Saturday, January 21, 2012

The End of Year Review III: Video Games, Part II

So, did you guys manage to read Part I? You got through that already, did you? Wait, what...? You didn't even look at it?! You bastards!

That's okay because I couldn't read it either.

But! You should read these from 20 through 11, okay?

20. Costume Quest; and Grubbins on Ice

Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: THQ
Play Time:
Status: Finished

A light-hearted game about Halloween? Yes, please. Candy Corns, Monsters and children fighting things that go bump in the night in fantabulous costumes that reflect their overactive imagination of being seriously bad-assed in transformation in actual fights? Sure.

And that's what I loved about Costume Quest. It was just so damned clever. The kids in the neighbourhood joined forces and went on a grand adventure to rescue (in my case) my sister. Every time they got into a fight with the Grubbins (who really, just looked slobby and not anything scary), the kids would transform into some ultra-kick ass super-hero based on whatever costume they were wearing. So even though I looked like the most adorable ninja you ever did see, when I fought, I fought to kill and be Tenchu in my skills. Trust me, you did not want to mess with my crazy Ninja stealth.

There were lots of costumes to choose from too and they were chosen based on the costumes most kids want to wear in a real Halloween or those that your parents want you to wear (and are just lame and embarrassing). It was all very hilarious, and each had their special attacks.

Along with a great mood setting with apt locations, the game was hilarious and the dialog was quite the witty thing. Collecting stamps for special moves and stats in battle, bobbing for candy apples and knocking on door to door made this game fun, magical and a welcome little distraction to play with BooHead.

It's the kind of game I may boot up every Halloween just to get into the spirit because it certainly gives you that feeling of chilly air, spooky nights and adventuring for candy.

Music Review: It was a mostly quiet game or rather, just right for the roaming around the neighbourhood. Not bad.

19.  Sly 2: Band of Thieves

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Play Time: January 15, 2011 through January 17, 2011
Status: Finished

Much like Jak & Daxter, Sly needed that first game of standard platforming mediocrity to find itself, to revamp and be one of the most innovative games I have played.  The game’s darkness was amped, the style while platforming as its base was completely different with added increased participation of my favourite Bentley (the brain) and “The Murray”.  More mini-games of asteroids in likeness were included and while at one point I felt too plentiful to be a tad annoying, it was an overall fun experience.

I loved how each chapter had plan after plan after plan.  Some were incredibly devised and presented beautifully.  With a gamer’s play by play of the events, complete with a coach run down of every person’s action.  In all it was cute, charming and just very thoughtful in how the plans all came together.  The levels were genius stuff, really.

Not to mention the addition of photography and recon before each mission was just something so simple in theory but a wonderful addition to a true heist sort of feeling in game play. It all added to how tight the mechanics felt for both story and moving forward with the scheming.
I'm fairly certain it was due to the fact that I was just marathoning but the game felt way too long.  I must have played for 8 hours straight in a two day period.  The chapters were long, and some of the maps presented a frustrating challenge of “how am I going to get Bentley or Murray to that checkpoint mission” with repeated tries failure after failure.  It was hard playing as those two, not due to the fact that their games were fun once you actually started missions (oh no, they were VERY fun) but just getting across certain terrains was difficult.  It wasn’t impossible but surely a bit tedious.  It’s always easiest with Sly but so ingrained were in my brain their abilities were for those three that sometimes, I’d play as Sly and wished he could shoot sleep bullets like Bentley.  It was a curse and a blessing.  

All in all, this was a fantastic entry to the series.  The end was tragic, the characters more developed as they were serious and cleverly written in that I felt for them.  Carmelita’s voice actress was terrible, the music was good but not incredibly memorable but fitting, and the presentation was sharp.

