t always make video games – it started out making playing cards and when that business was waning the CEO of the time Hiroshi Yamauchis decided to move into other businesses like instant noodles, a taxi company, and even a TV network. Eventually, Nintendo made its way in the video game business and released the NES; 27 years later, Nintendo has finally released its sixth console, the Wii U.

Nintendo’s philosophy has never been about creating the most powerful console with the best graphics, but to create a console that anyone could enjoy, developers could create fun games for, and is affordable. They constantly try to innovate without going overboard. The Nintendo 64 was the first console to introduce analogue sticks and 4 player controller ports right out of the box that competitors adapted in the future. We’re seeing similar advancements with motion controls that Nintendo introduced with the Wii and now Nintendo has taken another step forward by introducing the Wii U and the Game Pad.

Mark was able to hook me up with a Wii U from X-cite to review and I got the chance to test it out by playing Super Mario Bros U, ZombiU, Nintendo Land and Batman Arkham City.

Wii U + gamepad

The first thing I was curious about was Nintendo’s new social network called the Miiverse and so far it’s been informative, entertaining, and pretty promising. For those who don’t know, the Miiverse is where you interact with other Wii U users through a community for every app or game out for the Wii U. So if you want to discuss some Youtube videos, you can go to the Youtube community and post about it there and other users can reply or give you a “Yeah!” (equivalent to a Facebook “Like”). If you want to discuss a specific game and you’re unsure about buying it, you can go to that game’s community and ask them about it. Other times, people will draw some really elaborate drawings using the Wii U’s gamepad and the community walls turn into a temporary art exhibit. And it works well – comments are posted instantly without delay. People will comment and try to solve things. For example, I was going through the ZombiU community and found a thread with over 25 comments of gamers trying to decipher some code someone found spray-painted on a wall in the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if communities like this sprang up in the next iteration of consoles Microsoft and Sony release.

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Review: Borderlands 2

Post by Patrick

We live in an age where releasing sequels is the norm because it’s more profitable and less risky than releasing a brand new original title. So, it should be no surprise that some sequels start to feel like expansion packs to the original game instead of a true sequel. They might add a little content here and there but end up using a very similar (or the same) graphics engine and avoid fixing what could have been wrong in the first game. The good developers learn their lessons and attempt to improve every facet of the game instead of rehashing the original. I was a huge fan of the first Borderlands since I felt that it stood out among the other shooters out there mostly for its role-playing elements, random loot, a great shooting mechanic, and stylistic visuals. Even though it did a lot of things right, I felt the game had a lot more potential. The world itself felt small, the towns felt dead, and although the enemy A.I. was decent, there weren’t many variations of enemies. Add to that it had a weak storyline and a brutally disappointing ending. So when a sequel was announced, I was hopeful that Gearbox Software would learn from their first outing and release a sequel that was even better than the original. I had high expectations and I can safely say that Gearbox Software are one of the good developers since they have delivered a solid sequel that improves nearly every aspect of the original, while expanding on the formula they set up in the first game.

The premise of the game is quite simple. The villain, named Jack, wants to open a vault that is said to be home of something powerful. With this power, Jack hopes to become the all-supreme leader of Pandora. The game doesn’t take time to push you into the action; you start off on a train headed to your destination when a “complication” arises.

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Review: Sleeping Dogs

Post by Patrick

There was a time when open world games like Grand Theft Auto III were a big deal. Nowadays, it seems like there’s an open world game being released every year. There was also a time when open world games were flat 2D worlds like Super Metroid or The Legend of Zelda. Today, it’s vast and deep 3D landscapes with big cities (or deserts if we’re talking about the great Red Dead Redemption). The problem with most games that share this genre is that they’re automatically labeled a “GTA-clone”, so in order to be successful, the developer needs to create something unique or at least innovative. Sleeping Dogs might not be incredibly unique (a cop and gangster game set in Hong Kong), but it does take the GTA formula further by innovating it, making it its own.

Sleeping Dogs is played as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game with role-playing elements. The player controls Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer, as he goes undercover to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. – wikipedia

There were a bunch of things I really liked about Sleeping Dogs. One example that pops right into mind is that the game lets you cycle through your objectives without the need to pause or go to the map screen. To add to that, it’ll show you how to get to your objective and how far your destination is. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it helps with the pacing of the game. There’s no need to pause, go into a menu, and look through a big map. One thing that bugged me about GTA was that there was no reason to pay attention to traffic laws and pedestrians, but in Sleeping Dogs you lose points if you vandalize, steal or kill pedestrians while you’re on a mission. These points can help you level up and unlock more items and moves and they’re part of your overall mission score that gets uploaded and shared with your friends. That’s another thing the developers have added: the “Social Hub”. The Social Hub basically uploads your mission scores and other stats (longest wheelie for instance) and compares them to your friends who are also playing the game.

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Review: Persona 4 Arena

Post by Patrick

P4A

This past week saw the release of one of the strangest mashups of game genres that I’ve ever come across: a role-playing game transformed into a fighting game. The game is called Persona 4 Arena which is available on the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360.

I’m just a casual fan of fighting games; I don’t spend hours upon hours practicing to spend even more time in the online modes. Growing up, I was a fan of Street Fighter, Tekken & Soul Edge/Soul Caliber. Later on, I got into Guilty Gear and a little bit of BlazBlue. If you’re a fan of those last two games, you’ll be interested to know that Arc System Works the developer behind them also developed Persona 4 Arena. I love the Persona franchise (as well as the other games in the Shin Megami Tensei series); it was one of the first games to really make me fall in love with role playing games on the Playstation at the time (with the help of Wild Arms and Final Fantasy VII later that year). I was a little skeptical when I read about the game and thought they were just trying to milk the franchise for all it’s worth, but after spending some time with the game I’ve come away quite impressed.

