Even as early as the cinematic cut scenes in the original Ninja Gaiden, game designers have been adding drama and style to their creations to varying degrees of success. Final Fantasy lays claim to hallmark moments like Celes' opera and Aeris' sudden death, while Resident Evil created a less intentionally memorable moment with the Jill Sandwich. Sometimes, though, an attempt to create drama and weight to a story can fall flat on its face.
January 2010 Archives
I finished the new Bionic Commando this weekend. It was… interesting.
First, I will say that the swinging mechanic worked very well. I liked the arm for the most part and had a good time with it. The difficulty level was okay most of the time as well. A few parts challenged me, but I usually didn’t swear. The frequency of curses is usually directly related to how broken the game is.
That said, this game isn’t going to win any awards. The biggest problem is the illusion of freedom the game quickly dashes. For just a bit, you think you can swing anywhere, but then you realize that everything but the narrow path through the game is either covered in blue “radiation fog” or gleams with blue “radiation residue” that kills you all but instantly. A particularly impressive swing in the wrong direction is a guaranteed kill. It’s incredibly irritating and feels incredibly contrived; it’s even worse than an invisible wall or closed in area.
The story had its share of issues, too. Everything happened very suddenly. For example, who was the sniper that appeared exactly twice? Even if it should happen that the question was answered at some point in the game, the fact that I was able to miss it in such a linear experience means it wasn’t addressed to any meaningful degree. Further, the whole M. Night Shaymalan twist that occurs at the end of the game could’ve been worked themeatically into the game instead of just being a sudden twist at the end. In Prince of Persia, the story and gameplay supported each other as the love story between the Prince and Elika was established not only in the cutscenes, but also in entirely optional dialogue and the lack of death as Elika saves the prince each time he falls.
Maybe Spencer’s arm could’ve done something similar, saved him without his control at some point, even if it was scripted. Spencer’s unconscious emotional attachment to his arm was touched on briefly in some of the supplemental text you got out of the all-too-common mine-disabling relays, but it was a big empty spot that could’ve made the story much more interesting.
Joe and Spencer were voiced by two of my favorite voice actors, but it was a disappointment to hear both of them under-utilized. Steven Jay Blum seems to have pretty much the same voice in every game and anime, but I’m sure he has to have a few other voices he could use. On the other side, the incredibly flexible Mike Patton voiced Nathan Spencer. The vocalist of groups like Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, and Tomahawk has more vocal range than most whole choirs and he barely uses it. In the Darkness, he did some of the coolest, darkest voices you could hope for and even more, without post-processing. Why’s he voicing the most boring character? Also, they should’ve kept the original character design. The new one just sucks.
Overall the game wasn’t quite as bad as a lot of people said, but at the same time I’m still happy with Dead Space Extraction as my choice for 2009 Game No One Played.
As commenters pointed out to me, I missed one player type: The Jerk, aka the guy knocked out and bleeding on the floor. You know the one. He picks up the other players and throws them, stands on top of the question boxes, throws turtle shells at the other players. Gets punched regularly.
With the release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and its addition of four-player simultaneous multiplayer, suddenly Mario players of different types are interacting directly with each other in the game and on the couch, when before they would've stayed out of each other's way taking turns. Special thanks to spriters-resource.com for the graphics!
I’ve added a new page to my blog, A List of Forbidden Words. I’m detailing my quest to improve my writing one word at a time. I’ll try to update it regularly and post about it here.
Over at Kombo.com, we all voted on our favorites of the last year. Lucky me, I got to write the blurbs. Better yet, I actually believe most of them. Except Scribblenauts. I hate that game with a passion I hold for games that lie to me.
Anyway, here are a few excerpts.
Game of the Year: Uncharted 2
Choosing the game of the year has been especially difficult the last few years, and for 2009 it was just the same. A handful of amazing titles like Modern Warfare 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum made the choice as hard as it's ever been, but after a lot of talk, Uncharted 2 came out as the clear winner. Everything you could want out of a game is there; fabulous multiplayer, stop-and-stare graphics and art, top-notch voice acting and writing—-it's all there, along with one of the tightest and most entertaining single-player games we've ever had the privilege of playing. The hardest part about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves isn't finishing it. It's not starting it right back up afterward.
Best Game No One Played: Dead Space: Extraction
If you say "Top 10" in the same sentence as Wii title Dead Space: Extraction, you must mean "How far can a good game get from the Top 10?" In a year with games like Modern Warfare 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii selling in the millions effortlessly, Dead Space: Extraction sold a scant 9,000 copies in its first week. The combination of the game existing purely for fans of the original and its release on the Wii was enough to lose most peoples' interest before launch, despite the excellent audio and visual design and surprising revival of the gasping rail-shooter genre.
Like other quality 3rd party titles on the Wii, Extraction might have been one of the best game of the year... that nobody played.