18. Kirby's Epic Yarn

Developer: Good-Feel, HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Play Time: 6 hours or so
Status: Unfinished

I've never been one to play multi-player games. Sure there's been the occasional Tekken 5 and other earlier entries in the Tekken series, Soul Blade, 2009's Resident Evil 5 with Bunji; not seeing elephants in Dynasty Warriors with Beetchie (hey man, elephants are hard to spot, okay?); and childhood days on the Commodore 64 breaking joysticks while representing Japan in the Summer Olympics with H1's Germany and Bunji's... hey, H1, what country did he play with again? Remind me to ask him.

It's not that I wouldn't mind having a companion at times to share in a game or two but mostly, I tend to play RPGs of the single-player nature. I love my single player games and am not particularly fond of multi-player games but I do like when Papa HOchie comes around to cajole me when he 'backseat drives' my playing thinking I am playing incorrectly. He laughs at me sometimes too, you know. Sometimes people are just a little too helpful (looking at you Papa HOchie and BooHead).

Last year, I encouraged H1 to play more games with me. We managed three and this was one of them. It was pretty damned fun.

We played for no more than 6 or so hours - having a sister weekend in the midst of a hurricane that had us taking water out of the basement, trying to sleep on the couch but worried about incoming branches and fearing for our lives really - and enjoying the clever stitches (literally!) in a Nintendo Kirby game.

I'd not really played a whole lot of Kirby before of all the Nintendo franchises and I have no idea why. Kirby's Epic Yarn changed all that. The little game was so full of charm and clever bits of level design. It was surprising just how thought out the whole thing was. The controls were not always the sharpest and I was frustrated quite a bit with the transformations and their controls but otherwise, H1 and I had a fun time doing a little exploration to get all the hidden items so interestingly tucked away behind a moving landscape that could change and fall apart with the pull of a thread.

I don't know if well get to finish it anytime soon but we were pretty near the end. This is one to file under fond memories with times spent with a shistah.

Music Review: I was really bad last year with paying attention to soundtracks apparently. This one was cutesy and I can't say I really remember loving any track though I'm sure I'll retract that statement once I take a listen. See, this is what happens when I am without a computer. I can't harrass Bughie J. for music!

17. Daxter

Developer: Ready at Dawn
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Play Time:
Status: Finished

I miss Jak and Daxter.  I'm very much looking forward to playing the HD collection whenever I decide to buy it.  I also know that after being burnt by playing a Crash Bandicoot game not made by Naughty Dog that I am hesitant to play their characters in games made by other people.  I know, I should give people a chance and that's what reviews are for but can the Naughty Dog charm really be captured by anyone else?

Maybe I don't even really remember anymore just how completely sharp Jak II was (I need to be reminded but I do not need a reminder that it's one of my favourite games of all time.  Please don't let time eat my words...) but I took the chance for $7.50 and bought Daxter and was pleasantly surprised.

I collected orbs, talked smack, played really fun mini-games based on popular fantasy and sci-fi movies and smack bugs like nobody's business.  It moved like my memories of a Jak game and Daxter did not lose his annoying lovable assinine behaviour.

16.  Patapon 3

Developer: Pyramid, Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Play Time: July 9, 2011 through July 29, 2011
Status: Finished

What’s with the metal soundtrack?! The animations?

It was apparent from the very beginning that Patapon 3 went through some major changes. In the last game, the Hero patapon was introduced and the god like entity, The Great Zynx combined his soul with the Hero Patapon to become an Uperpatapon. What?

As the Great Znyx, I was not too pleased at first.  I almost felt as though I could not rule with an iron fist as I enjoyed doing before.  In theory of course because as it turns out, my Uberhero’s Iron Fist was precious enough to slaughter tons of Bonedeth and Archfiends.

I’m still not quite sure what happened in the story - where we ended up or how the hell we finally reached Earthend (is that truly ‘it’?) or what happened to new favourite character Ragewolf and it makes me **SPOILER ALERT** sad to think he’s dead... or what really happened to the other Uberheroes at the end of it all but...

