Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gamer's Diary 2009-04-09

I haven't been playing a lot of games in the last two weeks, at least until last night.

I did give Desktop Tower Defense a try during that dry spell. I beat it on easy, and it was amusing. I did bookmark it afterward (it can't be played offline), but I doubt I'll be playing it again. I've seen everything in the game, and beating it on a harder level just doesn't appeal to me. If I want a mindless distraction, I'll play Klondike or Bejeweled 2 in Endless mode.

Also, twice when I had fifteen minutes to play, I fired up Rez and played through the first level. This is a game I keep coming back to, especially when I don't have a lot of time.

Then came yesterday. I bought two games that were Day One purchases for me: The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena and the Xbox Live Arcade version of Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. While at Target, I also made two bargain impulse buys: Dead Space ($30 USD) and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts ($20 USD). I only had time to play two of them last night, but I really enjoyed both.

Of the four, the only one I still have reservations about is Banjo Kazooie. Banjo games are for completists, and I'm primarily a tourist with only mild completist tendencies. But I enjoyed the gameplay in the demo, so there may be enough to see in the game to make it worth my while. And at $20 USD, it met my price point for a game on the bubble.

I still have The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay for the original Xbox, but I bought Dark Athena because I wanted the new content and HD upgrade. So I put it in and started playing, and before I knew it I'd played to - and past - the same point I'd gotten to in the original game.

What a great game this is. I had to tear myself away from it to play my other pick for the night. I'll mention one thing that stood out for me, then leave you to find and read other reviews of it on the 'net. Riddick knows what Doom3 forgot: in a shooter with dark environments, guns come with integrated flashlights.

Dead Space was a lot better than I had expected, after the mixed reviews and the ridiculously hard demo. In the demo I died in my first room full of zombies, every time. Not fun. But with the full game, I started on the easiest difficulty setting and have enjoyed every minute of it.

The most important thing about a horror game is whether it's scary. Reviewers have claimed that Dead Space is not particularly scary. Well, they're right if your definition of scary is monster closets. But really, haven't we had enough of that from Doom3, Resident Evil and the like? What this game does, and does fairly well, is to create an atmosphere of dread, much like the Silent Hill series.

I wouldn't say that it reaches the level of creepiness of, say, Silent Hill 2 - it especially lacks some of the more disturbing aspects - but it is pretty frightening in its own right. Much of this is due to the excellent sound, set and lighting design.

The use of sound in particular is well-crafted. There is little more unsettling than to hear the muffled cries of terror from one of the few remaining survivors as they're torn apart on the other side of a bulkhead, or the nearby skittering sounds of one of the zombie monsters moving through the ventilation system. Even the nearby sound of a malfunctioning door repeatedly opening and closing contributes to the pervasive unease.

But enough reviewerish (yes I know that's not a word) details. Suffice it to say that Dead Space will scratch your Tourist itch, especially if you like creepy horror games like Silent Hill 2 and movies like The Shining.

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