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Jalopy Review

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Jalopy is a game that primarily about the casual driving experience you get from something like European Truck Simulator 2, but it’s not quite that game. Jalopy is about casual driving, but with roguelike elements built in and with a more granular system of interaction.

In Jalopy, you get a… Jalopy. A pretty shitty car. And you’re tasked with driving it from one town over to the next. And since your Jalopy is a Jalopy, it doesn’t run real well. It’s parts are of low quality, and they tend to wear down quickly into a state of disrepair.

While the game has a (somewhat slow) tutorial that teaches you about car maintenance, they don’t really tell you about the dynamics of the game. Yes, you’ll know that your car’s parts have health, and you know that you need to repair said parts to keep it running, but they don’t tell you about the reliable part in the game’s loop where you can purchase and how you get to the money to buy repair kits reliably.

SO, the structure of the game is like this:

Start → Route → Town

You get to choose one of three routes, and on your route you may come across boxes. Pick them up, put them in your car, and sell in town. At town you can repair and upgrade, but what options there are also randomized. Bad luck can result in your car inevitably breaking down and then you have to choose to “drive back down” (which doesn’t make any sense.)

That may sound simple. And it is a little simple. But it’s the granularity in the mechanics that breaths depth into the game. Every button in the car’s cockpit can be used, every tool functions like a good “gamified” version of that tool, not too complex where it becomes work but enough there where it feels like you’re actively using the tool. Every item takes up physical space and has weight. You need to use keys to start your car, you need to use your wallet to pay for goods.

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And all that makes the game feel very breezy but compelling. It presents interesting experiences like figuring out the most efficient way to change tires, playing inventory tetris because you just found a crate of smuggling liquor, rolling down your windows because they’re caked with mud and you need to make sure no one is passing you, and many other experiences, and many others. The inventory management is a big part of the game. I enjoyed the car storage mechanic in it’s “inventory tetris” sort of way, but you can’t rotate objects and I really wish you could. When you’re outside the car you can only carry a maximum of three items in your arms regardless of size, and I have a problem with that. It makes selling mass amount of items potentially an extremely tedious experience. You can use a crate to carry items from the car to the store, but you have to individually place each object into the crate. There driving works. I mean, you’re always driving a shitty car, but the game excels in changing how your car feels due to the numerous attributes. Whether it’s obvious stuff like your air intake breaking down, or little stuff like how much oil mixture is in your fuel, you can “feel” out what’s right and wrong with the car. And this feel extends itself towards when you start buying newer and better parts, and how your experience is not just smoother but how freeing it feels to not have to worry about your parts wearing out quicker.

But it is still pretty barebones. That structure I described is all there is, really. And eventually you can upgrade out of ever having to worry about maintaining your car, and once that happens there’s really nothing else to do, consider the game beaten. (I hit that mark about 12 hours in.)

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But there is stuff the creator could fix with the content right now to pad that time out. There are a lot of upgrades, but they are all sorta clumped together in price, different tiers of quality that’s just a few dollars a part. So what happened with me (and I assume other people) is that once I had the money, I just bought the best thing because it’s not THAT much more expensive. And then that’s it. So the progress ceiling is lower than it needs to be. Also while I’m at it, I wish there was more tension. Smuggling goods is pretty much carefree, I just wish that sometimes I could get robbed, or that a checkpoint guard decides to inspect my carriage.

It never feels too janky, but it has weird bugs… It feels nice. But sometimes an item just disappears. Or an item you bought doesn’t move down to the pickup booth. Or sometimes a store will think you stole something (when you didn’t) and then lock you out, ending your run prematurely. Oh, and all the time if you walk with the pump past it’s maximum distance, it goes back to the pump but you can never pick it back up again. 100% repeatable every time.

The game also has the problem of many PC driving games where using the keyboard is obviously worse than a control stick while it’s still designed with using the mouse in mind. So you can either choose an inferior driving experience or an inferior UI experience. Or you use a Steam Controller. But even then there are numerous interactive objects so you really want something precise.

But it’s a pretty good, and it’s a game that can only get better as it gets more content. It reminds me of No Man’s Sky, with how it takes it’s mechanics and then unravels them a bit. It’s more successful due to the analogue nature of the game.


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Backlog Blog Log The Third: Remade Robots from the 2.5 Dimension!

