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[Gamer Diary] What I’ve been Playing… August 2012

2012 August 30

Well, I hope you all had a lovely summer! My August seems to have been a perpetual cycle of pre-rain, rain and post-rain, with varying levels of humidity just to keep things interesting. Good job I don’t mind staying inside, isn’t it? This month there hasn’t been much new that has taken my fancy – with the exception of Unmechanical, everything has mostly been new content or just new to me. August never seems to have much in the way of games, and moreover it tends to be the realm of the cinema releases. But we’re here to talk about games! Let’s get going.


Unmechanical is a sweet indie puzzler that is pretty darn gorgeous on the eyes too. It combines a variety of different puzzles (physics, logic, memory) on your quest for freedom through an underground labyrinth designed to feel at once organic and mechanical. You are a little blue helicopter thing that’s been abducted from the surface world and dropped into this maze. You can fly, and you have a tractor beam, but aside from bumping into things like a confused bee there’s not much else you can do. The way you navigate and solve puzzles relies on your interactions with stimuli around you, pulling levers and lifting rocks with your tractor beam to get the desired result. The puzzles range from the fairly familiar – like the remember-the-pattern puzzle involving four different coloured bulbs that make different noises – to the far-reaching and complicated. It’s great fun and a well-composed title – there’s a neat bit of thinking alongside the Aww-Factor -and it’s available through a variety of digital content platforms (Steam, Gog, Gamersgate & OnLive plus it’ll soon be coming to the AppStore (for those of you that use Apple products). Free demos are also out there on the aforementioned platforms or straight from the site.

Sometimes it can get lonely, as a little blue helicopter adrift in an underground maze…

Team Fortress: Mann vs Machine

Mann vs Machine is the new Co-op mode for Team Fortress 2 and yet another sizeable update/announcement coming from the Valve camp (could it be all a distraction to disguise a lacking of Half Life 3?). In keeping with TF2 Free to Play mantra, you can play these new Co-op maps on community servers in what is called “Boot Camp” – but, should you so desire to, you can also pay to enter “Mann Up Mode” in which you can get the chance to win rare items as a reward for completing missions and the Tour of Duty. Currently there’s only one Tour of Duty (“Steel Trap”) consisting of six missions; in Mann Up Mode you have to pay with a Tour of Duty Ticket for each mission, and these are 59p/99c each from the Mann Co Store.

Lured by the promise of rare items, I paid to get into Mann Up Mode and completed a Tour. Unlike my partner, who has now completed three Tours and hasn’t had any SuperCoolRares, I got a rare item at the end of my Tour. Woo! That’s not the best thing I want to talk about, though. The Co-op mode itself is pretty awesome, and a great addition to TF2, because for once you all have to work together, even if you aren’t Pro, with a bunch of people you have been allocated. It can create a really fun atmosphere if you get a good – and nice – team. The robot army you have to defeat presents a challenge if you don’t learn quickly how to coordinate and function as a team. Normal multiplayer doesn’t tend to require this much interaction with other humans (unless you’re a pre-formed team who know what they’re doing) and so the update has successfully added a new dimension to the experience of TF2. Needless to say, however, if you get a rubbish team with too many ill-informed egomaniacs, you won’t get far.

Unfortunately, Valve encountered some problems with this update. At times the servers die, you can’t access Multi-player or Co-op because the allocator has crashed, the store shuts and everyone gets grumpy. These issues seem to be being worked on so just have a little patience.

Other Stuff

I’ve also been playing Borderlands again, in preparation for Borderlands 2 (release date 17/09/12), but I was a bit disappointed by the ‘Girlfriend Mode’ gaffe. Borderlands is very fun, very entertaining and pretty in-yer-face; while it would be easy to criticise some of their portrayal of women in the game I think it’d also be fairly misguided. The game isn’t one to be taken seriously: it makes a mockery out of pretty much everything, so it’s a fair assumption that they’re probably poking fun when it comes to female characters too. I tell myself they’re doing it to make a point; satirise the gaming status quo, if you like.

So, with that in mind, I was disappointed to see someone from the developers being stupid enough to utter the phrase “Girlfriend Mode” in reference to the I’m New To First Person Shooters and Don’t Know What To Do mode. I admit, I take it personally when these things come up: I’ve played FPS games longer than my boyfriend (and a lot of male gamers I know) so it really does hack me off when it is assumed no female gamer ever likes FPS of their own volition. I like shooting things! What’s so weird about that?

Despite this foolishness, I haven’t cancelled my pre-order of Borderlands 2. Why? Well, there’s the reasons I’ve mentioned above, plus the fact there are more female characters – and they do look amazingly kickass. I want to get to know them. In turn, so will you, as that’s pretty much the only thing I expect to play in September – yay!

In contrast with the irritating ‘Girlfriend Mode’ story, I’d like to bring you a little Well Done story. Guild Wars 2 has gone live and ArenaNet have tried, it seems, to make the most welcoming community possible – and they’ve caught a lot of flack for it. They’ve been suspending people. Oh no! you say, why ever would they do that? Because they’re actually sticking to their own rules and upholding them for the benefit of the majority of gamers who don’t feel the need to be odious.

Let me explain. ArenaNet are upholding their Naming Policy on characters, which is pretty commendable (both the list and sticking to it), but some gamers felt the need to whine when they got banned. Admittedly, some banned-users’ names weren’t in contravention of the policy so ArenaNet took to Reddit and told them all (and in doing so shamed the perpetrators publicly) that their ban was due to their inappropriate chat, which I warn you isn’t nice. So, I say Well Done to ArenaNet for keeping horrible arsebags out of the community (even if the suspensions are only 72 hours) and trying to make Guild Wars 2 a welcoming and inclusive experience for all its gamers.

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