Friday, November 2, 2012

Demo Friday: early leftovers

It must be the pre-Christmas lull for XBLA. Or they are holding back the good downloadable games for fear of being buried under the retail releases. I can't imagine anyone wants to butt heads with Assassins Creed 3 and Halo 4 so this week's releases are games that could come out just about any time because no one was going to buy them anyway.

Heh. Balls.
Just about every sport I can think of has made the transition from the real world to simulation. Some make the transition very well because the average human being simply cannot participate in the real sport at a reasonable level (football), others work because the developer pulled a good game out of nowhere that happens to be based on a sport that everyone knows how to do but no one is actually good at (ping pong), still other don't work because no one knows what the real game actually is (lacrosse?). Billiards fits right in with ping pong: anyone can pick up a stick and start knocking balls around the table but no one is ever as good at it as they think they are.

Take away the requirements of coordination  and skill and all that is left of billiards is geometry. Playing a video game simulation of it does exactly that: turns a game into math homework. Pool Nation is boring. It doesn't matter that the game is damn near photo realistic and the ball physics are spot on. Aligning arrows and manually setting where to the hit ball to create the spin you want is akin to navigating menus in an RPG: if you didn't have to do it there is no way you would. I don't have to play Pool Nation so I am not going to.

There is a story here that I wish I was privy to.
The demo of Pid would have been better if it hat put what you are doing in any sort of context. As it stands you start on what I assume is the first level: what looks like a child falls into a hole, there is some monster having tea below, queue indie style platforming with middling controls and 'I Wanna Be the Guy' style learn by death. There is nothing wrong with that. It certainly isn't my thing, I prefer my platformers to be more Rayman and less N++, but it was the lack of context that kept me from even finishing the demo.

Ok, the mushy controls certainly didn't do it any favors.

It would have been nice to know why the child fell into the hole and what the deal was with the monster having tea. I would assume that this is explained via an opening cut scene in the full game. Thirty seconds of exposition is all I would have needed. I know this was not done to keep the size of the demo down because XBLA demos contain the data for the whole game and only require an unlock to access the rest. This was an intentional choice that the opposite of the intended effect. Instead of creating mystery in fostered my ambivalence. Honestly, even with a full understand of what was going on I wouldn't have bought the game. Puzzle based platformers are really not my thing. Still, it would have been nice to know what I am not buying.

And what the hell 'Pid' is. 

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