Backlok trackbag #1 - Preferred Templates

I haven't been writing as much as I should be, and I won't be using the "life is getting really busy" defense because it isn't (and I wouldn't lie to you, readers!). It's mostly because I haven't found much worth writing about, and writing about business deals and NPD numbers doesn't appeal to me, and it seem pointless to write about news, because let's face it, this isn't likely your primary news source. There also isn't much in news that I'm interested in writing about, with one exception. I've been spending most of my time plowing through my backlog, and it's building up for a pretty good while, so I'm spending the lull between Resident Evil 5 and Infamous to see if I can't wring some good times out of these things I've been ignoring for some time. And hey, It gives me an excuse to write (even if they are old games you're all most likely tired of hearing about by now). So yeah:

Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Two: Episodic gaming seems like an idea still in its infancy, even though it's been around for a pretty long time, probably because high-profile episodic games are few and far between. And when they do happen, they often don't see the end of their plans, mostly because funding dries up for a variety of reasons, and then the developers are unable to finish the games. That said, I really hope PA: OTRSPOD gets to wrap up its dev cycle, because I'm really enjoying the series. The first episode had some really good ideas, but got a little bogged down towards the middle, when you had to go around chasing down questlines that go a little hard to follow. Episode Two does a lot of cleaning up, and in tidying up makes the game more fun to play. Blocks are now more easily executed, or at least more easily visible, which becomes inconsequential when I'm not paying attention. There's still backtracking, but it usually occurs only when you're headed back there with a purpose, not looking for something you've overlooked.

The dialogue is still Holkinsic (Holkins-esque?), with the worldplay and characters still up to par from what we've come to expect from Penny Arcade. Between the adventure game template and the RPG-lite gameplay, this is something that I was at first interested in, and am now genuinely in love with. The writing only marginally trumps the combat as the primary reason I enjoy this game, and with that I'm saying that both aspects are good. The final boss battle is nowhere near as much of a setpiece as it was in Epiosode One, but the rest of the game is fundamentally better. It just troubles me that there is no word yet on Episode Three, (just like with Half-Life 2...) because I fear that this series won't be able to reach its natural conclusion.

Shadow of the Colussus: I am very late to the party on this one, and perhaps that will tamper with my appreciation for the then-astounding graphics that this game presented. The new format which it uses, though, isn’t affected by the fragile passage of graphics over time. This is often cited as a poster boy for the “games are art” argument, but regardless of whether you believe in the merits of interactivity to be something that is “subject to aesthetic criteria”, what it does is definitely different. It has something that many games today lack: a sense of calm. This calm comes between often exhilarating boss battles, to be sure, but this alone is rare. There aren’t any filler enemies that are just a nuisance. Focusing on only the 16 bosses as your enemies of the game likely gave team ICO more time not only make them better, but also evokes a feeling of isolation not found in many games (Portal comes to mind when trying to think of other examples).

The Colossi themselves are very well designed, each of their bodies acting like a puzzle rather than an object to mash B on until death occurs. They are their own levels, and finding out how to beat them is a bigger part of the battle then hitting them (which also feels good to do, after a 30 minute session of “how do I get on this guy?”). The bosses only format is something I think other games could benefit from (No More Heroes could’ve been a much better game if it had stuck to something like this).

I could go on listing merits of such a format, but it’s important to point out that I do have some problems with the game. For all the intents to make it feel like a real horse, the horse control like utter crap. The many times this stallion prevented me from getting where I wanted to go didn’t add to the sense of immersion; it made it feel more like a game. I could’ve steered that horse much better in real life (and don’t ride horses at all). The camera suffers in small areas. These sound like minor complaints, but the moments where they affected play are strewn about the game, and it ultimately lead to a lot of frustration.

The game is still fantastic, though. And in this first segment of making my rounds through games I’ve missed, I’m glad that I’m still finding games that do something new, even in this far into games as a form of creative expression. I’d use the word art, but I grow less and less fond of that word the more we compare it to games.

