Monday, April 28, 2008

Game Log - 4/28/2008

I did manage to get some gaming after all, though not much.

* Guitar Hero 2
While at my parents I set up my mom's new Xbox and we rocked out for a few minutes. What people say is right: Guitar Hero 2 on Hard difficulty is much harder than Rock Band's Hard difficulty. I need to practice.

*Condemned 2: Bloodshot
Got past the "shooting" stage that I was in. I was in the midst of a shoot out that I kept dying in, where enemies just kept spawning. Then, on yet another reload, I shot a few guys and a scripted event occurred to end the level. I don't really know what was different on that try compared to the others.

The subsequent level is back to quality bum beating form. The game still likes to throw parts at me that are significantly harder than what comes before or after. This causes me to get frustrated and quit, though usually coming back the next day is enough time between sessions to get me through.

That's all for the weekend. I might make an all-nighter of Condemned 2 tonight and try to finish it up. GTA 4 tomorrow!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Game Log - 4/26/2008

In the spirit of Stephen Totilo's Game Diaries on the MTV Multiplayer blog, I'll attempt to list what I played the previous day and give some quick thoughts on it.

* Condemned 2: Bloodshot

I'm about halfway through this now. The first few level I had a hard time with. I wasn't completely clear on the combo system, and like the first game, getting the timing down for blocks and hits can take a while. The most frustrating part is when you're bumrushed (literally) by more than one enemy. The combat system doesn't seem able to handle that situation. The best solution in that case is to simply let one of them attack the other and pick off the survivor.

The level I'm in now is a pure shooting level. I'm not entirely thrilled about it. The draw of the game is first person melee combat. The guns were originally there to offer what I felt to be a breather from the close combat, and almost a reward for progress. Beat your way through that level? Here's a gun and six bullets for some easy long range kills. But when the game becomes exclusively a shooter, the flaws in the mechanics become more apparent. There's no aiming reticle, so you have to aim down the sight to be accurate. Also, you have to find bottles of alcohol around and drink them so your aim is steady. It becomes more of an annoyance than anything else. I've read that most of the end of the game revolves around shooting instead of hand to hand combat, which is disappointing.

*The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

This game is really fun, I must say. Granted, the gameplay is exactly like Wind Waker on the Gamecube, but I'm starting to think that my problem with Wind Waker and Metal Gear Solid may just come down to the fact that the Gamecube controller sucks. It's clunky and the buttons aren't laid out in a way that makes it easy to reach with your fingers. Maybe it's just my hands. The Wii controls in Twilight Princess just feel a lot better to me. I can't really quantify it.

I wasn't sure about the more realistic art style they went with, but it's grown on me now. I can't help but think that Link looks like a young Shigeru Myamoto. With elf ears.

I finished up the second dungeon, couldn't figure out where I'm supposed to go next (north, but WHERE north?), and put it down. It seems easier than Wind Waker as far as combat and puzzles, but I don't mind that.

*Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Played for an hour during lunch at work and unlocked a new section of town to explore. The puzzles are still keeping me entertained, even the frustrating ones. I haven't been this happy about a game purchase since probably The Orange Box last year.


Unfortunately, family obligations mean I probably won't get to play anything until Sunday at the earliest. We'll see though.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Curious Occurrence

I own a sleek Nintendo DS and a half dozen or so games for it. I had a lot of fun with New Super Mario Bros. and Tetris, but it's mostly been collecting dust since then. I bought Final Fantasy III for it but gave up on it after awhile. Recently, I've found reason to dust off the sleek handheld.

I was looking for a game to pass the time at work during lunch, and decided to pick up Professor Layton and the Curious Village. It's a great little puzzle game following the adventures of Professor Layton and his apprentice, Luke, as they try to solve various mysteries in the town of St. Mystere somewhere in Europe. The people of St. Mystere are pathologically obsessed with puzzles and brain teasers of various sorts, and they usually won't help you until you've solved a puzzle for them. They range from relatively straightforward to some that are true mind benders. Other puzzles are hidden around the game world, and there are also puzzles closer to the jigsaw variety, where pieces are scattered around the game and you find them in hidden places or get them for solving puzzles. I'm finding pieces of what appears to be a mechanical dog, and scraps of a painting. Not sure what it's a painting of yet.

The writing is excellent and there's quite a bit of voiceovers, which is rare for a handheld game. The art is a semi-cutesy 2D cartoon style. The town and characters are detailed and memorable, and the mysteries are interesting enough to keep me interested in finding out what happened.

It's great as a mobile game because you can do as many or few puzzles as you have time for (though you'll probably find yourself wanting to do more than you have time for if you're in a hurry). At home I have a 360, Wii, and PS2, so my gaming time is constrained as it is. Playing for an hour at work this past week has been a great way to get back into the DS. I was tempted to sell it, but the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog RPG from BioWare convinced me to hold on to it. I'm glad I did.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Your City Asplode!

Half Life 2 - "Follow Freeman" level

Call of Duty 4 - Charlie Don't Surf level

I don't know about other people, but I find urban combat settings in shooters to be among my favorite. There is something about being in a chaotic warzone, bullets flying, rockets propelling, soldiers yelling in the distance, that gets me much more excited than your standard corridors and rooms in most shooters. Perhaps it's the feeling of being a small part of greater battle that is exciting. The battles also feel much more desperate and frantic. Any moment, you could walk around a corner and see an army of foes approaching you. It's not like a battlefield in the 18th century where everyone rushes at each other across a field.

Some games like CoD 2 don't get that feeling right. Everything feels very self contained in that game. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) and its sequel also didn't quite get the feeling right for me. The levels were too sterile. It was only your squad, occasional support, and Mexican rebels. There were no civilians, animals, or anything to make it feel like a living city. It may come down to something as simple as sound design. If I can hear shouting, gunshots, and other sounds of battle in the distance, like they're just over that wall there, I immediately like a level more than if they weren't.

A good non-game example is the end of the movie Children of Men, when Clive Owen's character runs through a battle in the refugee city looking for the baby. I couldn't find a good clip of it, but if you've seen the movie you know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, that's one way a game developer can make me like their game more.

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