Tag: PC Gaming

Excellent Games with Lazy, Halfassed Interface Design

So Arkham City was on sale on Steam last weekend. Between that and the recent removal of GFWL and SecuROM, and my Xbox (and my copy of the game) being recently stolen, I went ahead and bought it.

Compared to the Xbox version of the game, well, it's got all the same benefits and drawbacks as every PC game does compared to the console version.

Including controller support.

It recognized my outdated Cordless Rumblepad 2 just fine -- I'm not sure if that's internal to the game itself or due to the compatibility layer Steam's added in Big Picture -- but either way, well, it recognized the controller but didn't actually work right with it.

All the button pairs were switched. A and B, X and Y, the bumpers and the triggers.

All of which I suppose I could have eventually reprogrammed my muscle memory to work around (hell, the Xbox's button layout is already backwards for a kid who grew up with a SNES). But the fact that the Y-axis was backwards on the left stick? Not so much. Try playing a game where up is literally down and see how far it gets you.

And here's my gripe:

There's no menu to reconfigure your controller in the game.

There could have been. There's a menu option to look at the controls. You just can't modify them in any way. (Well, you can invert the axes on camera and flight, I suppose. But not on regular movement, the thing where I actually needed to invert an axis. And no button remapping whatsoever.)

There's a configuration utility -- outside the game -- which lets you remap controls...for keyboard and mouse. If there's a way to change the button layout on a gamepad, I sure didn't see it.

Now, the good news about this being 2013 is I could type "arkham city" inverted controls into a search engine and find a trivial fix -- as it turns out, there's a config file in BmGame\Config\DefaultInput.ini that has straightforward, cleartext entries with names like XboxTypeS_LeftY and XboxTypeS_A. Simply swap the names of the axes and buttons, and that's all it takes.

Which is great!

But the bad news about this being 2013 is I can't help asking why the fuck I had to look this up on the Internet and edit a fucking text file instead of just configuring my controls from a menu.

The last time I had a problem like this, with The Walking Dead, I found a forum post by a Telltale staffer who had this to say:

Unfortunately we do not have access to all the various versions of controllers that logitech and other companies make.

Which sounds perfectly sensible, and also completely misses the fucking point.

Now, in Batman's case, there are a couple simple reasons that's a bad argument: first, this issue occurs with the authentic Xbox controllers that the game is specifically designed for. Second, this is not a new bug -- see the link to the fix a few paragraphs up? Take a closer look at the URL -- it's for Arkham Asylum, not City. This is a bug from the original game that was not fixed in the sequel.

But even leaving aside those two points (which is only fair, of course, given that I'm quoting a guy from a different company talking about a completely different game), the central issue remains: this is the twenty-first goddamn century and people are making games -- PC games! -- where they don't give you the option to remap your buttons.

Yes, I know that hardware inconsistency is the single most difficult thing about PC development. No, I don't expect you to design your game to work with every single controller ever made.

But I do goddamn-well expect you to let me map my fucking buttons however I want.

Mega Man X did that shit twenty years ago. What the fuck is your excuse?

Burgled

So the main reason the blog's been kinda quiet this week is that my house was broken into on Monday. I don't really want to say anything more about it publicly at this point. Stuff was stolen, it sucks, we're okay but shaken-up and stressed-out, we'll get through this and things will be back to normal eventually.

It's been a pretty lousy week -- mainly due to the burglary but also because there's been some turnover on my team at work, and today I came home early with a headache. I've been getting headaches all my life, but they didn't used to happen every single fucking time it started to get cloudy out. If this is what happens when you turn 30, I can't wait for all the myriad health issues that will crop up at 40, 50, ...

Anyway. I'm bound to get back to more regular blogging and Zappa posts somewhere down the line, but I'm not quite there yet. Still got a lot else to do.

But for now, I think I'm going to take a break and play some DuckTales.

Summer

Well, it's officially summer now. As opposed to three weeks ago when it wasn't summer, just a 113-degree spring.

Mostly indoors in the air conditioning lately, and catching up on TV and video games. Didn't realize I was so close to finishing Mario Galaxy when I quit playing it like 5 years ago.

Course, if it weren't for the backlog and money being a little tight at the moment, I'd be perusing the various Internet game sales on right now. GOG's got a big one, Steam has plenty of deals, the Humble Bundle has both a weekly bundle and an Android-themed bundle going right now, and Amazon has a bunch of stuff for cheap too. (That last one's an affiliate link; if you buy something through it I get a small kickback.)