From: My Generation Is For Sale

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Posted by Flabbergastrate

I haven't been writing as much as I should be, and I won't be using the "life is getting really busy" defense because it isn't (and I wouldn't lie to you, readers!). It's mostly because I haven't found much worth writing about, and writing about business deals and NPD numbers doesn't appeal to me, and it seem pointless to write about news, because let's face it, this isn't likely your primary news source. There also isn't much in news that I'm interested in writing about, with one exception. I've been spending most of my time plowing through my backlog, and it's building up for a pretty good while, so I'm spending the lull between Resident Evil 5 and Infamous to see if I can't wring some good times out of these things I've been ignoring for some time. And hey, It gives me an excuse to write (even if they are old games you're all most likely tired of hearing about by now). So yeah:

Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Two: Episodic gaming seems like an idea still in its infancy, even though it's been around for a pretty long time, probably because high-profile episodic games are few and far between. And when they do happen, they often don't see the end of their plans, mostly because funding dries up for a variety of reasons, and then the developers are unable to finish the games. That said, I really hope PA: OTRSPOD gets to wrap up its dev cycle, because I'm really enjoying the series. The first episode had some really good ideas, but got a little bogged down towards the middle, when you had to go around chasing down questlines that go a little hard to follow. Episode Two does a lot of cleaning up, and in tidying up makes the game more fun to play. Blocks are now more easily executed, or at least more easily visible, which becomes inconsequential when I'm not paying attention. There's still backtracking, but it usually occurs only when you're headed back there with a purpose, not looking for something you've overlooked.

The dialogue is still Holkinsic (Holkins-esque?), with the worldplay and characters still up to par from what we've come to expect from Penny Arcade. Between the adventure game template and the RPG-lite gameplay, this is something that I was at first interested in, and am now genuinely in love with. The writing only marginally trumps the combat as the primary reason I enjoy this game, and with that I'm saying that both aspects are good. The final boss battle is nowhere near as much of a setpiece as it was in Epiosode One, but the rest of the game is fundamentally better. It just troubles me that there is no word yet on Episode Three, (just like with Half-Life 2...) because I fear that this series won't be able to reach its natural conclusion.

Shadow of the Colussus: I am very late to the party on this one, and perhaps that will tamper with my appreciation for the then-astounding graphics that this game presented. The new format which it uses, though, isn’t affected by the fragile passage of graphics over time. This is often cited as a poster boy for the “games are art” argument, but regardless of whether you believe in the merits of interactivity to be something that is “subject to aesthetic criteria”, what it does is definitely different. It has something that many games today lack: a sense of calm. This calm comes between often exhilarating boss battles, to be sure, but this alone is rare. There aren’t any filler enemies that are just a nuisance. Focusing on only the 16 bosses as your enemies of the game likely gave team ICO more time not only make them better, but also evokes a feeling of isolation not found in many games (Portal comes to mind when trying to think of other examples).

The Colossi themselves are very well designed, each of their bodies acting like a puzzle rather than an object to mash B on until death occurs. They are their own levels, and finding out how to beat them is a bigger part of the battle then hitting them (which also feels good to do, after a 30 minute session of “how do I get on this guy?”). The bosses only format is something I think other games could benefit from (No More Heroes could’ve been a much better game if it had stuck to something like this).

I could go on listing merits of such a format, but it’s important to point out that I do have some problems with the game. For all the intents to make it feel like a real horse, the horse control like utter crap. The many times this stallion prevented me from getting where I wanted to go didn’t add to the sense of immersion; it made it feel more like a game. I could’ve steered that horse much better in real life (and don’t ride horses at all). The camera suffers in small areas. These sound like minor complaints, but the moments where they affected play are strewn about the game, and it ultimately lead to a lot of frustration.

The game is still fantastic, though. And in this first segment of making my rounds through games I’ve missed, I’m glad that I’m still finding games that do something new, even in this far into games as a form of creative expression. I’d use the word art, but I grow less and less fond of that word the more we compare it to games.

From: My Generation Is For Sale