Friday, March 29, 2013

Tempted

I was going to skip Star Trek: The Game for reasons, but...



Gotta love Shatner.

Demo Friday: Does two minutes count?

Disclaimer: I did not give Terraria a fair chance. Nor do I intend to. The game hits all the 'annoy Chamberlain' buttons simultaneously.

Nothing even this interesting happened

I have a serious problem with games that put the creative burden entirely on the player. Giving them the ability to make their own things is fine but having nothing there to begin with strikes me as lazy. This is why I have never even attempted Minecraft and was so angered by Little Big Planet: they just aren't for me. Terraria was described to me as Minecraft plus Metroid. Yes, it is a sand box but there is a point to exploring the sand box beyond just digging for more sand. It just might do that but I will never know because I got bored and quite after all of two minutes.

Didn't even make it out of the tutorial.

This started to go wrong when I was told to chop down a tree and it took several seconds to do so. There is no reason for it take more than one swipe with an ax. Hitting it over and over adds nothing to the experience, it only adds to the amount of time it takes to do it. If you paid by the minute to play Terraria I would understand but you don't. Yet the game insists on wasting the player's time. Things got worse when the tutorial asked be to dig down into a vein of ore. The bottom of the vein was not even on the screen and it took longer to dig through each block than it did to chop down a tree. Again, there is no reason it should take more than a hit to destroy each block. There was no skill in this, only an investment of time.

I never saw the bottom because I turned it off after two minuted. Terraria may have giant worlds to discovery, interesting things to do and endless customization for the player but it doesn't matter but it failed at the small parts. The individual tasks required to play the game were no fun. If I wanted to work I would stay at work.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Great. Not now.

My taste in racing games can be described accurately as schizophrenic. There are franchises that I enjoy and ones that I won't touch and it is difficult for me to articulate why. For example, the Project Gotham series is a favorite of mine but I have not played a Need For Speed game since the first one on my 3DO. Midnight Club Racing was a huge no but I liked GRiD. Blur was boring but Split Second was awesome. Most damning of all are my feelings for Burnout. I was completely on board all the way through Burnout Takedown but Paradise drove me insane. I hated not being able to restart a race without driving back to the beginning, something they fixed in an update after I quit, and the Burnout physics didn't sit well in an open world.

On the slightly more realistic side I enjoy Forza but am ambivalent to Gran Turismo. Sony's racing flagship may have been more real but Forza looked better thanks to production values that went beyond 'here is your car, isn't it shiny?' Forza 4 brought on a little series fatigue but that has been completely relieved by Horizon: Frankenstein's racing game built not of the dregs of racing kind but of all the primo bits.

The car handling is lifted from the previous Froza games and sits right between Project Gotham and Gran Turismo. Not too easy, not too hard, just right and and adjustable if you like it easier or harder. There is a kudos system similar to Project Gotham and Burnout that rewards the player for reckless driving. This makes the trips between venues worthwhile: the player never stops generating points and credits. The open world is a cross between Burnout Paradise and Motorstorm: the party is more live at red rocks than post-apocalyptic burning man and the world feels a little smaller but there is no shortage of things to do. The races them selves are a nice mix of street races, point to point rallies, off-road circuits and ridiculous one offs like racing a plane or hot air balloon.

Horizon is a complete package. It has everything that I want in a racing game all tied up with a non-intrusive story and avoidable multiplayer. It could not have arrived at a worse time. How the hell am I supposed to split time between this and BioShock Infinity?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

And I would, too, if he weren't armed

I cannot remember if this generations previous Devil May Cry reached the same levels of insanity. Limbo is already difficulty to process: the city itself is trying to kill Dante and there is little he can do but dodge and make pithy observations. Dante gets more powerful as the game progresses until he can slow time. Bosses get larger until Mundus takes on his full blown Stay Puft Marshmallow man form. All of this delivers on spectacle but move further from when the game is good at: the combat. Fighting a giant is not near as fun as dealing with a dozen little guys all at the same time. The later requires variety and creativity while the former is just dodging giant attacks and mashing Y when the glowing targets are within reach.

