[Ping 33 will be joining us every few weeks to review video games, which is something I have wanted here for a while. Ping33 is a smart guy -- he knew Studio 60 was bad and All Star Batman was good long before I did, and he recommended Casanova to me.]
I've been thinking about doing this for a while now. I've been a gamer my whole life... I remember back in Kindergarten trading my Red Sox jacket (which no longer fit) to my friend Jessica for her copy of Dig Dug and Joust for the Atari 2600. I've owned a system in every generation. Being a confirmed Sega fundamentalist from 1986-1996 (with a brief co-habitation within the temple of Atari Jaguar, what can I say? I like losers) and have owned every console in the last 2 generations.
As I've gotten older, I've had less and less time for the hobby (Why am I taking time out to write this again?) but had more and more disposable income. As such I find myself here. Far too many games, far too little time. Because of this, my attention span has grown shorter. Back when I was 12, I could play a bad game to completion, I could learn the mind-numbing trial-and-error procedure needed to conquer Night-Trap for Sega CD. I could beat Alex Kidd 10 times, me and my College friends invented elaborate Goldeneye etiquette. Hell, two friends of mine even picked their first flat out of College on the basis that it had 2 floors so that we could run a 75' Cross-over Cat-5 cable for 4on4 Halo matches without the ability to look at the other guy's screen.
These days, if a game doesn't engross me in the first hour, it's out... possibly never to return. I don't like to lose, and so don't play online competitive shooters with 12-year-olds or my deadbeat college friends with little to do other than move up the ranks of Halo3 or CoD4. What I've been playing, and what I keep playing is dear to me. I envision this column as a bi-weekly check-in, a Top-of-the-Pops of my own personal gaming habits. I will always have material because, if nothing else, my 45minute train-ride gives me ample DS/PSP time. So now, with no further adieu, What I've been Playing:
PS3: Little Big Planet - For those unaware, LBP is perhaps the biggest paradigm shift to come along in gaming in quite some time. At its face, it's a derivative Mario-style platform game. It has you doing the normal stuff... running left to right, Jumping over stuff and dodging other stuff. With its mascot (the adorable Sackboy/Sackgirl) and old-skool mechanics it would hardly seem revolutionary if not for it's Internet2.0 ethos. In addition to the 50-odd levels 'shipping' with the game, it also contains the ability to create your own levels and upload them to the Youtube style Cool-Worlds planet. There you can jump around by creator or theme or randomly and just look for cool-ass-shit. Some creators attempt to recreate classic platforming levels (I highly recommend the Green Hill Zone 3 level from Sonic the Hedgehog) Some use the tools to make music (There is a KILLER version of Guns 'n Roses' Sweet Child of Mine, which plays automatically as you drive a car through the timed sensors) Some are... art? (There's a cool one in which you drive a Delorean from left to right as the wall shows your speed. When you hit 88mph lightning strikes and your tires seem to leave flames in their wake) and some are just mind-bogglingly amazing/creative/strange (a giant pinball game with Sackboy as the pinball, a totally faithful re-creation of the side-scrolling shooter Gradius, a giant clockwork calculator which can add and subtract 2-digit numbers through the use of around 16,000 moving parts.) All the user-created levels (there are about 100k of them at the moment) are nearly instantly accessible and can be played alone or over the internet with a friend (or random player.) LBP is the perfect game for my lifestyle. Rich enough to play for hours, but still accessible in short 10-20 minute bursts. It's really rare that a game is so innovative, fun and charming. If there were more hours in a day I might even try my hand at creating something... as is, I'm content to leech of the work of others.
Xbox360: Fallout 3 is in the system but, sadly I've not been playing it much. It's a massive spiralling post-apocalyptic RPG which I am about 6-8 hours into, but has scores of hours of content remaining and demands to be played in sessions extending at least an hour or two... something I haven't had time for in a few weeks. What I have played, I have loved... but when I sit down at home, and have the time to play a game I look at the PS3 controller with LBP at the end of it, and the 360 one with Fallout at the end of it... and invariably pick up the PS3. Fallout and LBP were my two most anticipated games of the year and while it's somewhat depressing that they came out within a week of one-another... I'm happy that the depth of both should keep me happy into the new year.
Wii: Nothing. I haven't turned it on in so long, it's gone from sleep to off.
PSP: Playing 2 things actually. Star Ocean: First Departure - a Remake of a SNES RPG which was never released in the west. I like the combat system. But hate some of the old-skool conventions, primarily not having a screen which reminds me what I'm doing, or having a map with place names (not to mention the ability to instantly travel to previously visited locations.) When I play on the train I really like games like this though, somewhat mindless grind-fests which allow me to listen to podcasts and not have to think that much. This is good for that, as the story is thinner than paper (Star-Trek rip-off involving time travel and basically moving from one location to the next.) The battles take place on a isometric 2d plane (think Final Fight or Double Dragon) and are action oriented with RPG stats below. You directly control one of your party of 4-players, the other three are have tactical options (heal, fight, protect etc) but run automatically. You can swap which character you control on the fly, but I have found little reason to do so.
The Second game I'm playing is Loco Roco 2 (check out the Flash mini-game HERE (click on minigame:) The sequel to the innovative 2d platformer which sees you as a Loco Roco, a cartoon blob who moves by rolling around as the world tilts to the left or right. Like the first one, it has a great visual style and a soundtrack which you will either love or hate. The game is relentlessly cheerful and saccharine sweet. It has come under fire for its possibly racist designed enemies. But in the end, these criticisms seem to have fizzled in the face of the game's overall charm and good nature.
DS: My wife abducted my DS, first to play the logical puzzler: Professor Layton and the Curious Village, a game which features classic brain-twisters like getting a Bird, Cat and dog over to an island picnic in a small 3-creature row-boat. Then to play Hotel Dusk, a new take on the old Point-and-Click gamestyle made famous in the early days of Lucasarts. I haven't played this one at all... she completed it the other night saying that I wouldn't like it. Too much random trial and error. She enjoyed playing it before bed as it put her to sleep... a ringing endorsement indeed.
That's all for now, I should be back in 2-3 weeks with a pre-Christmas update.