Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Month In Games: May/June, 2012

Apologies once again for the sporadic updates. The good news is that I've been productive while I was away. In fact, I've actually been working on one of my most ambitious posts yet! The bad news is that I might have been a little TOO ambitious and I still need to do a bit more research before the article is ready. So until then I'll just tell you what I've been playing and offer my thoughts on some of the latest gaming news.

Kirby Mass Attack (DS)

Whoop his ASS!
 The evolution of the Kirby series has been interesting to watch. While many of the games in the series could be considered inspired, yet still fairly traditional platformers, developer HAL Laboratory has never shied away from using the Kirby franchise to experiment with new and unique concepts and control schemes. In Kirby Mass Attack, players use the DS's touch screen and stylus to control up to 10 Kirbys at once, often using them to solve puzzles and attack enemies en masse.  I know it probably sounds like a total clusterfuck, but it actually works quite well and it adds a nice spice to the platforming stew. To add replay, the designers also included a host of fairly compelling mini-games, including a Kirby themed shooter, a pinball game, and even a little RPG. Though I wouldn't call myself a devotee of the series, I've enjoyed my share of Kirby titles over the years. Oddly enough it's the spinoffs from the main series that I've often found most enjoyable (especially Kirby's Avalance and Kirby's Dream Course). With Kirby Mass Attack, HAL has combined a meaty main adventure with a generous helping of interesting diversions to create an innovative and thoroughly enjoyable whole. Unless you're one of those tough guys that just can't bring himself to play a game that features rainbows and the color pink, I see no reason not to give this one a look. Great game!

Grade: B+

Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked (PS2)

In case you haven't seen it, the anime series upon which this game is based is just fantastic. It's probably my favorite anime to come out in the last 10 years, yet when this game dropped in the Spring of '06 I avoided it. What can I say... I've been burned by one too many shallow licensed games made to cash in on popular shows. But these days we have Gamefly and we no longer have to live in fear of the burn! Samurai Champloo the anime series is a flashy, stylish tale set in feudal Japan and infused with hip-hop and other traces of modern Western culture. It's hard to describe without making it sound silly, but it totally works. The game works really hard to capture the overall vibe of the show and for the most part it succeeds beautifully! The graphics, music, and stylish katana-swinging action all come together to great effect, and the gameplay provides enough challenge and variety to keep things from getting stale. Sure there are a few elements of the design that haven't aged particularly well (the fixed camera, most notably) but the game holds it own and it's well worth a play, especially if you're a fan of the series or anime in general. Of particular interest to me is the involvement of one Suda 51 and his company Grasshopper Manufacture. You might remember that I called him a hack in my review of Shadows of the Damned, and while I'm not ready to fully take that back, I may have to admit that he's not as offensive a game designer as I once thought. In fact, this game has motivated me to try a few more titles by Suda 51. Expect a writeup on that experience in the near future!

Grade: B

Catherine (PS3)

What a quirky surprise this game was! Catherine tells the story of a man caught between two women; will our hero stay with his long term girlfriend Katherine, or will he allow himself to be tempted by the sexy and mysterious Catherine? Though it's a puzzle game at heart, Catherine sets itself apart from the pack by offering an engaging story as well as a few elements normally found in the dating simulator genre. As the hero interacts with the ladies in his life, the player gets to choose how he will treat them. Be a nice guy, a jerk, or an indecisive asshole, just like in real life! I joke around, but the relationship aspects of the game are actually kind of fun and not so involved that they take away from the real meat of the game, the puzzles. I always find it difficult to explain puzzle game mechanics, but basically you have to climb a large tower of blocks by moving them around thereby creating ledges and stairways. It starts out simply enough, but the challenge ramps up fairly quickly and things soon become frantic. Thankfully, as you progress you'll receive clues and learn advanced techniques that will aid you when things get tough. There are even "boss" stages where the hero must climb quickly or risk being overtaken by a baby with a chainsaw or some other nightmarish manifestation of his inner struggle! I could quibble about the unnecessary and somewhat excessive amount of profanity and some annoying sound effects (the bell, the BELL!!) but this really is an exceptional game. A must play for puzzle fans and highly recommended for everyone else.

Grade: B+

Catherine gameplay

 Other News

 Nintendo announces the 3DS XL: We all knew that there would be another 3DS model at some point, but I don't think there were many who predicted that it would happen this quickly. I was kind of surprised at the size of the original 3DS to begin with. After all, the Nintendo DS had an XL version that was released a full year before the 3DS, so why not just START OUT with the larger design? At any rate, I think this thing looks pretty good, but seriously Nintendo, WHERE'S THE SECOND ANALOG STICK? I guess we'll just have to wait for the NEXT version of the hardware, eh?

The OUYA open source Android console: Hey there Ouya, lookin' goooood! This recently announced console is set to hit stores in March of 2013 at a price of only $99 and boasts some fairly impressive specs. Games will be purchased through an online marketplace similar to Steam and each system will be fully moddable and rootable. I like this idea and I think it's probably a vision of what's to come in the console world. If you think about it, this next generation might be the last as far as traditional consoles are concerned. Sad as it is, physical media (CDs, DVDs, and cartridges) is on the way out and downloads seem to be where the tide is taking us. Still, you gotta have games, and only time will tell if the Ouya platform can carve out a niche and deliver the kinds of experiences that gamers want.

Nintendo WiiU: Nintendo's next-gen console and its tablet-style controller seem set to deliver the DS experience at home. With a release scheduled for the 2012 holiday, Nintendo hopes to get a jump on Microsoft and Sony who have yet to even announce their next-gen offerings. Will it work? Will the WiiU have the horsepower and the 3rd party support to compete with its eventual rivals? Maybe. I'm going to need to see some pretty compelling games and an online multi-player interface that doesn't SUCK ASS before I'm convinced.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with the intro movie for Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked. It's a video game version of the intro for the show.

No comments:

Post a Comment