Many apologies for the delay so here’s a round up of everything that’s been completed lately chez moi
God of war
Fantastic. Great plot, great graphics, great challenge. The controls are tighter than Filipinos lady boy’s freshly sewn in holes. The only thing that got to me was the exceptionally annoying incidence of SNK boss syndrome while tackling the final boss on the hardest play mode. Other than that I can’t recommend this game highly enough.
God of war 2
More of the same but with shinier graphics. The opening set piece where you destroy the colossus of Rhodes is almost worth the entrance price alone. Sadly the game never really lives up to it’s promising start and the experience is let down by the utterly arbitrary and disjointed story arc. It starts to get a little silly when it devolves into a murderous rampage through a Greek mythology hall of fame. Ever thought of a Greek hero? Ever thought of killing him? You can now! See the sights, meet the heroes and violently disembowel them while cackling maniacally before they drag you away in your straight jacket. Unlike the original, where the game world at least tipped its hat in the direction of logical consistency, in this one, the environments, battles and bosses seem to follow one another with scant regard for reason or sanity. Flying to an Island? Not anymore, now you have to stop somewhere arbitrary to defeat an arbitrary boss in order gain an arbitrary magical power you didn’t even know you had to stop to collect. Why are there 4 giant mechanical horses in the middle of nowhere and why do you have to move them? Feel like nothing has happened for a while? Well, apropos of nothing at all, here’s Perseus trying to kill you, just to break up the monotony of wandering around an arbitrarily laid out temple complex. By now you might have the impression that I felt there was something rather… how do you say… arbitrary about this game. And you’d be right. The whole enterprise is not helped by the utter lack of resolution in the plot as it feeds into a coming sequel. Like so much before it, this game is a prime example of ‘second film in the trilogy syndrome‘.
Rock and/or roll! Whoo and yay! Finally all your (and by “your” I mean “my”) teenage dreams of playing guitar are realised. Move over air guitar, at last someone has commodified this otherwise harmless and free pursuit and sold it back to me for a price but with a lump of plastic and a competitive element included. What more could I want? Apparently not much else given how much time myself and my housmate have devoted to these games. I have always secretly hankered after a dance mat game but fear of the ridicule I might be subjected to at the hands of naysayers, as I lay down those killer steps to ‘…baby one more time‘ have often stayed my hand at the shop counter. So you can imagine my joy when a butch and macho guitar controlled rhythm game was announced. My only complaint, as with all these games, is that there isn’t enough music I actually recognise from my youth as the licensed tracks are very US-centric.
Guitar Hero 2
More of the same really but the game engine has been polished to a point where it is so shiny it could be used to replace the main refracting mirror in the Hubble telescope. The hammer-ons and pull-offs are a lot more forgiving making the gameplay feel smoother and more user friendly but in exchange the later tracks are much more complex. The addition of a co-op mode is the work of shear genius, either that or someone sold their soul to Satan for that nugget of inspiration. The game has a greater selection of tracks than the previous one yet the selection of tracks in the original seem more listenable as a whole. None the less this is the definitive Guitar Hero game and the one through which I truly ascended to the my place within the rock pantheon (so much so I’d moved on to completing the game left handed).
Guitar Hero: Rocks the ’80s
Flat and frankly boring cash in on the franchise. There’s nothing new here and there are few tracks that are actually classic. Exceptionally disappointing when they are charging you the full price for the game. Having honed my skills to a needle sharp point with Guitar Hero 2 I couldn’t help but feel like that there was no challenge in this one. Which probably indicates that I’m officially “over” the whole Guitar Hero thing. When you’re considering that the game could do with a harder level that requires a 6th fret button or that the should release a game with 40 face-melter difficulty tracks then perhaps it’s time to stop and actually buy a real guitar (which my housemate has gone and done much to everyone’s consternation)
Mario Hoops Super Slam
Tap, tap. Tap-tap-tap. Tap. Tap. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. I fully expect to tap a small hole in the screen of my DS because of this game. There’s not much to say about this other than it’s 3 on 3 basket ball in the Mario world produced by the company that brought you Final Fantasy. Of course, how else would you pitch it? What about the zombies of Resident Evil playing Jai alai produced by Harmonix? Why isn’t that being made? I demand answers. There’s not a great deal to this game; a handful of courts, a couple of difficulty levels, some unlockables and ninjas. What is there is superbly executed. It should certainly be given an award for the most intuitive use of the DS touch pad ever. The only thing that got to me was the steepness of the difficulty curve, especially when it came to getting those gold trophies.
Elite Beat Agents
You are a member of a secret government cheerleading squad dispatched around the world to cheer people through crisis moments in their lives. What more do you need to know? This is a rhythm game for the DS where you tap little targets in time to various pop songs. It does get really quite tricky later on but there isn’t much here you couldn’t get through in a week of casual play. One thing that’s rather odd about it is that you just have to learn, in a brute force manner, exactly where all the targets appear for each track. Unlike guitar hero 2 where there is an obvious logic to which fret button you might play (higher ones for higher notes) there is nothing about the music or the placement of targets in Elite Beat which allows you to predict where the next target might be. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. One slight niggle is that your hand often occludes the lower potion of the screen which makes it difficult to see targets that have just appeared in that area. Personally I’d have liked it if the original, crazy J-pop soundtrack had been kept for the US and european versions but I can’t have everything. And it probably makes good commercial sense to licence a load of US pop tunes, otherwise there’d probably be no copies sold at all. It is surprisingly fun and addictive tapping along to music.
This is probably the only half ways decent computer game based on a comic property that I’ve ever played. Like film tie-ins, games based on comics frequently plumb the nadir of games development. But Rogue Trooper is pleasantly diverting yet nothing to write home about. The controls are pretty standard for a 3rd or 1st person shooter (moving with the keyboard, looking and shooting with the mouse) so it plays well enough. The graphics and audio are good and lend the game the appropriate atmosphere. Once you’re immersed you’ll find it’s not an especially long or difficult game. Rogue’s abilities are pretty faithful to the comic, you get micro-mines and holographic projections for laying traps and you get access to a full range of Rogue’s weapons from sniping to mortars and SAM missiles. The only problem with the trap laying features is that you usually need a priori knowledge of what is about to happen so it really wasn’t a feature of the game I used much, unless I died somewhere and had to redo a bit. Usually I’d try to stay as far away as possible and snipe people from a safe distance. Which strikes me as a bit of a shame as there could at least have been a couple of areas where trap laying was essential. All in all the game is a nice little diversion, while it doesn’t really put a foot wrong it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.