Thursday, May 21, 2015

Game Review: Pure Pool

Billiards kept simple
I have had the Playstation 4 for a while now and I have kept up to date as to what is available on the gaming market. One would think that there would be plenty of options that interest a gamer like me when it comes to PS4 games. In reality, however, I haven't been able to see many games that are worth paying much attention to. This isn't to say that PS4 games are bad. I am definitely not saying that, but rather it's the fact that I have certain tastes in games, and my interests haven't been catered to as of yet by the PS4. I am hoping this changes very soon.

Recently I have gotten back into the mood of actually using my PS4 console which I bought for $400. One of the few PS4 games I now own isn't a super duper action-adventure platforming game where you blow up things. Trust me, I'm still looking for that game. The first PS4 game I will be reviewing on the Gaming Journalist Gazette is none other than... drum roll please... Pure Pool.

Truth be told, when I played this game a few times I was thoroughly impressed with it. I was impressed enough by Pure Pool to give it some time in the spotlight. It's nothing flashy since it's just billiards, but it gets the job done. Especially if you are a billiards enthusiast and you are looking to execute difficult shots with the cue ball, then I'm sure this is the game for you.

Controls - 20 out of 20 Points

I have played some billiards video games and billiards mini-games that were part of video games in the past, and let me tell you that gaming history hasn't been kind at all to pool. You would think that with a simplistic concept like pool would be replicated on a respectable level so that any gamers would warm up to a billiards video game. That clearly hasn't been the case. I have played some absolutely horrid versions of billiards on gaming platforms.

However, Pure Pool receives more than a passing grade from me. In fact, I was blown away by how smooth the controls of this game were. When I first dug into the gameplay of Pure Pool, I really couldn't believe just how flawless the controls were. The transition between placing the cue ball down on the table and shooting it wasn't a hassle at all. It just clicked. You never get the feeling that you are being restricted when playing a game of pool here. You can raise up your cue stick in order to get your cue ball to start bouncing on the table. This adds to the strategy of the game. Some billiards video games in the past never allowed you to adjust cue stick angles in such ways.

Graphics - 19 out of 20 Points

It wasn't hard to obtain this score. Pure Pool only needed the pool table itself to look good in order for the graphics to come across as pleasing, and this game succeeded in doing that. The pool balls don't look like choppy blobs or disfigured chunks of mystery here. The graphics are slick and are pleasing for the eyes. It also helps that the surroundings are very welcoming too, since when you play a game of billiards you normally see yourself at a bar or a casino. Pure Pool captures that feeling very well.


Story - BIG FAT 0 out of 20 Points

Okay, let me explain myself here. Pure Pool is a great game and an unsung hero at that, but if you are a gamer and you are particularly looking for a game that has a Story Mode, such as cutscenes and other cinematic-related stuff, don't expect any of that in this game. I guarantee you that you won't go on a Story Mode adventure in Pure Pool.


Having said this, you will have plenty of things to do when it comes to challenges and a wide variety of modes that test your billiards skills. I will go into these other features shortly since they do legitimately add to the gaming experience.

Music - 19 out of 20 Points

The music that you will hear in Pure Pool will sound relaxing and soothing for the most part. While the only setback of this department is the fact that it doesn't have enough soundtracks, I remain of the belief that you can have a fun time just listening to the music this game provides. The music isn't out of place for a billiards setting. It's appropriate and professional.


This is the kind of music that pretty much puts you in the mood to play pool. You just want to chill out and hang out with your friends. You want to shoot some pool and cast aside your troubles, and this music touches on that specific base. The rhythm and beats of the music can be quite catchy, which also helps.

There are many different ways to play Pure Pool

Replayability Factor - 15 out of 20 Points

Pure Pool is fun to play and it's a great way to spend some of your casual time just messing around and having the kind of fun gamers usually have. However, unless you are an extreme billiards enthusiast, you will most likely not be playing this game for countless hours. There is only so much that you can do to keep your gaming experience going here. The spirit of competition is clearly in Pure Pool if for no other reason than for a gamer to improve his or her skills and then win small community tournaments that involve their friends.
 

