By spilledmilkfactory 5 Comments
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Weekend Bender! This is my new weekly blog, where I'll cover every game released over the last week in short, digestible blurbs. Don't like short? Don't like digesting? I'll include links to full reviews of each of the games I deem worthy under their description. And trust me, when I say every game, I mean EVERY game. So won't you join me, dear reader, as I watch my precious sanity trickle through my fingers like so much sand in an hourglass, furiously attempting to bash my head through every game, on every platform, every week?
And we'll start with everyone's most anticipated release of the week...
Kirby Mass Attack
That's right everyone, it's Kirby Mass Attack! What, you were expecting something else? Well let me tell you something: After the fantastic Canvas Curse, Epic Yarn, and Squeak Squad, Nintendo can pretty much crap out any game they want and plaster Kirby on the cover, and I'll be chomping at the bit to play it. Luckily for us, they've kept Kirby's hot streak going strong with Mass Attack. This is a game that I was sure wouldn't work out that well, and yet Nintendo and HAL have managed to somehow not only make the touch screen controls feel intuitive (something that even Nintendo themselves have struggled with on occasion,) but also to make them preferable to actual buttons. Flinging multiple Kirbies around using the stylus feels great, and smashing enemies by piling ten Kirbies on top of them has a weirdly brutal satisfaction to it.
The story mode, typically short and easy in Nintendo games, and especially typical in Kirby games, is both lengthy and satisfyingly challenging. The game asks that you have precision reactions, especially when going for all of the secrets, but it never feels like the touch screen controls are holding you back from success. The game paces itself well, and never asks more than it knows you're capable of. Overall, there's Plenty of enjoyment to be wrung from the story mode.
And that's not even getting into the minigames. Ah, the minigames. Okay, sure, some of them are your typical rhythm game, button mashey bullshit, but a few of them are actually really good. I never thought I'd play a Kirby top down shooter, but here I am. There's also a pinball game that's surprisingly fun, and a number of other games which I won't spoil. They're a great way to extend the life of the cart, and individually a lot of them are fun in their own right.
Okay, so maybe I'm in the minority in my preference of pink and fluffy to red and chainsaw..y.. but I'm sure we can all agree that this next release has gotten the industry's hearts all aflutter, and for good reason.
Gears of War 3
Gears 2 was a really stupid game. I know there were a lot of people who enjoyed it, and on a certain level I can see why, but to me it felt like Epic's seminal shooting franchise had started taking itself a little too seriously. The first game was dumb as dirt, but at least it didn't try to pretend like it was all smart and mature. Gears 2 left a bad taste in my mouth with its pretended maturity, like a little kid trying desperately to parrot the behavior of an adult. It was a fun game, yeah, but in my eyes it was a step downhill.
Gears 3 still has an undeserved sense of somberness to it, as if its characters and situations are somehow deep enough to actually warrant taking seriously, but it's much less in-your-face than it was in the second iteration. It is a more subtle desperation that the characters exhibit in Gears 3, and while the story isn't exactly perfect, it feels like Epic has finally learned something about proper storytelling. It's a more cohesive package than either of its predecessors.
But we don't come to Gears of War for the story and characters. We come for the chainsawin', and the chainsawin' is good. Gameplay has been smoothed over and sped up, but it still retains the semi-tactical feel of the older games. It's smooth enough to please CoD players, yet requires enough thinking to entice lovers of Rainbow Six and other tactical games. And man, those graphics. This is basically the best looking game on the 360, with great lighting and some fantastic texture work showing off just what Microsoft's console can do. It's still not as jaw dropping as something like, say, God of War III, but it's among the best looking games I've seen.
I don't feel like I really need to say any more about Gears of War 3, because everyone who was going to buy it probably already has. If you're on the fence, just know that everything about this release has seen dramatic improvement since Gears 2. This may be the last Gears game we get, at least for a while, but it's a fitting send-off.
