January 19th, 2011
Same rules, one last time: “for every game I’ve played this year I pitch a short, snappy summary that tries to be informative and interesting at the same time”.
The level of interactivity is frequent enough to call Dragon’s Lair a game, but a very dubious one at that. Alas, I quite admire the animation.
Dead Space is rather poor at horror, relying on jack-in-a-box scares and rushing players. In regards to the combat, when every confrontation is fast and immediate, there’s little space to wedge dimension into the equation. Dead Space has a great assortment of weapons and a good, albeit limited, range of enemies that work harmoniously with the weapons to support the “strategic dismemberment”, but it’s all put under stress by the impetus to catch the player unawares. The paralysis technique (which slows enemies down) becomes a crutch, which speaks to the space needed in the 3rd person combat. As an aside, the sequel seems to be ignoring these issues outright, with the developers putting their energy into producing bigger, barely interactive set pieces.
Dead Space Extraction
(Am I allowed to say that Extraction is better than the original Dead Space?)
If on-rails shooters hadn’t fallen off into arcade obscurity, then they’d probably be more along the lines of the rather dynamic Dead Space Extraction. Lots of unique, well implemented ideas here which combine to set Extraction apart from a typical rail shooter.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 forgoes its predecessor’s cryptic puzzles in favour of a more practical approach. Instead of odd coloured gems and pieces of statues, the inventory in RE2 is more practical, including chords, cogs, handles and fuses—meaning that thinking up the answers to a riddle is considerably easier and more logical. Oftentimes it seems that a new item could have a whole range of uses, so finding out which one pushes the game forward is part of the joy. This modification, along with more in-game directives to steer the player on course and a greater emphasis on combat, made Resident Evil 2 more palatable to the masses and such a massive success.
Resident Evil 0
Resident Evil 0‘s puzzles aren’t so cryptic as in Resident Evil, but also not as practical as in Resident Evil 2, rather the prequel is a mix of both with most puzzles utilising the player zapping mechanic (switching control of Rebecca and Billy). Each character’s personality in this relationship is defined by the pros and cons that each offers the player. Rebecca can mix herbs and because of her weight can fit through or be lifted up to certain areas, however she can’t carry much inventory or take as much damage as Billy; this defines her as a fragile, but resourceful character. Billy is the opposite, he can carry more gear and take more damage; this defines him as the defender. Since Billy is the heaviest he helps Rebecca climb up to certain areas, so although Rebecca is weaker in strength, Billy cannot go very far without her. I felt that much of their relationship was communicated through these actions, causing me to dislike the Resident Evil 0 when it came to defining these characters through cutscenes.
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
Hasn’t got a patch on Dead Space Extraction when it comes to innovation, but Umbrella Chronicles similarly makes a stand for rail shooters by putting forward a surprising amount of content and smartly positioning itself as a part #1 anthology of the series to date.
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
The revolutionary Zelda I was hoping for, but never expected to find in this game. Phantom Hourglass overhauls large components of the Zelda tradition with touch screen controls, new inventory items, new and interesting ways to interact with the game world, the infamous Temple of the Ocean King which altered the dungeon-to-dungeon progression model and a new, semi-automated mode of transport just to start. I plan on outlining all the revisions in a future article. For now though, I’m looking forward to see how Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword will advance these changes even further.
Meteos‘ match-3 gameplay is great for a while, however nothing is built up from this core. No modes or different takes on the basic gameplay.
Before I played Phantom Hourglass, I thought that Okami was the future for Zelda. A lack of structure to this massive adventure (which leads to a ton of burnout) demotes this title to an alternative to the legend and not a replacement. Still, an awe inspiring alternative though.
Passage is a metaphor for life, that is, the passage of life. There are several parts to the metaphor:
Space – In the course of life we take, there are some avenues that we can’t go down because of the people we are with. This is shown through the narrow corridors where you cannot go with your partner, but could alone.
Age – The pixelated appearance of the 2 avatars changes so slowly that you don’t even noticed that your appearance has changed until it’s changed significantly.
Blur – There is always a blur surrounding the player. In the beginning, the path in front of you, your future, is unclear. As you walk forward you travel further into the centre of the screen and the two balance out. By the end, the past is a blur and your future comes with no time to think; you often run into walls that you can’t even see.
Actions – Certain avenues will lead to boxes which you can open, as in life where certain decisions can lead to pathways with rewards.
Space (2) – The path is narrow and you can’t see what is either side of you only what is in front or behind you. It is possible to explore these areas and even get lost, but you often find your way forward again. It appears that this could represent life’s distractions.
Standing still – It is possible to stand still and just die; to do nothing with your life. If the player chooses to do nothing the aging process happens slower.
What Osmos represents through its gameplay is that you only get what you give. In order to absorb the bigger circles, you must sacrifice part of your own size for acceleration.
It’s much harder to infer what Everyday Shooter is all about. Each level does have a narrative, but it’s much harder to make a story out of the abstract shapes on screen. In any case, I found Everyday Shooter to be enthralling, one of my personal favourite games. It’s just so damned engrossing. Still trying to figure out why, must be the interactive art and musical ensemble.
Beneath a Steel Sky
Dave Gibbons, a post-apocalyptic, pulp action set up, criticism of consumerism and hierarchy, and clever writing all indicate the Beneath a Steel Sky is cut from the same cloth as many good British comics.
And Yet It Moves
Another clever indie puzzle-platformer which stands above the gimmicks. The level design is of a professional caliber and the unique presentation really sells this excellent game.
Castlevania: 2 Pak
Two pretty good Castlevania games on one cart. Harmony of Dissonance is primarily dissonance with such open-ended level design and so little to tip the player in the right direction. Aria of Sorrow, on the other hand is void of this issue thanks to a strong central hub design. And then there’s the soul system which just keeps on giving.