It had the fun of a $20 game that’s worth full price.  I’ve always loved this series because it’s simple, funny and cute.  You’d think that once you hear an eye joke you’ve heard them all but as it turns out, eye jokes never get stale (of course, it's all fun and games until someone loses one...haha, let me stop).

Patapon 3 shocked me with its radical changes - my patapons turned to stone and I was only able to awaken four of three of the little one-eyed bastards to assist on my journey.  Really? Yes, I was nervous by my lack of a full fledged army but as it turns out, the streamlining was a welcome twist.
The Patapons could level up and switch classes with ease but if you stretched yourself too thin then you were screwed.

The good thing about that though is that if you wanted to level up, you had to push yourself to the challenge as a recommended level for a stage usually meant if you were too high then yes, you’d kick ass all over the place but your experience points would be nil.  Well obviously! It’s such a simple truth and it forced your hand to move ahead.

The new mini game levels vs the Archfiends’ Dark Heroes were very fun.  At first I hated the capture the flag level.  It was frustrating but as different types of mini games were unlocked, I had tons of fun kicking the Archfiend possessed dark-heroes.  

While I may not have quite figured out what the heck was going on with Sonarchy and all of a sudden, Covet-Hiss nor did I approve that they were the backbone of the enemies because they felt like rushed characters - I loved the designs of the Dark Heroes and loved them in general.  Ragewolf was hilarious, while Naughtyfins annoyed the crap out of me.  Also, their clever names were a marvel.

It was not all don chaka and awesome times in Patapon 3. Don’t we all hate poorly constructed levels? The kind of levels that are so precise in their creation that they make you fail over and over and over and over? A challenge is one thing but a level that has no rhyme (ha! did you see what I did there?) or reason to it and can be done on what seems to be a fluke is frustrating.  So was the hell I faced on Level 2 of the Archfiend of Adamance’s board.  It was horrendous and I still do not know how I got over the platform trigger.  I don’t think I could do it again if I tried.  

The story felt a bit disjointed but just a bit right at the end.  Did we rip a hole in the fabric of the space time continuum? What the heck? 

Music Review: I don’t know if I never really paid attention to the music in the other series but I’m pretty certain this was a whole new experience.  The game is a rhythm genre as you beat your pons and your patas to victory (sometimes your chakas! Chakas are important, life saving things - don’t diss the chaka).  However, the underlying soundtrack was tremendous.  Boss fights were brilliantly composed, some dungeon levels were so fun to listen to before going into fever that I’d mill around just to hear the music (while risking degradation by my army of Znyx.  Those little freaks...).  The music mixed all different types of songs - jazz, metal, cheesey b-horror monster movie scores, marching bands and delicate snowy bound chimes and dings to name a few. 

15.  The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Play Time: 25:50 (hours, minutes)
Status: Finished

Ah, confessions, confessions.  I never truly played a Zelda game before Ocarina of Time (as chopping bushes in the original way back when does not count).  I feel like someone's boo hissing me at the moment but you should not do that unless you played The Last Ninja on your Commodore 64.  You didn't? Well, that just makes us evens stevens, doesn't it?

Link's Awakening makes me wonder how I managed to spend the last 15 years playing and finishing any damned game.  Maybe they just got easier in 1997 but in 1989? Ooooo, weeee (Wii U?), were things tough.  This game was almost nightmarish.  With no room for error and no inkling of a guide for me to figure o9ut what to do next, I was literally stuck sometimes and had to use my brain to figure out on how to proceed at times. That's right, I was out-brained.  But silly complaining aside, the game was a bit challenging which was enjoyable and that's what good exploration was all about (even if I felt like a bit of a dolt at times).

I loved the the photographs that were taken, the characters were jerks especially that ass-clown Raccoon and the art of sprites was charming.

I'm pretty sure everyone figured it out way before the ending but way to beat me over the head about who and what the Wind Fish was before the 'big' reveal at the end.  Oh, and the no room for error thing? It was more of a control issue that had me frustrated.  There were a lot of lost hearts by constantly falling into holes and multiple deaths by unforgiving bosses but it took skill and I am happy to report that I finished the game with what little skill I had.


