Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Too Human

Too Human continues to entertain. I do not regret my purchase. As Kevin Pereira said, "Screw the Haters." Now, back to my questing and bashing of robot heads.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Too Human

I said that I would play Universe at War: Earth Assault next, but with Too Human in my hands, I couldn't resist giving it playtime first.

I don't get all the hate that reviewers and some gamers have unloaded on this game. I for one totally dig the cyberpunk retelling of Norse mythology, and the gameplay, as Kevin Pereira put it, "makes you feel like a complete badass." I will probably play this game every play session until I complete it.

I suggest playing the demo first. That will tell you if the game suits your tastes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Galaga Legions Demo, Bionic Commando Rearmed, Command and Conquer 3

Galaga Legions Demo: I downloaded, I played, I deleted. It just didn't grab me. Though it has perhaps too many controls, the game doesn't suck. Though I much appreciate what they've tried to do, I still prefer the original - which I have. And I only really need one shmup in my library.

Bionic Commando Rearmed: I started it up to register some facts about it in my games database, but soon found myself engaged by it and playing for a half hour. Good game.

Command and Conquer 3: I made this the main event of my playtime, and it did not disappoint. I much enjoyed beating the Hampton Roads level with just the commando.

Also, I found that the new (to me) unit selection modes offered less of an edge than I'd thought, though I should have used them more at Langley. By contrast, the select-entire army mode got a lot of use, and provided a fair amount of glee in seeing my total forces just steamroll over the opposition. Good times, good times.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Bionic Commando Rearmed, Command and Conquer 3

Bionic Commando Rearmed: Despite comments that the game would inflict punishment on the non-elite player, the demo, erm, hooked me. I had never played the original, and so had no basis for comparison, but taken on its own merits the game delivers a healthy helping of fun for 800 Microsoft points.

As far as I can tell, the major review sites have given this title the praise it deserves. I played the demo, enjoyed it, and paid for the full game.

Command and Conquer 3: I'd had a yen to play this - and Universe at War - for days, and finally got to. Then I played it for three days straight, starting over from the beginning as I've done on other games I haven't played in a while.

On the first day I finished the tutorial and the prologue mission. On the second I got my rear repeatedly kicked by the first campaign mission (The Pentagon). On the third I did some research and found that the tutorial had omitted a selection option that made things easier. With the aid of that option I handily defeated Nod at the Pentagon. After that I checked the game manual and found more selection options.

This both gladdened and saddened me. It gladdened because I now have additional ways to organize and command my forces. It saddened because it makes the game a throwback to the days when vital information needed to play resided in the manual. Lose the manual and you couldn't play the game, or in good conscience pass it on to someone else.

That aside, the limited selection modes annoy me. Why not offer drag-select? Even the Playstation version of the original C&C had that. And I found a selection action which even the manual doesn't mention: holding the left shoulder button and moving one of the analog sticks presents something that looks like a formation selector. Though, why you would need something like that in a game like this mystifies me.

Don't let my griping put you off the game. I only spend so much time complaining about this one defect because the rest of the game delivers brilliantly. The selection issue certainly doesn't break it. Nothing satisfies quite like seeing my grenadiers blow the stuffing out of a garrisoned building which only recently rained bullets and rockets on my troops, or seeing the ion cannon strike I called in make the enemy base blow up real good.

Next up: One more session of C&C3 (to try out the additional selection options), then I will play Universe at War: Earth Assault.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Jade Empire, Eternal Sonata, Star Wars Starfighter

I've slowed a bit in my posts as a result of chemo-related fatigue. I have spent more time sleeping than playing. But I have done some, so here comes my blatherings about it.

Jade Empire: Another winner from the random game picker! I hadn't played Jade Empire in over two years, so I started fresh on Thursday. As before, I chose a balanced character to play as, and this time I chose the easiest difficulty instead of the default.

The whole package just works for me, delivering an entertaining mix of RPG, martial arts action, magic, and a story of an ancient alternate China. I've found a couple of "Whoa! Nifty!" moments so far, and both story and gameplay entice me to continue. This one definitely stays in rotation.

Eternal Sonata: I started this one over as well on Sunday, mostly to refamiliarize myself with the combat system and the story. It struck me, memory having faded in the year since I've played it, just how gorgeous the game creators made it. Even the sewers look beautiful.

The game revolves around the story - fortunately - since the gameplay, especially the battle system, elicits little more than a yawn. The game creators have given us get another ill-bred combination of turn-based fighting and realtime action in the form of action bars, with a twist or two not worth mentioning. I far prefer one or the other - either give me turns or give me action.

On the other hand, the story fascinates. What if Frederic Chopin had a dying dream of a magical, musical world that seemed to him more real than the world he fell asleep in? Might that dream world survive his death? Might that dream world offer him an afterlife? Play and find out.