At least the game was aware of this and brought everything down to a very intimate fight between Dante and Virgil for the finale. Here was a battle that allowed the player to use all that he has learned. Every unlocked move was useful again because the opponent was an equal instead of a giant creme puff. The twist at the end, having is use devil trigger to keep Virgil's shadow from blocking the final hit, stayed true to the game's mechanics. It would have been easy to toss up a few button prompts and call it a day. Instead Ninja Theory crafted an excellent cap stone to what they they had built. I fully expect a sequel, probably on new hardware, and they deserve the chance to keep going.

I still don't like how the new Dante looks or acts, preferring this:

to this:


A little less angst, a little more suave, a lot more devil may care. I choose to believe that it is the same Dante, just at different points in his career. DmC Dante barely knows what he is, much less who he is. By the end of his game he has chosen sides but lacks confidence. The original Dante is at least ten years older, judging by his self assured swagger, and is just a more appealing character to me. He doesn't need to prove anything, he knows that he is better than everyone else at what he does, but that doesn't mean he won't enjoying showing you.

This is a small complaint. Much like Bayonetta, DmC would be fun if the characters were all stick figures in an empty room. The fact that the new Dante reminds me of someone I would yell at to get off my lawn doesn't change anything. 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Properly endorsed



Even Daigo likes Divekick.

I cannot wait to spend money on this game. Bring it out already.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Too sexy

Oh my God, Bioshock Infinite shipped from GameFly today, day before it come out. I will be able to play a current game within days of release. It has been months.

...

The new DmC in an interesting beast. It plays very much like an introductory Devil May Cry game. Whole sections of the move set have been lifted from previous games. It can get complicated with three different weapons available at all times but it is not the bad kind of complicated, more 'I know what I want to do, how do I do it,' less 'what the fuck am I supposed to do.' Switching between weapons mid-combo is both fun and effective, though rarely necessary. This is a reboot designed to capture new fans, not scare them off, so to be blunt, the game is a little on the easy side. (Disclaimer: on medium difficulty, I'm no masochist.)

What bothers me is how intentionally sexy the game is. Dante starts the game banging two strippers and spends the introductory cinematic naked. It is played far too straight and feels forced. Thankfully this only around an hour or so. Dante wants you to hate him but the way he reacts to discovering he is an interdimensional hybrid  prevents that. No yelling, no screaming, he takes it all in and then agrees to help his long lost brother.

Virgil is as classy as all get out, by the way. The inevitable falling out between him and Dante will be a fashion tragedy.

I have only spent one evening with it, taking last night off to watch The Hobbit again, but I doubt my feelings about the game will change. It is definitely good, but it what it really does is make me want a sequel to Heavenly Sword.

...

The Hobbit was better the second time around. Not as good as The Two Towers, but not much is.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I never want to see this again

It would be unfair of me to let Far Cry 3 slide on something that I took Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time to task for. While in quality they are not even in the same general area there is one tremendous offense that they are both guilty of:



Hoyt and Vaas both die the same way: quick time event. There is no tension here, no accomplishment. After over twenty horse of running around the island killing pirates and then hired soldiers in more and more creative ways this is my reward? I am so god damn tired of games painting themselves into a corner whose only escape is a semi-interactive cut scene. If the game cannot support what the story is trying to do then change the story, not the game.

It's lazy and insulting to the player. A good final boss should take a little bit of everything the player has learned to defeat. Here's a better way to handle the Hoyt fight: stealth. Far Cry 3 worked much better when a stealthy approach was used. Knocking down the front door of an enemy stronghold was a great way to waste health syringes but killing them one at a time, or better yet three or four at a time with the grenade take down after the alarms have been disabled is both fun and hilarious. There are seven different flavors of stealth take down that could have been used in a final battle.

The poker game stays the same. Hoyt still kills Sam with a knife to the neck. Here's the change: it is established that Jason is basically super human. After Hoyt cuts off his finger Jason wheels around, grabs the guard and pulls the pin on one of his grenades. They all panic, the grenade goes off and everyone left alive falls through the floor. More guards arrive and the player has a fiery, smoky playground with Hoyt as the prize at the end. The game can still have the 'what have I become' moment with Jason looking at his hands, surrounded by bodies but this time the player will have ownership of the actions instead of just having observed them will all the effort of skipping through chapters on a DVD.

