Posts Tagged ‘action’

Game 596/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

We’ve played a Metal Gear Solid game some time ago, and we saw it as a good stealth game… though with its flaws. Now we get to the third part (we’ll do number 2 another time), and this time it’s a prequel to the series – back to Snake’s first mission. And this time it’s in a Soviet jungle (apparently they do exist), where you need to rescue a scientist – that’s what you need to do to them.

Does it make for a good game? I must admit I’m writing this while Peter is playing, and it does look pretty. That’s one pro…

Our Thoughts

Was that you labelling me the superior gamer? I’m flattered. In the sort of games that don’t feature auto-pause, turn based combat or ‘shoot everything in sight’, possibly. Either that or I just prefer staring at the graphics.

This game is certainly prettier than the first game in the series we played a few months ago. Since the setting of the game has shifted from a tundra/urban environment to one filled with lush rainforest it makes sense that there would be a greater scope for an aesthetically pleasing game. When you then take into account the leaps in gaming technology that occurred in six years then it makes sense that this would look a lot better. This in no way down-plays how much more impressive Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is compared to the first one. I would argue that there is no facet that this has not made a marked improvement on. We still need to play the second instalment to get a proper chain of improvement. Possibly length of cut scenes exempted.

When you are not into games which try to be like a long immersive film the cut-scenes can be pretty tiresome (especially since the same information is pretty much repeated four times before the end of the clips). In some ways, however, these in depth cut scenes are a great boon for the series. It aids in the creation of a cinematic experience when it comes to gaming, something which few other franchises can boast. The use of cut scenes is never gratuitous; it is just one of the many ways that they further the plot and introduce new enemies and gameplay mechanics.

Also they help to add heaps of contemporary detail such as a play-by-play of the Cuban Missile Crisis and plot summaries of top films of the era such as The Great Escape and Forbidden Planet. Very true, even if you’ve forgotten the instructions they give at the start by the time the cut scene ends… we forgot where to find the backpack we needed to get after the 15 minutes cut scene conversation that intervened.

One thing here that doesn’t help is that these ‘cut scenes’ are voice only – using the radio you have with you. In the mean time, aside from a few pictures that stay the same for the length of the cut scene, you can just read subtitles, which you don’t need with the sound quality. So instead of listening, I found myself drifting back to my laptop to do other things while I waited for the cut scene to end. It’s a nice way of adding detail… it’s just that spreading it out a bit more would have helped, instead of the bulk of information that gets overwhelming or boring. Except for the FMVs starring the bonkers boss characters which are pretty entertaining and action packed.

The interesting thing about the bosses, and their battles, is the combination of the supernatural with military prowess. This is a regular feature in the series but this is far more at the forefront in this instalment. The fact that you have to battle people who can command electricity and swarms of hornets feels a tad overkill but it’s done surprisingly well. This doesn’t even mention the infamous villain simply known as “The End”. A friend of mine once regaled me with the story of how many hours it took for him to complete this boss battle… now that’s intense! Thank god you can save at any time. And learn about old sci-fi movies at the same time.

Now, the gameplay has received what seems to be a few interesting additions. First and most important is that you don’t just have a health bar, you also have stamina to consider. As you’ll be stuck in the jungle for quite some time, you have to forage for food yourself, so you can increase your stamina and keep going. This is partially gathering berries and other fruit, but to get the better options you’ll need to hunt – apparently snakes are quite tasty, if this game is to be believed. They can also be trapped in cages and released to scare off enemy soldiers. Just don’t try this with the crocodiles… I was never fast enough to get past them before they woke up from the tranquilizer and started to attack me. You have little other choice beyond killing them if you want to taste them. I have in real life and it tastes okay. Our survival expert.

Another element of this stealth game is, of course, camouflage. When you are so used to titles like Fallout 3 where stealth is more or less optional games like this take a while to get used to. A plasma rifle would have helped in the jungle, but alas twas not to be. Plasma rifles make everything better. It’s strange; however, that face paint of the Italian Flag is seen as decent camouflage in the jungle. Apparently red and green work well as a disguise. In a similar fashion the Japanese flag works when sneaking around buildings – there is no accounting for taste. And it appears the UK flag just gets people even angrier at you… that might just be my imagination though. Well it does resemble a frowny face with angry eyebrows. That could well be actually, it would explain it.

Well, two down and four more entries in the Metal Gear Solid saga to go. Let’s hope they’ll work out as addictive when we get into them.

Final Thoughts

This game needs your time. Not just for the long cutscenes, but also to get into it. The first half hour of actual gameplay is dreadful. Then it speeds up a bit, you need to start sneaking to avoid your enemies, life gets tense and you enjoy your companions. The game gets going and gets good. From the interactions with your characters to the overall objective and big mission, everything slots in and starts working well together.

The game looks and sounds great, a good plus, helped by a far different and interesting setting, that by nature looks more interesting.

Even more interesting is the attention of detail in the game. You get the feeling someone has actually tasted these animals, and the movie knowledge can only come from a real fan. It’s cute and funny and adds to the realism. And it made me want to see some of these movies. Even if we’ve probably seen some on MST3k before.

Advertisements

Game 70: Frogger

Posted: July 19, 2011 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 30/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1981
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Sega

Why did the frog cross the road?

Because he wanted to get home from work.

There’s premise of Frogger for you. Cross the road, avoiding cars, trucks, racing drivers, snakes, crocodiles and sinking in a river. It’s an old action game, and one of those we both remember well. I know I spent many an hour playing this game. It’s a noble goal you have, and a fun game to play it with.

Our Thoughts

Going back some time down memory lane, to Frogger… it was ages since I last played this game. And the reason we chose to play this next is because I suddenly had it in my head to find out how to procure myself a pet toad. Oh the japery! These sudden outbursts can be quite… interesting at times. In spite of this I am very glad that my tangential thinking led us towards playing Frogger.