I don't have the time to play the games I already have. But I picked up the free download of Torchlight and maybe I'll get to it one of these days. And I've had al little more time this past week, anyway.

nVidia BSoD Fix?

Well, after a year and a half, I think I've finally got the constant BSoD's I get when playing a game with my nVidia GTX 570 fixed.

First, I bit the bullet and used MSI Afterburner to underclock it to 650 MHz. I may not need to keep it that low, but I still got lockups with 690.

I also added a registry key. Via Mike's Technology and Finance Blog, you can set a key at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\GraphicsDrivers called TdrLevel.

One of the complaints with Windows (or really any other operating system) is that the screen freezes from time to time. If the screen freezes for more than a few seconds, users are likely to hard reset the machine that they are working on. This seems natural, but in this case the system is still responsive. The graphics processing unit (GPU) is busy processing something (possibly a game, 3D render, or even Windows Aero) and is not actively refreshing the screen.

In Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 SP1 Microsoft introduced a feature to help catch and correct this behavior using a feature called "Timeout Detection and Recovery (TDR)." The TDR feature works to identify whether the graphics processor is hung (the default timeout is 2 seconds), and if it is, it prepares to reset the graphics processor and the relevant part of the graphics stack. During this process, it tells the driver not to access the hardware or memory and gives it a short time for currently running threads to leave the driver. If the threads do not leave within the timeout, then the system bug checks with 0x116 VIDEO_TDR_FAILURE. The system can also bug check with VIDEO_TDR_FAILURE if a number of TDR events occur in a short period of time (the default is 5 TDRs in 1 minute). If the TDR is successful, then the user may receive a bubble that says "Display driver stopped responding and has recovered."

TdrLevel should be a REG_DWORD. I set it to 0, to disable checking for TDR entirely.

I'm not sure if that helped or not; I think the underclocking was the more important step (as when I set TdrLevel to 0 but didn't underclock, I still got a lockup). But TDR certainly sounds like something that matches my symptoms, as the lockups usually occur with graphical and audio sputtering -- indeed, sometimes I don't get a blue screen at all, the game just sputters to the point of unusability and the system becomes unresponsive.

At any rate, I'm cautiously optimistic; it looks like I've finally got this thing under control and can actually play games under Windows without constant crashes. I didn't notice any performance hit, either, but then again it's not like I'm trying to run Crysis 2. Walking Dead works fine with its settings maxed out, but you don't need a GTX 570 for that.

Now if I could only get OSX running stably with a 64-bit kernel.

The Walking Dead: The Game: Initial Impressions

Some friends got me Telltale Games' The Walking Dead for Christmas. Today I finally got around to firing it up.

And it immediately bluescreened.

As I've mentioned before, I've got serious fucking problems with the GTX 570 in my Mac Pro. Could be a voltage issue -- still trying to figure it out. But I get a fuck of a lot of BSoD's when I'm gaming. Never could get past the opening cinematic of Bioshock. At this point I actually keep my DS or PSP handy so I have a game to play while I'm waiting for Windows to reboot so I can try to play my game again. (Today it was Dragon Quest 6.)

Anyway. I suffered through four more bluescreens over the course of the next few hours, but the play in-between all the bluescreening was pretty sweet.

I like the cel-shaded art style. The art credits in the intro are Art Director Derek Sakai, Lead Animator Peter Tsaykel, and Lead Cinematic Animator Eric Parsons -- no sign of Charlie Adlard's name, but they've done a damn solid job of reproducing his style. They also prove that you don't need a realistic art style for a good, scary Walking Dead game -- they opt instead for thick black lines, big expressive eyes, and the occasional "ink-splatter" shading. I've spoken about simple, iconic images in video games before, and this is a damn fine example. I've never seen a game that looks quite like it, even in Telltale's recent oeuvre.

Some spoilers follow -- mostly simple, early-in-the-game ones.

The choice to give Lee a leg injury right at the beginning of the game is a clever one -- the first two zombie encounters are intense. Lee limps and stumbles and fumbles; his hands shake and he drops the shell he's trying to load into the shotgun -- the point-and-click adventure genre is not known for its pulse-pounding action, but Telltale shows it can be done. A hard time limit and impending horrible death make even clicking on icons and repeatedly pressing keys tense. (Bill Amend made a similar point in Fox Trot some two decades back but I can't find the strip offhand. Myst with velociraptors; you have to solve the puzzles quickly.)