Star Wars Starfighter Special Edition: Unable to sleep Sunday night, I rummaged through my playlist and chose this one. I wanted something that would offer plenty of action while taxing neither my brains nor my reflexes over much. Starfighter fit the bill admirably.

I enjoyed my time with it, though sadly I had to play it on my original Xbox; the 360 does not yet have a working emulator profile for it. Still, it looks good and plays well and offers plenty of fun.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Braid, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Braid: I'd heard all kind of buzz about Braid and its creator Jonathon Blow, so when it popped up on Xbox Live Arcade I thought I'd give it a try. Twenty minutes later I plunked down the Microsoft Points to buy it outright. I found the mix of platforming and time reversal (all the way to the beginning of the level if you want!) engaging.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter: I hadn't played this, my game picker's selection for last night, for over a year. So I started over and went through the tutorial again. An hour's play reminded me of what I liked and didn't about it. I like category the action and the ability to command your squad, as well as heal them. I don't like the complexity (and sometimes arbitrariness) of the controls, and the fact that nobody can heal the team leader - he has to find a health pickup for that (weapons locker?). I find the drawbacks minor, so it stays in my rotation.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Persona 3 FES

I enjoyed an hour with this game Monday night. I like this kind of RPG - the 100% turn-based battles, the adventure-game aspect when not in battle, the ability to control the camera.

I also like the way that the social sim aspects of the game feed into the combat abilities. By becoming a better, more rounded high school student and making friends, the player's character gains combat power.

I don't like so much persona fusion. It incorporates a bad game design, in that it not only encourages the player to paint himself into a corner, it virtually forces him to do so.

First off, the player cannot undo persona fusion, so if one gets a less useful persona, one cannot go back (except by reloading a game save). When fusing personas, the player can see the name of the persona and the names of its skills, but the skill names look like Japanese words (or maDe-up ones) and the game offers no way to view a description of them prior to fusion. So the player must do fusion blind.

I suppose the next time I play it, I'll keep a FAQ handy so I can find out what the fused persona's skills actually do. I don't consider that cheating.

I consider this a minor defect, however; I suspect that one can play the game and win through to the end without ever fusing personas, and I mean to play that way as lohg as possible. In any case, I'm still enjoying the weird story and interesting combat.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Forza Motorsport 2, Indigo Prophecy, Star Trek Elite Force II

Forza Motorsport 2: The last time I played this I described it as "sweet, sweet candy." This time I found it somewhat disappointing. The game hasn't changed; I have. Since I last played Forza Motorsport 2, I've also played Codemasters' DiRT and GRID. Forza, while still fun, suffers by comparison to these.

Two main factors make Forza less fun than the other two. The selection of cars for unlocking lies at the heart of the first factor. In Forza much as in Gran Turismo , the player must spend much of the first hours of the game driving slow, poor-handling cars. These can be upgraded, but it takes quite a bit of time. By contrast, games like Burnout 3 , DiRT , GRID, and even Project Gotham 3 give you fast cars and a sense of speed right from the get-go.

The second main factor shows in how Forza handles racing. Much like Gran Turismo , it plays more like a driving game than a racing game. A.I. competitors tend to drive the perfect racing line, spread out in a queue, never battle the other cars, and pretty much ignore the player. But in DiRT and GRID , the A.I. opponents race against each other, use different strategies for getting around corners, make mistakes, and seem willing to trade paint with the player.

Playing Forza Motorsport 2 provides significantly less excitement than the other options I've mentioned, with the exception of the Gran Turismo series, which it surpasses. If you want an attempt at accurate vehicle simulation, play Forza or Gran Turismo . If you want racing fun, play DiRT, GRID, Burnout, or FlatOut

Indigo Prophecy : This game surprised me with just how much I disliked it on playing it again. Perhaps I overlooked it before, but this time I was struck by the game's reliance on "quick time" events for, well, pretty much everything. Pressing buttons in sequence or flicking the analog sticks in particular patterns is okay in very small doses, as in the recent Tomb Raider games or God of War , but too much resembles loading a fine martini with vermouth - it ruins it.

This game would have come across much better if it had stuck to the 3D adventure game framework, with action flowing naturally from the controls, much as in Dreamfall .

I think that I shall trade this one in or give it away, and I already got the rest of the story from online FAQs. The intriguing story line does not offer enough interest for me to play through the broken control design to get to its end.

Star Trek Elite Force II: I played this before, but only got as far as getting repeatedly killed by Borg in the first level. This time I played a little more intelligently, and instead of the half hour I'd allotted myself to play, I put a half hour plus three into it, finishing the first two action levels (Borg, Dallas).

I really enjoyed this game. It still looks great, controls well, and has a really good Star Trek vibe to it. I'll definitely return to this one when my random game chooser picks it again.