I believe that in our review of Peggle we talked about how much the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) Principle leads to some incredibly addictive gaming. It’s a bit of a glib idea but it can be found in most games on this list in the first fifty chronologically. So I apologise in advance for mentioning KISS when we cover the likes of Arkanoid, Pac Man and Asteroids.

Possibly more than even that – a lot of arcade games are like that. It shows how things changed, but also how casual games are still popular. While these days, many of the expensive games feel like they should require some time investment, simple games like this provide you with a good opportunity to jump in and play immediately. Frogger clearly have this down: Your frog just jumps backwards, forwards, left and right. Avoid the cars and don’t drown in the water. That’s all you need to know. And yet it’s addictively hard.

It really helps that every level adds something new; faster cars, snakes, crocodiles and even a malevolent looking otter. Do otters even devour frogs… South Park taught me that they liked clams. They still seem dangerous.

Aside from the quaint graphics and the delightful 8-bit noises there is not too much more to mention about this game. It’s fun and addictive. It’s very retro, but the gameplay is good… and for me, the memories are better.

Final Thoughts

Are you one of the few people never to have played Frogger? SERIOUSLY?! Fine…. visit this site and you can play it for free.

Game 68: Shadow of the Colossus

Posted: July 11, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 671/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Team Ico
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

I will be completely honest here: this was a game I was hoping to save for a more landmarky sounding number. Instead here it is at lucky sixty-eight.

Few games sit in the same position as Shadow Of The Colossus; a critical and cult hit that most game-buyers are unlikely to have heard of. In fact it probably reached it’s widest audience after a rare favourable review on Zero Punctuation. The sad fact is that because this game is so beloved in the cult world it sells for a large amount of money for an old PS2 game. Thanks again Kat… but we’ll have to get our own version of this one day.

Our Thoughts

There’s some games you know are epic, but where you keep finding the lesser bits between the gold, and they take over occasionally. I think Shadow Colossus felt like one of those. I think the shorthand for that is “flawed masterpiece”. If you wish, I just thought it was better when descriptive. The dividing line here is somewhere between the colossus battles and the long treks to get there.

To start with the latter, the environments are gorgeous in this game, but there’s a lot of nothing to travel to. Even that’s okay, except that the controls work against you here sometimes, and getting past them can be timeconsuming consider they’re the bad part. The thing about the battles and the long searches on horseback is that they provide a great deal of contrast. I mean this can be seen with the soundtrack which is light and airy as you gallop around the rolling hills and then becomes far more intense during the battles. In a way it prevents the game from feeling like a one-trick pony and instead greatly contributes to the games atmosphere.

Before we go further here is the crux of the game: girlfriend dies, you travel to a forbidden temple to have her ressurected by some evil spirit, kill 16 ancient colossi to achieve your goal, the end… ish. It’s a tale as old as time but, in the end, there is a great deal of moral ambiguity to this as you play along.

In the end none of these colossi are malevolent and the first only attacks you after you present yourself as a threat. After you hack away at his shin and eventually fell the giant moss covered golem word basically gets out and the remaining 15 attack you in self-defense. Even then they rely more on strength than guile and you mostly win by outsmarting them. This is the equivalent of mass genocide where the victims are the Ents from The Lord of the Rings. After destroying colossus number three I actually began to feel pangs of guilt about what I was actually doing.However, you are keen to progess because the designs of these massive foes are so fantastically beautiful that you want to see what comes next. Especially since you need to concoct unique methods to destroy each of them. Which is the point where the adventure/puzzle part of the game comes in.

While your magical (ancient) sword can show the weak points of the colossus, you need to find out the specifics on where and how to get on it. For example, with one colossus you need to get it to beat down on a stone circle, which destroys a ring on its arm preventing you from climbing up to the weak spot. Some of these are more obvious – and easier – than others, but because they are all different, each of the 16 battles is a different battle that requires different strategies. This means that while there may only be 16 battles in the entire game (ignoring a small amount of hunting you can do), they are 16 big, epic battles. These shine in designs, graphics and complexity – I know no other games where you use your foe as battling platform, outside some particular platformers where this is only barely the case. Here, the creatures move and try to shake you off while you hold on for dear life, trying to reach that one spot.

Some are cuter than others, and all are this strange mix of furry animal and stone artifact buildings, which makes it a bewildering experience. This isn’t helped by you not getting much story information. You don’t know why they’re there, what they’re doing, who created or bred them, if anyone, or else what their ancestors are, you just know they’re there and you need to kill them.

The main problem with this game is that it can be immensely frustrating. The fact that your health gradually regenerates is a godsend but it does not counter-act the pounding your head against a porcupine-style moments than being flung off of a colossus for the upteenth time. It’s not particularly difficult since you can run in circles until your health gauge fills up but be prepared that battles can take in excess of half an hour… and there is no mid-battle saving point. I also got annoyed by a particular jumping puzzle that took ages – due to bad camera handling and the fact that you had to swim back after falling and climb back up to a great height, which took a few minutes every time it happened.

At least they were able to get the proportions feeling suitably epic. I mean the world appears to be massive and the colossi  are… well… colossal in stature. As your character clambers up their leg he really looks like the ant getting ready to ruin your picnic. Except with what’s apparently a very powerful sting. It’s a suitably epic game, occasionally flawed, but very much giving the epic fights that make any game great. And its focus on just that works great.

Final Thoughts

Okay okay we’re officially bad people for killing these innocents. We might as well fund a game that simulates water-boarding now where you use a Kinect controller to hold virtual buckets of water…. or am I going overboard.

In the end this is a game which truly justifies the term ‘flawed masterpiece’ and really provided a flashpoint in how games were made. Nothing out there is quite like it… so just play it for yourself.

Game 66: No More Heroes

Posted: July 3, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 772/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Fighting
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment (JP), Rising Star Games (EU), Ubisoft (NA)

When it comes to RPGs there is defining difference between those produced in the East and those from the West (as can be seen in our posts about Final Fantasy IX and Baldur’s Gate 2). This can also be seen in the world of free-roamers and the fact that we in the West produce games in this vein which are generally better reviewed even though far more are made.

