Slave to the Game

Filling you in on the oddball gaming news

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Hot Pixel is a collection of more than 100 mostly disconnected mini-games, which adds a casual title to the PSP’s generally core lineup.

The games are kind of spastic and weird, blending arcade-style action with an urban sensibility, with little hint as to what’s coming next. The game is broken into 10+ categories, but the titles bear little to no resemblance to what’s inside. Inquiries with Atari did not shed much more light on the category names.

Graphically, Hot Pixel is nothing special. Some of the games look like they were ripped out of arcades from the 1980s, while the “You Lose” and “You Win” seems to be some mix of real people and 2D movements. I don’t think the graphics take away from the gameplay much.

The games range from incredibly boring to incredibly confusing. But even on the games that I did enjoy, the thrill was momentary, because it was over so quickly. Games where you erase on the screen to reveal a pattern or use a remote control on a TV feel more like chores than fun activities. The well-done games were for the most part modern updates to Atari’s classics.

All told, Hot Pixel is a fish out of water; it’s a game that might fit better on the Wii or DS, but it’s angst-ridden vibe might make it a bit too caustic for Nintendo’s audience. For the people who think nonsensical spitfire gameplay is for them, there are 70 more mini-games to download over at the Hot Pixel website.

10,000 games console mod chips seized in Hong Kong

Nintendo has raided a factory that it claims was making devices used to pirate games for its Wii and DS games consoles. Working with local authorities, Nintendo representatives seized more than 10,000 game copying devices and modification chips from the factory in Hong Kong two weeks ago, Nintendo announced in a press statement.

Mod chips take the form of a small circuit board that connects to a console's electronics and overrides or bypasses software verification functions.

Nintendo describes mod chips solely as allowing "the play of pirated Wii discs or illegal copies of Nintendo games downloaded from the internet".

In reality, the devices have a number of other uses, such as making back-up copies of fragile game discs, and temporarily modifying games to make them easier to play. In theory, they also allow independent software developers to create software for consoles without purchasing an expensive development kit or signing a contract with the console vendor.

"Copying the developers' work and spreading the game files globally is blatant stealing. [Piracy] can destroy years of hard work by a team of very talented software developers," claimed Jodi Daugherty, senior director for anti-piracy at Nintendo of America.

The Hong Kong company that was raided, Supreme Factory Ltd, "has ties to a French company, Divineo SARL, and its principal, Max Louarn, who are also named in the legal action initiated by Nintendo," Ninendo announced.

Supreme Factory Ltd appears to be a source of mod chips for several vendors, including Team Cyclops. Online sources suggest that some or all of these vendors, however, are linked to Divineo. Divineo is also allegedly the operator of online gaming website, Maxconsole.

Last September, Divineo and Louarn were ordered to pay more than $9m by a US court for selling mod chips that violated the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Microsoft said on Monday it is launching a reworked low-end version of its Xbox 360 in a bid to widen the game console's appeal to a broader audience that has flocked to rival Nintendo's Wii.

The new Xbox 360 Arcade costs $280 and comes with five games previously available only for download over the Xbox Live online service. It does not have the hard drive found on more expensive Xbox models, but will have a memory card for saving progress in games.

The Arcade, which goes on sale on Tuesday, replaces the Core model, which carried the same price but didn't include any games or memory storage.

"When we first launched the console, the goal was to initially win the core consumer," Aaron Greenberg, global product manager for Xbox 360, said in an interview.

"As we enter this holiday, it's the right time to shine a spotlight on all the great family games and content we have," Greenberg said.

Microsoft also announced two new games aimed at younger players--one from Activision based on the Shrek animated movies, and one from THQ based on Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon character.

The games will cost about $10 each and be sold through Xbox Live, Microsoft said.

"Xbox Live Arcade already has lots of family-friendly entertainment but now we're seeing our partners developing this kind of content that won't even be available in retail," Greenberg said.

Additionally, Warner Bros. will start selling episodes of its classic "Looney Toons" cartoons over Xbox Live, while Nickelodeon, a unit of Viacom, will sell episodes of several popular shows such as Blue's Clues.

In September, Microsoft sold 528,000 Xbox 360 units, its best month since last December, as it was lifted by the debut of its highly anticipated game Halo 3.

Nintendo also had its best month of the year as it sold 501,000 Wii consoles. The Wii has outsold the Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 this year due to its low price point and emphasis on simple, easy-to-learn games.