Quick time events kill immersion. There is no giant floating blue X in Jason's world telling him what to do. Stop putting one there.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Demo Friday: Flattery will get you everywhere

There is no shortage of one hit death side scrolling platformers on XBLA. How does one stand out from the crowd? Will anything ever compare to 'Splosion Man? No, but one of these two could be mentioned in the same sentence as Rayman Origins without a hint of sarcasm.

Let's count the games that this looks like.
Off the top of my head, Limbo crossed with Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, but it's Friday, which means I don't want to think very hard.

What Alien Spidy really looks like is a browser based flash game. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Alien Hominid started out that way and its jump to a retail release worked very well. This one, not so much. All the  good game parts are there in roughly the correct ratios. Interesting art style, cute protagonist, levels filled with bits of junk to collect, quick re-spawns to make death less painful. All the check boxes are filled but the game still doesn't quite work. It only take one twist or interesting mechanic to stand out from all the other platformers. 'Splosion Man had 'sploding. Rayman had being impossible beautiful.

Alien Spidy chose a swing mechanic in conjunction with a fidgety physics engine. There are two ways to use it: either take your thumb off of the jump button and stab the right analog stick in the direction you what to shoot webbing or just hit X and hope it hits the target you want it to hit. The first way is physically impossible and the second leaves too much up to chance, the end result being swinging around is just not much fun. Missing a target means falling and almost everything kills you. Letting go at the wrong time also means missing your target because the way the spider falls never feels predictable. More time with the game would have probably helped but I lost interest before I finished the demo. One too many errant swings sent my spider flailing to his doom and I decided he deserved the rest.

...

I had never heard of the Giana Sisters games before.  I never owned a Commodore 64 or Amiga, either, and those were among the only systems to see them. There were, to be blunt, Super Mario Bros rip offs. Look at this:


Yeah, that's pretty blatant. And there was a DS version that didn't look much different.

Flash forward a few years and Spellbound Entertainment is gone. A few of the key developers took out a kickstarter, got it funded, and put out Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams. This is the result:

This is something worth looking at
I was not kidding up above when I said there was going to be a game that could be mentioned unironically next to Raymen Origins. It gets better: every level is actually two levels. As you switch back and forth between sisters the level changes as well, both visually and physically. I don't care about the story and I certainly don't care why these two girls inhabit the same body. What matters is this switching mechanic creates incredibly difficult and fun obstacles.

The two sisters have different abilities: the pink one above can twirl in a cute way, slowing her fall. The red one has an explosive 8 way dash that kills enemies and smashes blocks. You can switch at any time and in a brilliant move it can be done with either the right trigger or the dash or float buttons. This allows the game to throw puzzles at you that require incredibly precise timing. It the last demo level I had to switch back and forth, dashing and floating while avoiding mine carts full of spikey crystals. It was excellent because it made sense. When I died I knew why I died and it was not due to the fickle mood of the physics engine. I died because I missed a jump or a dash. That made trying it again less of a chore and more of a challenge.

I spent forty five minutes on the demo and would have bought it if I had nothing else to play. Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams stands out both in how it looks and how it plays. Its spotted history of ripping off Nintendo just makes it more interesting.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I would prefer the ear worms

I have spoken of my irrational hatred of the J.J. Abrams "Star Trek" movie before. My opinions have not changed. In fact my original statements may not have been harsh enough. Now comes this:



There certainly is a lot going on visually, but I can still dismiss it as the 'Call of Duty' of science fiction: all flash, no substance. But wait, that bad guy? According to the IMDB page he just might be Khan.

No.

This is Khan:

Have you ever read Milton?
This is the proper reaction to Khan:


I hope that the ghost of Ricardo Montalban haunts Abrams for the rest of his days. And the midget from Fantasy Island, just because that would be funny.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It is foolish to resist

How can I stay mad at a game the features tigers and bears?

Taking over an enemy base usually boils down to sneaking in, marking everyone on the radar, then sneaking from shadow shot shadow shanking people. When it goes poorly and someone manages to hit the alarm things get out of hand quickly, especially on the second island. Pirates come out of the woodwork on jeeps bristling with rocket propelled grenades. What's most interesting are the bases that also double as wild animal containment areas. Dead rebels are not enough for decoration, they need a tiger in a cage for the feng shui. A poorly made cage that can have the door shot off from quite a distance.