What’s interesting is that No More Heroes is essentially an attempt to bring the Western free-roaming game to Japan whilst combining the two cultures in a number of ways… sounds like a cool experiment don’t it?

Our Thoughts

Considering this was a Japanese attempt to marry Eastern and Western gaming culture, how well do you think the makers of No More Heroes did in achieving this goal? It’s an interesting choice, and the places where some of these parts came from are fairly obvious. While this game owes a lot to GTA in design, it contains a love of repetition (in a sense) often seen in Eastern games, more often their MMORPGs. Not to mention the main characters love of anime… and wrestling. In a way they tried to create a Californian-style otaku who is able to wield a light-sabre style weapon. It’s slightly strange how he appears to live in a motel and yet has a cat and a shelf containing all his figurines of anime girls. It’s like something out of anime series such as Chaos;Head and Genshiken.

All this, together with his appearance, do make him feel Japanese, and the art direction pushes the game in that direction as well. Yes, the whole look of the game is incredibly stylised. It brings to mind the graphics of games such as Okami, Viewtiful Joe and Street Fighter IV.

It’s a great look but there are times where, due to the shading of both the main character and the surroundings, it is hard to distinguish where you are since they can blend into each other. Sometimes the colour palette is not the best choice but it works well most of the time. It’s just the times where it doesn’t work is when enemies are attacking you with guns and baseballs also when the fights take place in dark environments, where you can’t see the enemies three feet away.

Luckily the game has auto-targeting, but it makes gameplay confusing – is an enemy remaining or not, and where are they? The targeting is a great part of the fighting system, especially since it allows more accurate dodging of attacks.

Now that we’re on it… we really need to make a big deal of the fighting system. This is the main thing to recommend No More Heroes since it makes such great use of the Wii Controller and Nunchuk that it can feel like you are there hacking and slashing with him.  Making you wonder how any ports of this game would have worked. In terms of ports it was released over hear on the PS3 with Move compatibility (which makes sense) but how the Japanese-exclusive Xbox 360 version worked is anyone’s guess.

While not fully requiring you to slash the nunchuk (button mashing remains useful), big finishing and high damage moves require you to slash the katana or nunchuk in different directions, while blocking, at times, require you to shake the controller to push back. Since the fighting system makes such great use of the controllers there are times where it is best to stand up in order to complete the task.

Also, as we’re on the idea of “completing the task” a small mention has to be made of how you recharge the battery on your katana. Yeah, because this involves a physical action where, to put it nicely, you polish your katana. You hold the controller and move your hands up and down. On screen your character joins you, hands in front of him, katana extending from his crotch, as he moves his hands up and down. And yeah, there are special sounds when you… fill your battery. All in the absence of his beloved Japanese love pillow (yes, I think I spied one of those in a cut-scene). Oh, it’s not just the love pillow. He also hands in the wrong video or DVD he rented. This time of… a certain man… humping his pillow. I might have spotted a camera in a cut scene too.

I just feel sorry for his cat. No matter how much you pet it… it’s probably so traumatised that any show of affection is an exercise in futility. And no, this time it’s not a euphemism. Nor is there any other point for the cat, it’s just there to be nice to.

On that note, it’s worth mentioning one more ‘feature’ of the game. You save by using the toilet. Our hero sits down, idling, while you make the choice to save and so on. The toilet even looks different depending on the save point you’re at.

 

 

Another major criticism of this game is how repetitive it gets. I mean its phone call, train in the gym, raise money collecting coconuts, mowing lawns and fights then take on one of the ten assassins. It’s almost as bad as the first Assassin’s Creed game in that respect. What doesn’t help is that while the main comparison here seems to be the later GTA games, it looks that way, it tries to do the racing, but it misses out a lot of it too that would’ve been nice to have. Despite there being no more heroes, you can’t be evil either. You do some missions, some of which have their violence in nicely contained areas, and yeah, some assassins change you, but there’s no potential for random violence or any other fun in the large free roaming world. The world is really just for moving from one place to the other – from icon to icon – and as free roaming as it might seem, it’s just scenery without much point to it, unless you like driving around randomly and look for some ‘hidden’ balls.

We seem overly critical for a game that we are very likely to buy for ourselves. In the end though there is a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it very likable. It’s a somewhat non-linear fighter with some nice additional feature, rather than the sandbox games some play this up to be. And as a fighter, it’s extremely good fun.

Final Thoughts

This is the first game that we have covered where I am almost completely sure it will be replaced on the next incarnation of the list. This is not due to any inherent fault with this game (as you can probably tell it was one we really enjoyed) but because it’s sequel was released just after they probably started making this list and it was apparently an improvement on the original. Part of me is looking forward to the new list since it will mean a chance to play a whole new heap of games… but it will mean that a large number of games already covered will be removed… ah well even more of an excuse to continue gaming.

Game 65: Luigi’s Mansion

Posted: June 29, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 480/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

How has it been ten years since the sixth generation of gaming? I am being absolutely serious here. Maybe it’s because I was at a rather impressionable age in terms of gaming but the buzz surrounding the releases of the PS2, Gamecube and Xbox are etched well into my gaming memories… especially since it marked the first time that I was really torn about what console to get (in the end I got a PS2 for Christmas of 2001 which meant I was then able to use my saved money to get a Gamecube once it launced in the UK.

Despite the fact that Luigi’s Mansion was a launch title it was not a game that I ended up buying. Instead the first games I got were Super Smash Bros Melee, as Jeroen has previously mentioned, and Super Monkey Ball, which we will get to later. Looking back on my choices with the eyes of hindsight I don’t think I would have made different choices BUT I would have almost certainly bought a copy of Luigi’s Mansion… at least from the second-hand bin at GAME.

