Archive for January, 2011

After a thorough examination…

Posted in Uncategorized on January 7, 2011 by link6616

Adventure games might be on the rise again, but they are still very much a niche genre that is ultimately living only through their devoted fan base and nostalgia. There are many reasons for the death of the genre, and most of them are related to the insane puzzles that felt very out of context. But one of the things adventure games do well, and what really separates them from being simply films with puzzles or visual novels, is the examine function.

It’s a strange thought to have, but many of the better adventure games can and have given the characters and world more personality and detail than would be possible without it. It would be possible to include all of this potential exposition, but you would bog the main plot.

While not without its flaws, The Longest Journey uses the examine function to really give the main character April real personality, without having to divulge her long and surprisingly detailed back story. Examine a toy monkey to find it’s her childhood toy, look at books to find she doesn’t read them, and look at her old drawings to find she ran away from home and kept them as a memento without having to force it into a conversation.

What works about this approach is that you aren’t forced to sit through all that every time you play though, even if you can skip it. A movie or a comic would be forced to give a close up cut and a voice over, which would really destroy the pacing (or if skipped makes you feel like you miss out on content). An adventure game can have a hugely detailed world to look at while other games would bog you down with masses of exposition, adventure games make it optional which helps keeps a much brisker pace if you want it that over detail.

If more games could introduce an adventure game examine function, we might be able to make some compelling characters and worlds, without masses of forced exposition, creating a world as detailed as the player playing wants it to be.

A current trend that enables this in many modern games is the use of the audio log. Find a log and hear the recording of a person, some trivial, some important. While these logs might not help the characterization of the main character in the same way an adventure game might, they do an excellent job of fleshing out the world The System/Bio shock series are some of the best examples of world building through these logs.

Other games use journals, reports and many other things that give you this optional detail. So what makes the examine function of adventure games more unique? In an adventure game the played character describes it themselves, showing you their connection with an object. Over the course of examining many objects you’re able to develop a much more rounded idea of what the character is like, and many facets of them that normally would be difficult to tell without such a function.
I think that if more RPG or Sandbox games had an examine button, we’d be able to make these characters that you spend tens or even hundreds of hours with much more rounded and rich, while at the same time not needing a great deal more ‘real content.’ The Elder Scrolls games put so much effort into writing books that flesh out the world so much, if we have a similar effort put into a character examining all those things, you’d certainly know the character extremely well.

And so I ask that more developers give us the option to examine objects as the character we are playing, a feature which while partially covered by the audio log, has not quite been replicated in many other genres to the same degree of interest.

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Platforms and Pitfalls!

Posted in Announcements, Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 2, 2011 by link6616

We finally are up and running with some regularity, so go to www.platformsandpitfalls.com

A regular weekly podcast attempting to look at issues with games today, attempting to go the extra mile… Not always doing it, but we are working on it…

But have no fear, even though I run that, this blog is for my own rants, and so to my dedicated (and fictional) fanbase will still be able to get their random spurts of content, I’ve got quite a few half written articles sitting about, but like my gaming habits, I just never finish them, I hope to write more in the coming year though!

My 2010 picks (good and bad)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2011 by link6616

2010 was an amazing year for my inner nerd… Nearly every franchise I remotely cared for outside of Umi Hara gained a sequel this year, even Golden Sun! There were so many amazing games this year it’s so hard to list 10… But I’m going to try and point out my  biggest highlights, lowlights, and surprises, trying to get around the 10 mark, but with go higher or lower as relevant. Also, this year brought a few titles so far missing in Australia, although enough of my list is currently not released in my country.

 

Highlights (that I actually played, in no particular order)

Heavy Rain

For all of it’s issues, of which there are many both as a game and as a story, Heavy Rain was one of the few games I finished before changing the game in my console. It’s not for everyone and has it’s issues, (minor spoiler: for instance, your mind reading powers actually LIE TO YOU) but is one of my most memorable experiences from a new game this year.

 

Bayonetta

The first game I bought this year, and the second I finished. Bayonetta was simply insane. One of my main issues with games is that they aren’t fast enough, Bayonetta is a little slower than ideal, but I love it to bits. Intense fun action, manageable difficulty, a fun story with a memorable cast, and a nice parody of games at the same time. Also, it’s as fun as heck, one of the best action games I’ve ever played!