I have already gotten to know that it becomes difficult to keep playing a game if just one player is around. If you don't have at least one friend to play with in Pure Pool, then the chances of you playing this game for a long period of time goes down significantly. My advice? Bring a friend who you know will enjoy playing some billiards.

Bonus Points - 11

What Pure Pool completely lacks in the Story Mode department more than makes up for it in the creativity department, such as implementing various game modes where players can challenge themselves, others and the computer AI in billiards games. There are elimination variants, games where you need to sink all balls in the pockets within a designated amount of time, sink all balls without missing a single shot, and the list goes on. In fact, just recently it was announced that a new DLC package featuring Snooker would become available for the Pure Pool community, so that will prove to be a big plus as well.

The main reason why Pure Pool scores so much bonus points is the fact that it's very creative with its resources. As a player, you are given more than enough to do to make your gaming experience worthwhile, and I think that's also one reason why I quickly grew to love playing Pure Pool. If you want to play 3 different modes in one gaming session, you will have that option. You will be kept busy, and that's a good thing here.

Total Score - 84 out of 100 Points

In conclusion, I see Pure Pool as a subtle steal of a buy at the video game store, depending on how enthusiastic you are about billiards. If you're not too thrilled about playing billiards to begin with, then you may not want to play this game. For me, I love to play games that I am normally not good at in real life. While I used to casually play real life billiards, I was never any good at it. However, there's something about billiards-themed video games that really appeals to me. Most likely this is because of how creative I want to be when coming up with my own video game ideas, and billiards happens to be one of the ideas that floats around in my mind when trying to implement new ideas.

If you are the type of gamer who enjoys playing video games like the games that you would see at the bar or at the arcades, such as billiards, air hockey or pinball, then I would recommend Pure Pool to you. The learning curve in how to play is seamless and it's easy to get into. Pure Pool is a great example of billiards done right in the video game context. You don't need to execute a bank shot to sink this great game into your gaming library pocket.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Video Games and Autism - GJG

Continued from the original post in http://theautistichelp.blogspot.com/ ...

There is an audience of autistic gamers

I will pose a question for the readers out there who happen to be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Doesn't it feel like sometimes that even though you are included in gaming activities you are still, in one sense, excluded and ignored? You wouldn't be alone if you do feel that way. While numerous companies in the Video Game Industry have at least attempted to reach out to this specific audience of gamers, the fact remains that even today there is some sort of disconnection in communication.

It's hard to know what degree of autism a person has when you first interact with him or her, which makes it difficult for any group or organization to know what to do to accommodate that said person. Some gamers have high-functioning autism while others have low-functioning autism. It really does vary.

It does help that game development companies and gaming organizations are pitching game accessibility programs to these audiences. I believe there is a legitimate purpose for these programs. We want to give autistic gamers the same kinds of opportunities that other gamers receive when it comes to interacting with gaming content. However, I have said this countless times both in-person and online, which is that it's one thing to promote and spread Autism Awareness to other people, but it's another thing to really develop a true understanding of what autism is about. These aren't one and the same.

When coming up with some sort of blueprint as to how to tackle this issue, I really don't think that you need to make this complicated at all. There are a few basic things that I think are needed to properly tackle the issue of how to open up to autistic gamers. I will run down a short list just to start this conversation.

Give Autistic Gamers a Chance to Share Their Opinions

When the time comes that an autistic gamer is truly willing to express his or her feelings on gaming content or on gaming topics, game development companies should allow these gamers to speak their minds. What's on the mind of an autistic gamer when he or she plays a video game? Where does that mind wander off to? What's mainly important to these kinds of gamers? Game development companies won't know unless they are willing to ask.

Give Autistic Gamers Legitimate Opportunities

This has been at the core of my struggles in obtaining official work with a game development company. Obtaining an opportunity to work on something official in the Video Game Industry doesn't come every day, and when an opportunity does come, you really can't pass it up unless there are circumstances that prevent you from plunging in.

It's hard for people who are outside of the Video Game Industry to obtain work in an industry that they are truly passionate about. On the surface it feels like 100-1,000 times harder for an autistic worker to obtain any kind of position on a game development team. The reasons are obvious. However, you do hear of some stories here and there where autistic workers can tell success stories in working on video games.