Our Thoughts

For this list, as mentioned, we occasionally borrow games. And that has its upsides and downsides.  With a number of games, you are happy that you do – sure, the games are good, but nothing something you’d play again. For me, that’s a game like F-Zero X.  Some games are good fun, and you wouldn’t mind owning them, but to be honest, it’s not such a big deal whether or not you do. To give an example here, that’d be Final Fantasy VII, VIII or IX. With some games, however, I want to run to the store, Amazon or eBay and get it immediately. Luigi’s Mansion squarely falls into this category. It just does a lot of things well – graphics, sound and especially gameplay. It’s just sheer fun… with just enough of a hint of being scary and disturbing to have an impact. The best game that I can remember borrowing from a friend was the second instalment of Lego Star Wars but I have to admit that Luigi’s Mansion is definitely up there amongst some of the best that I’ve have the fortune to borrow.

As I mentioned before, this is a game that I would buy if I had the chance to go back in time. Then again I did not have much money for games ten years ago (then again being unemployed upon writing this I have even less now) so I had to be very selective when I bought my games… and yet a stinker like the bloody awful Lost Kingdoms managed to get through.  Nobody’s perfect and that is why I am thankful for GAME’s then refund policy.

It’s certainly a game worth going back to. I must admit I’ve liked the idea of the game since I first heard of it, and it more than paid off and not just because Luigi is the lead of the game, although that certainly doesn’t work. It wouldn’t have worked as well with a more generic hero like Mario. Luigi was the perfect lead for this strange marriage of survival horror and Saturday morning cartoons. He is always portrayed as the coward (but I would say he just has good survival instincts) and so a game where he actually has to go tête-à-tête with room after room of ghosts was a perfect way to develop him as a well-rounded character. Despite the fact that he fell for the horror movie staple of “congratulations you won a mansion in a contest that you never even entered”.  

Clearly he stays optimistic. In fact, this is the first game in which his cowardice really comes out – aside from tv series references (which are obviously inconsistent) and a few veiled hints in earlier games, this is where we really see the coward Luigi appear, compared to his courageous brother Mario. Anyone would be well and truly shaken after spending a long time in a mansion strewn with ghosts… most without the best intentions.  With the creepiest encountered so far being a ghost baby, who shrinks you and sends rocking horses and balls after you, trying to kill you.  Yes… there are very things that can be more unsettling than supernatural children.

Character notes aside there is so much to recommend this game; even ten years after it was first released in Japan.  It highlights one of the main things, though: The game has character. From the ghost designs to the haunted mansion itself, it seems far more pulled together than most Mario games, with less of a need to fit everything in. It’s all a haunted mansion, not a hodgepodge of desert, sea, forest and pipe worlds. It has lots of scary ghosts, including the Mario staple of Boos, but sees no need to include much more than that. It has one good gameplay mechanic, vacuuming ghosts, with everything else stemming from that one application.

One major criticism that has been levied at Luigi’s Mansion is that it can be completed in about six hours. When you consider this was a full price title compared to shorter games like Portal it’s a fairly apt one. Then again, since it is a short game it is all neatly packed together with a decent scope for replaying.  The main way you can measure your success in the game is the amount of booty you can secure whilst battling ghosts and vacuuming light-fittings. So logically the replay value comes in quicker exorcisms and more efficient cleaning.  I wonder whether those six hours are for an experienced player who rushes through everything, or for someone who doesn’t know how to do all the puzzles and explores every nook and cranny. and there are a lot of smaller things hidden in the game to explore.

Every room gets its own unique sections and rooms, making them all interesting, and while you can get lost, it’s not through any repetition of rooms. In order to search for Boos you need to need to revisit rooms you’ve previously cleared which I guess is a bit of a cheat… but it doesn’t feel like one.  The thing is, there are a number of new power-ups and options that make you want to backtrack – gaining fires and having to light a candle that’s been floating around to go after a butler is another example.

I have to say that some of the puzzles are pretty clever.  Mirrors have a major purpose in the game that they can be used to be whisked off to the central foyer where the save game Toad resides. However, they can also be used to spot certain ghosts creeping up on you as well as alerting you to important items in the room. It takes a little bit for it to trigger that they are this useful but it is a nice bit of subtlety there.  And that’s where part of the cleverness in this game is. It’s not just about the action, jumping around platforms, being fast and killing enemies. While it’s useful for the lesser ghosts, far more of the game involves puzzle solving, from how to proceed to the next part to figuring out how to defeat the bosses.

I guess that a discussion mirrors can, in some way, lead on for us to about talk about graphics.  Since the leap between graphics quality between the Gamecube and the Wii was not as pronounced as those exhibited by Sony and Microsoft this game still looks rather pleasing.  Then again, Nintendo have always found a way to stretch the life of their game’s graphics by making them fairly cartoon-like.  How much better can you make a Boo look really?  As mentioned before, cartoonier graphics style ages better than trying to look realistic.

It may have also helped that Nintendo originally developed this game to be fully realised in stereoscopic 3D. They did this because they thought the market for 3D televisions would have begun 10 years ago (which, when you come to think of it, was pretty forward thinking).  For that reason alone, it seems a prime candidate for a 3DS update. Surely the 3D-capable code must be out there still. This is also the reason why I am surprised that there was no announcement by Nintendo of them porting this game anytime soon. The 3DS hasn’t gotten many game announcements at all at this point anyway, although undoubtedly the (our future, reader’s past) E3 will change that… and that’s a different subject anyway.  One for the next update of the book maybe? Quite possibly.

With that as our recommendation, there’s just one last adorable thing to mention. Sound-wise, especially in music, the game is obviously good, but there’s one thing that adds to it. Luigi hums along to the songs with a slight fright in his voice. It’s both adorable and catchy and just right for the game.

Final Thoughts

My opening thoughts about the game being 10 years old was really spurred on by playing this game. Whist it is true that graphically it is a little bit down on what we would be used to nowadays but it REALLY has aged well unlike a number of other games we have already encountered… then again what else would you expect from the boys in Nintendo?