 

Tatsunoko Vs Capcom

I love fighters, I have no clue about the company tatsunoko outside of 2 animes they made that aren’t included (one just not included and one removed from English release), but TvC is great regardless of knowing characters. The cast is actually pretty balanced for a vs game, with most of the cast being tourney viable, Roll gets her revenge with being top tier when paired with Casshan!!! Most of the characters are pretty diverse and air dashing makes every game getter. I found it a much slicker fighter than SSFIV, which also fought for this position…

 

Miles Edgeworth Investigations

Let’s get this out here now: I did not like Apollo Justice. It wasn’t as bad as the fans said, but it’s cast was just less interesting, and is the only game that makes Phoenix a dull character. Investigations looks more like a point and click adventure than the other AA games, and inherits many of the flaws of the genre, pixel hunting, item combining (with logic and deduce functions), however, while the cast still doesn’t reach the heights set by the PW games it’s still interesting, characters are lovable and memorable and being able to play as Miles is a fanboy’s dream come true.

 

Sin and Punishment 2: Sky Related Subtitle varying on region

Treasure have had a rough few years, since Ikaruga the only games of real merit they’ve made are Astroboy Omega Factor (GBA), and Bangai O Spirits (DS). This is the game we’ve been waiting on treasure fans. It has a insane and stupid plot like all treasure games but the game is amazing… Thanks to the Wiimote/nunchuk combo we get light gun aiming with the nunchuk for movement. One hand shoots like mad, the other struggles to keep you alive, it allows the game to be much more insane with what it throws at you unlike the first game which was forced to keep a measured pace, the difference is like that between say R type and a bullet hell shooter…

 

Persona 3 Portable

Persona 3 is a really well done JRPG, and an even better handheld JRPG. Persona 3 by itself is a really nice game, but Portable streamlines many of the interfaces dragging down the original game, these changes while all extremely minor actually add up to shave almost 10 or 20 hours of the play time of the game without removing any content! And as an added bonus the Female main character provides a great way to experience the plot again.

 

Ys Seven

The Ys games are fast paced almost arcade like Action RPGs. The action is very very fast, bosses very tough, but you always have the tools to get around their attacks provided you are skilled enough, so dying always feels like a result of you being stupid rather than not being of high enough level. For blinding speed and enjoyable bosses Ys Seven is a great game.

 

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep

BBS has some issues, a lack luster plot you must endure variations of 3 times, bad camera, bad platforming and a few strange difficulty spikes. However the combat is at it’s best yet, with lots of meaningful choices to make both in and before combat along with it’s fast fun paced action when it’s about. I suggest proud mode once you’d down one of their stories.

 

Zettai Hero Project

Zettai Hero Project is a game that could only come from NIS. You start the game by seeing the hero die, and you, a passerby must fight THE LAST BOSS… You die and so begins the roguelike. Although every time you die and go back to level 1 your base stats increase a little. The game exactly how you’d expect NIS to make a roguelike, grindy, fun and filled with self aware humour, and it’s their best game to date. If you like roguelikes at all, you need this game.

 

4 Heroes of Light

I’ve written a lot on this game before, so go read that, but this game really caught me by surprise in how well old school sensibilities in RPGs could be done well. One of my pet peeves in RPGs is them not telling them where i need to go, 4 heroes does that, but it has so few NPCs and all of the say useful things so you never feel you are wasting time poking around. Also, the fact equipment plays such a huge role is nice, as it allows you to get through a situation by changing your approach, not by grinding.

 

Surprises

 

Demon’s Souls

Demon’s Souls was last year’s game of the year for many people, and while I imported it knowing it would never come out in my home country, Namco Bandai bought the rights to publish it here and proceeded to do so… It sadly didn’t sell as well here as it did in other territories, however it’s a really tight experience that should be experienced by all.

 

Half Minute Hero

Again, another title I imported knowing it would never come out here, and then proceeded to come out. Half Minute Hero is a crazy simplified RPG which is divided up into 50 or so short quests in which you have a 30 second limit which you can restore with money… It’s a simple game, but the say it throws around RPG cliche’s and subverts them makes it a joy to play, enjoyable writing combined with amazing fun and a game fast enough to make having 5 seconds left feel like ages makes this a wonderful game. It’ll surpise you at least once, trust me.

 

Guilty Gear Accent Core Plus

We finally got this here too! This is the last ‘we finally got this’ game in this list. I’m not going to go into Guilty Gear here though as I’m sure we will talk about it a lot later.