Shooting the door off myself would be funny enough, but two nights ago one of the pirates managed to blow the door off himself while shooting at me. I hid around a corner and watched the little red dots on my radar disappear one by one. The tiger took out over ten guys and that was only what I saw. He was still hungry when that was done so he came for me. I almost felt bad putting him down with my shotgun. The tiger would have been a great partner. Instead he got greedy and picked on the guy with aim and a better gun.



As much as I want to try something like this on the console version I know it would bring my Xbox to tears.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

No trigens yet...

Far Cry 3 is too big.

I wrapped up the first island last night and am close to running out of reasons to do anything other than the main story missions. Hunting has become pointless because I have crafted every item that it is possible to craft. Side missions will soon follow as I will run out of abilities and weapons to spend experience and money on. It is difficult for me to say this, but Far Cry 3 is actually too much of a good thing.

There are two things that could have been done to fix this, one easy and boring and the other is probably much more difficult that I think it is. The easy fix would be to make everything more expensive and then allow one more tier of crafted items. Right now I have the best wallet and can only carry $10,000. Double that, make ammo more expensive or stop giving the guns away for free and there is reason to do side quests again. The cost of abilities already does increase as more are gained but I am still going to run out of things to spend ability points on before I run out of way to gain the points in the first place.

This leads to the second idea: more abilities. About half of the abilities are standard statistic perks. More health, better armor, hold your breath longer, things like that. The other half are more interesting, like being able to melee kills down forever as long as enemies are standing close enough together. The conga line of death, or something like that. A few more of these, perhaps over priced, over powerful end game ones, would again give a reason to keep doing quests. As it stands I have a whole island left and little reason to not buzz through it right to the end.

Yes, exploration should be its own reward, but come on, give me a reason to continue to explore the wonderful world that has been created. Keep that trail of bread crumbs going and I will follow. Once it ends there are so many other shiny things to catch my attention that eventually one of them will even if this game still deserves the attention.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Demo Friday: making the monies

In which I continue to fall for Capcom's every scheme.

If you see someone playing this way punch them as hard as you can.
This is not the first time Capcom has bundled up some old software in an attempt to drum up funds. We have already had Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, Street Fighter 3 Online and Marvel vs Capcom Origins. Each release packed in more options, more history, more to do outside of the games themselves. Darkstalkers Resurrection has built a large meta-game around the game itself, replete with in game achievements that unlock historic bonuses and more ways to look at the game than anyone will ever use. This is all good, but it is a fighting game, one that some people still play on a regular basis, so I am going to judge it accordingly.

And yes, that means that I purchased it before playing the demo and spent most of last night getting beaten like a red headed stepchild.

The similarities between Darkstalkers and Street Fighter end with them being sprite based fighters. Street Fighter has always been on the slow side, almost contemplative, and that is part of why I like it. Darkstalkers is entirely pressure based, almost as much so as MvC3. This means that if you aren't attacking you are getting hit, but it also means that if you are using the wrong attacks you are getting hit as well. I spent many matches wondering why my attacks were getting stuffed until I figured out that most fierce attacks, at least for Raptor, were meant as combo enders and were not safe to throw around anywhere else.

Good for you, he says mockingly.
Most special moves were similarly useless outside of very specific circumstances. This creates an odd dance, where players bounce around, air dashing back and forth, looking for an opening to hit a quick string of attacks that end in a knock down which allows mix ups on their wake up. Having never played much Darkstalkers before I was not prepared and I am not sure that I like it. Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter vs Tekken have spoiled me with multiple wake up options. After Blanka gets knocked down an EX upball or EX electricity beat everything but safe jumps. Shotos have wake up uppercuts that, when used sparingly, proved the same thing. Hell, even Paul if SFxT has the wake up shredder.

This points to a weakness in my game, but I need these options. In Darkstalkers the only options I have on wake up are block correctly or eat a big combo. When there are high, low and instant overhead attacks coming in I always guess wrong. I suppose I could just not get knocked down, but I am not very good, so that isn't going to happen.