Game 57: Paradroid

Posted: May 28, 2011 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 100/1001 according to the list


Genre: Action
Platform: Commodore 64
Year of Release: 1985
Developer: Andrew Braybrook
Publisher: Hewson Consultants

The most roundly numbered game we’ve covered so far, Paradroid is an old action game that makes you hack robots and fight your way around. Blow up the ship by shooting other droids and taking over their bodies. It’s that simple.

Our Thoughts

Time for a game which sounds more like a crappy Hitchhikers tie-in than anything else. It’s certainly not a well-known title. It’s our first, and only, title for the Commodore 64. I think it is fair to say that we had to emulate it… considering how old it is.

Yeah. Now, this is an interesting game anyway. It took some time for us to figure out what we needed to do. Ah tutorials and instruction booklets how we missed you. Very true. The idea is actually not too bad – you’re a droid assigned to blow up a ship that looks a remarkable lot like the USS Enterprise of Star Trek fame. (Why blow it up? Why not?) To do so, you take over other droids with more powerful weapons by hacking their system in a minigame that makes you take more rows of a column than the opponent. Stronger droids are, of course, harder to take over. It was great since it gave me the only opportunity I am ever going to have to try and explode a starship with Shatner still in it. At least in theory. Like the theory about Shatner’s Shakespearean acting method? It’s either that or early dementia. But that’s not relevant at the moment.

One thing that is very interesting from this game is that although it it top-down they only show enemy robots if they are within your droid’s line of sight. Making for some surprise appearances as you round the corner, especially when you’re a simple droid suddenly being faced withsome super fighter. Who is kick-ass when you beat the mini-game and then do a little bit of mechanical body snatching. It is so useful in clearing a path from some measley inconsequential droids. Absolutely. Taking them over remains tough, but if you can manage it, it’s great. That minigame is a real bitch until you figure out the best way to beat it. Something that takes you about the first ten games you play. When playing this game, prepare to die and restart often. Oh god this game is frickin’ brutal in that respect. It’s a good thing this game predates long cutscenes… else it’d be horrible.

Still, when you get that far that you get it, the game actually gets quite addictive. I must admit that while I was playing to try to get a good screenshot, I instead did try to get a bit further in the game… what should have been a single game took… a few more than that. A few more than a few more. A bit like Tetris then where you keep playing it to get better and better scores. Yeah. But instead to get to the next deck of the ship.

What helps here are the graphics. Yeah, they’re simple compared to what we have now, but they’re effective. A futuristic ship with a fitting layout of the decks, starting out in the crew quarters and being able to go to other places. They’re nicely layed out, making some sense, and nice to explore – you want to see all decks. I realise there aren’t many, but it’s just nice and varied enough to work. They also go through pallette swaps between games, somehow effective in making them look just a little bit different each time. I have to admit that I really did love the looks of the different marauding robots. Some of them actually look slightly threatening as you roll around the corridors in a metallic foetal position. Some did give me the impression of some big humanoid thing stomping around the halls. This is also helped by the randomness – while the ship start out in a similar way each time, the robots follow their own path that changes between games… meaning I was very surprised to face the nastiest droid as I was walking down the first corridor.

And so I started yet another new game.

Final Thoughts

This is a game from a simpler time, with the appropriate graphics and difficulty curve. You need to take your time to get this game. After that, you get a game that’s addictive in the sense that so many games from this era are – a single game doesn’t take long, but you just want to keep trying. It’s fun, addictive, and you just want to try to win.  And there’s so much more strategy to it than running around a Pacman maze, as we might be used to now.

Game 956/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3/PC
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Publisher: Activision

If you ask us officially, we’d say that the enemies of this game are sort of zombie-like, fitting our current games theme (and we promise this is the last, as we’re already pushing it quite far with this game). You’re Alex Mercer, a prototype human who has to fight the other mutants, the military, or both, in a semi-representation of Manhattan. He’s dressed to last – clearly it’s not summer in the game, considering the many layers he wears.

Anyway, this guy runs up buildings, creates claws, swords and whips from his own whatever he is, and eats people. Don’t you just love it?

Our Thoughts

Yes, I do love it. Nice attempt tying this to the recent undead theme… but I don’t think mutants derived from experimented-on girl really fits the bill. I recall you using it as the original argument for doing the game next… but then again, I guess we deserved a lot more about the story anyway. Or you did, considering how much time you have been spending on the game. I think it is safe to say that this is the most I have been addicted to a game since Bayonetta way back when. In a way I am now sorta glad my old Xbox 360 packed in as it gave us an excuse to buy a new game or two to go with it. It’s one I have been looking forward to for about a year and it really has lived up to my expectation.

In essence, Prototype is a mixture between the free-roaming nature of Spider-Man 2 with the killing sprees available in Grand Theft Auto. And the upgrades of, well, many an action/RPG. Ah the upgrades. There are a large number of different powers that can be unlocked during the game. All of which have been beautifully realised with their own pros, cons and uses. Some of these are quite straightforward, like faster runs and higher jumps. Some are transformations – changing your hands into claws, whips or the iconic big sword. And then there’s the big devastator attacks where you shoot spikes out of your body in all directions that kill mostly everything near you. The whip-fist is possibly the most impressive of the lot since you are able to take down helicopters in a single hit without even breaking a sweat. Then you can upgrade it even further so that you whip it around you in a circle and cut everyone around you in half. Then there is the musclemass upgrade where you reduce people to a bloody mess in a single charged punch… with the exception of a disembodied foot.

It seems incredibly violent, made a bit stranger by the fact your innocents are easily harmed. Of course, if you don’t, the infected are likely to get to them first, if they’re not killed by the army in the crossfire. So, to be blunt, everyone is pretty much screwed. The further you progress in the game the more the infection takes a hold over Manhattan. There are certain streets where you will just see burnt out cars and dead bodies strewn about the place. Really gives the city a certain macarbe ambience. This is further enforced by the game playing as a flashback. Your tutorial takes place on the 18th day of the infection, where you have all your powers. You then go back to the first day as you play through the game while the infection spreads further, leading up to what you know is the inevitable conclusion. It’s a fantastic way to introduce the controls since you are thrown right into a chaotic Times Square with maxed out mutations. I actually played this twice since I enjoyed chopping things in half with my arm-sword. The most awesome power, which of course is unlocked as one of the final possible powers.