Backlog Log Log Log's Log: I think I'm going to settle on a Monday & Thursday schedule. Sorry for the late entry, stuff for Thursday has been written for the most part. I'm working on a backlog scorecard as well.


AKA: I review a revisit of a remake of a re-imagining.

Mega Man Maverick Hunters X

Remember when I said I'd kill you last? Fuck that.
Remember when I said I'd kill you last? Fuck that.

Maverick Hunter is interesting, because it is an example of the sort of dream gamers have of their favorite oldschool games being remade into modern looking titles. It also shows why it doesn't usually work. There are several issues with the idea of HD Remasters of old 2D games. In theory, it would be great. We like our favorite old games because they were the best games ever! Right? There are a lot of people that think that video games reached their peak in the 16-bit era, and that if we were to bring these games back with modern graphics they would be just as good as we remembered: still the best games ever!

Except that 1.) Studios will never assign the same caliber of talent to remaster it as they did making it in the first place. They treat these 2D remasters as $15 propositions and budget them as such. We get graphics that look closer to Street Fighter Turbohgodwhy HD than Rayman Origins. We experience a "Uncanny Valley" effect. And while it's tolerable, deep down inside you would rather play the same game on the original console (on a old ass TV.)

And B.) A lot of old games aren't as good as you think they are. I'm not going to say "As you remember them." Because if there's one thing that's certain, it's that nostalgia will always cloud our judgements of games that we liked. Even if you do not have a specific memory of a certain game, playing games from an older era will still trigger than feeling. Listen to band from the era you grew up in, that you didn't listen to while growing up. Or do the same with a movie. Or observe how you are able to enjoy old games you've never played before and someone younger than you can't. Hell, I suspect this is partly why I think Super Metroid is the greatest game ever, even though I played it in 2007. But nostalgia is not a bad feeling to have. In fact, it's good for you, acting as a natural anti-depressant for your brain. But the point is, what happens when you remove the classic graphics and music? Suddenly it's less nostalgic, it looses those triggers. And it has to rely on it's gameplay, and it turns out the game itself feels rather outdated! Some designers realize this, and try to bolt on modern game mechanics, except that problem #1 comes into play and it's for the worse (Twin Snakes.) There are a few games that stand up to the test of time, but there ain't a whole lot, and they're all from studios that know better than to remaster them.

How it should be done. Keep the assets, and improve everything around it: Physics, framerate, resolution.
How it should be done. Keep the assets, and improve everything around it: Physics, framerate, resolution.

It's not impossible to do a HD Remake of a game that ascends any of these criticisms. It's just not that feasible. Half-assing it ruins the game, and if you are not half-assing it, you're better off working on something new.

So anyways. Maverick Hunter X. It's a PSP port of Megaman X that, in a time where people were use to really awful ports, so it seemed really good. But does it validate my criticisms?

Instead of a high profile SNES game, it looks like a low budget iPhone game.
Instead of a high profile SNES game, it looks like a low budget iPhone game.

Well, let's talk about the new graphics. The game was rebuilt from the ground up, instead of the old SNES graphics, it's designed to be what was coined at the time a "2.5D" title. Okay, but we were to compare the new graphics to other graphics of that platform, they're merely passable. The environments feel empty and dead. Animations are very stiff for 3D models. The original animations for Mega Man X felt extremely punchy, when you hit Armadillo with electric spark, he felt it, you could see his skeleton! In Maverick Hunter, he slowly lifts up his fist at you. Kinda weak. Again, they're not bad, but they don't do the game justice either.

There is also voice acting. The kind that use to plague the Mario Advance titles. I was able to know right off the top of my head what weapon you used against Armadillo, because X shouts the name of his power ups whenever you use them. “Firewave!” Firewave!” “Storm Tornado!” They didn't even bother with multiple takes, it's just the same voice clip over, and over. God, if there was any incentive to go through the whole game with just the Buster, it is to never here him talk again. Along with X shouting everything he does like a crazy person, you also get to discover what the Mavericks sounded like. That's right, before each battle, X gets to have a one and one with the boss before they engage. All of it is extremely terrible, and can be summed up with X asking “Why” and the Maverick in question saying “Fuck you!” with maybe some terrible pun or joke thrown in there, punctuated with laughing. The music, well, I find it to actually be an improvement in some areas. It's all remixes of the original OST that, while sometimes suffering from VG Remix syndrome (“Yeah, this is a tune you can dance to!”), it stays faithful enough to the original material. It improves some bad tunes, hurts the good ones. So basically, play with the sound effects off, for the love of everything play with the sound turned off.

