Sunday, June 15, 2014

What's Playing Now: 06/16/14

It's still sort of tough to get some gaming in, but I am finding some time with some games.  It's hard to go wrong with a Mario game in terms of gameplay and pure fun and NSMB U is no exception.  Tight controls and interesting levels make for a very fun time.  Dustforce is a mellow and relaxing experience.  Deceptively simple gameplay and a relaxing soundtrack keeps you trying to get you best time on each level.  Ultra Street Fighter IV is simply the best fighting game currently available.  The five new characters interesting and fun to play and the re-balancing  changes to the rest of the cast for the most part make sense.

  • NSMB U - Wii U
  • Dustforce - 360
  • Ultra Street Fighter IV - 360

E3 Wrap Up and Thoughts

Well E3 2014 has come and gone, I can't say it was as eventful as last years but I believe there was definitely a bit to see on all of the major platforms.  Below are some of the titles shown that I'm looking forward to this year and the next.

Crackdown - The original Crackdown was one of the first games I played on the Xbox 360.  I didn't expect much from the game, but ended up having a blast with it.  The second game wasn't any where near as enjoyable, but the new game announced at E3 seems to be a return to form for the series.

Cuphead - I don't believe much was said about Cuphead during the Microsoft press event and I don't believe that much is actually known about the game.  However, I'm a sucker for a great 2D game and the art direction looks like a lot of fun as well.  I'll be keeping an eye out for this game.

Mighty No.9 - An excellent looking title from Keiji Inafune, the father of Mega man, this Kickstarter founded game is looking like a lot of fun.  If Mighty No.9 is anything at all like the Mega Man games I'm sure Mighty No.9 will be a winner.

Ori and the Blind Forest - Another unexpected title from Microsoft, Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautiful looking Metroidvania title.  I actually think the game is reminiscent of 2012's Summer of Arcade excellent Dust: An Elysian Tail.  It is games like these that are slowly changing my opinion of the Xbox One.

Inside - The next game from Playdead, the developers of the dark puzzler Limbo, is looking interesting.  I'm expecting more brutal puzzles and likely even more ways to meet your end.

Forza Horizon 2 -  I can't say I was a big fan of the original title, but the sequel is looking very good and like a lot of fun.  I am especially interested in the huge clubs you'll be able to put together with your friends.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection - I am not a fan of the FPS genre, but I make an exception for  the Halo games.  An interesting story, excellent score, and solid gameplay keeps me playing these games.  Placing all of the current titles into a remastered HD package is an excellent move by Microsoft to keep Halo fans happy until Halo 5: Guardians arrives.

Scalebound - With games like The Wonderful 101, Vanquish, MadWorld, and Bayonetta under their belts it is very difficult to go wrong with a title from Platinum Games.  Scalebound is Platinum's first Xbox One title and based on their track record I expect challenging but fun experience.

Assassin's Creed Unity -  I'm a fan of the Assassin's Creed series and Unity is looking very solid and the addition of four players in the story mode certainly looks interesting.  Word is that the free running system has been tweaked and that this will mark the return to stealth for the series, all good things if you ask me.

Bloodborne - A new title from From Software, not much is known about this game.  It doesn't seem to be a successor to Demon Soul, but still looks quite interesting.  Hopefully more will be known about this game soon.

Unchartered 4: A Thief's End - The fourth title in the excellent Unchartered series, although no gameplay was shown the games have gotten better with each subsequent release.  I fully expect A Thief's End to keep that trend going, I also think it will definitely move PS4s once it is released.

Grim Fandango Remastered -  I missed the original Grim Fandango, but having heard nothing but excellent things about this classic I very surprised and geeked by this announcement.  Games like Grim Fandango just aren't made anymore, I am certainly looking forward to this release.

Pier Solar and the Great Architects - A RPG inspired by classic 16-bit role playing games?  Sign me up, this game has been a long time coming and it's nice that it's finally getting closer to a release.  I am expecting a nice trip down memory lane with this one.

Bayonetta 2 -  A followup to one of the best action games released during the last generation, Bayonetta 2 is looking excellent.  The icing on the cake is that Platinum has also included the original Bayonetta in this package.  There simply isn't anything here not to like here.

