Friday, October 12, 2012

Demo Friday: something old, something older

There were two retro re-releases on Friday of last week, plus this weeks new arcade releases. This translated to about forty five minutes of torture assuaged by fifteen minutes of calming nostalgia. All that was missing were angry ex-girlfriends and heavy drinking and it would have been just like my high school reunion (which I didn't go to because I was not invited, but that is a story for another day).

What the hell is a 1 mare?
I never owned a Saturn. Like most people I didn't even know it had come out until I walked past a Babbages and saw a giant pile of them sitting, untouched, with the store manager softly weeping behind it. Even after release my contact with the system was limited to the demo kiosk at Blockbuster, and all that had in it was a random platformer whose name I can't remember. I think the main character was an ant, but it was so lame that the Virtual Boy kiosk actually got more use.

Nights was a game that I knew about but had never played. Screen shots did little to explain what exactly you did in the game. Soon enough the whole system went away and most people forgot about it, including me. This does not strike me as a huge gap in my gaming resume, but getting to play it, at least in part, did pique my curiosity. It was a painful trial and I still have no idea what I was doing. The screen shots show exactly what is happening, and it makes no sense. I am flying through a dream inspired, zero gravity world in which I am limited to two dimensional movement in a three dimensional area. There are glowing things to collect and there is a time limit, but the whole track is a loop. I think I need to go around twice. Once I died and turned into a pajama wearing kid who had to climb her way back to the top of a hill.

I do not understand, nor do I care to put the energy into understanding. Nights is a relic, but not a museum quality relic, the kind you find in an antique shop under old issues of National Geographic with a price tag that says 'make an offer.'

Speaking of things that seemed better at the time:

Where is Tails when you need him?
I was on bored with the Dreamcast from day one. It introduced me to online gaming, the beauty of playing games on a computer monitor via a VGA cable and, well, piracy. My favorite memories of the system are not of the big releases that everyone played but of little ones that no one else remembers. Record of Lodoss War was an excellent Diablo clone. Cannon Spike was a great whatever it was. Chu Chu Rocket is the same kind of genre-less awesome. I played Sonic Adventure 2 because everyone played Sonic Adventure 2 and I distinctly remember the Sonic levels being good and all the other ones being bad.

The demo is, to no ones surprise, just a Sonic level. The first level, I think. It plays the same, with controls that work well when moving fast and completely break down when negotiating platforms, and it looks about the same as I remember. What is interesting is how much my expectations have changed. since it came out in 2001. Effects that were pretty cool then, like Sonic hitting one car and it tumbling down into others on its way down a hill, are laughable now. Games age more quickly and more severely than any other media. I can pick up a book written hundred of years ago and it still reads the same. Movies that come out ten years ago may not have all the same nifty special effects but good acting is still good acting. Games are so technology driven that even a few years render them almost unplayable.

Did I just confess to being a graphics whore? Shit.

This is honestly the best screen shot I could find.
Ah, Naughty Bear, we have crossed paths before. Your retail release in 2010 set a new record for shortest amount of time in the Xbox before I put it back in the envelope and sent it away. For those who haven't played it, which I hope is everyone, Naughty Bear is a stealth game in which the naught bear (you) stalks and murders all of the other bears. He's a bit unpopular, you see, and violence is the only way he knows how to deal with things. Panic in Paradise is exactly the same gave as the first, only set on the beach instead of the woods.

Nothing in this game works. The narrator's attempt and being chipper and British is more annoying than anything else. Stealth is joke, as you can duck into bushes with a dozen bears behind you and they all give up. Combat without stealth doesn't work either, so game play boils down to sneaking up behind one bear, sticking him to a cactus or knocking his head off with a golf club, then running way from his angry friends. Some attempt was made to spice things up with an experience system and naughty bear customization, but nothing can save this mess.

These are the same people who made Wet, a great bad game. I can't wait for their community service sentences to be up so they can put out a game with the word 'fuck' in it again.

Finally, some violence I can endorse.
In the early days of XBLA I played a lot of Worms. For me it was the perfect combination of turn based and real time strategy and silly enough that I did not get too mad when I lost. The basic formula for Worms games, the good ones anyway, has not changed in a long, long time. Revolution does the right thing by not straying far. The only changes I could see were that not all surfaces were destructible and all of the new water weapons. I imagine that being able to drown opposing worms with a weapon when they foolishly hide out in a hole for too long is wonderful for the killer and infuriating for the kill-y. This is just how Worms should work. If I had time I would upgrade to the new version. It is just as fun as I remember it being.

Side note: this would an example of how a game can age well. With a bit of reconstructive surgery and a few new features. Hadoken throwing works will never get old.

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