Darkstalkers doesn't work for me not because it is old but because it is so foreign that I don't have the endurance to learn it and the people who know how to play it never stopped. The same think happened with Persona 4 Arena: great game but outside of my grasp. I will play Darkstalkers again, because I own it, but I don't think I am ever going to be any good at it.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Can't stop, shooting

I love Far Cry 3.

It is the finest example of an open ended shooter I have ever played because it gets the first, most important thing right and only then adds on more. Then it gets all of those right as well, but that is besides the point. An open ended shooter is, first and foremost, a shooter. That actual act of shooting and, in this case, sneaking need to be enjoyable. Having a world full of things to do on the side is meaningless if the core of the came, the shooting, is bad. Far Cry 3 nails this first: sneaking works just fine and it does it without cluttering the hud up with extra gauges and warnings. When sneaking fails and it is time to throw down the shooting is precise and visceral. Almost all of the weapons are usable, the line exception being the bow. I just can't be bothered to get the hang of it when there are so many other options.

Once the shooting is done it is time for distractions and Far Cry 3 has them in spades but it wisely makes all of them optional. Not in the mood to hunt for skins to make a new wallet? Fine, go race? Don't want to race? Fine, go climb a radio tower in a new area and uncover all of the collectibles. Bored with that? Ambush the nearest base and turn it into a fast travel station. By the time I have done all of that there will be a new story mission right around the corner, so the pace never slackens. It ebbs and flows but never gets boring.

If I must offer criticism, it is easy to over level yourself early by emptying out sections of the map before moving on in the story. I have purchased all of the abilities available at the moment and have six or seven more points that I cannot spend. I have crafted the many of the best items by systematically annihilating all wildlife that crosses my path. What worries me is the second half of the game will offer no further rewards for exploration, that a de facto level cap will take effect and there will be no reason not to bounce from story mission to story mission, speeding the game on to its conclusion.

Still, Far Cry 3 may yet dethrone the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as my favorite open world shooter. That is a tall order, and unless the tone darkens significantly it won't quite make it, but to even be mentioned in the same breath is high praise indeed.

This is also going to make to very hard to play Darkstalkers Resurrection tonight.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The other foot

On Saturday I stopped by to see a friend who was having some serious back problems. When people you know who aren't you parents or grandparents begin to suffer from herniated discs you know that you are getting pretty damn old. He wasn't up for much of anything so we watched Wreck-It Ralph, calling out as many cameos as we could, while I drank both my beer and his because his medication forbade alcohol. When it was over he made an odd request:

'I haven't had time to play anything in weeks and not that I have all the time I could possibly want I can hold a controller. Can you finish the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow expansion for me?'

I didn't know there was an expansion, but that really didn't matter because I played Lords of Shadow around two years ago and had forgotten everything about it. I do remember that it was good but what buttons did what eluded me, not to mention that it was on 360 and my friend only has a PS3. No matter, this was a challenge. No story for frame of reference. No previous hours with the game to have learned what attacks are good and which ones not to use. Just me versus the final boss with no context to get it the way.

Thanks to generous checkpoints I was able to beat him. What was interesting was that my play style closely mirrored how I start a new character in a fighting game: find something abuse-able and abuse the ever loving shit out of it. Gabriel's stable of moves quickly boiled down to one or two combos that worked on the boss and that was all I did. It wasn't exciting, but it worked, and my friend was too doped up to notice anyway. It was an interesting experiment but not something that I am going to make a habit of.

...

Far Cry 3 is of unreasonable quality. I could play this game forever.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Demo Friday: Yes, demos do kill sales

Let's see if I can back date this...

Big money! Big prizes! Oh wait...
Ripping into a game usually gives me a sick warm feeling, the kind that you enjoy and then feel guilty about later, only I never feel bad about it because I am an irredeemable cynic. Dollar Dash looks and feels more like a student project done for a grade than a game that was released on a console for general consumption. If that was indeed the case then I give it a solid if disappointing D+ and a kick in the ass to do better next time.