The game itself? It's still, even with a few things lost in translation, the same game. If you're not familiar with the Megaman format, then it's a 2D scoller with a fairly simple tool set. But since it's simple, it feels pure. You're never burdened with too many things at your command, you just hop, shoot, and slide along the well designed levels. And it's still cool to see how beating one stage has an effect on another stage. It blew my mind when I was young to see Storm Eagle's airship inside of Spark Mandrill's stage, and it still somewhat translates in this game as well. It does feel a little bit off from time to time while fighting, since it's game that tries to look modern yet play faithfully a game that's ten years older than it. Also it's worth mention that playing through the game unlocks thirty minutes worth of Anime! Joy. And also the ability to play as Vile. I was wanting to play through as the guy, but Christ is it hard, and he's even chattier than X.

So there you have it. A port of a game that, while having a list of features that seem appealing: New graphics, remixed music, and a new storyline. They all end up betraying the original game. It's not a terrible version, but I'd rather still play my SNES copy. And the SNES version was already available on a PSP complication, so what was the point?

Score/Fruit: 2,600,005/5,000,000. And a Custard-apple.

Bonus Game: A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda

Looks can be deceiving.
Looks can be deceiving.

A game that got the attention of the XNA community. A.R.E.S. was a promising XBLIG game that the devs decided to bring over to the PC. Smart move.

And uh, yup. It's something alright. The enemies and your avatar look good, the environments are pretty serviceable. The music is sort of generic techno flair that I'm only mentioning because they're trying to sell it as an album for $5. The level design is bland for half of the game, and various core mechanics seem to come from ideas that seemed cool at the time but in execution betrays itself. You see, instead of enemies occasionally dropping ammo for one of your abilities or health. They drop three different types of currency (and since every item requires all three, it seems kinda redundant to have three different types of currency.) And with the currency, you press your shop button and use it on grenade ammo, health kits, or you save enough to upgrade your weapons. And because upgrading your weapon seems like the top priority thing to do, you try to spend as little as you can on your grenades or health kits. So far, this all still works alright. What fucks it up is that you use grenades on special blocks to open up pathways or you use them as a "boost to get to platforms that require it. So you end up constantly going back and forth between menus to get the grenades you need to get through a platforming area. And it gets tedious, fast. Also, because you can buy health kits (and they're dirt cheap.) You can pretty much brute force your way through bosses or any other hard part of the game. The whole system makes the game a little too easy, even on the "hard" difficulty. And with only five levels, adding up to a meager 106 minutes, it's a short affair as well.

But I may be trashing on it too much. Even though the first half of the game feels bland, it picks up afterwards and shows what potential it could've had. And if everything was as good as the final level of the game, I would be praising this game. But it isn't.

Score/Fruit: 1,715,986/5,000,000. And a Mango.

Whew, just about missed Monday! I'll try not to be late again. Anyways, tune in Thursday as I say goodbye to the Wii with Mario Galaxy 2. And rant more about Modern Shooters with Homefront!

The Backlog Blog Log's Backlog Logs

The Backlog Blog Log II: Airborne in the USA

The backloggin' blog log vol 1: Farewell to the PSP.


The Backlog Blog Log II: Airborne in the USA

The Backlog Blog Log's Log: Alright, my second entry this week. I'm still trying to figure out how I want to approach this. I'm actually surprised that my first entry got as many comments as it did. A whopping 3! I was expecting like, one max. As someone who's pretty much new to this blog stuff, I'm sort of excited now. I really want to make this a real, productive thing. Now I'm asking myself questions: Should I try to write a list of the entire roster of games that I want to beat? Should I rethink my scoring system? Or should I just free wheel everything? And I want to have it update on a regular schedule at a regular time, but what days? I'm thinking of backlog updates every Monday and Friday, and then on Wednesday I'll write in some random thing.

Well, enough of that. Time to talk about another game that I crossed off my list.


AKA: I revisit the moment the WW2 shooter collapsed from exhaustion and died while no one was looking.

Medal of Honor: Airborne

Back to killing Nazis, gentlemen.
Back to killing Nazis, gentlemen.