It may take you a long while to get this far since it is just so much fun to wander around the city killing armymen. It is also rather satisfying using the absorption power so that you can later use their form to hide from the filth. This power is heavily used both in missions and outside of them since, for extra XP, you can infiltrate army bases and stealthily kill everyone inside then blow it up with a hijacked tank. OR you can decide to take down the hive locations belonging to the infected. Anything to increase your powers eh? Or do both and get a double return… they’re both bastards, really. Absolutely, all’s fair in war and mutation. One thing I had slight issue with is the sidequests… or the fact that the idea of taking part in a gliding race across Manhatten doesn’t exactly fit in with the apocalyptic feel of the game. They are common to these sort of games, but it is one of those disadvantages of putting so much time pressure on a main quest. As well as a rather annoyingly emo main character who always has the hood of his jacket up during the entire game. To be honest, not always a bad thing, his face somehow seems a bit off. In any case, he looks… and at times is rather emo. Then again if I was experimented on and the government wanted to kill my sister and love interest I would probably be rather emo. I’d be emo if my sister were my love interest. (Two different people) (Scratch that)

Lastly I think we need to mention the Web of Intrigue feature. As a side-effect of your absorption power you are also able to take on the memories of certain people that you meet during the game. This then forms a ‘web’ which acts as a rather unique story-telling device. Therefore the only way you can completely understand the game’s backstory is to absorb every one on your hitlist. Now, this obviously doesn’t happen with everyone, and in a way getting to part of the web is a side quest where you can get more sections as you absorb more characters, but it allows you to learn more about the side story without it being in your face through forced cutscenes. It also allows for more branches in the story, rather than the linear story you normally get. Cutscenes you can easily skip through if the only reason you are taking on this feature is to end up with 100% completion. And at some points you probably will, but the small fragments can be incredibly compelling to track. In the end this game excels with the amounts of freedom you get. It makes me really want to buy a Playstation 3 as soon as possible so I can compare it with Infamous.

Final Thoughts

So yeah, this is a very good game, as said. There’s a good story here, that you can follow up through great missions, with plenty of fun sidequests – either direct events, but also finding people for the web of intrigue, landmarks and hints that you can all find as long as you do plenty of exploration.

Graphically, this game looks lovely and good – as we’d expect by the year this game was introduced in. The AI is good, working different for individual monsters. And you yourself become an incredibly awesome character. Worth playing, absolutely worth it.

Game 54: Dead Rising

Posted: May 16, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 693/1001 according to the list

Genre: Survival Horror/Action
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Back in late 2006 I had a choice to make. For Christmas I had the choice of getting either an Xbox 360 or a Wii… hard right?

Having to make a choice about what conosle to get as you cross into the next generation of gaming is not one to be taken lightly. So what I chose to do was to look at the games available at the time and make a choice based on that. Since I, somewhat stupidly, thought that the Xbox 360 would be completely backwards compatible I chose to get that. However, that was only an afterthought since the games that really tipped the balance in favour of getting the 360 were the already blogged Viva Pinata and today’s entry Dead Rising. The fact that it took me another five years before I finally got it is another story.

Our Playthrough

Seeing that this game starts out pretty much as a linear single-player game (before expanding into a more sandbox mode) we thought it would be best for us to both have our own game where the experience would add up to 5  hours. Seeing how I am the more experienced in terms of console gaming I played for longer than Jeroen did.

Our Thoughts

Here’s our next zombie game already, although the title could just as easily refer to skeletons or other such undead evils. I think a quick glance at the game’s cover would allay any worries about the presence of zombies.  Then again they are not necessarily the toughest enemy to defeat. I think a chainsaw juggling psycho-clown comes close to the top of that list.

As you can tell, we’ve started playing our first survival horror and yeah, that is a character in the game. Nightmare fodder, right? Surprisingly my zombie nightmares stopped when we started playing this game. Now I just dream of being murdered in a room decked in red and yellow. What game will get rid of that one? Possibly a discoloured chess game, I’ll start looking for one. I fail to see the link but let’s move on.

 

So, I guess the big selling point that Capcom used to ship as many copies of this game as possible was that this was a rather unique mix of zombie and sandbox  games. Sandbox up to a point only, due to some time limitations, but this is as close as you’ll get. There’s lots of zombies, and you can go where you want (as long as you kill the right people first for their keys and such).

Well, the limitations get dropped once you complete both the 72 hour and overtime game modes. Then it opens everything up and you are then able to dip in every now and then to take your rage out on a never-ending zombie population. In the end this population is so large that there is an achievement for killing more zombies than actually present in the town where the breakout occurred. Presumably due to the infestation spreading, it’s quite scary to think of.

Luckily they’re zombies, so you’re likely to outrun them. Unless it is night-time… then they become faster, stronger and their eyes glow red. Yeah, they are, signalled by a rather worrying cut scene. Yes… I might have spoken too soon about the lack of nightmares. Luckily we only saw it today, so can’t discuss it at length yet. Apparently this blog now doubles as a dream journal. Tomorrow’s entry may be 16+…

ANYWAY! Survival Horror, scary game!

When I first played this game I was pretty jumpy… even in the segments in the safe house area. However I have to admit that after I decapitated a few zombies with a sickle I was no longer scared of it. It may be one of the more violent games I have ever played though.

 

The sheer quantity of blood that you shed just to go to the bookstore is more than you see during a rampage in the recent GTAs. It is pretty unique when you think about how much blood is involved. This can be seen in Germany, where this game was refused a rating which made it illegal for stores to sell the game there.

