Monday, October 27, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Various games, comfort gaming

There were too many games to put in the title, so here's a list:

  • Descent 3
  • Fallout
  • Fallout2
  • Half-Life: Decay
  • Halo: Combat Evolved
  • Halo 2
  • Halo 3
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance
  • Okami
  • Portal: Still Alive

Descent 3 and Descent 3 Mercenary: I pulled out my joystick to play these as they don't work well with the mouse. I enjoyed the Descent 3 campaign, but Mercenary's BlueDevil level doesn't seem to have any way to complete it.

Okami: I played this for several days and it enchanted me again. I don't know how long I will play before tiring of it, but it will take some time.

I find the total package of Japanese mythology brought to life in a game that looks like a painting charming, to say the least.

When it gets old - assuming I'm not comfort-gaming again - I'll turn to the next game that came up in the shuffle, Burnout Paradise. That may not happen for a while.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance: A while ago I took a break from Okami to play online with an old friend who lives halfway across the country and only owns a PS2 and a low performance Windows laptop. I picked the game this time, and because I wanted to play with my friend instead of against him, I chose Marvel Ultimate Alliance.

We didn't get as much enjoyment out of it as I thought we would. First, the action seemed kind of samey after a while - beat up bad guys, find puzzle piece, rinse, repeat. Second, while the game supposedly revolves around getting and using superpowers, we had no difficulty progressing through the level using nothing but the two basic attacks. Third, once I loaded a co-op game from a save, it became impossible to change the difficulty level. So we couldn't see if perhaps the superpowers would become more necessary at those higher levels.

Halo, Halo 2, Halo3, Half-Life: Decay: I've spent the rest of the time up to now comfort-gaming. I played through all three Halo games on easy, and they entertained as always. Then I set my sights on the comfortable Half-Life series. But instead of playing one of the games, expansions or episodes I'd already completed, I chose the only one I hadn't: Half-Life: Decay.

Decay comes with the PS2 version of Half-Life. It offers a co-op (or single player) experience, set during the Black Mesa disaster, but from a different point of view (like Opposing Force or Blue Shift). It departs from the Half-Life 'formula' in several ways:

  • Instead of a mostly seamless, load-on-demand world, it breaks the story up into discrete levels, called 'missions'.
  • Decay does not offer quick-save and save-anywhere. Instead one can only save at the end of a mission. Die during a mission and you must start that one over.
  • The game presents two protagonists, whether playing single-player or co-op. In single-player one can switch between them. Some puzzles require the two characters to work together.

I've enjoyed what I've played of it, though I found some of the co-operative puzzles a bit tricky when having to switch between characters in time for the second to take advantage of an opportunity created by the first. The 'aimig assist' feature also added frustration. You have to get the aiming reticle quite close to your target, then hit the 'lock-on' button to have a decent chance of hitting the enemy. The extra time spent locking on means that the small, fast headcrabs will jump and take a bite out of your face before you can zero them. I solved that problem by using a USB mouse and keyboard, which the game supports and which made targeting enemies (especially the headcrabs) much easier.

Perhaps I made a mistake choosing Decay for comfort gaming. Too late; it has hooked me.

Portal: Still Alive: I found it a bit pricey since I already had Portal (twice, actually - both PC and Xbox 360), but I just had to have the challenge levels. I didn't play them, though; I started playing through the main game again, partly to refamiliarize myself with the gameplay, and partly because it feels so darn good.

Fallout, Fallout 2: A new website called Good Old Games ( has arranged with the license holders of some good old PC games to offer the games as DRM-free downloads that run on Windows XP and Vista at very reasonable prices ($5.99 for most titles). I'd never played Fallout before, and at these prices I couldn't resist.

I didn't play either game much, just enough to begin to get a feel for the gameplay. I'll be returning to them when they show up in my random game selection. Meantime, I've returned to playing Half-Life: Decay, and that scratches my comfort-gaming itch.

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