Unnecessary Product Review Vol. 2: PlayStation Plus

psplusbannerBeing an American, I decided to pay for something that I didn’t really need, about which I knew little, and for which I had little desire.  Here are the results of said experiment.

On a whim, I signed up for PlayStation Plus, three months for $18.  There are various perks, of basically three types: early access, discounts, and free stuff.  The early access seems to carry the least weight, as I have seen no offers yet of early access to betas, demos, or whatnot, and honestly could not imagine being pants-peeing-ly excited about obtaining a sample of something a few days ahead of everyone else.

Discounts are a bit more concrete, yet can only be obtained (here’s the catch) if you give PlayStation more money.  Most of the discounts available are for avatars and themes you can buy for your account, which are usually known by their street name: A Complete Waste of Your Money™.  The only current discount of note is a reduced price on Portal 2 ($13.99 down from $19.99).

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BUT WHAT DO I GET FOR FREE?

Well, you get a few things that don’t really matter: one GB of online cloud save storage, automatic system/game updates, and one-hour full game trials.  The cloud storage basically backs up your saves, so if your hard drive crashes you can still go back and look at all the shit you collected in Fallout 3.  The automatic updates basically turns your PS3 on, installs your updates, and then turns it off.  Amazing?  No.  Helpful?  Maybe.  Did it keep turning itself back on one night for no apparent reason?  Yes.  As far as the one hour “Full Game Trial”, I have to say that the term is misleading, as it is inherently impossible to play the full game in one hour.  More appropriate names: “Extended Trailer”, “Slightly Longer Demo”, and “Get Halfway through the First Tutorial/Opening Cinematic”.  But there are a few actually free games, which I have categorized and describe thusly:

The Good:

–          Quantum Conundrum

This is a super-addictive story-driven puzzler.  Why you should play it: reality-altering devices, a teleporting cat, and John de Lancie.

–          Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game

A retro-styled side-scrolling beat ‘em up game.  Good music, story, and characterization.

–          Outland

If Team Ico made Prince of Persia, the result would be something like Outland.  The result is a solid platformer with quality art reminiscent of Braid.

–          PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX

It.  Is.  Pac man.

–          LittleBigPlanet 2

If you like the first one, you already know this game is _______.  If you haven’t played LittleBigPlanet, it’s basically a Super Mario game where everything was made in a Hobby Lobby.

–          Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One

Cartoon Adventure!   Made for kids, but still an enjoyable game.

The Mediocre:

–          inFAMOUS 2

I’ve renamed it Parkour Championship II.  You climb buildings and shoot lightning.  It’s not terrible.

–          Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that you’ve already heard the criticism about the game being racist.  I’m only about two hours into the game, so my main criticism thus far is that the first main skirmish is lifted directly from RE4.  Honestly, the game is kind of boring.  UPDATE: I played about two more hours and have since abandoned it.

–          King of Fighters XIII

It’s a fighting game.  You fight people.  That’s about it.  Played for fifteen minutes, confirmed that I still do not like fighting games.

The Ugly:

–          Payday The Heist

If you spend an inordinate amount of time fantasizing about killing cops, then this is the game for you.  Honestly, I could see what they were going for with this game, and building the game around co-op was a good idea, as well as necessary, because the computer AI is abysmal.  Any focus on strategy or stealth is pointless, as the game inevitably devolves into a bloodbath.  Oh, and do you like clown masks?  Because there are clown masks.  So if you wished you were a member of Slipknot with a penchant for murdering law enforcement personnel, wish granted.

–          BloodRayne: Betrayal

Here’s the plot: somebody who liked the Castlevania games watched Blade and thought something like: “Hey, what if it was a goth girl instead and she fought the Nazis or something?”  There’s not a whole lot to this game.  Step one: hack.  Step two: slash.  Step three: play something else.

–          Double Dragon Neon

An “update” of the classic side-scroller, it seems as if this game was designed by a group of 13-year-old boys.  I played this game for 10-15 minutes and actually laughed out loud at how tacky and terrible this game was.  It’s over-sexualized, one-dimensional, and ridiculous, but not in a good way.  This is a case where they could have just ported the original and it would have been ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND TIMES BETTER.

Unnecessary Product Conclusion: I got a handful of playable games for less than twenty bucks.  If you are not terribly particular about what you play, AND you’re just looking for games that are even somewhat enjoyable, AND you don’t have the games that PS Plus gives you for free, then I would recommend you give it a try.

Unnecessary Product Review Vol. 1: Amazon Prime

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Despite early reports of its future demise, Netflix is undoubtedly the behemoth of internet streaming services.  Over the past few years its use has spread, so much so that I think we are all beginning to assume that everyone uses it.  It is basically becoming the new cable TV, where the connotation is that anyone who doesn’t have Netflix is living in some remote, backwater wilderness, relying on farmer five, AM radio, and Western Union telegraph service.

Recently I decided to give one of Netflix’s main competitors in the streaming arena, Amazon Prime, a test run… because it was free.

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Amazon Prime offers you a handful of perks: free two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible orders; free release-day delivery on eligible pre-orders; one free Kindle book per month; and unlimited streaming of Amazon Prime movies and TV shows.  The shipping perks are nice if you’re super impatient, and the Kindle books are great if you’re a person who doesn’t realize that libraries still exist.

Amazon Prime’s streaming is comparable to Netflix – in that the majority of Amazon Prime videos are available on Netflix streaming.  Amazon Prime does offer a handful of notable movies not available on Netflix Instant (Into the Wild, Being There, Near Dark, L.A. Confidential, Waiting for Guffman, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure), as well as the complete run of TV’s West Wing.  One problem that Amazon Prime has is that the user interface is a bit wonky, especially when trying to browse their selection.  While the selections available are similar, Netflix clearly dwarfs prime in the volume of movie titles available.  When it comes to TV shows, the picture is a little murkier.  Looking at the top 60 metacritic-rated TV shows, 37 are available on neither Netflix nor Amazon Prime (most are HBO and Showtime).  Of the 23 shows available:

– 11 on both Prime & Netflix – Battlestar Galactica, Bleak House, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Friday Night Lights, Lost, Sons of Anarchy, Better Off Ted, Rescue Me, Parks and Recreation, Luther

– 9 on Netflix – Breaking Bad, Louie, Mad Men, 24, Archer, The Office (U.S.), The Killing, 30 Rock, Walking Dead

– 3 on Amazon Prime – Ken Burns: Prohibition, Pushing Daisies, Absolutely Fabulous

Netflix has the edge, especially considering their stranglehold on AMC shows.

Unnecessary Product Conclusion: Amazon Prime comes in at $79/year, which is a bit cheaper than Netflix ($7.99/month = $96/year).  If you are eligible for a free one month trial, now would be the ideal time to capitalize on the free shipping.  While Netflix is undoubtedly the better streaming service, Amazon Prime’s fringe benefits make it an intriguing competitor.  But I’m still not paying for it.  Ultimately, Amazon Prime’s streaming and kindle book service are throw-ins; individually, they wouldn’t be viable services; and collectively, Amazon Prime acts as more of a one-time grab-bag than as an intriguing long-term product.