Tag Archives: GameCube

GameFly and I Part Ways

I cancelled GameFly this week. I was doing the bills, and there it was on the credit card statement right next to NetFlix. All I could think was, “I know NetFlix, and you, GameFly, are no NetFlix.”

Sure, GameFly seems a lot like NetFlix, the same business model and such, games through the mail vs. movies through the mail. But having the two services running side by side, including price, where there is less than a dollar difference between the two on my monthly statement, NetFlix shines and GameFly is a bit tarnished.

That is, of course, completely unfair. NetFlix is at least an order of magnitude bigger than GameFly, DVD rentals and game rentals track differently, and I happen to live in an area well served by NetFlix (I could drop off my movies on the way to work if they would put a box outside their corporate HQ) while GameFly is considerably further away.

So GameFly wasn’t awful. If it was awful I would not have remained a subscriber for over a year. But there were the little things.

Delivery Times

As I said, I am completely spoiled by my proximity to NetFlix. I drop a movie in the mail on Monday and I have the next one in my queue at home and ready to watch Wednesday. They hit that 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time is mostly attributable to my either asking for odd-ball titles that have to be shipped from other NetFlix distribution centers or by my dropping the red NetFlix envelope in the mail box too late in the day.

GameFly has to live in that shadow. Their nearest distribution center is down in the Los Angeles area in the City of Industry (not to be confused with the movie of that title), which adds travel time back and forth.

Plus GameFly doesn’t seem to be big on the “next title shipped the same day” thing that NetFlix does. So if I drop a GameFly envelope in the mail on Monday morning, I might see the next game on Saturday, but a good portion of the time it was there on Monday, so a week went by without a game. This is an issue because…

One Game at a Time

At the level of service I have with GameFly, I only get one game at a time. So if I get one new game a month, which is about par for our house, we spend a week out of that month sans game. Yes, for another $8.00 a month I could have had two games, but then we are starting to get close to the price of a new game every month. And I would still be spending a week waiting for replacements. Plus, as I noted, the NetFlix and GameFly monthly fees are very close, so there is a big psychological barrier, for me at least, to give more money to GameFly. Unfair, but that is the environment GameFly has to compete in at my house.

Drawing from the Bottom of the Queue

The biggest divergence from NetFlix in terms of service is how likely you are to get things that are in your queue. I began to think that my queue was somehow inverted, as I would have 8-12 games on my list, but would only ever get things from the bottom third. I understand that a new game is unlikely to get to me, but I had some old titles at the top. GameCube, Nintendo DS and even Game Boy Advance titles that showed high availability, but which we never saw.

So I was never sure what we would get next from GameFly. Compare this with NetFlix. I cannot recall the last time I did not get the movie at the top of my queue at NetFlix, and we put new releases on our queue now and again.

Very Limited Buy Options

I have come to the conclusion that you can tell if a game sucks with only two data points. First, you have never heard of it. Second, GameFly is willing to sell it to you. That is enough for me to wave it off. The test case was Mario and Sonic Shill for the Chinese Dictatorship, a game I detest on a few levels, which is readily available for purchase on most platforms supported by GameFly.

Anyway, GameFly has very few titles available for purchase, and they are usually titles I wouldn’t purchase in any case. For the Wii, this was not such a big deal. We would rent a game, like it, go look if we could buy it, find ourselves thwarted there, and then go buy it at a local store instead. GameFly’s loss is Fry’s gain.

However, once my daughter got a Nintendo DS, things changed a bit. The Wii saves your game information on the console, so buying another disk does not change anything. In the DS world though, your game data is saved on the cartridge. So if you cannot buy the game you have in your possession, you have to throw away any game data you have saved.

This lead to the Pet Horsez 2 incident. My daughter had seen Wild Pet Tigerz and Wild Pet Dolphinz advertised on TV and wanted to try them out. I put them at the top of our queue which meant we did not get them. (Though when Tigerz ended up low in our queue, we got it, reaffirming my inverted queue theory!) As a back up I had put some similar games in the queue, and we ended up with Pet Horsez 2.

My daughter loves horses. She has asked us to buy a horse for her, offered to pay for it herself (if it costs $50 or less), and has suggested it could just live in the back yard and eat the grass. Of course, she became quite enamored with the game Pet Horsez 2. After a rough start, she actually got very good at the game, so much so that she wanted to keep it. She wanted to use her own, saved up money to buy it.

I went to GameFly to see if it was for sale. It was not. I said we could buy it at the store, but she would have to start from scratch again. This lead to a lot of tears, wrenching my own heart. Little girls become attached to even virtual horses it seems. Somebody suggested that I could just report the game lost and keep it, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that or demonstrate to my daughter that such an action was the right behavior. So the it ended up going back to GameFly.

