Sunday, March 27, 2011

Q1 Wrap-up

I know it's been ages since I've updated, so I'm just going to outline what I've written over the past couple months.

Why I Hate Red Dead Redemption. I was really proud of this piece as I'd chosen to take on one of the most highly regarded games of 2010. I'm really pleased at the commenters too. I expected to be torn to shreds over it, but it seems like a majority were in agreement with me (to an extent).

Bionic Commando Retrospective. I loved this game so hard. Truth be told, I didn't actually discover it until over a year after it came out when it was on sale for $10 at the local supermarket. Thanks to Brad Gallaway for convincing me to take the plunge.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 review. Never mind its short length, this was one of the hardest reviews I've ever had to write. Possibly because my editor, Ryan Kuo, has written for the Wall Street Journal, and I really didn't want to look stupid in front of him. He seemed to like it, so mission accomplished!

Two World 2 review. This was a really fun review. Also a fun game. It's totally rough around the edges, but after the generic first few hours I had a blast with it. To be honest, I actually liked it more than Oblivion (if only just. They suffer from a lot of the same issues, though, but TW2 had more personality, imo).

Spare Parts review. I was pretty "meh" on this game. It wasn't terrible and I actually kind of enjoyed its middle levels, but its so similar, yet inferior to the LEGO games and many of those can be found for about $10 these days.

Doc clock review. This is the worst game I've played this year. I came dangerously close to giving it a 1, but since that's the lowest score possible I figure a game has to offer absolutely nothing to get this. Doc Clock at least offered a good idea and crisp aesthetic, even if its execution was abysmal.

Knights Contract review. One of the most disappointing games I've ever played. As a cross between Bayonetta's crazy-go-nuts action and Enslaved or Ico's partner mechanic it looked like a winner. Unfortunately, its repetitive action, poor AI, and immensely frustrating QTE's made it a chore. For shame.

De Blob 2 (DS) review. This game wasn't great and I only barely gave it a 3, but what was there was perfectly pleasant and enjoyable. A bit costly for what it is, but it would have made a fine iphone game at a cheaper price point. Still a good kids game once it goes down in price.

Beyond Good & Evil HD review. This classic still hold up... mostly. I remembered it being pretty cheesy at times, but all the praise it's gotten since release made me think I'd remembered it wrong or was being too harsh. Nope, the script mostly sucks. Great design though, and I love Jade.

Yakuza 4 review. The Yakuza series is one that I want to love more than any other. I find them absolutely fascinating and ridiculous and wonderful, BUT, and it's a big but (hence the capitalization), I find them rather tedious to actually play. Sure you can do a lot of crazy mini-games, but most are confusing, boring, or both. This game reminds me a lot of Deadly Premonition where it's interesting to dissect, if a chore to play. I just happened to like DP's story and world more. Still, I'm definitely glad I played it as I've thought about it quite a bit since then.

Swarm review. I liked this game quite a bit and was very, very close to giving it a 4. The frustration factor and learning curve were just a bit too high for me, but I'm curiously compelled to go back to it if I ever find the time.

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile review. I loved this game. At first I wasn't so sure as it just seemed too button mashy, but like all the best brawlers, it gets better on harder settings once you get into the minutia of its combat. I'm actually jonzing to play it some more. Gotta wrap up that Samurai Mode playthrough.

The rest are all my columns at Gamasutra

Scare Tactics - How Horror Games Have Evolved Their Controls - I examine several horror games over the past decade or so.

The Notebook - How Zelda's Notetaking Gives Handheld Inspiration - Why I love 2.5D Zelda on a touch screen.

Have it Your Way - Tailoring a Game's Difficulty to Players - The trials and tribulations of giving players options, but not overwhelming them. I don't envy designers on solving this pickles, but there are some neat workarounds that I discuss.

Sexism in Female AI Partners - For the record, I didn't find any of the games mentioned in this article offensive (except for maybe Knights Contract). I just find the overarching trend worrisome. There's a difference. That won't stop a lot of angry dudes from getting pissed in the comments section, though.

I've got a lot more coming soon including some reviews that have been submitted and will go up any day now.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Additional Thoughts on Ghost Trick and its Use of Text.

My review of Ghost Trick is up at Paste. I wanted to address a couple things that I mentioned in the review, but didn't want to lose focus by ranting about. Notably its use of text.

Roger Ebert has a saying that "No good movie is too long and no bad movie is too short." I have a similar feeling about text in games. There's no "right" amount. What matters is what's in the text and if it's interesting. In most cases I'd say Ghost Trick's text is captivating with an intriguing plot and great characters. However, all too much of it is dedicated to redundant exposition of stuff you've already been told or pandering hand-holding.

This is especially irksome in the puzzle stages where you should be able to just have at the environments and go about your ghostly business, but are instead interrupted every two seconds by someone explaining what your actions mean or spouting out an obvious hint. This is extremely irritating as it not only impedes upon the puzzle solving, but ruins the pacing as well. There's also a lot of repeated text as you'll hear the same hints every time you perform specific actions. This can be sped up, but not altogether skipped. Very annoying.

Otherwise, I had no problem with Ghost Trick's talky nature. The plot was convoluted, but holds up well the more I think about it. I absolutely adored some of its twists and must give credit to Takumi and the translation team for dropping such subtle foreshadowing throughout. It really is a great story. It's just a shame I had to put up with such irritations to get to it.

I had a lot of the same problems with Phoenix Wright as well, but was hoping Ghost Trick's more traditional point-and-click puzzle mechanics would break free from the mold a bit more, so I could enjoy Takumi's great stories without the highly scripted hand-holding design. Sadly, that was not the case.


Oh, and here's some other stuff I've written lately:

ilomilo review - The first 5 star review I've given at X-Play. I had a feeling it would be good, but no idea it would be THIS good.

Raskulls review- I didn't care for this one so much, but it had some good ideas.

I Don't Know What Came Over Me - Analyzing the relationship between playable characters and the players who inhabit them.

Epic mickey's Epic... Success - Why I loved EM despite its major flaws. Focuses on how it achieved its goal of getting me into oldschool Disney animation.