Nope, this is a real game by a (new) real company, Candygun Games, and it isn't even their first game, so all bets are off. Dollar Dash is awful from top to bottom. It is the worst parts of Calling All Cars! without the limited charm than David Jaffe brought to the table. Synopsis: player controls a bank robber who competes with other bank robbers to collect money and return it to a getaway van. Various power ups are provided to ensure mayhem. Translation: someone crossed Mario Kart with Smash TV and we are all suffering for it.

Of all the things that annoyed me about Dollar Dash it was the most basic failure that made me turn it off: the netcode. My tolerance for bad notcode is probably less than most as I play Street Fighter exclusively online and it works well enough for me to hit one frame links on occasion. (Note, Street Fighter runs at sixty frames per second, giving a one frame link a 1/60th of a second window). That is my frame of reference and my proof that it can be done. Dollar Dash suffered from, at its best, a half second input delay. That is forever. I could make a sandwich and take a piss in the time it took for me bank robber to take aim, fire, and subsequently miss whatever he was aiming at. If you are going to build an online game and don't have the chops to write your own netcode at least have the decency to license GGPO. 

Good netcode would not have saved Dollar Dash, but it would have made a bad game playable. I suppose I should be pleased that it instead made a bad game unplayable.

Sweet, two Mario Kart references in one post

Everything thought they were the best at Mario Kart.

WRC Powerslide is an interesting idea: competitive rally driving with power ups. Rally courses are usually more narrow than standard courses which could lead to tense wheel to wheel driving. For the most part, Powerslide delivers. The field is limited to four cars whose handling is a fair mix between the arcade settings of other rally racers and straight kart racing. Some real life physics are applied to the cars, T-boning someone will general flip them on their side, an very effective tactic, but there is a magic e-brake button that makes impossibly sharp corners  navigable. 

If anything Powerslide does not embrace its kart racing side enough. The power ups are sparsely available and boring to use. No blue shell here. No one liked the blue shell but it kept things close without resorting to rubber banding, which Powerslide uses in abundance, and almost always in the players favor, which can lead to boring races. 


The other killer here is the camera. It does a good job being active and keeping up with hairpin turns but this is at the expense of a clear view of the car at all time. Rally courses are, to put it lightly, complex. Sharp corners with drastic changes in elevation obscured by trees are the norm and losing sight of your car happens far too often. The camera is set back a little further than real rally games to accommodate multiple cares and lightning bolt attacks, but being able to pull it in would fix this entirely. 

I titled this 'demos kill sales' for a reason. WRC Powerslide is a pretty good kart racer. If there was no demo and I was making my decision based on screen shots and bullet points I may have picked it up. Now that I have played it the demo has given me all of the game that I need. I allowed me to see how shallow the game really was and saved me a couple of dollars in the process. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Boring stories

No one wants to hear about work, but I am going to vent anyway.

After a successful foray into the world of Linux (for fun) my actually job has quickly descended into madness. I am not sure if I have ever actually said what I do but it should be fairly obvious that I work with computers at least some of the time. A good chunk of my job is software support. Today I moved my software and its SQL server from one box to another. On the new box was another piece of software running MySQL. The two should have had no impact on one another.

Of course the other software stopped working. I have no idea what this other software does or how to fix it. The event log points to a DLL being the culprit which means that simply removing my and putting it back where it was is not necessarily going to fix it. I haven't told the customer how screwed they are yet, but I am hoping that a repair install will fix it.

On top of that I serve as back up for a person with very poor time management skills who the higher ups have decided to send out of state for training. Doing his job prevents me from doing mine well. The wonders of working for a small company.

Anyway, video games! I am without a game to play at the moment, but Far Cry 3, Forza Horizon and DMC are on the way. My desperation last night drove me to put in Culdcept Saga for the first time in at least three years. For the first hour I could not remember why I never finished it; Magic the Gathering crossed with Monopoly is right up my alley. Three matches in and I remembered: a match can easily last over an hour, perhaps longer if it is a three way affair. It is possible to suspend a match mid way through but that keeps it from counting and I am pretty sure you don't get any new cards at the end. You are in it for the duration. That can be a long time when it becomes clear you aren't going to win and there is no way to concede, either. Culdcept Saga is a great game that is or two tweaks away from being perfect. I don't have the time to weather its faults, so back on the shelf it goes.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

No time to post

Chamberlain's adventures with Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is winning.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Not as bad as I hoped

I had to play Colonial Marines.

