Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Have I Told You How Much I Love You?

Filed under: Reviews,Video Games — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Have I told you lately how much I love my Xbox? Did I even tell you that I have one? My sister and Dan gave me their Xbox for my birthday along with Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) and a Dance Pad. I was so excited that I insisted that we hook it up to Reed’s super big screen TV and play it right there at my parents’ house. We played it that night even though it was really hard to play. Stacey, Mike and my mom were willing to play. Dan and Reed had a pact of solidarity, but Reed finally acquiesced and played one song, much to Dan’s chagrin. It was major fun for all of us.

Even though the directions tell you otherwise, don’t play DDR with bare feet. It’s best to wear socks. If you play it barefooted, you will get the worst blisters on your feet and it will take you weeks to heal from them. Word of honor.

I got a Wallace and Gromit game from Mike on my birthday also. I was so scared of the controller that as of this date, I have yet to play it. In fact, now that I’ve written this, I know that is just silly and I should play the game right now. I definitely should play before I leave for Vegas.

I got the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban game a week or so ago. I burst past my fear of the controller to play this game (makes the Wallace and Gromit excuse sound silly, huh?). Right now, I’m still at the beginning of the game, trying to get the Marauder’s Map. Using that scary controller isn’t as scary when I play a low stress game like Harry Potter. I died a couple of times trying to drag Harry away from the dementors. The dork fainted and I had to take over Ron’s body and drag him out of there. It’s a pretty cool game.

The reason I even started this entry was because the other night Mike found a totally cool thing for me. It is an Xbox Karaoke called Xbox Music Mixer. It only came with 12 songs, but I can put any album I own on it and it will take out the vocals so you can sing to it. I can print up lyrics from the Internet on any song I own, so really it’s the greatest toy in the world for me.

The night we bought it, I stayed up late singing all the songs that came with the game and then I put in Pink’s Mizundastood album and sang almost every song from it. Mike pulled me away from the microphone at midnight and forced me to go to bed. I had been up since three a.m. that morning (nightmare), so I should have been sleepy, but I could have sung the rest of the songs on that album and probably all the songs on Staring at the Sea by the Cure.

After looking for cool games for the Xbox and only finding first person shooters, sports games and the rare puzzle game to tempt me, I am totally stoked by this Karaoke game. It’s a lot of fun. Now, game developers, will you please make more games that use the Dance Pad controller so that I can play games and exercise at the same time. Wouldn’t it be cool if your games worked with iFit machines and let you run on the treadmill to play a game or ride on an exercise bike? I’m not a thirteen year-old male, but I have an Xbox, a pocket full of money and no games to buy. Get Cracking!


Project Gotham Racing

Filed under: Reviews,Video Games — Laura Moncur @ 3:13 pm

Have I told you lately how much I love my Xbox? We bought a used copy of Project Gotham Racing for the Xbox. After playing for awhile, Mike noticed that it had a tiny crack in it that was causing trouble. The trouble got so bad the other day that we needed to decide whether or not to buy a new one.

Can I tell you that it wasn’t a question in my mind? I hadn’t earned more than a Bronze medal on each of the Arcade Race tracks in the easy section. I was THIS close to a Silver medal in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Tokyo. I can’t let all of that practice go to waste. We bought a new disk last night.

At first, we couldn’t find the game. Mike insisted that it must be at Best Buy somewhere because it was a classic game (in a Platinum box instead of lime green), but all I could find was Project Gotham Racing 2. I looked at the sequel and I thought about buying it, but I hadn’t conquered the first game yet. I didn’t feel worthy to start the sequel. I wanted the original, so I asked the guy in the blue shirt if they had it. He knew right were it was. They had moved all the Platinum games to an end cap by the registers. All was saved!

We also got the wireless link to hook our Xbox up to the network. Mike played with that this morning and got it to work. The best part is that we can import music into Project Gotham Racing so that we don’t have to listen to their songs over and over. I’m going to end up knowing the first 1:32 minutes of each song on the new Christopher Lawrence album because I imported the entire All or Nothing album into the game so that I could listen to it instead of the radio.

The radio feature is cool, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the reception will go out when you go under a bridge and I love it when the DJ’s in Tokyo are speaking in Japanese (most of the time, they speak in English, go figure). The only problem is that I’ve been trying to get enough Kudo points to win the Silver medal in Tokyo and I’m pretty much sick of all the songs that the game came with. Thank you, for The Little Things. It’s a great song, but I never want to hear it again.

If you’ve never played this game, you are probably a little pissed off by this rant. I’m sure I would have been. “Jesus! It’s just a game!” No, you don’t understand. It’s not just a game. I’m going for the Silver medal and I’m going to get it and when I’m done, I’m going to the get the Gold. You hear me?


Dance Dance Revolution

Filed under: Health and Fitness,Reviews,Video Games — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Ok, it’s time to admit it. I’m completely addicted. I played for forty minutes this morning and I’m contemplating rushing home from work to play some more. I played for an hour yesterday morning and I still hopped on the pad in the evening to see if I could finally get a better grade on Secret Rendezvous.