Considering how casually you kill them… the only reason it doesn’t feel uncomfortable is because they’re really not human, they feel like zombies. The graphics may help give that feeling. They are good – quite realistic, with the normal humans looking good and the only weird thing being their mouths when they speak. They don’t sync, pulling you out of the illusion quite quickly. That is the thing that has dated this game immensely. The zombies and the mall surroundings are so well executed that it is a real pity that everything between the nose and the chin looks ridiculous.

 

Speaking of ridiculous… the AI of the survivors is absolutely pants.  Firstly you are not able to give them everything that can be used as a weapon due to certain items having unique battle animation. The major gripe is that when you say to them ‘follow me and I will lead you to safety’ they interpret it as ‘crowd surf on that patch of flesh-eating nightmares’. Sometimes you feel that they just do not wish to be saved and should therefore be left to their gooey fate. It is possible they are already zombies; the rotting has just been taking longer.

Final Thoughts

It’s a sad fact that this is a game that really has aged a great deal.

The fundemental sandbox game play still remains great fun and there is no way to properly cover this in the time we set aside for this so I am really looking forward to giving this a good old explore later (especially when it comes to the psycho clown who’s mere existance is somewhat disturbing). If you can get it cheap in a place like CEX it is still a worthwhile gaming investment.

Game 43: Second Sight

Posted: April 2, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , , ,

Game 605/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action
Platform: Gamecube/PC/Playstation 2/Xbox
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Free Radical Designs
Publisher: Codemasters

Can you quite believe that we have covered a game from every year in the last 15 years with the exception of 2004? It’s a bit of a strange oversight to be honest so I was able to this gap in our coverage to push forward the playing of Second Sight. I previously owned the title on the Gamecube but, as it always is, I was strapped for cash and as such traded it in. I then found it on eBay rather cheaply so thought it was worth a flutter for one of the select few games that successfully managed to bring psychic powers to a console.

We previously covered the Free Radical game Timesplitters 2 and we will one day be covering another game by them. So, let’s get on with it.

Our Thoughts

It is all too common for developers to pigeon-hole themselves within a particular genre after creating a successful franchise. So when Free Radical, the makers of the classic Timesplitters series decided to venture into single-player action it was always going to be somewhat of a gamble. This was especially so since Free Radical really became noteworthy in their execution of multi-player shoot ’em ups. When playing this, however, there is absolutely no doubt that this is a Free Radical game. This can be seen by the menus, the character designs and (most obviously) the sense of humour.

Of course with this being after Timesplitters 2 (which we previously covered here) everything that these games hold in common have been given a good deal of polish. I can agree with the above, but what is also clear is that this game takes full advantage of it being single player. Through the game, you play through two storylines – before and after – that intertwine, with both having different gameplay with the possible abilities. And the powers you get are so different that you couldn’t easily use them in multiplayer, both because of how and when they’re unlocked, and how many are more focused on solving puzzles and progressing through the game using them.

It is the powers themselves which are the game’s ace in the hole. In total there are five psychic powers you are able to unlock (Projection, Telekinesis, Psi Power, Charm and Healing) and these get powered up as you progress further along the game. You can also use weapons which you pick up on your travels such as pistols and submachine guns. An interesting weapon included with these are various strengths of tranquilizer darts so you are able to fight your way through levels without bloodshed. This is not always avoidable but there is the option.

This is something that I love about Second Sight, the fact that there is usually more than one way to complete your objectives. Yeah, aside from the shooting your way through method, you can sneak past as well or use your powers to good effect – either to sneak or to fight. You can ask scientists for help or kill them to get past them.  This is actually made very clear in the tutorial level, where you have to go through the same area  twice – just sneaking through, after that by shooting (with blanks) the guards in the level. There is less of an option when you are playing ‘in the past’ as you storm Russian army complexes in the snow. In this, whilst you are in possession of a tranquilizer gun, it is more advisable to blast your way through. Speaking of which, the shooting mechanics are an absolute dream to play with.

There is something very satisfying about headshots (ah, I love headshots) and the controls are executed so cleanly that they are fairly easy to achieve without the feeling that you are being spoon-fed. I also loved that the sniper rifles had an automatic zoom, something which pays dividends at the beginning of the Rescue mission. I can echo that on the controls, which were very easy to pick up on. I’m not great at these games – not my favourite genre – but Peter had to admit I was actually quite adept and picked up the game fairly fast – in part from practice with other games, in part because I’m actually not that bad with these games and have been informed of such by others, but also because the controls themselves didn’t get in the way. From sneaking to shooting to using powers, they made sense and were intuitive, and with the exception of a slip-up or two, they didn’t ever get in the way.

This game, somehow, even managed to make escort missions enjoyable to play. Usually they are as dumb as a sack of hammers and will happily flaunt themselves in front of the opposition whilst jumping up and down in the air pleading to know what a gunshot wound feels like. This game not only worked out kinks in the AI so that the woman you escort is actually scared and will not run off ahead but also allows you to use your healing ability on her, meaning that unless you find yourself out  of her eye line you are able to make sure her health bar is always as near as full as possible. She’s also suitably creepy and crazy, adding to the atmosphere. But yeah, this is a rescue mission where you do have to escort, but don’t have to worry that much about it either. Yes… some of the dialogue she spouts as you escort her over the rooftops gave me the creeps. Especially when she asks if you are playing a game of hide and seek.

The atmosphere itself was quite good too. The story is divided in two parts, as said, one before the happening that gives you psychic powers, one after that, and the two mix between. The feel of both parts is quite different. In the before storyline, you’re part of a military group and you go through bunkers, strictly designed, as you often see in similar games. In the after story line, you have psychic abilities and escape from a research facility. There’s far more computers around, and parts of it are more technological and more absurd, while others seem grubbier, when you get to the rescue missions and have to sneak out over rooftops and through back alleys. This inter-mingling of timelines is something that Free Radical have always enjoyed doing their games. Whilst it was okay in Timesplitters 2 it was only really perfected in this game.

