Friday, June 13, 2014

My Month In Games: May 2014

Mario Golf: World Tour - 3DS

At long last, the next installment in the Mario Golf franchise is here! I've been waiting a long time for this aaaaand it's.....pretty good. Look, I won't bother getting too deep with this review, it's Mario Golf. The way I see it, you're either on-board or you're not. As per usual the golf gameplay is nice enough, and for the first time in the series (that I'm aware of) you can actually play in online tournaments. I don't know if any DLC is forthcoming, but as of now there are only three "normal" courses to play, and a handful of wacky, 9-hole, "Mario"-style challenges. I was hoping for a few more courses and some greater variety in the challenges, but there's enough here that I feel I got my money's worth. The RPG aspects of the previous title in the series, while not completely removed, have been somewhat downplayed in this version of the game. Personally, I really enjoyed the RPG-style character progression of Mario Golf: Advance Tour, but I can also see how that might have been something of an annoyance to the more casual golf sim fan. You can play as your Mii character and there are loads of different clubs, balls, and outfits to acquire, but something about this game just feels middling. As much as I like the Mario Golf franchise and golf sims of its ilk, I'd have to say that I'm a bigger fan of Sony's Hot Shots golf games. The swing mechanics in that series are more robust, the physics are tighter, and the gameplay just feels smoother all around. There is much to enjoy in Mario Golf: World Tour, and longtime fans will likely be satisfied, but you might want to keep your expectations in check.

Grade: B

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball - 3DS

Fair warning: Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is not a "real deal" baseball game. There are no major league teams, there's no "create-a-player" mode, and there are no season simulation or tournament modes. In short, you can't actually play a game of baseball. What we have here instead is a series of 10 baseball themed mini-games. Each one of the mini-games must be purchased separately for real money, with the phrase "real deal" in the title referring to the fact that you can "haggle" your way into paying less for each individual game. Most of the games start out at $4 each, but through diligent play and several story-driven interactions with the game's "shopkeeper" Rusty the dog, players can usually bring the price of each game down to around $2. It's an ingenious way to conduct microtransactions, as it rewards those players who show a little extra interest and dedication to the game. So how are the games themselves? Mostly, they're pretty fun! I'll admit that at the time of this writing I haven't actually played them all yet, but the ones I have played I'm enjoying very much. Among my current favorites are Bat & Switch and Cage Match, which focus on hitting. Learn where your sweet spot is and then adjust your timing to smash dingers, hit targets, and even take down the occasional UFO! Other games such as Feel the Glove and The Aim Game make use of the 3DS' touch screen or gyroscope to simulate fielding or give you a first-person throwing perspective, and each game gives you 50 separate challenges to complete and two separate high score modes.

The only real complaint I have about the game is that it doesn't really give you an opportunity to try the games before you buy them. You can read a description and watch a short video, but with some of these games it's kind of difficult to tell if it's going to be any fun to play. As with most mini-game collections, some of these titles will grab you and some of them wont, and it's just hard to tell before you part with your cash. Oh well, I guess that's what YouTube is for, right? Despite this oversight, Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is a nice diversion; easy to pick up and play and great for when you want to test your coordination and reflexes!

Grade: B

Tokyo Jungle - PS3

For me, Tokyo Jungle is one of those games that comes on strong at first but quickly flames out due to some puzzling design choices. The basic idea of the game, however, is stellar. In the world of Tokyo Jungle, all of humanity has disappeared and only animals remain. The animals (even household pets!) have become feral in the time since the people were wiped out and the player must guide them in their quest for survival. There are lots of directions that the developers could have taken this premise gameplay-wise, but Tokyo Jungle is perhaps best described as an arcadey stealth/action game not totally unlike a simplified Metal Gear Solid. Make your way through the decaying remains of Tokyo foraging for food, avoiding predators, and searching for a mate before you starve or perish due to old age! There are dozens of different species of animal that you can play as, with new ones getting unlocked as you complete specific challenges.

So as I said, I was having a blast when I first started playing. The stealth/kill mechanics work fairly well and the game does a good job of conveying the visceral aspects of playing as wild animal. Sadly, the formula has some major weaknesses that seriously cut into my enjoyment. For one thing, the game is very repetitive. No matter what kind of animal you control the gameplay is more or less the same: find food, avoid predators, make babies, repeat. There are some differences in strategy when you are playing as a predator versus as an herbivore, but for the most part the animal you pick does relatively little to affect the overall gameplay. Another frustrating aspect of the game has to do with progression. By completing various challenges, players can unlock more animal avatars and greater chunks of the post-apocalyptic story. The problem is that once you start a game it takes time for these challenges to become available and once they do you only have a short window of time in which to complete them. If you die unexpectedly or are otherwise unable to complete the challenges then you must try again as the same animal. As I said, the gameplay is repetitive enough on its own, but it becomes even more frustrating when you are forced to play 5-10 rounds as a weak ass Pomeranian or a chicken just so you can unlock a chunk of story or gain access to play as a more interesting animal. Still, despite these complaints, there is some fun to be had with this title. In fact, I'd be interested in seeing Sony release a sequel that expands the game world, adds more variety to the gameplay, and streamlines player progression. If you can get this game cheap (I snagged it for $1 during a PSN flash sale) I'd recommend a download, but if my words give you pause than you might not be a part of the niche audience that this game likely appeals to.

Grade: C+

No comments:

Post a Comment