14.  Pokemon: Black Version

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokemon Company
Play Time: April 24, 2011 through May 21, 2011; 42 hours
Status: Finished (main story line)

This was my first Pokemon game, and not a first game for H1 but a first major RPG campaign for her (she played Pokemon: White Version).  I decided to see what the fuss was all about after all these years (I liked the stupid first season of the animated series but that's as far as it went) and was pleasantly surprised by just how basic an rpg it was. There was strategy to catching pokemon, and I loved the vastness of the Unova region. Seriously, going to little towns each with their own culture and region was fantastic. The game had all the elements of a classic rpg in a modernized world that characters that were cute each with their own little personalities - the weirdos, the quirky ones, the bitchy for the Pokemon themselves, sometimes their character designs could be quite hideous but their write up descriptions were never dull.  

That vastness could be surprisingly overwhelming but it's not just the world map alone. The item lists, the day to day and the incorporation of real world days into the game )e.g. getting a casteliacone available on Tuesdays only) that were little things that kept the game highly interactive and fun.

I have a couple of serious complaints against this blasted game though. There was too much fighting. There was a cave that I had to go through and while I could have used some repel spray (and sacrifice leveling up? no way), honestly, every step taken led to a fight and it was frustrating. It was times like those that made me want to toss the game. Ah yes, a double edged sword that but frequent random battles are the pits.

In Pokemon, what I really disliked was that after being so bad-assed most of the way through, I get slaughtered by one of the ending bosses, Ghestis in what seems like a completely blindsided unfair advantage.  One of his dragons was so fast, it destroyed me everytime with its two attacks in a row.  It was hard to prep for that and what annoyed the hell out of me was that there really was no way to determine what you would get at the end.  So essentially, I spent 42 hours of my life training a group of 6 pokemon out of hundreds only to be destroyed by one.  Why would I stretch myself thin but training a whole bunch and being mediocre at best for all? Yes, I know it's one of those games where you can literally sink hundreds of hours into it but that's not a requirement to finish the main campaign or at least it should not be. That battle was cringe worthy.  I don’t know how I pulled it off but by playing the waiting game, the other side ‘messed’ up and I did it finally. That's a terribly cheap thing too.

Music Review: I actually enjoyed the music quite a bit. Team Plasma's had the best crazy theme I've heard in a long while. Easy going and intense when need be, the music really added to having a grand adventure and journey.

13. 999: Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors

Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Aksys
Play Time: First walkthrough January 2, 2011 through January 10, 2011
Second walkthrough January 11, 2011 through January 16, 2011
Third (and final for good ending) walkthrough January 16, 2011 through January 19, 2011
Status: Finished

I can honestly say that game made me anxious for a better part of it.  When a door opened, I was shuddering to think what could be on the other side.  And that was some stellar presentation on its part. It was like Resident Evil in feeling.

The dark feel of the game was creepy. It was creepy in animation (reference to the operating room with those medical mannequins) and had a weird grainy tint that added to the creepy factor. When I got my first bad ending it was not pleasant. I felt like a failure without even knowing where I went wrong and in that the game forces you to play more than once. That's not something I usually like with my games.

As it turns out, I did 3 playthroughs and from my own little mechanical mind, I figured it out (and this was a very important theme of the story). The game got a little sci-fi and timey-whimey. There were linear time lines and two paradox timelines going on at once where a present and a past were happening all at once and without the villain created in one, the other could not exist was a mess. Being forced to play through again made me think that the in-game theory of the morphogenic field was thrust upon the real you and questioned YOU (me) as a player. I got the information through their theory field and as a receiver knew everything because I had seen the information before and then it was transmitted to my old self as I played through earlier games. I know, confusing if you have not played the game yourself. But the bottom line was that it was a clever plot device which the game implemented within the story of the main character all that while being manipulated to solve puzzles. It

The puzzles were weak but due to the fact that "you" had done all this before it could have been seen as a 'weak' explanation as to why they were 'easy'. Timey Whimey, I told you! But no, the puzzles were designed to be pretty easy (which is a bit of a negative because they felt like chores more than anything) but that was an interesting concept that could have been implemented.

