Thursday, November 29, 2007

Random Encounter: Mixed reviews

The Legend of Zelda - The Phantom Hourglass (DS)
This game is so good I'm not even going to bitch about things like that goddamn Sea Temple that you have to do over and over and over... I love you, Nintendo.

Bioshock (360)
I guess everyone has played and apparently decided to love Bioshock despite its shortcomings, so there's not much to say, is there? Somehow, I have the feeling that Bioshock is a let-down to many, but few dare admit it. Why? The answer is actually kind of simple: you want to love Bioshock. It is a profoundly well-designed game, gorgeous to look at, dripping with style and atmosphere - attributes rarely found in games.
The setting is breathtaking, the 50's aesthetics flawlessly implemented,
glittering with Aldous Huxley paraphrases. It draws you in. The opening level is amazing, without doubt the best introduction I've seen in years or, indeed, ever. And the thing is, you're kind of spoiled from that first moment, which makes for the Achilles' heel of Bioshock: It never gets better than the first hour or so.

If I was to point the finger, level-design would be the most obvious reason for this. Personally, I would've loved more scripted events, like in the first level. All the while, it's essentially playing Invisible War mashed up with System Shock 2, but this time it's underwater, with a slight Chtulhu tinge to it. Now, how can that be disappointing?

Assassin's Creed (360).
Fable truly set the standard for repetitive NPC comments. It was horrendous. Remember that awful chatter? Now get ready to add "-You filthy thief, I'll have your hand for that!" to the repertoire. Despite taking place in what must be one of the most beautiful realized settings ever presented, the Arabic world is home only to some of the most erratic AI you're likely to encounter, and the most rigid, bland mission structure you've ever seen. Assassin's Creed is a game that falls short of its expectations, but somehow manages to intrigue despite its repetitive nature.


Dementium - The Ward (DS)
Look at that screenshot. Looks pretty good, right? Albeit there's undoubtedly some unexpected quality to the stripped back Silent Hill-esque graphics of Dementium, its weaknesses are right there up front, too. Cramped controls, generic level design and poor textures are a few of them. If you've seen one room, you've seen them all. While that might be easy to forgive (since it's on the DS and not the PSP), Dementium suffers from poor collision-detecting. In close-combat, raining blows on unsuspecting zombies (witch, suspiciously, sport huge wound-like orifices on their torsos) every blow feels random. This will make you rely on other things to get by. Let me illustrate: An hour or so into the game, you're supposed to whack some wriggly worms in the infant ward that keep crawling out of air ducts and what not. "-Why, that'll take an eternity!" the average jaded gamer will exclaim, and so you bring out the old, trustworthy 9mm. Thus, when encountering the flying, screaming heads (that are, however vexing it might seem, not on fire) later on in the third chapter, I had plenty of health and enthusiasm, but no ammo. Sans bullets, I got slaughtered quite quickly and asked to restart the whole chapter. Which ultimately means this fucker is finished for all I care.

This pretty much makes for the most unreasonable review ever presented here, and maybe I'm being too hard on Dementium, but the flaws of the game are evident. Another example: there's a map that's nothing short of terrible, and again, a saving system that saves every time you enter a new room, but sets you back to the start of the level when you die. Such things are hard to forgive. In a game which drips with atmosphere and some seriously disturbed moments, that's the scariest thing of all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Download of the week:
Mr. Heart Loves You Very Much (PC)

Simple minimalism is the best. That goes for this pixel-puzzler too. Simple equals fun. It's also the cutest name for a game I've seen for quite some time.

Download it by clicking here (direct link).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Retro game of the week: Total Recall (NES)

I watched Total Recall a few nights ago, and it reminded me of two things:

1. Once upon a time, I used to write "Retro game of the week" posts, preferably every other week. I'll try harder.
2. While the movie itself is spectacular, the game I played on the NES back in 1991 was, as we say in Sweden, skitdƄligt.

Total Recall is a 2D platformer with some top-down racing moments. The game was developed and released by Ocean Software for various systems such as the Amiga, but there was also the much-maligned NES version which was in fact different (worse) from the others, developed by Interplay and released by Acclaim.

Being a video game based on the movie, Total Recall had very little to do with the film. Aside from a few settings (such as the apartment, the subway and the arrival terminal on Mars), the developers threw in a few imaginary things to flesh it out. For example: There is a obscene amount
of generic flying robots with lasers appearing everywhere, except in the actual movie. There's also a bearded midget in a pink jumpsuit who, no matter how many times you kill him, returns with a vengeance. Maybe his scenes got cut out of the movie? Maybe it was too weird having Arnold getting assaulted by a dwarf in a pink jumpsuit poking out of windows and garbage cans every five minutes, spraying bullets? I don't know. I'm just speculating.

Story wise, if you hadn't seen the movie (and chances were that your parents wouldn't let you watch it, since there's a girl with three boobs and a decent amount of graphic violence in it), you had absolutely no idea what the game was trying to communicate, as you get no information on why everyone is trying to kill you.

Now, being a mediocre gamer as a kid back in the early 1990's (and even worse some fifteen years later), I never made it past the second boss encounter, in the industry area after the subway level. One of the reasons for this is that Total Recall was fairly difficult. You only had one chance to complete each level - when your energy was depleted, the game ended. To calm down any frustrated kids, the Continue and Game Over screens showed an impressive recreation of Arnold's beautiful face, with classic Arnold references beneath it (as in the screen above), but never with reference to Total Recall, the actual movie licence you were playing. Smooth.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Just a quick note

The servers containing some of my stuff has suddenly shut down and left me, well, feeling a bit left out, since some of my material was on that particular server. No worries though, everything will work out for the best... *whistles*