I do find that it gets a little too cute with the cameos -- Lee runs into both Hershel and Glenn? Separately, before the two of them ever meet? That's a bit much.

(There's also a Lilly, but the lettercol in the latest issue of the comic Word-of-Gods it that she's not the same Lilly from the comic and spinoff novel.)

But on the whole I'm really quite impressed with it so far. It's a smartly-made game; well-written, well-crafted, well-animated, well-acted. And I'm just getting started -- I'm looking forward to seeing the long-term consequences of my split-second decisions.

Ze Germans

Not sure if I'll stick with OpenSUSE for the long haul or not.

I quite like YAST but it doesn't have the level of package support that any given apt-based distro does.

And it's slow. I heard OpenSUSE was faster than other KDE-based desktops, but that hasn't been my experience, even switching from HDD to SSD. Firefox routinely pegs the CPU. So does Xorg (which I think is down to my keeping LibreOffice open most of the time). RSSOwl -- which does not have an OpenSUSE package and was a straight-up bitch to set up -- is frequently slow and unresponsive (good ol' Java).

So why RSSOwl, anyway? Well, I like to keep my RSS feeds synced across my desktop, my laptop, my phone -- wherever. At the moment I'm using Google Reader for that.

I used to use Akregator, but it doesn't sync with Google Reader.

I tried Liferea, but...well, it's coded by a guy like me. A power-user who wanted specific network functionality and isn't very good at UI design. It's missing such basic functionality as being able to rename a feed (a necessity when it chokes on as simple a thing as an apostrophe -- my feed list contains "Kurt Busiek's Formspring answers" followed by "Neil Gaiman's Journal"), and its syncing with Google Reader is spotty as well.

Also its name resembles "diarrhea".

So I tried RSSOwl.

Under Ubuntu, it was simple enough to set up RSSOwl -- had to add an external repo, but that was it.

There's no repo for OpenSUSE. There's a binary download, but here's the rub: it doesn't work out of the box. It requires xulrunner 1.x -- 2.x does not work. And OpenSUSE 12.2 doesn't have a package for xulrunner 1.x.

It took me ages to find, but I found a good RPM package of xulrunner 1.9. It's for Scientific Linux, but it installed fine under OpenSUSE, and worked once I symlinked libhunspell-1.3.so.0 to libhunspell-1.2.so.0 . It throws the occasional warning when I run updates, but I've been able to navigate those just fine.

And that's another thing about OpenSUSE: YAST's options, when it runs across a version conflict on a dependency, are pretty opaque and incomprehensible (and it frequently lists the same option multiple times), but at least it gives you options. Ubuntu's package management, in my experience, just throws an error and quits when it runs across that kind of conflict. So score one for OpenSUSE there. Sort of.

Still and all, for all I like about its configuration center/package management system, I'm having a hard time seeing OpenSUSE as Worth It. Maybe when I've got some time to do yet another damn reinstall, I'll give Mint a shot, or something.


Playing: Got in some good Arkham City and Mass Effect 2 time today -- after my job interview. Working my way down that list...

To-Do

Games I've Bought and Haven't Played Yet

  • Civilization 3
  • Civilization 4: Colonization
  • Cities: Skylines
  • X-COM: UFO Defense
  • X-COM: Terror From the Deep
  • X-COM: Apocalypse
  • X-COM: Interceptor
  • X-COM: Enforcer
  • Pirates
  • Starships
  • Ace Patrol
  • Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies
  • Chameleon Run
  • Hitman Go
  • Dropsy
  • The Banner Saga
  • Punch Club
  • Super Stickman Golf 3
  • Ys: The Oath in Felghana
  • Ys 6
  • Ys 7
  • Ys Origin
  • Grandia 2
  • Trails in the Sky 2
  • This War of Mine
  • Nuclear Throne
  • Renowned Explorers
  • Nova-111
  • The Magic Circle
  • Super Avalanche
  • Tailwind Prologue
  • Strikbold
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
  • A Boy and His Blob
  • Human Resource Machine
  • Retro City Rampage
  • Morrowind
  • Oblivion
  • Bioshock 2
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Orange Box
    • Half-Life 2
    • Episode 1
    • Episode 2
    • Portal
    • Team Fortress 2
  • Dungeons & Dragons Anthology
    • Baldur's Gate
    • Baldur's Gate 2
    • Icewind Dale
    • Icewind Dale 2
    • Planescape: Torment
    • Temple of Elemental Evil
  • Fallout
  • System Shock 2
  • FarCry
  • Eversion
  • Aquaria
  • Gish
  • Penumbra: Overture
  • Lugaru
  • Trine 2
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Eets Munchies
  • FTL
  • Rocketbirds
  • LIMBO
  • Shadowman
  • Penny Arcade Episode 2
  • Shank
  • Shank 2
  • The Baconing
  • Plants vs. Zombies: GOTY
  • Fist of Awesome
  • Reaper
  • Super Comboman
  • Ascendant
  • Fist of Jesus
  • Double Dragon: Neon
  • Paper Mario
  • Shenmue