I thought it had a bug. I got an A on Secret Rendezvous, but when I went to the high scores, it showed my old grade of a B. I backed out of the game to the beginning and played it again. I got another A, but it still didn’t save my score. So, I backed completely out of the game, turned off the console, restarted and played again. This time I got the amazing score of AA, but it STILL didn’t save my score!

After logging onto the forums and talking to the DDR obsessive compulsives with more experience than I have, I found out that DDR Ultramix doesn’t have a bug. It saves the highest score, not the highest grade. Apparently, it’s possible to get a B with a higher numerical score than an impressive AA performance. Somehow those two items aren’t inherently linked. I’m glad to know that there are people out there who are more obsessed than me.

Now, can anyone explain to me why the Workout Mode has different steps for the songs than the Game Mode? And, what am I going to do when I finish unlocking all the songs, pass them all off with AAA grades at all levels and finish all the downloadable Song Packs? Maybe I’ll be obsessed with something else by then.


DDR Search

Filed under: Reviews,Video Games — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Yes, I know it’s strange, but I was reading a DDR Forum on the Internet. Ok, it’s not so strange considering how obsessed I am. One of the members was talking about a recent trip to Las Vegas. Here is an excerpt from his entry:

Just came back from Vegas and about to go to Los Angeles. While in Vegas, i tried to play on as many ddr machines as I can.

Here’s the list of where i’ve played

Stratosphere – Extreme NY NY – Megamix (bootleg vr. of Extreme) and USA(upgraded to Max 2) Luxor – Extreme Gameworks – Extreme Circus Circus – Extreme ( the most ddr machine i’ve ever seen in one place, that was cool)

He had gone to My Vegas and played DDR on every machine he could find there. I was feeling jealous and desperately wanted to go to Vegas just to play DDR on as many machines as I could.

Mike convinced me that it might be better to just look for DDR machines in Salt Lake and play them here rather than driving seven and a half hours to go to a different city to play. Friday night, we went to Hollywood Connection in West Valley. They have two machines: DDR 3rd Mix (but it really had the songs for lots of mixes) and a Pump It Up machine (but it was broken). It would have been a great night of playing, but the one machine that worked was surrounded by at least twelve kids. No room for me.

Mike took me back to Hollywood Connection on Saturday afternoon and the place was completely different. The DDR machine was abandoned and I was able to play twenty dollars worth of tokens on the thing. We were there for about two hours and only twice did anyone else want a turn. I gave it up graciously (frankly because I was getting tired).

Sunday, Mike and I went to The Gateway. After lunch, he let me play for about a half hour on a DDR 3rd Mix machine at the arcade. It was a dollar a play (as opposed to 75 cents at HC), but I still had fun. I didn’t have to fight any kids to play there either. I guess Friday night is the big night for DDR among the adolescent sect.

I just checked out DDR Freak Machine Locations and I only have two machines out of eleven under my belt. Who knew that there were so many in my area? I can just feel Mike cringing at the idea of taking me to so many arcades. Please, can we go? Please, please?!



Filed under: Reviews,Video Games — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I am obsessed with Dance Dance Revolution. I played for two hours this morning and I just want to go home and play some more. I want Stacey to bring back my game. She borrowed it, but I want it and my Mad Catz pad back. I think I’m going to trick out my Mad Catz pad so that it’s extra spongy like my Ignition pad. If I trick it out with foam as thick as my Ignition pad, then I could use them together and play double songs easily without falling off the Ignition pad.

Maybe I should just buy myself another Ignition pad. It might even be cheaper than working with my Mad Catz pad. That one doesn’t work with StepMania anyway and I would like one that works with both. Of course, convincing Mike that I need yet another pad after all of this is pushing it.

Maybe I’ll just wait until Ultra Mix 2 comes out. I’m sure I’ll be able to buy it in a bundle with another dance pad and get them for cheaper that way. Maybe I should get a metal pad and just go all the way to the true gaming experience. The only problem is where am I going to put a huge metal dance pad in my little house? I don’t need that. I don’t need another pad. I don’t even need Stacey to give me back my Xbox game. I just need to let myself play it as much as I want.

That has always been the problem. I have enough toys; I just don’t let myself play with them. I feel like I need to be doing something useful, so I end up wasting my time instead of enjoying it. Instead of doing something useful, I mope around the house. Instead of doing something fun, I scold myself by thinking that I should be working somehow. The truth is: I don’t need to work all the time. Sometimes I need to play.

I played for two hours this morning, so I guess that’s enough. Tomorrow I will play some more. I don’t need to buy anything. I don’t need to do anything but play with the toys that I already have.


Xbox Live

Filed under: Reviews,Video Games — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

You can’t download the cool new tracks for Project Gotham Racing 2 without a membership to Xbox Live. You can’t download the cool song packs for Dance Dance Revolution without a membership to Xbox Live. It kind of sucks when you know there are cool additions to your game that are out there, but you can’t get to them without a bunch of red tape.

You can’t just log onto Xbox Live with your computer or Xbox and start a membership. You have to go into a store and buy a stupid Xbox Live membership. Once you input your magic password from your membership card, the first thing they ask you for is your credit card number (so you can pay for those cool tracks and songs). Why didn’t they just let us give them our credit card number and log in without the stupid card from Best Buy? It’s really very confusing and it makes me feel like I’m jumping through hoops for nothing.

