Friday, November 2, 2007

Catching Up

A healthy, balanced life is within reach - I can almost see it. I haven't had much energy to post here, but thankfully I haven't been completely absorbed in work during all this time. I figure the best way to get back into the swing of things is to recap what I've been playing over the last couple months during my radio silence. I've got a big fat pile of games that I've finished and should really give a proper review, but I don't know if I'll ever own up to the backlog. So I'll just run down the list and keep it short:

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (Xbox 360)
An enjoyable but forgettable third person shooter. I enjoyed the dynamic of having your life constantly tick down as you freeze to death (I'm a run and gun player anyway) but spending so much time shooting storage tanks and trudging slowly through the snow to go fetch orange goop took out some of the bite. Shooting big bugs was fun, but oddly enough shooting snow pirates was not. But you can do a lot worse as a rental.

Bully (PS2)
I'm not sure why this game got so much controversy, because the content is no more racy than Revenge of the Nerds. The game really feels like living out one of those high school or college "coming of age" flicks with their cliques and quirky authority figures. The lead character may be a brat, but he actually grows as a character. The script is good, the cast is good… there's actually decent storytelling in there (in a video game of all places…). You can see the GTA roots in the gameplay structure, but this time around the violence is mostly cartoony (with noogies and stink bombs instead of AK-47s) and the topics aren't as blatantly offensive (sketchy lunchroom fare instead of coked-out hookers).

Super Paper Mario (Wii)
Even though I adored The Thousand Year Door, I was excited at the idea of changing it around to add more of a platforming focus to Super Paper Mario (there's always room for more classic Mario gameplay, right?). But, well… meh. I think this game went wrong in two key ways. First: Although it discarded the majority of the RPG genre's gameplay mechanics, it kept the whole "story" thing. The script wasn't poorly written, and actually has its cute moments (although not as many as Thousand Year Door), but from a pacing perspective it's really jarring to go back and forth from platforming to reading pages of text. Second: The mesh of the classic paper style and the retro 8-bit vibe wasn't very successful. Either would have been okay on their own, but together they created a visual style that felt disconnected and cheap. And although I don't think the 2D/3D gimmick ruined the game, it didn't help either. Super Paper Mario isn't a complete waste of time by any means, but you're better off going for The Thousand Year Door.

Command & Conquer 3 (PC)
It's a bit hard going back to C&C after experiencing the fine tuned excellence of games like Starcraft and Warcraft. But C&C always holds a warm place in my heart for nostalgic reasons. Sure, every game basically boils down to the same race to build super units and then stream roll over the enemy, but at least the game keeps that satisfying. This latest iteration takes the great graphical detail of Generals and applies it to this classic franchise. Good times, but not especially deep.

Rayman Raving Rabbids (Wii)
Although Rabbids is really just a minigame collection, it's got enough really good games in it to make for a pretty engaging experience. In particular, each stage ends with a great "on rails" shooter game. With the Wiimote this is the first time I've really ever had the feeling of playing something like Area 51 from the arcade in my living room. It's a fun and accessible gametype and I can't wait to see more games that focus on that. The rest of the minigames are generally pretty fun, so if you're looking for a way to swing that Wiimote like a crazy person, this is a good choice.

Well, that list of games that I've completed over the last few months. Of course I've got more that I'm currently working through, but I'll write up details on them later:

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