Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Games of Summer

I haven't posted here in a while, so you'd think that upon my return I'd have plenty to say about Orthanc, the game I was playing when I last posted.  I'm still playing Orthanc, and I should have a post up about it next week, but most of my gaming over the summer (yep, I'm a southern hemispherian) was done in other areas.  So this week I'm going to do some capsule reviews of the games I played when I should have been playing Orthanc.

Castlevania: I've played this game a lot over the years, but I decided late last year that I was going to knuckle down and finish it without the aid of save states.  It didn't take too long; it's a short game, and not particularly difficult once the trick to beating the bosses is discovered (i.e. spam them with holy water).  I've always been impressed with this as a top-notch platformer, but what struck me this time around is just how well-designed it is.  The platforms and the background elements mesh together perfectly, in a way that most other platformers neglect; you won't find a single floating platform that doesn't have a logical reason to be where it is.  Little touches like that transform a very good game into a great one.

Castlevania II - Simon's Quest: I enjoyed Castlevania II, but this is a game with problems.  Konami tried to expand the series by adding more adventure game elements, and the result was mixed.  The game has a great atmosphere, and the game-play is still pretty good, but the game itself is just far too obtuse.  The solutions to the various puzzles aren't intuitive at all, and that's not helped by the fact that most of the villagers' hints are outright lies.  Technically, the clues to completing this game are all there if you're willing to go around searching for secrets on every patch of ground.  In practice, you'll probably only stumble across the solutions by dumb luck.  I had to consult a walkthrough, I'm sorry to say.  There are plenty of things to like about this game, but overall the frustrating elements outweigh the fun ones.


WWE Supercard: This game consumed my life for about a month.  It's not that it's a good game; it's basically just a glorified version of top trumps.  It is addictive, however.  A match doesn't take long, and whether you win or lose you still get rewarded with more cards at the end.  More than once I found myself playing "just one more game", grinding for new cards for hours and hours, unable to bring myself to put the thing down.  I've broken away from it for the moment, but there's still a part of me that wants to play it right now.

Crossy Road: Speaking of phone games, this is a little indy game that plays somewhat like Frogger.  You have to guide your character across busy roads, log-jammed rivers and train tracks, all the while avoiding various obstacles and keeping on the move.  It's a lot of fun, and it has the same "short game/frequent reward" qualities as WWE Supercard.  Much of the fun stems from the number of characters that can be unlocked, ranging from normal animals, to vampires, robots, basketball players, internet memes and even weirder stuff.  Each character plays pretty much the same, but they all come with changes to the way the game looks and sounds. For example, when you use Frankenstein's Monster, the game turns black & white, and the screen crackles with film grain.  Crossy Road has a genuinely charming sense of humour that still has me coming back for more, trying to unlock the next character so that I can see what it does.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: I'm a massive fan of the Legend of Zelda series, having enjoyed all of the games from the original on NES up to Wind Waker.  It's one of my favourite game franchises of all time, which is why Twilight Princess is so frustrating.  This game bores me to tears.  It looks like a Zelda game, it sounds like one, it even plays like one; but even with all of these elements it feels as though the heart of the game is missing.  The game feels really linear, and I don't enjoy playing as a wolf, which is kind of the selling point.  I hate the cut-scenes, and the scripted encounters.  I've put in about 20 hours so far, and I really struggle to motivate myself to find time for it.  People tell me that Skyward Sword is even worse, so I'm not even looking forward to finishing this so I can move on to the next one.  Mainly I just wish the game would leave me alone to explore, and stop throwing so much damn plot at me.

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