Games I've Bought and Haven't Finished Yet

  • Owlboy
  • Rayman Origins
  • Freedom Planet
  • Civilization 6
  • A Link Between Worlds -- Finished 2014-08-28
  • Majora's Mask
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening -- Finished 2015-03-14
  • Shin Megami Tensei 4
  • Devil Survivor Overclocked
  • Mario Kart 7 -- Finished single-player 2014-07-20
  • Super Mario 3D Land
  • Ys -- Finished 2017-02-04
  • Ys 2
  • Ys: Memories of Celceta -- Finished 2017-02-01
  • Axiom Verge -- Finished 2016-09-11
  • Stardew Valley
  • Mighty No. 9
  • Transformers: Devastation
  • Trails in the Sky
  • The Stick of Truth
  • Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
  • Shovel Knight -- Finished 2016-02-15
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  • Civilization 4 -- Finished a full game 2016-01-23
  • Civilization 5 -- Finished a full game 2016-02-14
  • Undertale
  • I Am Setsuna
  • Shantae: Risky's Revenge -- Finished 2016-08-07
  • Adventure of Mana
  • Witcher 3
  • Skyrim
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed
  • Guacamelee -- Finished 2015-02-21
  • Valkyria Chronicles -- Finished 2014-12-20
  • Valkyria Chronicles 2
  • Walking Dead: 400 Days -- Finished 2014-01-05
  • The Wolf Among Us -- Finished 2014-07-18
  • Psychonauts
  • Super Mario Galaxy -- Finished 2013-06-15
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Xenoblade
  • Last Story -- Finished 2013-07-13
  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Gears of War
  • Crackdown
  • Dead Rising
  • Tactics Ogre
  • Star Ocean: First Departure
  • Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles
  • Dragon Quest 9
  • Etrian Odyssey 3
  • Retro Game Challenge
  • Mega Man ZX
  • WarioWare DIY
  • Half-Life
  • Cthulhu Saves the World
  • Bastion
  • DuckTales Remastered -- Finished 2013-08-22
  • World of Goo
  • Samorost 2
  • A Virus Named TOM
  • Fez
  • Brutal Legend
  • Ghostbusters
  • Penny Arcade Episode 1
  • Legend of Grimrock
  • Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril
  • Pier Solar
  • Metroid Prime 2
  • Persona 4
  • Mega Man X8

Games I've Received as Gifts and Haven't Finished Yet

  • Portal 2
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Hatoful Boyfriend
  • Shower with Your Dad Simulator
  • The Walking Dead -- Finished 2013-02-17
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns
  • Kirby's Epic Yarn
  • Mega Man 10
  • Kirby's Canvas Curse
  • Dragon Quest 6

Games I've Borrowed and Haven't Finished Yet

  • Destroy All Humans -- Returned
  • Batman: Arkham City -- Finished 2012-12-02

Games I Got for Free and Haven't Finished Yet

  • AM2R
  • Spelunky
  • Batman: Arkham Knight -- Finished 2015-08-12
  • Batman: Arkham Origins
  • Game of Thrones
  • Monument Valley
  • GTA: San Andreas
  • Wario Land 2
  • Sonic 4 Episode 1
  • Ultimate NES Remix -- Finished 2015-05-24
  • New Super Mario Bros. 2 -- Finished 2015-03-18
  • Torchlight
  • Bioshock
  • Fallout 2
  • Bard's Tale (Android)
  • Mighty Gunvolt -- Finished 2014-09-11
  • Game Dev Story -- Made it to endgame 2014-03-29