Hyrule Warriors -  An interesting Zelda and Dynasty Warriors mashup, this game looks like a lot of fun.  If you are a fan of the Dynasty Warrior series and Zelda this game is worth looking at and an interesting way to get your Hyrule fix until the new Zelda arrives in 2015.

Xenoblade Chronicles X - A followup up to one of the best RPGs released on the Wii, many have waiting for more information about this game.  Although no plot details were given, it's nice to see that the game will arrive in 2015 and is still looking very solid.

Mario Maker - An unexpected announcement from Nintendo, Mario Maker looks like quite a bit of fun.  Free reign to design your own Mario levels and even switch between the original and NSMB graphics style, I'm sure this one will go over well in my house.  Hopefully you'll be able to share the levels you design.

The Legend of Zelda Wii U - This is the game many were waiting for Nintendo to finally show and I have to say that Nintendo did not disappoint.  All that is known so far is that this new Zelda will have an open world and will arrive sometime in 2015.  The trailer also shows off the new cell shaded look and some action between Link and a new enemy.  If this lives up to expectations I believe that the new Zelda will move Wii Us.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

The first real pictures of Subaru's 2015 WRX STI were leaked last week before the Detroit Auto Show (which starts tomorrow).  There isn't much known just yet, though Subaru will be live streaming their press event, here.  Now to explain the title of this post, which at least gave me a chuckle...

  • Something Old:  There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the looks of the new STI from NASIOC to The Car Lounge, this is par for the course for most new Subaru models though (the 4th gen Legacy and BRZ being notable exceptions to this rule).  Most of what I've (other than the Corolla jokes) seen has been that it looks like the current Evolution.  I can see how some reach that conclusion, but in my opinion looking a bit closer I see styling cues from the GC8 WRX STi.  I think this is especially noticeable in the front fascia turn signal and foglight area, the headlights and grille while not direct cues seem to be evolutions of the past designs.

  • Something New: Like the new WRX, the 2015 STI is riding on the all new Impreza platform.  The early impressions from the major car mags and websites about the new 2015 WRX have been incredibly positive.  Like the STI models before it's only logical to assume that Subaru will improve and sharpen the already impressive handling even more in the 2015 STI.

  • Something Borrowed: While the forthcoming 2015 WRX is using the FA20 DIT, it has been confirmed in leaked dealer pre-order docs that the STI will have a 2.5L engine.  The last time I checked Subaru doesn't have a 2.5L variant of the FA2x DIT engine, unless it's a very well kept secret.  While I'm sure that one is the works, I'm crossing my fingers that Subaru uses a variant of the EJ25x engine until the new engine is ready.  Hopefully one that shares the bottom mounted turbo location first seen in the 5th generation Legacy.  Silly me, but with a lack of aftermarket turbo options I'm hoping that a Legacy inspired turbo placement will result in something that I can use for my 5th  generation Legacy GT.

  • Something Blue: The first pics of the new 2015 STI are in World Rally Blue Pearl with gold wheels (a timeless combination in my humble opinion), I've got nothing to really add here.  The definitive Subaru color on the new top model, yeah it's just right.

Stop Me If You've Heard This Before

The first full week of the 2014 wrapped up yesterday.  I'm thinking that it isn't too late for me to get my resolutions in for the New Year though.  Last year was a busy one, especially with the arrival of little one number three.  Hopefully this year I can slow things down a little and get more done.  Well here's my list of resolutions for 2014 and with the exception of the very first one these are in no particular order.

  • Spend more time with my family:  As I mentioned in my intro to this post my family grew in 2013, I now have two boys and a little lady (five, two, and new as I like to say).  I have to admit this little guy was a surprise, but I'm very glad here's here and healthy.  Spending time with two was interesting, but a third is definitely game changing to me.  It isn't enough just make sure your kids have the clothes they need, that they're fed, or if they even have the toys they want.  These little people are going to need more individual attention and I since they're children I'm certainly going to need to work on my patience.  That means more exploring neighborhood "mountains", putting together new Lego creations, or just the two of us Cars & Coffee outings with oldest son.  It also means not scratching my head when my little girl introduces me to her Doc McStuffins or Minnie mouse doll for the 50th time or if she falls down the princess rabbit hole hard this I suspect some tea parties may be in future this year.  I'm cool with that, besides I really like tea.  At about 2-months old my youngest can't really do much other than eat, sleep, and look cute.  He'll be up to more this year as he gets older though, tummy time, just hanging out on dad.  Other than the "no sense of time" thing infants are a joy to be around and it's going to be an interesting journey to see the little person he grows into and just how different he'll be from his big brother and sister. 

