By c0l0nelp0c0rn1 1 Comments
So, I created a list that will kind of act as a backlog/pile of shame sort of thing. Mostly because I am good at buying games, but I'm not very good at playing them. Whenever something comes off of this list I would like to write something about it. Sometimes I will write about games that stay on the list because they are super awesome, we will just have to go with the flow.
Anyway, I bought this first game for my little sister for Christmas this past year. I had heard a lot of great things about it, and how it was not selling super well. Being the good at buying games guy that I am, I picked it up post-haste. Again, it was for my little sister so I obviously didn't play it until well after she had finished it. Cooties and whatnot. However, I was in for some kind of surprise when I finally played through it.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
I know what you're thinking, “colonelpopcorn, why did it take you a year and a half to play this?” I'm glad you asked anonymous internet person. I didn't have a DS at the time, no job, super into the Xbox 360, there was a flood, tornado, smaug. I DI'NT DO IT OFFICER! Anyway, I was being lazy/poor, that's why.
Ghost Trick is an adventure game in the vein of Phoenix Wright. No, I am not kidding, this game about ghostly tricks is about the same thing as lawyering it up in the courtroom. Not only do you click on stuff with your stylus in both of these games, but you also solve murders in both games! It's almost like they were developed by the same large Japanes company... Yeah, so that comparison is a bit of a stretch, but Ghost Trick definitely brings up fond memories of DS adventure games.
Speaking of adventure games, Ghost Trick is one of those. It is also an adventure game that combines unique puzzles and an interesting (dare I say, compelling?) narrative involving a ghostly spirit named Sissel that is trying to solve his own murder. To do this, he must use his Ghost “Tricks” to save people from being killed. In these sequences, Sissel uses his ghost tricks to manipulate objects like a rolling stepladder, or a rock star's toilet messenger contraption, and maybe even a giant submarine. All of these objects are well defined as interactive objects in the environment. It's this quality that, I think, makes Ghost Trick a really special adventure game. Not only does it keep you from getting stuck in the game, it also makes that oh-so-byzantine adventure game logic make complete and total sense. The puzzles are also nice and compact with lot's of story vignettes between, making sure you don't lose track of what you're doing in each puzzle. All this adds up to make an adventure game that has interesting and engaging gameplay, but never keeps you from the humorous and engaging narrative.
It's this story that kept me coming back to Ghost Trick's seemingly long, but surprisingly brief 18 chapters. The characters are so nebulous in a way that really makes you question if this is not just some crazy fever dream, but never crazy enough to escape to the realm of impossibility. At least, the realm of impossibility that exists in Ghost Trick....Anyway, the characters. The characters are super interesting from a video game point of storytelling because they start out as blank slates that get filled in as the game goes on. One character may be a murderer, but she doesn't know if it's true or not. One character may also be a mass murderer, but the player doesn't know if he is or not. All questions do get answered satisfactorily, and it surprisingly wraps up a lot of plot for the short time that it runs. And in an industry where sequels are built into the game from the very beginning, it's refreshing to see some actual closure in a video game. Boy does this game ever close....
Holy crap, where to start with this game? It's not only a great baby's first action-rpg, it's also a challenge for seasoned veterans of the genre. And that's where Bastion's strength lies. It truly is an all ages game; the closest video games have ever come to Pixar quality. Not only can the youngest of the young play this game and enjoy it, but older gamers can find an incredibly deep and satisfying story that deals heavily in themes of forgiveness, loss, and genocide. Parallels between the Calamity and the Manhattan Project are pretty obvious, so it's no surprise that Braid and Bastion share similar themes.
This story, told through the unique narrator, not only provides for great atmosphere and sweeping narrative, but it also has it's place when playing the game over again. It's as if the game is just a story, and whenever you play it over it's as if this wizened old man is telling you the story again. Not only does this old man tell your story of restoring the Bastion, he also tells the stories of the strangers you meet on your journey. Where the narrator really shines, though, is in the reflections. In these survival mode levels, the narrator tells a single story over the course of 20-30 waves of enemies, one story bit before each wave. It's a great concept, not only because it entices players who play only for the narrative to see more gameplay, but it also gives gameplay focused duders something more to chew on.
Speaking of gameplay, the actual game part of Bastion is satisfying in that “easy to pickup/hard to master” sort of way. The game eschews a randomly generated loot system that so many other ARPGs can't resist, and trickles out new weapons over the course of the game. These weapons are always interesting, but never obsolete and each new weapon has its own unique purpose. Need to kill a bunch of enemies very quickly? The Fire Bellows (basically a flamethrower) is your answer. Need to focus down a large enemy quickly? The Galleon Mortar or Calamity Cannon are both powerful in their own special way. The only weapon I could say wasn't really that useful or interesting was the Cael Hammer. In fact, after awhile most melee weapons have no purpose, as there are no enemies that have no melee ranged attacks. So that sucks a little bit, but it's definitely a personal complaint and definitely not a huge problem in any way.
Basically, Bastion is the one game everyone should be striving to make. It's a great games for kids that has more for them as they get older. It's a great game for adolescents because it reminds them that good games aren't necessarily splattered with gore. It's a great game for adults because it's just a great game that knows that it's small and becomes so much bigger for that recognition.
Anyway, I hope to write more of these more frequently, but I don't finish games that often. These may be few and far apart, but I hope the quality is good enough to excuse that. If it's not, I would like to hear why so that I can improve it.