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.

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