I have said in the past that if companies, no matter what industry you are in, utilize the strengths of autistic workers and not dwell on the weaknesses of them, then there will be rewards in store for that company. What does an autistic worker do best in game development? Put that worker in a position where he or she will feel comfortable and where that worker will maximize his or her potential with time.

Whether it's trial runs, part-time work or the like, there has to be some way to utilize the autistic worker in the game development workforce. The Video Game Industry is in part about creativity, so how much creativity is developed in this industry concerning this issue? Some companies get creative in this aspect while others miss the boat completely.

I have been trying to scratch and claw my way into the Video Game Industry as a content-generating writer because I thoroughly believe that I have what it takes to be a game writer. I have shown samples of my work to some game developers already and I have contacted many game development companies, but to no avail. I have played the Waiting Game for some time now, and sometimes I do wonder if the reason why companies pass me up is because of me being autistic, and NOT because they're just not hiring any writers at the time.

One use of a Game Accessibility Program

Don't Belittle Autistic Gamers

I know in many video games we see scenes unfold where stereotypes are made fun of, whether it's just for fun or if it's actually intentional. In this case, I don't find it to be a laughing matter if video games ever take a shot against autistic people just for the sake of cracking a joke. I know that we are viewed differently by other people, and I know how hesitant other people can be when they are around us, but I would appreciate it if you wouldn't belittle us in subtle "read between the lines" ways. I'm mainly talking about the big time AAA game development companies here. You can say that you support autistic gamers, but if your actions are far from that message, then I can't take your company seriously at all.

When You Say Game Accessibility, What Do You Mean?

Speaking of sending the right message, what is your message exactly? What do you say about Game Accessibility for both physically and mentally disabled gamers? You provide a platform for autistic gamers to be themselves while they play their favorite video games, sure, but what does it actually mean to you? How much do you, as a company and as an industry, value Game Accessibility? Is it something you see as being important, or is it more likely an afterthought?

Autistic children need to find a way to improve their social skills and having them socialize through the act of playing video games certainly helps. No doubt about that. However, what are you ultimately trying to achieve through Game Accessibility programs? Are you trying to build these children up to experience bigger and better things down the road? Are you intending to prepare them to experience a possible future career in game development? What will the Video Game Industry as a whole take from successes in Game Accessibility?

Conclusion

In the coming years, I would like to think that there will be more success stories concerning autistic workers right around the corner, especially for autistic workers in the Video Game Industry. However, I am somewhat worried by the false perceptions that some game development companies have of autistic gamers and workers, and if these same false perceptions will end up hurting us autistic people down the road. Not all companies think and operate the same way. All companies have different business models, methods of using creativity in game development, and views on tough topics such as Gaming and Autism.

And by the way, don't steer towards Autism Speaks anytime soon. Autism Speaks is an organization that views Autism as an illness that needs to be cured, which is a view that I personally don't share. Instead, I suggest that if you want to give an autistic person some help, feel free to contact the members of this organization called the Autism Self-Advocacy Network. Thank you.

http://autisticadvocacy.org

Monday, May 4, 2015

My Ouya Adventure - Part 1

Diagram of the Ouya game controller
So it's official. For a decent price of $81 I bought an Ouya game console. Normally an Ouya costs $99, which is the normal buying price, but thankfully with some wheeling and dealing, I got the price down a little bit. Specifically talking about the economics to start off, I believe I came away with a great steal of an acquisition. If I can make an analogy to the NFL Draft which just took place a few days ago, if there was an imaginary Video Game Draft, I would have made a great steal in picking the Ouya in the later rounds, so to speak.

As I mentioned before in my post "Why I Want to Get An Ouya", the Ouya isn't a super powerful console at all, and that's just fine by me. I didn't get the Ouya because I assumed it was powerful. I got the Ouya for its variety as it has an extensive library of games for me to choose from. Most of the games that you will play on the Ouya will basically be free demos, but rest assured, if you want to buy full games, you won't need to sacrifice an arm and a leg to play them.

Most of the full games that you can purchase go at a price of $2.99 (US) each, which is very manageable and reasonable in my honest opinion. If you have $3 to spare in your bank account (which I will touch on in a moment), then you wouldn't mind buying a full version of a game that you really want to play. In a matter of time, you will be playing plenty of full games that fit your needs and keep your attention as a gamer.