    In addition to more individual attention, 2014 means more family outings.  More trips to the Smithsonian, National Zoo, the National Aquarium, more trips to see nana and grandma, and figuring out the logistics of our annual Spring trip to NYC for the NAIAS (now with 3-kids in tow).  When we're just around the house, family cooking time should prove to be entertaining and memorable as well.  It's not just my kids that need more attention this year though, I'm very sure my wife would appreciate some more time this year.  From doing more with the kids and around the house to addressing a lack of date nights and just one on one time away from the kids.  Make no mistake, we love our children, but adult interaction is necessary to maintain one's sanity.

  • Blog more: I started blogging last year and was doing it pretty regularly for a while.  Then work and some life events caused mute to slow down quite a bit.  I really like blogging though; it's a great way to get one's thoughts out.  From baking/food, gaming, and definitely cars I plan on being more active at my Bake | Game | Drive and becoming a more active contributor at Tunergy.  In addition to being more active, I'm going to start making my posts public.  I thought about this for a while last year and it was nice sharing things with my friends and family.  This year I'm going to put it out there and see what those on the interweb think.  You know, perhaps there are others out there interested in baking, gaming, driving/cars, or even all three at the same time.  At the very least it should make for an interesting year.

  • Bake something new: I baked a few new things last year, my first loaf of challah, a peach pie, and a few new cakes.  This year I plan on finally tackling some more difficult items, specifically pastries.  From croissants to turnovers it's going to be fun learning some new things.  I think I'll add some new bread to the mix as well, perhaps some honey wheat and maybe even focaccia.  I'm also going to try to improve at cooking as well this year, after all cakes and brownies don't make for good dinners.

  • Install some car parts: I collected a closet full of parts for my Legacy last year, wheels and tires, Bilstein dampers, a strut brace, and a few other things.  This year everything gets installed, hopefully once the weather gets nicer.  With a properly modified suspension I believe it'll difficult to wipe the smile from my face after spending some time driving (provided I'm not stuck traffic).  If things go well I may even be able to get a Stage 1 Cobb tune in this year as well.

  • Work through my game backlog: I have a very serious backlog of games to work through going as far back as the Sega Saturn.  I've been slowly working my way through my 360 catalog and this year I'm going to make a dent in several platforms.  I'm trying to hit the big series titles (Assassin's Creed, Bioshock, and etc.), quirky downloadable games (Mark of the Ninja, Sine Mora, and etc.), and some classics (Phantasy Star II, Castlevania: SOTN, and etc.).  In between all of that I'll be trying to get my fighting game mojo back, build a respectable PS3 library, find that "ah ha" game for my oldest son, and even explore a return to PC gaming.  It looks like 2014 is going to be a busy year for gaming in my home.

  • Catch up on some TV: With little ones around a lot of my TV programming involves three channels; Nick Jr, Disney Jr, and Sprout.  Spending more time with the kids should tire them out bit and allow us to reclaim our television.  I've already started working my way through Firefly (which is way over due and required to keep my status in certain communities), but there's plenty of NCIS, Community, and Key & Peele to catch up on as well.

  • Get the house painted: We've been in the house coming up on two years and I feel like we still haven't really made our mark on it.  However, we did pick out colors, small furnishings (accent rugs, a coffee table, and the like), and even have all of our drapes.  Other than my youngest son putting a slight and unexpected spin on the kids' bedroom situation everything else is ready to go.  This year we make it happen even if it's a room or a floor at a time.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's Playing Now

I've been trying to get some more gaming in lately so I figured that I would keep track of what I'm working my through or for fighters trying to get back up to speed on.  Currently all of my time is being spent on the 360, but when time allows I'll definitely power up another console.  I just wrapped up AC: Brotherhood, I'm not sure I will jump right back into the AC universe with AC: Revelations though  (AC:IV is out, but as usual I'm in no hurry rush through the games).  I am pretty sure I'll resist the overwhelming urge to play through the Mass Effect trilogy again, Bioshock is a good contender though and I'll always find time for several fighters.  It's probably sort of odd to have a gaming goal, but I'm going to try keep a "modern" title, fighter(s), and retro game in rotation when I can.  Anyways, the current list below and I'm always open to suggestions or going a few rounds as well.