Medal of Honor: Airborne is a tragic gem. Simultaneously the culmination of EA's original Medal of Honor franchise, and the moment when gamers had enough of the wretchedly overdone setting. We were sick of it all: The European landscape, the same inadequate weapons, the bombastic orchestrated music that blared as you shot the same enemy types over and over (and the enemy types were: the guy who shot at you with a machine gun, and the guy who shot at you with a rifle.)

Even if the rest of Allied Assault was more traditional, Omaha Beach was worth the purchase.
Even if the rest of Allied Assault was more traditional, Omaha Beach was worth the purchase.

There use to be a time when that got us excited. When we were fresh off of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers and being able to witness something like Omaha Beach was a incredible, petrifying experience, even if the rest of the game was your standard first person shooter. But as we were most exposed, it quickly became white noise to us, as Medal of Honor's developer 2015 studios split up to become "Infinity Ward" and make it's competing brand "Call of Duty". The genre was looking somewhat crowded before (with Wolfenstein, and Battlefield becoming popular franchises), but then every year we were bombarded by more and more World War 2 titles. From 2004 to 2007, we had six Medal of Honor games and eight Call of Duties. Not to mention other properties joining the fray with Band of Brothers, Red Orchestra, Day of Defeat, World War 2 Combat, World War II: Online, Combat Elite, Sniper Elite, etc. I'm getting a little nauseous just thinking about it.

This is when WW2 jumped the shark. NO OTHER WORDS FOR THIS.
This is when WW2 jumped the shark. NO OTHER WORDS FOR THIS.

So it's 2007, the idea of a World War 2 game has been explored, interpreted, and beaten into the ground so much that a screenshot of a new game with the setting sends viewers into a narcoleptic deep sleep (or in World at War's case, unbridled rage.) EA looks upon it's bruised, wheezing Medal of Honor license and a single tear rolls down John Riccitiello's face as he remembers the glory days of the series. What began as a Goldeneye clone became a front runner to one of the most popular and celebrated sub-genres in our history of gaming. But in 2007 it was a dying giant, it's extinction inevitable as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare approaches it, and EA Los Angeles knows. With one last gasp of air, Medal of Honor: Airborne was created. The giant dies, the fad is dead, and nobody cared.

But now it's 2012, we're no longer constantly exposed to European beaches, Panzer tanks, and young Americans yelling at you to go somewhere. Nobody dares to make another WW2 game, as they're a profit black hole these day. Modern war has replaced it, and I'll talk about about it as I finish Medal of Honor: Medal of Honor, but for now we have an opportunity. The white noise that we chose to ignore is now gone, and I can, and am able, to go return to World War 2 without fatigue.

Medal of Honor: Airborne is a weird thing to go back to. After playing so many modern first person shooters, after playing so many games that featured steroid induced bad boys with the personality of tweens, fighting faceless enemies in some truly disgusting ways that we've now become immune too. I felt something I haven't felt in a while. Honor.

Right at the start, even when the game introduces you to the tutorial. There's this feeling of hope, pride, and optimism. And in Airborne it is executed so well, that even when you're told as you're parachuting:

"Steer in for clearings. Look for green smoke. Do you know why we look for green smoke?"

*Cuts back to the aircraft, as you make another jump*

"Because it's proper procedure!"

(A video of the tutorial, but it's something you should witness for yourself:)

I felt like I wanted to thrust my fist in the air. It's a tutorial, I wasn't being told a speech on how awesome our special little group is (don't worry, they still do), they're merely giving me directions on how to operate my parachute correctly. But it made me feel like a hero, who was ready to embark on some epic journey. And when you are eventually told that your airborne group is special, you kind of believe it. If it was 2007 I would've rolled my eyes at this entire sequence, numb to the Patriotism and Spielbergism of it all. Except it's now 2012, my tolerance has lowered, and I'm playing a game that's trying to outdo every WW2 game that came before it. My body isn't ready for this.

The level design is non-linear and open, yet it's never directionless.
The level design is non-linear and open, yet it's never directionless.

The game itself stands up quite well. If anything it's the "yin" to the modern shooter's "yang." Every mission starts with a classy quote, and then a slice of the quote becoming the title of the mission (like Infinite Mischief), followed by a jump out of an airplane into some god forsaken battlefield, and giving you the freedom to go anywhere and complete most objectives at your own pace. Luckily this is one of the few games that doesn't sacrifice the quality of a focused experience for freedom. It's a testament to good level design when a open world can feel like a focused experience regardless of what path you take and how you take it. It will from time to time still funnel you to various locations that demand you to witness how exciting it looks, but what's important is that you don't feel guided. You're able to become more immersed with the game, those exciting "cinematic" experiences occurring from your own actions. When I managed to flank a squad of Germans, grab a turret behind them, and used it to shred apart the rest of their group while they were distracted by my own squad, I had a huge grin of satisfaction. It felt like something from a actual movie, except I pulled it off myself by my own actions and not through some scripted sequence. It's the kind of stuff that makes me agree with David Jaffe's ideas of "Player Authored Stories."