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2
Square-Enix's Pokemon-like DQM series is getting another DS release in the form of DQM Joker 2. While Ryan and Patrick may have found the game boring in their Quick Look, I can see what they were going for here and it retains a certain level of amusement throughout the first few hours. As is the case with the similar Pokemon franchise, the most entertaining part of the game is finding and capturing new monsters. There are some truly creative monsters to be caught in Joker 2, and although I've never been the biggest fan of Akira Toriyama's style of drawing, his creations look fairly nice on the DS's screen thanks to a chibi, cel-shaded style.
The draw of finding and capturing new and interesting monsters was enough to keep me going for a long time, especially since I had a few long car rides to endure over the last week. It's a grind-y sort of entertainment, one that doesn't necessarily require much thought or user input, but one which can keep you playing for a little while regardless. The biggest flaw of the game is its battle controls, or the lack thereof. While it's possible to directly control which skills your creatures use in some ways, the game doesn't spell it out for you, and most fights go by faster if you just mash on the "Fight" button and let the AI sort it out for you anyway.
DQM Joker 2 can be an interesting game in spots, especially in the monster design and the capture and training mechanics, but much of it just feels too automated.
Oh, and what is it with all of these cool games getting released on the DS while the 3DS gets nothing?
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2: Innocent Sin
I've had a soft spot for the Persona series ever since the third iteration debuted on the PS2 so many years ago. Since then, it's been impossible to tear me away from the addictive blend of social sim and dungeon crawler. But I'd always wondered what the original games in the franchise were like. Well, the original Persona was re-released on the PSP in 2009 and, although it certainly wasn't bad, turns out it wasn't really my cup of tea. Now Persona 2: innocent Sin has been released for the PSP, and I thought I'd give it another go.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you liked the original more than I did) this is basically more of the same. The merits and demerits of that original PSP re-release still hold true here. The game is presented from many different viewpoints, making the action feel a little inconsistant, and the dungeon crawling can still become tedious, at least from what I've played. But as is typical of Atlus RPGs, the story will pull you in immediately and refuse to let go until you've seen it through to completion. The battle mechanics are complex and varied, giving the dungeon crawling much longer legs than it by any rights should have. This is far from the perfect RPG, and it's far from the style of the franchise's later games, but fans of oldschool RPGs will find a lot to love here.
Also, on a side note, as similar as this game is to Persona 1, it's gotten me thinking about how similar Persona 4 was to Persona 3. After the release of the second game, there was a large gap between releases in the series, and when it resurfaced it had seen a dramatic overhaul in terms of style and mechanics. We are in a similar gap right now, with Persona 4 having been released in December of 2008. This leads me to wonder that if, when Persona 5 is inevitably announced, we might see a similar overhauling of game mechanics. Part of me hopes so, as I'm really excited to see what this team can come up with next, but another part of me hopes that they stick to the tried and true Persona 3/4 mechanics that I'm so fond of. Anyways, enough rambling. Let's get on to the next game...
Resident Evil 4 HD
Just about everyone who played Capcom's seminal horror/shooter back in the day has fond memories of it, and I doubt this HD release will change that. This is essentially the same game we all played on the PS2 (the HD release contains bonus materials not found in the original Gamecube version) but slightly nicer looking. If you missed out on RE4 back in the day, this is still worth a play, especially at its low price point, but if you've already had your fill of Ganados-blasting and head-tentacles, you can safely pass it up.
Oh, and if you're an achievement enthusiast, simply playing through the entire game will net you most of the 1,000 points contained within this release. That's kind of a nice bonus for us RE lovers too, I guess.
When it comes to gaming, I like to challenge myself to try new things, push myself to become proficient in genres that I normally don't show interest in. I picked up Dirt 3 earlier this year and although I don't typically enjoy racing games, I had a blast with it. Despite my experience with Dirt and my willingness to dive headfirst into new types of games, I still have no idea what the fuck is going on in F1 2011. I had become fairly proficient in driving with all of the assists off in Dirt 3, and although I knew F1 cars handled completely differently, I thought some of that racing game experience might carry over. This was not so. The inside of the cars' cockpits in this game look like something out of a science fiction movie, and the handling is realistic to the extent that I can barely even turn around a corner. Luckily for amateur drivers like me, there are plenty of assists to help streamline the experience, and the driving feels genuinely good when you can actually, you know, control it. Even with all the assists, it never gets too arcade-y.
