A Year's Worth Pt. 2: Suprises


Here are two games that I avoided or reluctantly played last year that I eventually came to love.
Castlevania Harmony of Despair

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Castlevania HD is a strange beast. The game got a lot of negative reviews when it came out, so when I downloaded the demo, I didn't have high hopes. After playing the one level in the demo, I felt the game was slow-paced, difficult, and the loot and gold drops from enemies and treasure chests fell to the player like molasses. I decidedly deleted the demo and forgot about the game. Then, a month or two later, a couple of friends downloaded it and asked me to get it too. They claimed they were having a blast with it. I figured they both couldn't be crazy, so I said damn the critics and downloaded the full game. Playing Castlevania HD by yourself is like playing football alone in your backyard, you can throw and catch the ball, sure, but it's not going to be very satisfying. The game supports up to six players at once, but even playing with one other person makes it exponentially more fun, and with six, the levels go from taking fifteen or twenty minutes to taking five to ten minutes. Put simply, with one player, the game is a boring slog, but with some friends or random strangers, it becomes an addictive speed-run-style, loot fest with the classic Japan meets Bela Lugosi, Castlevania charm.


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Darksiders is a game that, at least initially, turned me off. The art style looked too teen angst, testosterone-filled, "badass, bro," and when I heard that it was basically a Zelda rip-off, I was turned off even more. A "fucking badass" Zelda did not get me excited. Eventually, when I finally and grudgingly played the game, it's overall high quality in almost every aspect turned me into a fan.

The game takes elements from The Legend of Zelda and filters them through Black Sabbath and my fifteen-year-old sense of cool. Often, this kind of tone in a game becomes cringe-inducing to anyone with a normal IQ, but Darksiders is so well made, and is such a pleasure to play, that the tone comes off as charming, immature fun rather than an appeal to meat-heads of all ages. It has the adventurous exploration and feelings of discovery of a good Zelda game, but instead of feeling like a grade-school kid in a park, you feel like a junior-high kid reading comics about demons and bloody swords in your basement. I like when something surprises me, and the level of fun to be had in Darksiders surprised the hell out of me.


That's it for now.  I was just recently thinking about these two games and wanted to share some thoughts.