Retro Game Night

Even with all the online multiplayer gaming available to us these days, it’s still fun to get together in the same room. Last week I had a couple people over, but instead of playing current games from Steam or XboxOne, we fired up some old Nintendo games! I had two USB NES controllers and the night was a lot of fun. Some of us never had a Nintendo growing up so we saw lots of great games for the first time (15-20 years late!) One of my “new” favorites is Bomberman 2. The concept is simple enough for anyone to pick up on quickly, but since it’s a head-to-head strategy game, there’s a lot of replay value.

That night got me thinking about the Raspberry Pi that Ken gave me a while back. I pulled it out and installed Emulation Station on it. The games play really well but I haven’t quite got the sound figured out yet. Debugging that had me digging through Linux config files and trying to remember VI commands. Yay Linux.

If I had infinite time, I’d love to build another arcade machine, but this one would probably be a coffee table. I’ve added it to my project wish list so there’s a chance it will happen, but the list grows three to four times faster than I can complete the items!

EA Access

Have any of you signed up for EA Access? The idea is that you pay $5/month (or $30/year) from your Xbox One and you get access to a library of EA games. The game list changes, but right now it includes stuff like Plants vs. Zombies, Battlefield 4, Need for Speed Rivals, Madden NFL 25, and more. They don’t seem to include the very latest games, but there’s usually a couple interesting ones in the mix.

I’m very excited that digital delivery of games has finally come to consoles and this is just one of the exciting opportunities I expect will be offered.

Forza 5 Review

This summer I bought an Xbox One and so far the only game I’ve been playing on it is Forza 5. It’s that good. Well, I’m a Forza fanatic. I’ve played them all and this one honors the franchise. Plus, I now know someone on the team so it’s fun to chat with him once in a while.

That being said, there are a few things that I’d like to see changed in Forza 6:

  • The cars get tuned for you when you buy them for a race. There’s almost zero story line already in Forza and automating this part of the game makes it feel like you’re just getting put into the seat of various cars and running around a track. Sure, you CAN still tune, but it’s already done for you so you really have to go out of your way to want to change something. If you’re just running the career, there’s almost no reason to tune your car.
  • The career is LONG. Really long. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the various combinations of cars and tracks. You’re just checking them off one by one. There’s not much feeling of progression or choice.
  • The online stats are really limited. Forza collects so much data. Make it all available online! In addition to the slew of basic numbers, help me analyze my racing line and show me the areas of the track where I lose time to people slightly faster than me. There are lots of opportunities here.

It’s a great game, and if you love racing simulators, this is the pinnacle. (PS4 owners are free to disagree. I haven’t played Gran Turismo in many years.) But it offers very little beyond that pure racing simulator experience. If you’re not a little OCD about completing lists, you might find yourself giving up on the game before you’ve completed the whole career. But I suppose you could have a great time just playing the multiplayer section either racing with other people or competing in timed events. I enjoy that area but haven’t ventured there much yet.

Xbox One

When the original Xbox came out, I was in college and couldn’t afford one. I’d never owned a game system in my life so it wasn’t a huge deal. I ended up winning one in a programming contest. When the Xbox 360 came out, I tried for weeks and weeks to find one in stock and finally did. I played that thing a LOT. When the Xbox One came out last fall, I was intrigued but with a new baby in the house, I had zero time to game. Well I still have zero time to game, but I recently picked up an Xbox One. I’ve only spent a half dozen hours or so playing it (Forza 5 of course), but it’s a nice device. Here are some of the key things I enjoy:

  • Kinect v2 – I never bought the first Kinect because I didn’t think it worked that well, but this new one works much better than the first one.
  • Voice – You can do a lot with voice commands through the Kinect. It remains to be seen how much I’ll actually use this but the geek in me is impressed with how well it works.
  • Sign In – Kinect recognizes who you are and signs you in to your gamertag.
  • Visuals – Graphics are obviously way better than the 360 but the difference isn’t as big as the leap in the previous generation (or at least it’s less noticeable.)
  • Xbox OS – The UI is a lot nicer and there’s actually a good OS behind it all. By that I mean that you can run two apps at the same time and have one snapped to the side of the screen. So for example you could have Skype open on the side while you’re playing a game, but you couldn’t run two games at the same time of course.
  • Digital Downloads – You can still buy discs but every single game is available as a download. Even though the game might take a long time to download, you can start playing it after just a few minutes. Prices are the same as if you bought discs. The advantage is that you never have to get up and swap discs! But you also lose out on reselling the game.

The biggest complaint I have (and I know I’m in the minority) is that the Xbox One doesn’t have a Windows Media Center extender application. That’s how I distribute TV around my house so I’ll need to keep an Xbox360 hooked up to each TV. I was hoping to replace one of them with the new Xbox One.

It’s an expensive toy, but if you’re a gamer, it’s a solid purchase.


There are a lot of board game fans at work. They buy pretty much every game that comes out and give it a whirl. A year or two back, I asked some of them what would be a good next game now that we’re getting a bit played out of Settlers and Carcassonne. The common answer was Dominion. This was our first foray into card-based games and the first couple times we played it were pretty rough, confusing and slow. But lately we’ve really grown to love it and have been choosing it more and more. Every game is different depending on which 10 action cards you use for the game. That’s fun and frustrating at the same time. We’re not yet good enough to read the cards and know what strategy will fit them best. If we play two games with the same deck of cards, the second go-round usually has a lot more intentional play behind it. If you’re looking for a good game to add to your collection, consider Dominion!

And if that all seems a bit too much, some of our other favorites are Bohnanza and Alhambra.