Since then we have approached DS rentals with a much lighter touch, trying to not get too attached, knowing that if we like a game, it will have to go back.

The End

And so, paying the bills and seeing GameFly again in comparison with NetFlix on my credit card statement, I decided to cancel.

The cancellation process is easy enough. They ask if you are sure. They offer you another month at a reduced rate. They warn you that all your coupons will go away, though since they are only useful for purchasing games, and since they don’t have much for sale (literally just nine DS titles when I looked that night), that particular step encouraged me to continue the cancellation process. They give you one last chance. And then you are done, with a note about how you can reactivate, should you wish to in the future.

So, as I said above, GameFly wasn’t awful. I am not going to go register gameflysucks.com or anything. (Somebody is already sitting on that domain… probably GameFly.) But the combination of small annoyances plus the obvious mental comparison with NetFlix every time I dealt with them just got me to the point where I could no longer justify paying for their services.

LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

It is 6:45am on a Saturday morning.  Someone is lightly shaking me, causing me to wake up.

“Daddy, c’mon.  Lego Star Wars.”

There is that voice again.

I roll onto my back and mumble something about “sleep-in Saturday” and going back to bed.

“I can’t sleep any more.  C’mon!”

She shakes me a bit more.

I hear my wife say sleepily, “C’mon daddy.”  I can hear the grin on her face.  She has some more sleep time coming.

Not me.

I expect this sort of thing on Christmas morning, but it is September.

There is a new ruler in the kingdom that is our Wii.  Mario Kart Double Dash lasted all of two weeks, and then we found something new.

A couple weeks before the early morning Saturday scene, we were out at Fry’s.  I was looking for cable extenders for the GameCube controllers I bought for our Wii in order to play GameCube games.  The six foot cables that come with the controllers were too short.  We found those at Fry’s, digging through some of the GameCube accessories that had been pushed to the end of one aisle in the sprawling Brokaw Road store.  We started at the Arques store, but their GameCube section had disappeared completely, so we had to move on to the next best location.

I found the cable extenders.  I also picked up a GameCube memory card so we could save GameCube game histories.

I also spotted a copy of LEGO Star Wars II

I showed it to my daughter, who was quite enthusiastic.  It had been marked down, so I was happy enough to throw it in the basket.

My daughter is already a Star Wars fan.  At age 5 she has seen all the movies, can tell you what characters appear in which, and, as I have posted here before, enjoys playing with Star Wars LEGOs. (Though it is really the mini figures she enjoys the most, like our golden C-3P0.)

Little did I know that I had created a monster.

The combination of LEGO, Star Wars, and a video game proved to have a lot of appeal for my daughter.

And so the scene above… me being awoken early on Saturday morning to play LEGO Star Wars has been repeated for quite a few weeks in a row.

Fortunately, for sleepy dad at 7am, using a GameCube controller is pretty low impact.

I roll the big Love Sac (we have the Super Sac, which pretty much fits us all) in front of the television, grab the controllers, jump in an get comfy with my daughter for a couple hours of LEGO Star Wars.

But enough of the indulgent father routine.  The game is freakin’ awesome.

I may not enjoy it quite as much as my daughter, or be quite as eager to get up early on the weekend to play it, but I have a great time when we play.

So aside from the fact that it is LEGO and Star Wars and a video game all wrapped up into one package, what does this game have going for it?

Well, it is a very fun and somewhat silly look at the original Star Wars trilogy.  You get to play through all of the major parts of the movies.

Second, the game play is pretty reasonable.  I found the speeder bike section a bit trying, but for the most part, the game is very accessible.  We blew through all 18 basic levels (six per episode) in about two weeks of not very intensive play.  We generally reserve the Wii for Wii-kends (ha ha), though we did go through a level a night for a few weeknights.  And, in the end, it wasn’t too tough to figure out.  I only got stuck twice and had to go to the web for answers. (I used this site for basic level walk-through, and this site for a more of the advanced questions.)

Third, it is extremely replayable.  Once we got through the story, we started on the “Free Play” aspects of the game, where you go back through the levels to pick up special pieces, unlock new characters and special abilities, find secret or locked locations, and run some of the special missions that only become available after you have completed the basic game.

The game even tells you how much of the content you have completed.  We currently stand at 56%.  Our big bonus for last weekend was earning enough of the in-game cash to unlock one of the three ghost characters.  (We took Anakin, but still have Yoda and Obi-wan to go.)

So we have been playing this game, and not much else on the Wii, for some time now.

