January 7th, 2011
And so another year of games crunching. In brief, 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. Most of the games here I’ve written about them elsewhere on the blog, so it’s easy to refer back for more substantive reading.
Also, sorry for the week-long delay. I’ve been running short on material to write about and haven’t started this article as I was waiting to get some scans in from Australia. Fortunately, I’m back on track. Expect future posts on Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Wario Land 4, Chibi Robo: Park Patrol, Fallout 1 and 2, Metroid Prime Hunters and Wolfenstien 3D.
I loved playing this game as a kid, but could never get past the third world and just figured that I wasn’t very good. Well, actually there’s more to it than that. The enemies move horizontally too quickly for the player to easily dodge. Jumping to avoid is problematic as you’ll either fall through the rainbow you land on and fall down further or jump to the platform just above you which is likely populated with enemies. The level design works to exacerbate this dilemma by spacing platforms in vertically tight-knit clumps (and then populating many platforms with hard to predict enemy types) and leaving gaping holes throughout the level to fall to your doom. Typically unruly arcade-era coin-eating design.
Plants Vs Zombies
I can’t understand how people find this game to be so additively compelling. The strategies are very simplistic and the majority of the player’s time is spent watching how things slowly play out, which is made all the more agonising by the fact that it’s easy to predict what will happen. Plants Vs Zombies requires such little and such limited interaction to keep me personally engaged.
God of War III
The logical conclusion to a franchise which originally based its core mechanics on another game (Devil May Cry) and then became the fattest chicken in the hollywood-driven mainstream video games coop: superficial restructuring over fundamental innovation. The storyline is schizophrenic too.
I fall on the apathetic side of responses to The Path. The goal of The Path is, as a troubled emo variant of little red riding hood, to follow the path to grandma’s house. Well, actually, the game deliberately pips the player to go off track into the woods to explore what is a metaphor for each girls emotional concious. Further evaluation of this game depends greatly on personal interpretations. I could say that the walking and interaction mechanics are ghastly, but then others would say that The Path should be interpreted as art and not entertainment on the barometer of fun. In which case, I didn’t really care for the thin emotional expression. Perhaps it’s a failing of truly using the assets of the medium, where really The Path only allows the player to minimally control a slide show of abstract imagery. It’s probably best to make up your own mind. Here are some resources:
Some critics complain about the non-American voice acting of in-game American characters, the clichéd hollywood tropes and mundane tasks as a way to distract readers from the indisputable fact that Heavy Rain, not without clear, easily-resolved faults, manages to dismantle skill as a necessity in video games. Heavy Rain‘s design is a model for an alternative style of game and this is very important.
deBlob embodies the laid-back personality of Australia, where the game was developed, through instances of play with light constraints and lots of player freedom. The segregated level design splits the world into chunks with each area hidden behind gates with modest, colour-the-world objectives required to open the next part. This segregation of the open world keeps the player from steering off track or being overwhelmed, thereby keep the game’s breezy mojo in check.
If you have kids, then both deBlob and Klonoa are excellent Wii games for them. Solid building blocks for platforming (tossing items, the double jump, perspective switching) are steadily teased out with new and interesting permutations in enemy and level design. Klonoa‘s ending is a surprising tear-jerker.
House of the Dead: Overkill
Not for the kids, but a great Wii game that, along with the 2 games above, proves that 3rd parties understand Nintendo design paradigms very well. Simple gameplay systems that consist of a condensed number of mechanics where the elements of the game (level design, interactive points, enemies) broaden, deepen and strengthen the mechanics.
We interpret the world through our lived experiences and video games have the potential of enriching our lives by allowing us to experience things that may not be possible in our own lives. Fallout’s morally derelict post-nuclear war setting is a great setting to experiment with morals and grey ambiguity. See my writing for more.