By dankempster 3 Comments
"So I was sitting in my bedroom last night, with one girl to my left and another girl to my right..."
It's not very often I can start an anecdote like that. In fact, I don't think I've ever been able to start an anecdote like that before. But, such was the situation last night, as a couple of girls in my flat asked if they could use my PS2. I was playing Fallout 3 at the time, and was initially kinda reluctant to relinquish my (already increasingly scarce) game time for them. I instantly changed my mind, however, when one of them said they wanted to play the original Crash Bandicoot. I remembered playing it as a kid - it was the first game I got for my original PlayStation and I played it to death. Bitten by the nostalgia bug and eager to see how it held up, I agreed, turned off the 360 and set up the PS2. What followed was around three solid hours of pass-the-controller gameplay as we collectively guided Crash from the shores of N. Sanity Beach back to Cortex's castle. I can honestly say I haven't had that much simple fun in a very long time.
This in itself is an extension of what's going on on the other side of the flat, where two or three of my other flatmates are working their way through the original Spyro the Dragon. I sat in on one of their sessions the other day and I was amazed by just how well that game has held up. Sure, at its core, the game is about item collection, but Spyro presents itself as something much more. It's driven by a charming story, colourful characters. My last experience with a Spyro game was with the rather appalling Enter The Dragonfly on PS2 several years ago, and I'd all but forgotten just how much fun I had with the originals. I watched one of my flatmates play through most of the first world, swimming in memories of exploring the Dragon Realms and freeing Spyro's elders from their crystal prisons. Hearing Spyro's cocky remarks and watching the memorable first boss battle against Toasty unfold was an awesome experience.
I'll admit, a lot of what I felt last night was primarily nostalgia. Crash Bandicoot hasn't aged particularly well, or at least, not as well as Spyro. The graphics, for the most part, are pretty suckish. The gameplay is simple jump-and-spin no-frills platforming. The collision detection is so questionable that all three of us found ourselves swearing at the screen at some point while playing. The game also lacks a lot of the sense of style and personality that made Cortex Strikes Back and Warped so damn entertaining back in the day. But every time I got carried away into a bonus round, or remembered how to defeat one of the bosses, or saw Crash's eyebrows raise just before he jumped on the back of a hog, I couldn't help but crack a smile a mile wide. Regardless of the reason for it, though, I can't deny that I had a stupid amount of fun last night. Yes, I had fun playing a simple, thirteen-year-old platformer that's held up about as well as the shelving in my Uni accommodation.
In my blog on storytelling in video games, I talked for a little bit about what I like to call "gaming experiences". I also mentioned them in a long response to Sweep's latest blog. These are the games that offer something more than just a fun distraction from the reality of impending essays and washing that needs to be done. Games like Grand Theft Auto IV, Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy Tactics, that suck you into the world they create and leave you thinking about things long after the initial playthrough is over. It's this kind of game that I've been gravitating towards more and more over the last few years, and while that's definitely not a bad thing in my eyes, it's led me to forget just how much fun you can have with something much simpler. Alongside Fallout 3, I'm also playing the original Saints Row. The former is a gaming experience, while the latter revels in its simplicity and lack of cinematic polish. Some games don't need to be innovative, or boundary-pushing, and that's just fine. No matter how revolutionary a gaming experience may be, you can never completely deny the basic human instincts that jumping on fools' heads and blowing shit up is a hell of a lot of fun.
Thanks for reading guys, see you around. I'd be interested to hear if any of you have gone back to anything old recently and had a blast with it - let me know if you have!
Currently playing - Fallout 3 (X360)