Games I've Bought and Haven't Finished Replaying Yet

  • Batman: Arkham City -- Finished 2015-01-06
  • Valkyria Chronicles
  • Mega Man Legends 2
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Sonic CD
  • Mega Man: Powered Up
  • Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X -- Finished 2015-10-12
  • Crisis Core
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Mario Land 2
  • Zelda 2 -- Finished 2013-05-05
  • Final Fantasy 6 Advance
  • DuckTales Remastered
  • Skies of Arcadia

Remakes I Haven't Finished of Games I Have Finished

  • Final Fantasy (PSP)
  • Final Fantasy 4 DS
  • Final Fantasy 5 (Android)
  • Sonic 2 (Android)
  • Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection
  • Dragon Quest 7

ROMs I've Downloaded and Haven't Finished

  • Retro Game Challenge 2
  • SaGa 2 (DS)
  • Earth Bound
  • Earthbound
  • Soul Blazer
  • BS-Zelda -- Time limit ran out; unwinnable; not going to start over
  • BS-Zelda: LttP
  • Sonic 2 Delta
  • Phantasy Star Generation 1
  • Super Mario 3mix

ROMs I've Downloaded and Haven't Played

  • 7th Dragon
  • SaGa 3 (DS)
  • Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem
  • Soma Bringer
  • Tales of Innocence
  • Valkyria Chronicles 3

Games I Got for Free and Haven't Played

  • Lost Odyssey
  • GRID
  • DiRT Showdown
  • Corporate Lifestyle Simulator
  • Huntsman: The Orphanage
  • Batman: Arkham Origins: Blackgate
  • Tropico 4
  • Bionic Dues
  • Divine Divinity
  • Sonic 4 Episode 2
  • Gothic 2
  • Ultima 4
  • Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire
  • Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams
  • Akalabeth
  • Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games
  • Wreckateer
  • Penny Arcade Episode 3
  • Star Command
  • Magrunner: Dark Pulse
  • Warlock: Master of the Arcane
  • Aliens vs. Predator Classic 2000
  • Metro 2033
  • Teleglitch
  • Mount and Blade
  • Stealth Inc 2
  • Gabriel Knight: SotF20AE
  • Dreamfall Chapters
  • SPACECOM

Games I've Funded on Kickstarter that Don't Exist Yet

  • Project Phoenix

ParaNorman

It was a busy weekend! I had a friend in from out of town, then had my cousins over for cartoons and games, then had more friends out of town and went drinkin' with them.

Caught a couple movies, too, including ParaNorman at the cheap theater. I liked it!

First of all: it's a kids' movie that does shit you're not supposed to do in a kids' movie. My favorite gag involved the rather gruesome image of the ghost of a dog who had been hit by a car. It's funnier than it sounds.

The flick does some fun things with genre conventions, has the usual kids' movie message that it's okay to be different, adds the rather more complex message that bullying is caused by fear and begets more bullying -- but mostly it's just a damn pretty, weird, creepy, funny, unconventional kids' horror movie, from a couple of directors whose resumés include Flushed Away, Coraline, and Corpse Bride.


Playing: Oh so very many things. This weekend we threw down on Scott Pilgrim, Gears of War, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (purchased used -- my boycott remains unbroken), and most recently Batman: Arkham City, which my cousin loaned me. I was going to buy the PC version to use with my sweet PC graphics card, but on finding out it had SecuROM I decided not to pay for it and just borrow the Xbox version instead -- you listening, Square Enix? Of course you're not.

Xboxin', Part 3

Dragon Age: Origins: Another medieval fantasy RPG influenced by Game of Thrones. To the point that it's about a kingdom that needs to repel a zombie invasion but is too busy fighting amongst itself. Also it spells "sir" with an "e".

Pretty standard plot; you're recruited to an elite fighting force, something goes wrong and you have to pick up the pieces. It's a BioWare game, and the gameplay is like Knights of the Old Republic with Final Fantasy 12's combat support system.

I enjoyed the hell out of it (and the expansion, Awakening, was pretty good too) but never got around to playing the sequel, which I hear is a much different game and which got pretty mixed reviews.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game: As a game it's okay. As a Ghostbusters sequel, it's great. They managed to get basically everyone from the movies except Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis back together; it's funny and it makes for a great continuation from the movies.