 

Puzzle Quest 2

It’s Puzzle Quest, but now it feels more like an RPG than Warlords. I wasn’t sure this would be any good given Galactrix, but I read up on the iPad version, and found the game amazing, it’s a little slower to start than the first game, and a generally slower interface doesn’t help it, but it’s a strong fun game that I’m glad to have on my iPad.

 

Infinity Blade

Super Punch Out: The Gritty RPG made in Unreal 3 on iOS devices. The game is unique in concept given it only has about 20 minutes of real content, but it’s enjoyable with each repeat and is a rare game that just feels right on an iOS device.

 

Shadow of Destiny

A port of an early PS2 time traveling adventure where you thwart your own death by traveling back in time to prevent yourself being killed. It’s really a voice acted visual novel more than anything else when you get down to it, but it’s a compelling and interesting experience that I longed to play for nearly 10 years before finding it was remade for PSP. Knowing it wasn’t actually that good a game and was dated at the time, it’s still an interesting worthwhile play.

 

Ivy The Kiwi Mini

In short, it’s Kirby and the Canvas Curse, but not as good, but 6 times cheaper.

 

Valkyria Chonicles 2

VC2 shouldn’t be a surprising entry on this list. But i actually didn’t like VC1 to begin with, but 2’s gentler learning curve helped me get get back into the first. It’s a well done SRPG, with a worse plot and characters than the first one, but fleshes out more of it’s cast.

 

4 Heroes of Light

It looks just like the kind of game I’d hate, but I loved it. I’ve hated everything else matrix made, and I loved it somehow… Well done

 

Lara Croft: Guardian Of Light

Tomb Raider 2’s opening 3 levels were the only thing I liked about in the series. Guardian of Light somehow manages to take the good parts of Tomb Raider, Smash TV and horrible team based gameplay that plagues one entry in any long series, and make a really good co op adventure, that is even still good with just one player (although not as good)

 

Lowlights

 

Epic Mickey

We have a great world, concept, use of license, and even good uses of mechanics half the time, but a bad camera and bland platforming make the experience much less than it could have been. With some refining could have been amazing as the paint thinner mechanics work really well when used right. Once i put it down though, i had no desire to pick it back up… And probably never will.

 

Chaos Rings HD (iPad)

Chaos Rings was released last year for small devices but this year for the iPad… Chaos Rings actually has an interesting battle system in which you can either use your characters as a single unit, or separate ones. This mechanic works quite well, and if Chaos Rings was anything more than a grind fest it could have been amazing, as it stands… it’s pretty and has a few nice boss battles. Also, the interface really needed to be retooled for ipad and feels clunkly because it wasn’t

 

Metroid: Another M

I sure didn’t like the story, but it wasn’t as bad as everyone said it was, combat was fun enough as it’s not the main focus of the games anyway, just a distraction, and I loved the controls outside of first person mode… The game just over told it’s plot, and forced a lot stupid design choices on you that I just gave up. There is a really good game here, I couldn’t be bothered to find it.

 

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

I was a Golden Sun fan… While Dark Dawn has it’s own issues, it’s main flaws actually stem from being a Golden Sun game. Combat appears to have depth, but is so easy it doesn’t matter, summons are so powerful bosses rarely last a few rounds, characters talk too much… The other Golden Sun games managed to hide these flaws by being early GBA titles, DD has nothing like that to save it and the only unique flaw it has is that using psyenergy for puzzles is takes a lot longer. This game showed me just how much I’ve developed and changed  in my tastes as a gamer

 

Final Fantasy XIII

FFXIII is actually one of my favourite games of this year… Whats disappointing about it is that about 20 hours in, the point where everyone says the game gets ‘good’ it also looses it’s way. Suddenly the difficulty curve gets lost, you are able to get lost, and the game’s plot also starts to loose it’s focus. Most of the design choices in 13 are at least interesting and well done to a point even if it takes too long to start trusting the player. It was fast and willing to kill you in a moments notice though, which is a nice change.

 

Fragile Dreams: Farewell to the Moon

Fragile is an interesting semi horror RPG that lets you explore a post apocalyptic Japan. World design and atmosphere are great and the decayed world feels almost real. Sadly, lots of forced easy combat, annoying inventory management and confusing level/objective design make it too much work to find the game’s good points. I do suggest looking up the memories though… These little monologues are attached to items and help you understand the world before it was destroyed, and are very well done.

 

Biggest issue gaming had this year:

Characters just not shutting up, so many good games had dialog get in the way of being great.