As someone who intentionally plays bad games this was a title that could not be passed up. Here's the problem: it isn't that bad. Colonial Marines has the same problems as other low to mid range shooters: texture pop in, stilted animations, bad writing, boring/repetitive level design. But it also has a few reasonably interesting moments along with fan service so thick it is a little embarrassing. The game itself is not the problem. The expectations are.

To steal from Dr. Phil: when you expect one thing and get something else you become upset, even if what you got wasn't really that bad. Just using the name 'Alien' sets the game up for failure. The geek community has an unhealthy affection for the franchise, one that should have been cured by the travesty that was Prometheus. Alien was a great horror movie. Aliens was a great sci-fi movie. Since then? To be polite, not so much. It seems people still care enough to be offended when an Alien property gets it wrong even though that is all it has done since 1986.

The second level of expectation comes from the developer. Not Sega, they just fronted (and stand to loose) the money for the license. I am talking about Gearbox. I loved both Borderlands games. Hell, almost everyone loved them. When Sega came to Gearbox with the the project they kicked it around for a while like the hot potato it was, eventually passing it off to someone else so they could work on Borderlands 2. Can't blame them. Who doesn't want to go with the sure thing?

Colonial Marines would have been a disappointment even if it had been a good shooter because it could not have possibly been good enough. It wasn't good. It wasn't even average, but it is far from the worst shooter I have ever played. That dubious honer belongs to Turning Point and I doubt it will ever be taken away. I am overly forgiving of shooters because I really do enjoy shooting things and I have no loyalty to chest bursters and face huggers. It was just another game to me, one that will be forgotten quickly. I suppose this is the greater insult. Colonial Marines isn't even bad enough to be remembered.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Demo Friday: what's inside is what counts

Demo Friday, on time, with two games!

This couldn't be more anime.
Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a spin off of Phantom Breaker, a fighting game that has yet to be released domestically because no one would buy it. Looking at the picture above will tell you just about everything you need to know: there is girl of ambiguous age wielding a sword and eight clones of Richard Nixon, all of whom have a cock for a left eye, attempting to beat her to death with golf clubs. There may or may not be tentacles involved, the demo ended after the first level when the underage heroine was sucked into the 'dark dimension,' for which I am thankful.

If you can ignore the questionable style long enough the game itself if a pretty good retro brawler. Instead of full 3D movement there are two plains to jump back and forth between. This keeps the combat solid because there is never any guessing as to who an attack is going to hit. It starts out simply, with three buttons for attack, one for jump, and a few special moves, but I would bet that all the money that falls out of defeated enemies will be used to purchase more moves, making this closer to River City Ransom than Final Fight.

I will admit that it was fun to play but I cannot get past how the games looks. Not the pix-elated retro style, that's not a problem, but everything else about the game screams 'something that should not be on my hard drive should the federal government ever decide to poke around.'

And I run. I run so far away.
BIT.TRIP Presents: Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.

I am not typing that more than once. Runner 2 is a side scrolling platformer reduced down to the most basic requirement: do not run into things. Every level automatically scrolls and the player's only responsibility at the start is to jump. Not bad, I though, I can play this game with one hand. A few levels later I had to duck, then kick, then run upside down in a circle. The game had slow played me and I was hooked.

Runner 2 is a blast, evoking the same 'one more level' feeling that I got from the first 'Splosion Man. It is not quite as difficult, at least in the beginning, but each level is designed to be easy to get through and difficult to perfect. Along the path there are bonuses to pick up, gold bars in the levels I played, that add risk to what would otherwise be a easy run from left to right. Some are right in the way, others force an uncomfortable jump, still others are almost a guaranteed miss on the first time through. On most levels I missed one and it was infuriating. I needed to go back and get them.

This game is a good reminder that complexity does not equal quality. As a recent example, Metal Gear Rising has a relatively complex combat system and on top of that it does not bother to tell you how to use all of it. This leads to frustration via ignorance. Runner 2 gives the player all of the required information in the first two seconds of the level because there just isn't that much information to give. Frustration comes, but not because you don't know what to do. What needs to be done is obvious, doing it on the other hand is not so simple.