We took a diversion into the original LEGO Star Wars for a weekend, but the game play was a lot more annoying.  We did not get too far into it.  I especially found the pod race level very aggravating.  I had to have my daughter drop out of the game so I could finish it by myself.

That’s no fun.

But they appear to have learned a lot from the first one when they made the second.

And I gather that they probably learned some from the second.  At least I hope they did.

Because, do you know what came out yesterday?  What I had to buy at Fry’s while I was there grabbing Ratatouille on DVD?

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga!

All six movies combined into a single game.

New Characters! New Levels!

And it is for the Wii!  Swing that lightsaber!

I predict more early Saturday mornings.  Only now I am in danger of having to move around because of the Wii’s controller.

(And if they get it right, they have pretty much sold me a copy of the upcoming LEGO Indiana Jones game as well.)

Mario Kart Double Dash!!

I mentioned previously in my post on the Wii Virtual Console that Mario Kart 64 was my favorite purchase so far.

The problem with the game is that the controls require a bit of a sensitive touch to be able to play. 

My daughter, age five, has all the finesse and subtlety of a five year old, which meant for her that playing Mario Kart 64 was often an exercise in ping-ponging back and forth off of the walls along a track.  And the tracks without walls….

No fun at all.

I mentioned this to a co-worker as we were talking about Wii games.  He has two sons and has had the last three Nintendo consoles in his household, so he is well versed in the ways of Mario.

He told me about Mario Kart Double Dash.  This is a GameCube version of the Mario Kart series that puts two players in the same vehicle.  The driver does the usual driving chores, while the second player, located standing up behind the driver, dispenses the power ups, punches other players, and, if you work together really well, helps the driver make tighter turns.

This actually worked out much better than I expected.  My daughter took to the back seat position right away.

Well, she did once we got the game going.

You can play GameCube games on the Wii.  It says so right on the box.

What is less obvious is how you play them.

I have a pair of classic controllers for the Wii, which are required to play Virtual Console games.  I thought that they would also work for GameCube games.  They do not.

And they do not in a rather disturbing way.  When you put a GameCube game into the Wii and bring it up, your Wii controllers just deactivate. 

They go dead. 

No message comes up telling you that you might be doing something wrong.  You are just stuck.

For the Wii, this lack of error message is out of the ordinary.  It is generally a very friendly and informative console.

Fortunately, I mentioned my lack of GameCube success here and was told I needed real GameCube controllers to play GameCube games on the Wii.

I ordered a pair of cheap controllers from eBay (2 for $10) and when they finally arrived we plugged them in and began to play.

My daughter took to the game right away and soon became a pro at back seat driving.  It was our favorite for a couple of weekends.

But playing with GameCube controllers is a much different experience.

The first change was dealing with actual wired controllers again.  The controllers I bought came with six foot cables.

In my mind, that seemed long enough.

In reality, that put my daughter and I right in front of the TV on the family room floor.  We managed to yank the Wii out of the TV stand a couple of times, so I went back to eBay and ordered a pair of six foot cable extenders.

Twelve feet is long enough, though the cables still get tangled.

Yes, I have seen the wireless GameCube controllers, but for one game I wanted to keep the investment down.  Plus, I do not really need another set of batteries and recharging to worry about.  I already have phones, cameras (both still and digital), PDAs, iPods, and Wii remotes to tend to.

The second was change was in how my daughter and I end up playing games.

The Wii is, ad advertised, a very dynamic console to play.  We were always on our feet, jumping around, waving our arms, and generally quite active.

With the GameCube controller, both of us sit and focus on the screen more.  There is not much in the way of movement between us.

Not that the lack of movement is a bad thing.  At 6:30am Saturday morning I am fine with not moving much at all, and that is how early my daughter sometimes comes to find out when we can start playing.

I will say that the GameCube controller is well laid out for both big and small hands.  My daughter had no problem at all with the controller and they fit fine in my giant mitts as well.  The GameCube controller is actually much easier to use than the Classic Controller that plugs into the Wii Remote.

The better controller, along with a more finely tuned game, also contributed to an improvement in her driving ability. 

Mario Kart Double Dash lets you switch drivers mid-race and my daughter, who started out not wanting to drive, ended up telling me to switch so she could be at the wheel quite often.

We had quite a bit of fun playing Mario Kart Double Dash for about two weeks.  I highly recommend it for just sheer fun.  It is one of those games you can pick up and play for five or ten minutes and have a blast. 

I still want to play it some more.  However, after that time, it was replaced by another game in the number one spot on my daughter’s list.

A game from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

A game that broke our cheap GameCube controllers.

A game for another post.