It was a good game, with a good story and beautifully presented for that horror movie feel. The characters were good in their own right and I loved how everyone just used your ass to do their bidding. It was truly a moment of putting you full on as the character in the game and I see what you did there Chunsoft and Aksys and I liked it.

While running through a second playthrough I came to appreciate the character development of other characters while hating some others. There were some geniune twists in there of others that I really did not see coming.

One of my major complaints about the game was the freaking joke ending with Alice in the end. It was not funny and really just insulting after having such an intelligently written game. Otherwise, this is a game I think everyone should own.

Music Review: I liked the soundtrack. It was appropriately creepy and appropriately heart pounding in dire situations.

12. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (3DS)

Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Publisher: Ubisoft
Play Time: 61:23 (hours: claims! I highly doubt that)
Status: Finished

I had no expectation from a Tom Clancy game.  That’s not to say I have ever played one before but in my mind, I saw a shooting game in the vein of Call of Duty or something of the sort.  I am not a fan of the shooters genre generally so it would be of no interest to me. Gaming blog, Kotaku recommended this one when the 3DS launched and from game play footage, revealed that this game was very much a strategy RPG.  I still have a sort of a love/hate relationship with the strategy RPG genre.  I suck at it but it’s too fun even if frustrating at times and so I keep torturing myself.

But as I said, SRPGs are fun as all hell. Tactical thinking, taking terrain into consideration, being shot at and taking cover as enemies converge on you was just exciting and engaging. While the characters did not have much in way of any development, that was not the point. I liked them well enough - they were stock but eh, I didn't care about that too much. Each character of course, had strengths in the field and figuring out who to use at certain times was awesome. I played on elite which in the later stages presented a quite a bit of a challenge.

Some levels actually gave quite the bit of anxiety as certain death awaited. They were pressing and fun.

The game felt a little big long at the end and kind of tedious. Maybe that's due to the fact that I could have sought faster ends to get to the goal but I tend to play it relatively safe and kill most things in my path even when not required.

The story may have been pretty standard and there was nothing to write home about but the main focus was of course, the game play.

Music Review: I enjoyed the music in this game. There were some really good intense set pieces in there.

11. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Play Time: 28:24 (hours: minutes)
Status: Finished

I finally purchased this on the DS and hoping I can get the other games in this series (if ever Capcom decides they want to re-release or I get them cheaper somewhere than what I see online).

Phoenix Wright is fun. The opening to this game was a fantastic one - it begins with a murder and is surprisingly dark and sets up tone for upcoming events. However, once you get started you realize that while there are some moments of anxiety, the game is mostly comedic ridiculousness hidden under more series themes.

The characters are an odd ball mix of humour while your enemies can be really distasteful in their design. They're designed well - evil and unlikable and not out of the realm of possibility. Being a very character driven type of text based game, everyone had to have very distinct personalities and a fine job was done of that through their quirky animations.

It was an enjoyably humourous title with mystery, suspense and a great cast of characters. It was a challenge too at times, raising wrong objections was something I was in danger of at times and it really forced you to think. Sometimes pieces of your evidence were more obvious to use than others but other times I felt the game didn't make too much sense but it was no big deal.

Oh, and that freaking blue badger video footage? I don't think I laughed so much for a game in a while.

Next up with be the finale with games 10 through 1. I know you can't wait!

In case you wanted to read/re-read/scoff at picks 30 through 21, you could always click HERE.

Currently listening to: "Judgement Day" by Nobuo Uematsu, from the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack.

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