  • Bioshock or Assassin's Creed: Revelations - 360
  • SSFIVAE/UMvC3/3rd Strike - 360
  • Phantasy Star II - 360

Three of a Kind

I'm still playing catch up from my blogging hiatus and something else that happened during that period was that we added my third Subaru to our stable.  Sadly Subaru #3 is not the Satin White Pearl BRZ Limited that I wanted, it's a 2013 Ice Silver Metallic Tribeca Limited.  With little one number three on the way the BRZ was never going to cut it.  Honestly, the Tribeca was not our first choice in the crowded crossover field.  We considered the Pilot, Highlander, Pathfinder, Explorer, and Tribeca.  the Highlander and Explorer were quickly dismissed; with a new Highlander on the way buying the old model didn't make sense and the Explorer just felt bad (the highlight of our test drive was the black headliner, that's not a good sign).  We wanted to like the Pilot and all of its practical boxiness, but the price for an EX-L 4WD was a little too steep.  We had decided that the new Mallfinder errr Pathfinder was the best choice, it has easy access to the third row seats for oldest child and another passenger while also providing a nice level of wife approved amenities.  However, when it came time to close the deal the dealership we were working with decide to play games, if any dealer does this I strongly advise anyone to walk away and that was what we did. We had test driven the Tribeca earlier and even had a decent offer, after a little searching we found an even better deal and that's how Subaru's little known and often unloved crossover found a space in our garage next to my Legacy GT.

Despite what the automotive press says about the Tribeca (I'm looking at you Edmunds), it is not horribly vehicle.  It definitely isn't perfect but what car is.  I find the time I've spent with our Tribeca to be a relatively pleasant experience.  Subaru's 3.6L flat six (EZ36D) produces enough power and torque to allow the Tribeca to get out of its own way with relative ease, with a surprisingly pleasant exhaust note.  I also find the handling to be better than all of the other crossovers we tried as well, likely due more to the 255 wide tires than lower center of gravity a boxer engine provides.  The Tribeca falls short in two glaring areas, mileage and third row space.  Even though it burns regular the Tribeca only gets about 20mpg on the highway and also has a smallish tank for its class.  In regards to the third row, it's really only fit for small children and people you don't like.  Though our little likes it back there and my 5'3" sister-in-law (that I like mind you) completed a 4+ hour road trip without issue or complaint sitting back there.  Our Tribeca is certainly a comfortable and capable family carrier and highway cruiser.  However, as an enthusiast I really want to do something to our new Subaru, but support for the slow selling Tribeca is slim to none.  That hasn't stopped me from looking though, I've already found a shop willing to tackle a custom axle or cat-back exhaust and 3.6 powered Subarus are tunable via Ecutek (though I really just want better mileage, but a little more power can't hurt).  The suspension is a lot trickier to tackle and honestly lighter wheels and stickier rubber may just be the way to go.

All of this is up in the air though, I already have a closest full of Legacy parts and an Impreza refresh project to tackle.  Also, with Subaru pulling the plug on the Tribeca after MY14 (and announcing an eventual return to the 7-seater market) it may be best to just leave the family truckster alone and replace it with what should be a more spacious and fuel efficient successor once it becomes available.  In the meanwhile though I'll just enjoy the time I spend with our new Subaru.

Easy As Pie

During my hiatus from blogging I did manage to get quite a bit of baking done.  Specifically I was on a pie baking streak.  During the summer I baked two peach pies and now wife is believer in what I swear is without a doubt the best summer pie one can ever enjoy.  Last month finally got around to making my first pumpkin pie.  It was alright, but I can think of better uses for a jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter though.  However, for those that really enjoy pumpkin pie I would definitely say give it a go, the recipe is below:


  • 1 9–inch pie shell, unbaked (I make my own using this recipe)
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1 jar Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
Preheat oven to 450° F Beat eggs until blended then stir in Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter and cream. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° F and bake for an additional 40 minutes or until center is just set. (A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.) Serve at room temperature. Serves 8.

With Thanksgiving about 4-weeks away there will certainly be some more pies coming out of my oven.  I'm pretty sure there will be at least one sweet potato pie, but a nice apple pie could certainly work as well.