Monday, June 12, 2006

Time for games

Time to talk about gaming, and ignore books/world cup for a few brief moments.

Morrowind: Oblivion is still hugely entertaining and diverse. Size certainly isn't everything, but this is an epic game but Bethesda have littered the stunning environment with so many details. Recently I have completed several quests that have no relation to the main story, and my profile in the Dark Brotherhood has grown with each success.

Yet it is not all good news. For a game that allows you to go anywhere and almost do anything, it is frustrating to be sanctioned by locked doors. Picking locks is a skill (and a tiresome one at that) where you rely on timing, and a limitless supply of lock picks. The latter are unfortunately not an everyday item that you can buy in village stores. Rather, you rely on crates hidden in caves or sewers, or the odd (foolish) rampaging "stand and deliver" highwayman. So at the moment my progress with the Brotherhood is thwarted by a locked door on a specific mission.

There are spells available which let you unlock doors and chests, but these rely on your magical ability being at a specific level for them to function. Instead I am scouring the countryside for more lock picks and will return to that door (saving before attempting) to unlock, and progress. So while there are no invisible walls (as we have come to know them) there are other features which limit your freedom.

My under-used Nintendo DS has received a welcome boost with the arrival of a new game: Brain Training. This is a release which has sparked huge waves of demand for the machine in Japan. Developed by a professor, the game calculates your brain age - the argument being that our brain ages, just like our body - so that you can exercise the most important piece of your body. Too many of us are going down the gym and exercising our bodies to look fantastic or shed a few pounds, while your brain turns to jelly. Speak to any fit bird (or bloke) and while the chassis looks in fine condition, you'll soon discover that the motor is in dire need of a tune-up.

So through a series of tests the game (and it is one, as it is fun to play) pushes your brain each day. So far I've had to read aloud, perform calculations and draw various objects. It does take full advantage of the inbuilt microphone and the touch screen, to provide a more interactive and stimulating experience.

For many of us, work becomes a rut, an experience that we can almost perform with our eyes closed - with any spare time being taken up by going to the gym. Having done those tests last night I felt more, well alive I guess. My original brain age was 40, which seeing how I'm in my early 30's isn't so bad. The aim is to reduce the age to 20, by performing daily tasks and pushing your brain further each time.

A real advantage of the DS over the PSP is how it appeals to those normally not inclined to video games. Already M has tested her brain age and performed some of the tests, and she can save those onto the cartridge as well. This creates added spice, as having completed a previously performed test, it will compare the results - an added incentive. So expect more updates as I rediscover my genius abilities.

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