Of course, considering that this is my so-called "adventure" with the Ouya, I certainly had one right after I opened the box. I set up the Ouya game console correctly and it turned on right away. No problem there. However, I was stumped when the main menu was requiring me to sign in to my Wi-Fi connection. Now here's the funny thing. I'm far from being an expert on anything related to Wi-Fi, so it came across as completely foreign to me as to what the Ouya main menu was asking me to do. Eventually I figured out what it was; my computer connection box. For some time I was clueless about giving my Ouya a password that I thought I had written down, but really it was in front of my face the whole time. That's trial and error for you.

This is also the first time that I have acquired a gaming console that has a full-time wireless controller. The Sony Playstation 4, the other current generation console I own, features a wireless connection to its controller, but it's up to the gamer whether to play a game with or without an attaching wire. For the PS4 I play with the wire attached to the console, and I do that to maintain a habit I've gotten used to over the years. I have only briefly experimented using the PS4 controller in Wireless Mode.

I do find it very convenient that I can freely move around with a wireless controller because at certain points in my past gaming experiences, I felt restricted to just being in a certain space or else I would be pulling on the controller's wire that connected to the console. I will admit that the Ouya game controller is pretty cool in this respect.

Now how does the Ouya game controller feel? Good question. This has been a debated topic and I'm sure that by now you have watched countless YouTube videos of people playing the Ouya for the first time, sharing their own thoughts on its game controller. Okay, so it might come across as weird to pull off the silver sheets of the controller in order to put in a couple AA batteries, which was something I never had to do to any other game controllers I own, but here's the kicker.

I don't find anything horribly wrong with the feel of the Ouya game controller at all. I feel just comfortable enough playing with this controller. (See the diagram picture above)

Don't forget the batteries. They are included.
Soon I will discuss my actual gaming experience with the Ouya, which is at the core of why I bought this little cube console to begin with. I also find it very convenient that the Ouya is so small because you can place it in spots in your house where it will be isolated and protected by other items. The Ouya is a microconsole, so there won't be any huge hassle in storing it in places where you won't bump into it. I certainly can't wait to talk about this extensive library of games since this is one of the main selling points of the Ouya. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 1, 2015

First Look: Pure Pool (PS4)

Pure Pool for the Playstation 4
The first day of May comes with a brief blog update. I would like to provide my initial thoughts on a game that I just recently bought for the Playstation 4, and it's a game that not many people are really talking about. However, having some experience playing pool games and pool mini-games, I figure that it would be unique that I talk about Pure Pool.

Now I have played a few video game versions of pool in the past. I have played Pool Paradise for the Nintendo Gamecube, and let's just say that Pool Paradise was so significantly underwhelming in almost every aspect that I decided to sell the game on eBay. Yeah, it scored that poorly with me. It was just too difficult for me to even shoot the cue ball in the direction that I wanted it to go. Completely ridiculous and horrendous. No wonder Pool Paradise is such an obscure and forgotten title.

Now another game that featured billiards on the Nintendo Gamecube wasn't a game that centered around pool at all, but rather featured pool as a mini-game. Now this was very clever in presentation and its execution was much better than Pool Paradise. Super Monkey Ball 2, which I just reviewed not too long ago, had its own version of pool where Super Monkey Ball characters where placed inside all of the billiards balls, including the cue ball. Depending on the character you chose, you would have a different style of cue ball to play with. Very interesting.

Now here comes Pure Pool for the Playstation 4. Finally, a game that I can see myself investing in for a game console that I bought for $400. Finally, a game that feels worth playing. Finally, a billiards game that has controls that are so sleek and comfortable that I was blown away within the first 5 minutes of playing it. I couldn't believe how smooth this game's controls were, but I was happy about it.


Containing unique challenges and a solid variety of gameplay options even when you first start playing, I firmly believe that I will have a good time playing Pure Pool. Once I get to extensively playing this game, I will surely write a game review on it, which would be my first official Playstation 4 game review article on the Gaming Journalist Gazette. There's an added notch of excitement attached to this experience for obvious reasons, and I can't wait to actually submit the review, so stay tuned!