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Review: Spec Ops – The Line

Post by Patrick

Some of you might already know that playing video games is a favorite hobby of mine and now I’ll be able to write about my thoughts on games as they get released here in Kuwait. Mark worked out a deal with the local online game rental service Digumz.com who will be providing the games for me as soon as they’re out. I’ll be reviewing a game every week or two depending on when they get released and if there aren’t any new releases I’ll probably write about an older game I find worth sharing.

This week I’ll be reviewing a fairly new release called Spec Ops: The Line, spoilers will be kept to a minimum.

[YouTube]

Spec Ops: The Line is not your ordinary war themed video game. It isn’t anything like Call of Duty, Battlefield or Medal of Honor. Spec Ops: The Line has a proper, mature script that will have you talking about the game long after you put the controller down. The gameplay is flawed and has trouble dealing with the issues that the script raises, but it’s still a lot of fun to play. Think of it this way: if Call of Duty is a Michael Bay movie, Spec Ops: The Line is Apocalypse Now (which it has been compared to). There was some controversy in our region due to the fact that the game takes place in a destructed Dubai. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is. All major metropolises get destroyed in games and movies; how many times has New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo been demolished by either a giant monster, war or aliens? As far as I’m concerned, the fact that Dubai is destroyed in this game is a good thing. If the UAE government is concerned about the portrayal of their citizens, then they have nothing to worry about. In the game, Dubai may resemble real Dubai, but it’s not an exact replica. You’ll see skyscrapers that look like they should belong in Dubai, but you won’t see an exact copy of Burj Khalifa.

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RaceRoom opens up today

Post by Mark

The first RaceRoom in the Middle East is opening up today inside Baroue at the Avenues. The RaceRoom is sort of an arcade but one that’s filled with realistic car simulators. They used to have one simulator before which was the Gulf Run simulator and I guess it was really popular because they’ve now expanded on that idea. For a bit more information you can check out their Facebook page [Here]

Update: I passed by Baroue awhile ago and turns out they’ve remodeled the whole top floor. It’s now a proper arcade FILLED with racing games. The place looks super cool and it’s just one racing game after another all around the place. Sadly they don’t have a vintage gaming section filled with original Daytona 1 and Sega Rally 1 machines, that would have been the icing on the cake for me. The actual RaceRoom is a private room located in the middle of the arcade floor filled with 6 realistic racing simulators. That room is going to be open from tomorrow but the rest of the floor is open right now. I took a bunch of pictures which you can check out below.


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iControlPad Review

Post by Mark

Last week I got the iControlPad to use with my iPad and after playing with it over the weekend I think it’s a great gadget for gamers. The iControlPad is a Bluetooth controller designed by the same guys behind the Open Pandora gaming device so you should know it was designed by gamers for gamers.

I was originally a bit worried that there would be a bit of lag between the control pad and the game but from my short experience with the device there doesn’t seem to be any lag whatsoever. It felt as if I was playing with a wired controller which is great, similar to the wireless Xbox and PS3 controllers.

The iControlPad works with a bunch of official games in the App Store but I actually got it so I could play SNES games using an emulator. Since I got an iPad 3 I’ve gone ahead and jailbroken my original iPad 1 into a gaming device. I’ve installed a SNES emulator on the iPad as well as some games and now with the iControlPad it’s a great portable Super Nintendo. The iControlPad actually has 6 buttons similar to the SNES except the top shoulder buttons (L and R) are located on the bottom of the back of the device which will take a bit of getting used to. Other than that I didn’t have any issues with it, it has a built in battery and charges via USB so it’s very practical.

The iControlPad I ordered came with a phone holder that attached to the rear of the controller. The holder fits not only iPhones but other phones as well including Android phones since the iControlPad works basically with both operating systems. The price of the controller is $74.99 and I ordered it from ThinkGeek but they’re out of stock right now. Your other option is to get it directly from the iControlPad website [Here]


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Arcade Machines

Post by Mark

A couple of years ago I was looking to buy an arcade machine and a reader contacted me letting me know they had a few for sale. I was hoping to find either NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat I or II, Killer Instinct, the original Daytona or the original Sega Rally but sadly they didn’t have any of those games and I completely forgot about the whole thing. Then out of the blue around two weeks back the subject came back up and I ended up contacting the guy and passing by to check out what he had.

Turns out I actually knew the person since he used to be based in Burj Al Abyad (White Tower next to Marina Mall) back in the 90s when the arcade scene there was pretty big. He took me to their warehouse and I got to check out all the machines they had available.

They didn’t have any of the games I wanted but I figured I’d get the list (and their prices) so I could post them here on my blog. Some of the games are a good deal others seem a bit pricy (KD750 for Sega Rally 2 although it’s with the full moving cockpit) while others like the NeoGeo/Capcom machines are a steal at just KD75 with two games.

If you’re interested here is the games list and prices:

List of all the arcade machines they have (with the quantity)
The price list of the machines (FYI: twin means 2 machines side by side)

One thing that’s not listed in the price list above is the NeoGeo/Capcom cabinets. They have two kinds of cabinets, one that holds 2 games and another that holds 4. They’re selling the machine that holds 2 games for KD75 and the machine that holds 4 for KD100. This price includes the games.

What games? Here is the List

If you’re interested you can contact Nagib on 24841382 Ext 555


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