I did get this little microphone/headphone thing with the membership card, though. It works with the Karaoke thing on Xbox Music Mixer, so I can sing and dance at the same time. It makes me feel a little like Britney Spears. You’re supposed to use it with the Xbox Live competitions so you can talk to your competitors.

I bought all the song packs for Dance Dance Revolution as soon as Mike logged us onto the system. They totally rock. My two favorites that I downloaded are hard and kick my butt, but I still love them. Heaven is a ’57 and Afronova Primeval are fun songs that I had played on the DDR machine at The Gateway arcade a month or so ago. It’s nice to have them on the Xbox to play whenever I want.

Mike bought one of the tracks that he wanted for PGR2, but he was a little disappointed by them. I think he was expecting Cone Challenges or Street Races and such, but they are just tracks that you can race on alone. Maybe they are useful for competing on Xbox Live.

Mike was the first to try playing Xbox Live against other players. He did a couple of games, but he told me he didn’t really like it. He told me that the kids with the headsets were annoying and it really felt like he was just racing against computer drivers if they didn’t talk.

When I tried Xbox Live with DDR, I was a little disappointed because there were no matches available on Light Mode. I’m not good enough to compete on Standard or Heavy yet. Sometimes there weren’t any matches available at all. I felt like no one was using Xbox Live with DDR. I tried to convince Stacey to get Xbox Live so I would have someone to play with, but she was having none of it.

On a lark this weekend (while avoiding writing my chapter), I decided to Create a Match that I would like to play with a song that I liked. I set it up and within seconds, I had three people desperate to compete with me. We played, they kicked my ass and I created another match. I played for over an hour with a total of about ten users (I lost count after ten.). I realized that these kids didn’t know how to create a match and were much more willing to join one that someone else created.

I have logged on twice again since then and played Xbox Live against tons of people. I’ve met people from New Hampshire, California and El Salvador. I had no idea that so many people out there wanted to connect with fellow DDR players. It has been a solitary game for me outside of the arcade experience, so it is so refreshing to play against others, even if they kick my butt.

On the whole, Xbox Live is totally worth the money they ask. I’ve already played enough to pay for the month. The downloads were totally worth it for DDR, but Mike didn’t like the tracks for PGR2. Now, they just need to create a method for people to start their memberships online instead of having to buy the membership at the stores. Not everyone is going to appreciate feeling like Britney Spears with that little headset thing.



Filed under: Reviews,Video Games — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

There’s a new game out on Xbox called Fable and it looked really cool. They were talking about it on Queen of Wands and it sounded like fun to play, so I looked at it at EB Games and Game Stop and Circuit City. Each time I fell short of buying it, even though it looked so cool. The package said that decisions that I make with my character would affect the story and how my character develops. Even though it was a fantasy game, it looked so cool.

I didn’t buy it, though. Shannon in Queen of Wands said that she had to make her character marry the girl that she had been courting. When I looked at the box, all of the characters shown were male. It was looking like I would have to be a boy if I played that game. I didn’t want that. If I’m going to play a fantasy game where I have to be one character, she sure as hell better be a girl. I decided I needed to research more.

As it turned out, Mike did the research for me. Be a girl? No way. The character can be gay. He can marry a man. He can marry women. He can marry and divorce as often as you want him to. He can wear women’s clothing, but he can’t be a woman.

I find this incredibly disturbing that they would forget that one feature. ZAP! There goes half the world. Half of your audience is suddenly alienated. If I want to play your game, I’ll just have to play with the wrong gender.

Poor Mike tried to defend the game programmers and I bit his head off and spit it out at CompUSA. How dare he defend these companies? They cut out half the population of the world with their design skills! Mike tried to tell me that it was through incompetence, and I agree, but it seems like a pathetic way to run a company.

Sims was a fluke. Sims was a mistake. They accidentally made a game that appealed to women and the best they can do to keep up with it is to make more Sims games. Instead of creating focus groups, they just churn out interesting clothes for the Sims to wear and the ability to change their appearance.

Here’s a tip, video game developers… include us. Don’t put women in your game to start the race (Need for Speed). Let us drive the damn cars. Don’t put women in your game to be courted (Fable). Let us live the life of a hero (or slacker as the case may be). Don’t put women in your game to take over when Harry Potter faints (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). Let us be Hermoine and let us relive her adventure. Don’t even get me started talking about Lara Croft.

I’m just glad I didn’t spend the fifty bucks on that game. You think I’m mad now? I would have hunted down the programming fools who didn’t even think about adding a female character and kicked them square in the balls. How’s that for a decision that I make that affects the story and how my character develops?


Writing for The Gadgets Page

Filed under: Computer Stuff,Gadgets & Cool Stuff,Video Games — Laura Moncur @ 6:00 am

I am now writing for The Gadgets Page, so all my ideas about cool gadgets are going to go there from now on. You can read my reviews here:

I am excited to write down all my ideas about the new stuff out there, so please read my reviews for gadgets, video games and computer stuff there!

Wish me luck!

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