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.

1 comment:

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