Do not confuse it with Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime. I haven't played that one, but it doesn't have the actors from the movies in it, and from what I've read it's terrible.

Mega Man 9: Another downloadable game. It's a new Mega Man game in the NES style. Think of a game as complexly designed and bitch-ass hard as Mega Man 2 or 3; now think of it with 20 years' more of game design knowledge attached to it. (There's a Mega Man 10, too; it's neat but not as good as 9 and I never did get around to finishing it.)


Also, I've started Gears of War; I haven't gotten far but it seems like a damn decent cover-based third-person shooter. And I got it for under $5 used. I also enjoyed the demos I played of Fez (a puzzle platformer based around rotating a 3D world that you can only move through as a side-scroller) and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (which is a new Pac-Man game with different maze layouts, slightly different play mechanics, and a whole lot more ghosts -- another retro-style game with a really good modern design sensibility). The neat thing about all the downloadable games on Xbox Live is every single one of them has a demo you can download; given sufficient bandwidth and a hard drive you can try out a few levels of a new game or three every day and enjoy the hell out of just doing that.

Other games I haven't gotten around to playing but hear are good: Dead Rising, Bioshock, Skyrim, The Orange Box, Bayonetta.

I started a thread called Xbox 360 101 over at brontoforum.us; it's full of various recommendations.

So there ya go -- more games than you can shake a stick at and probably more than you can find time to play. That's like 5 years' worth of games for me, even though I just got my Xbox six weeks ago, since I played most of these on PC.

Xboxin', Part 2

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings -- My favorite game of 2011, though the Xbox version just came out a few months ago and is still pricey. (I saw it on sale for $30 recently; maybe you can find a deal.)

Now, the first game is PC-only, and in fact the whole thing is based on a series of Polish fantasy novels that were only recently published in English. But you don't really need to know all that stuff. Here are the important bits of the backstory:

It's a medieval fantasy setting, of the dystopian sort that's currently vogue. Think Game of Thrones, only even more bleak.

Witchers are mutants who fight monsters. They're all male, they have yellow eyes, age slowly, are immune to disease, can cast a few simple spells, and use various potions to enhance their senses.

Our Hero, Geralt of Rivia, is supposed to be dead, but for some reason he's not. He's got amnesia (and if you're playing an RPG cliché drinking game, drink up) and has recently been caught in the middle of a race war in the city of Vizima. A terrorist organization of elves and dwarves called the Scoia'tel invaded, a Knights Templar-like religious organization called the Order of the Flaming Rose seized control of the city, and ultimately the King of Vizima showed up and managed to regain control. The first game ends with Geralt foiling an assassination attempt on the King, only to discover that the would-be assassin has yellow eyes.

The PC version originally had a steep-ass learning curve (as Penny Arcade put it, "It's not that hard. You just have to use abilities they won't discuss and techniques they haven't entirely taught you via controls they never quite explain.") but I hear the Xbox version fixes that and has a tutorial section that doesn't just throw you in the deep end.

Sonic Generations: The first good Sonic game in a decade. There's a plot involving time travel that causes 2011 Sonic to team up with 1991 Sonic; you play through new versions of levels from previous games (Green Hill from Sonic 1, Chemical Plant from Sonic 2, etc.), and each is split into one 2D level you play as '91 Sonic and one 3D level you play as '11 Sonic. The conceit works really wonderfully; the levels are well-designed, full of nostalgia, and have some good remixes of the old music; there's not much to the plot but it's pretty funny (particularly when 1991 Robotnik meets his future self).

Sonic CD: And speaking of 1990's-vintage Sonic games, they've ported this one to the Xbox as a downloadable title. (BTW, a friend of mine advised me never to buy Microsoft Points directly from Microsoft; they store your credit card online, tie it to a Windows Live/Hotmail/Whatever account, and if one of their affiliate sites gets broken into there goes your credit card information. You're better off buying a Microsoft Points card at GameStop or wherever and then entering it into your Xbox.) A few tweaks here: the game works in 16:9, they've changed the spin-dash to work the way it does in Sonic 2 instead of the original clunky version, you can choose either the Japanese or American version of the soundtrack, and after you beat the game you can replay as Tails.

(I think they've got a bunch of other old Genesis Sonic games for download, but they haven't been updated in any way.)