Friday, May 13, 2011

Better late than later

Blogger was down for a day.

And I have been lazy, and I really need to change my 'Now Playing' graphic.

There are two right now, actually. One is quite good and one has it's share of problems but gets the job done. The good would be Outland, a game that defies attempts at categorization, mixing equal parts 'Splosion Man, Ikaruga and N++. It is a side scrolling platformer, but with controls more refined than I thought possible. It honestly works better that it should, allowing precise movements with an analog stick. At first there is only one color of thing to dodge, but at about the one hour mark the hero gains the ability to match that color and absorb the attacks. Not surprisingly attacks of the opposite color make their appearance, and shortly thereafter it goes full on Ikaruga and allows you to swap back and forth. Couple that with the exceptional controls and puzzles that appear impossible are opened up within a life or so of experimentation.

This kind of progression leads to back tracking, but never to the point of it being a chore. Areas change between visits, always getting more difficult on subsequent passes. Bosses (or the one boss that have seen so far) are pattern based behemoths that are just hard enough to keep you interested. Outland has found the perfect balance between progression and frustration, saving the mind numbing repetition for a time based arcade mode. The story is laughable and thin, but for once it doesn't matter. Was there story in 'Spolosion Man beyond sploding and escaping? Yes, there were doughnuts. Outland has story that attempts to explain why you can change color and why it is important, but it is superfluous and ignorable. It is pure game play and well worth the $10.

Homefront, on the opposite end of things, is generic to the point of being indistinguishable from its peers. Take Call of Duty and add a White Castle, or Half Life 2 with a Hooters (including the silent protagonist). Not bad, just not new. It also has the nerve to get a few keys things wrong, and the worst of them is how you NPC compatriots act. They don't actually shoot anyone, so every bad guy in the level runs right past them on the way to get you. They also take up the best cover locations and will not move. I can't tell you how many times I snuck around a corner to kill some people then couldn't walk backward because a ninety pound woman with a twenty pound gun had taken up position behind me and would not move. Allies should at worst be transparent, never obstacles, and I would trade them all in to be able to carry more ammunition.

Mediocre shooters are much more tolerable than mediocre anything else. It is fun to shoot people, after all.

There was Street Fighter played as well, but the return of Mike Ross and Gootecks to their excellent adventures seems to have called all of the 10,000 BP players out of retirement. It was not a good evening: I quit the game for good at least twice and dented the wall behind me with a coke can. It reminded me of playing Marvel...

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