This is a video game that I'll never be willing to devote the time to necessary to master. The tracks, while not exactly bland, just don't have the lush natural beauty of Dirt 3's, and the controls are even more complicated and realistic. I can appreciate the vast difference between the two sports that I'm comparing here, but for a casual driver such as myself, this is simply diving in too deep, too fast. I imagine lovers of F1 will find this to be a lovingly honest recreation of their sport of choice, and will appreciate all of the little touches that make the cars handle as they should in real life.
Might and Magic Clash of Heroes (Steam Version)
I've owned Might and Magic Clash of Heroes ever since it came out on XBLA earlier this year, but now PC gamers finally have a chance to see what all the fuss is about. This unique strategy/puzzle hybrid is developed by Capy, who have somewhat of a reputation in the industry for pumping out some fantastic hand drawn artwork (check out the gorgeous Critter Crunch for instance) and CoH is no exception. The game's HD sprites look positively gorgeous, even if the Americanized anime style isn't exactly my favorite.
Of course, there's more to this game than its good looks, and the battle system actually has surprisingly long legs. Combining your units together in groups of three allows you to make attack or defense positions, depending on whether you stack them vertically or horizontally. New units present themselves to you at a great pace, so you'll constantly need to be on the lookout for new battle strategies. This is good because for a fifteen dollar download, CoH actually has a really long campaign (probably due to its roots as a full-fledged DS release.) Even after the campaign is over, multiplayer matches will help stretch out your enjoyment of the unique strategic battles. All told, it's perfectly feasibly to spend anywhere between 30-50 hours in pursuit of seeing all that this game has to offer. It's a great value for fifteen bucks, and the gameplay has extremely long legs. The story itself isn't exactly the most compelling around, but with gameplay and graphics this good it hardly matters. I highly recommend strategy fans find some time to squeeze CoH in this week.
Bunch of Heroes
What a shitty name for a game. I mean really, could they come up with anything more benign? Anyways, Buch of Heroes is a Steam release that casts you as a.. well.. a bunch of heroes (okay, I guess it's kind of appropriate) who fend off an alien invasion. Also, zombies. Because hey, why the fuck not? The odd twin stick shooter that results from this weird amalgamation of movie monsters and secret agent teams is surprisingly boring. There's nothing in this game that you can't find done better and with more style in numerous other releases, not the least of which was last week's awesome Renegade Ops.
Burnout Crash looked really promising before its release, but now here we are. The game's main mode, Road Trip, is frustrating beyond belief, requiring precision that the controls are hardly capable of and luck that will only grace the Buddha-belly-rubbing-est of gamers. All of the silly endgame events, like giant tidal waves or angry lobsters, were in stark contrast to the pure rage that was flowing through me as I played through the game. The other modes are better, as they remove the strict limits on how many cars are allowed to pass through your twisted, flaming grasp, but you have to play through Road Trip in order to unlock the other modes on a level, and by then I just didn't give a shit anymore. This could have been a really fun, lighthearted release, but instead it's a Rube Goldberg-esque trap, a game that appears devilishly fun on the surface but quickly gives way to something more sinister.
On the other side of the Steam-indie-release coin, we have Demolition, Inc. This goofy little puzzler casts you as a UFO looking to cause as much destruction in Earth's major cities as possibly. You'll do this by causing car accidents, tearing down buildings, and blowing up cows. Yeah, this game is kind of awesome. It's actually kind of like Burnout Crash in that its puzzles emphasize causing as much destruction as possible using as little player input as possible. Unlike Criterion's puzzler, however, this one feels much more freeform, and allows players to experience the joy of wanton destruction while still challenging them to think about the best ways to bring the city crumbling down. The entire affair is running entirely on a strong physics engine, too, meaning that no two destruction sprees will be exactly the same. It can occasionally be frustrating when the game's physics don't work exactly the way you'l hoped, but by and large it's quite satisfying. This is by no means a perfect game, and I haven't beaten it yet, but I have been thoroughly enjoying it so far.