When examining the output of the studio as a whole Second Sight marks the stepping stone between the second and third entry in the Timesplitters series. It was because of this game that they were finally able to produce a well executed single player mode in their next game. Looking back on this game makes it even sadder that Free Radical went into administration in 2008 resulting in its takeover by German developer Crytek. It marked the end of one of the great small British games developers and since Timesplitters 4 still appears to be shelved we will have to look to the multiplayer of recent release Crysis 2 to see those Free Radical Designs credentials back in action.

Final Thoughts

We have spent a lot of time complimenting this game and mourning the loss of this UK-based developer. This may be a game on the 1001 list but it is never featured on any ‘best of’ lists in magazines so I guess a lot of it really is down to personal taste. It is a game that I love dearly and am glad to have an excuse to play again.

Game 391/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Upon it’s release The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was dubbed by the gaming industry as the greatest computer game ever made. It was one of those gaming landmarks that only comes around one or two times in every console generation.

Previous to this the Zelda games was already one of the most respected franchises in the gaming world with titles such as Link’s Awakening and A Link to The Past made giant steps for Nintendo. It took nearly five years to make and has been making waves ever since.

Our Thoughts

It’s strange. On one hand, this game took the Zelda series to 3D and introduced a lot of new concepts, including the songs we saw in a number of subsequent games. On the other hand, this game really sticks to the old concepts and feels like it fits in, just with a more flexible camera. It’s changed far less than, say, Mario‘s transition to 3D. I guess that’s because in the previous Zelda games you still moved in what could be thought of as three dimensions whereas Mario was classically a side-scroller. Therefore Mario needed a far larger overhaul when it was brought to the Nintendo 64 compared with what Legend of Zelda required.

In a sense true, but also in basic gameplay the game stays more true to its roots. While in Mario, you went from a level-based structure, one after the other, to the mission-based structure of Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time works the same as the similar games, exploring the world that gets progressively unlocked. Why mess with a formula that’s proven to work well? I mean Link’s Awakening pre-dated Ocarina of Time and is arguably their best outing on a handheld. Oh, it’s absolutely a good move and I’m glad they did it – the series does make the transition to 3D very well – but I still find the contrast between the two series interesting, and it rarely happens that a series makes the transitions while staying this close to the original. With the exception of fighting and sports games I know what you mean.

In a way they were able to change the game from being purely dungeon based to being based a lot around the sweeping scenery. I remember my first venture into Hyrule Field many years ago, I was truly taken aback. Mario became cartoony platform 3D fun, Zelda became breathtakingly cinematic. Absolutely, and while it felt part of that was already present, it integrated beautifully. It’s certainly not a 2D game made to be 3D, it makes the best use of it that it can; including plenty of puzzles making use of the 3D setting, from having to get around fences to crawling through small holes, and jumping down holes with precise aiming.

It also works with the stealth missions… which ranks as one of the most frustrating mini-games introduced to this long running series. Something we also touched on in our Majora’s Mask discussion. I understand that it breaks up gameplay but it feels unnecessary. That’s the main reason it’s in there, another reason to get through the game rather than constantly battling. But they’re simultaneously more frustrating than a dedicated stealth game like Metal Gear Solid, and simpler with less options to get through there. It makes good use of the time features since the guards have their own schedules more or less and it is easier to sneak around when it is night-time. Always a helpful, and something you’d expect. Not that you can just change the time around until you get through the first stealth part.

I always did enjoy the use of the songs in the game to unlock new features or to further the plot line. Something I guess I missed a little bit in Twilight Princess (where, if I remember correctly, they generally abandoned the use of magical music altogether). It could be, that’s of course one of the games I haven’t played yet.

Even the camera angles (something we have majorly quibbled about with its contemporaries) are well executed. That’s possibly the biggest compliment we can give here – we didn’t really have any trouble with the camera, so we had no reason to complain about it. And that’s the way that should be.

Now, we played the Gamecube port (available with the first release of The Wind Waker), so I’m not sure whether the graphics were upgraded there, but it felt not – they feel less detailed than Majora’s Mask, but at the same time the simplicity seems to have allowed for larger, more integrated areas of the world, making the game seem smoother and larger. I disagree completely. Granted the time constraint in Majora’s Mask mean less exploration was available but it was by far a larger and lusher world when compared to Ocarina of Time. Yeah, that’s true. My point is not that Ocarina of Time’s is larger, it’s that Majora’s Mask world is divided in more smaller areas (such as the main town having small sections), where Ocarina of Time’s are larger and more joined together – I get the feeling Ocarina of Time’s first town has one area the size of three sections of Majora’s Mask’s.

I guess that was helped by the restricted AI and graphics lent to the NPCs. It was interesting that in Link’s hometown you could see their fairy counterparts before the NPC themselves. I guess it saved a lot of loading time. Yeah, that’s one other odd thing that makes sense from that point of view – the characters themselves weren’t shown until you were quite close. It saved loading time… and probably allowed them to be more impressive elsewhere. Then they were able to improve this with Majora’s Mask by creating the large world outside of the city which leads to all the areas with randomly generating enemies as well as other Hyrulian style paraphernalia.

It’s pretty apt that these two games are usually compared to one another because there is such a kinship between the two (with Majora’s Mask being a direct sequel) but I guess that in terms of features I alway felt Majora to have the edge. Even if the three-day time limit can be brutal. Absolutely true, the three day limit is… somewhat annoying, but as the sequel, it’s clearly better in nearly every way.

Considering the 3D action/adventure was still very much in it’s infancy as Ocarina of Time burst onto the scene it is easy to see how it was dubbed by many as the greatest game ever released. There was nothing out there quite like it and it played a lot like your own personal fantasy movie. Even if the graphics have dated immensely the fundamentals still play like an absolute dream.

Final Thoughts

This is the penultimate game from the first batch of Kat’s games meaning that, as we decided after finishing our write-up, we will be targeting more obscure games (granted Quadradius and Drop7 are fairly unknown but that’s by the by) as well as some interesting looking arcade games like Lunar Lander. Personally I am really hoping that we get to Second Sight and The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis pretty soon as they have been resting in our to do pile since early December.