There's also some surprisingly fresh elements to it. EA Los Angeles needed to keep players interested with using the same old WW2 weapons again, so they threw in an upgrade system. Using the same gun repeatedly gains experience, unlocking new attachments for it as you upgrade. It's an effective way to breathe new life into these old weapons. Instead of rolling my eyes at the STG-44, I was excited to see what it would become when I maximized it (it became a dual clip assault rifle with a acog scope, bad ass.) It seems similar to Call of Duty's ever exhausting multiplayer persistence systems (despite the game releasing before COD:MW), but it's refreshing to see it in a single player game. There's also "stunt" locations you'll find in each mission, where you'll discover more challenging areas to land in or on, rewarding you with.. Well, I don't know really. It may be one of the weirdest afterthoughts I've seen in a mainstream game. "I'll go kill Hitler, right before I land on top of this busted water tower."

EA Los Angeles tried to fix the problem of repetitive enemy types that stay the same. There's ten tiers of Nazis. With the first six or so being your standard soldiers, with each higher rank having increased health and hardware. Their behavior is sometimes impressive, with my favorite being the snipers that hold out their knives to blind your vision and distract you while another sniper tries to pick you off. Why the hell don't I see that more? Modern shooters have figured out every way to cleverly kill someone, and they never think of having the AI use it on you. It gets blatantly "gamey" when they introduce the final tier: a gas-masked juggernaut who stormed right out of Wolfenstein, shooting a heavy machine gun from the hip and can take three rifle grenades to the face before he dies. It's okay though, by the time he shows up it's near the end. And oh boy, the final level, titled "Flying Through Hail", is one of my favorite final levels to ever grace a shooter. It's the culmination of every mechanic in the game, coming together in an area that is as unique as it's frighteningly beautiful.

That is not some graphic in the background. You get to go through that whole thing, inside and out. (Also, real men land on top of that sucker.)
That is not some graphic in the background. You get to go through that whole thing, inside and out. (Also, real men land on top of that sucker.)

So there it came. This hidden gem, a final cry of attention from the now dead sub-genre. Gamers assumed the worse in it, another careless WW2 shooter pumped out by EA. After four years, it did sell a million or two. But EA knew it was time to retire the Medal of Honor license, and turned it into the competitor title for Activision's off-year for the Call of Duty license. Funny, It started as a game that chased Goldeneye's coattails, found it own thing for a while, and now it's chasing after Modern Warfare's.

It is short, there's only six missions (and the forth mission, Market Garden, is rather weak) that will last about 4-5 hours. But it's a great experience, my favorite of the WW2 FPSer sub-genre, and if you enjoy a military shooter it is definitely worth the five dollars whenever it goes back on sale. After being removed from the setting for a while, you can start to appreciate why everyone jumped on the bandwagon in the first place.

Score/Fruit: 4,661,942/5,000,000. And a Apple Pie (it's a fruit for this game you communist.)

I was going to write about A.R.E.S., but I didn't expect myself to write that much about Airborne. I might edit this later to include a review. But one thing's for sure: Tune in next week while I also say goodbye to the Wii while finding things to say about Mario Galaxy 2, say goodbye to the PSP again, and talk about why HD remakes of classic 2D games may be a bad idea! (Or good, whatever.)

The Backlog Blog Log's Backlog Logs

The backloggin' blog log vol 1: Farewell to the PSP.


The backloggin' blog log vol 1: Farewell to the PSP.

I wanted to try to start writing journal entries into my attempts to clear my ever growing backlog. Now, I think that it is actually possible.Let's do the math: I have, I want to say, 600 purchased titles in my backlog (that seems a lot, but 450 of those are games accumulated from four years of Steam sales and Indie Bundles). If the average game is 10 hours long and I spent 3 hours a day playing a game. I could very well clear my backlog in....

About 5.8 years! That's not too bad. I mean, it's not extended beyond my lifetime.

And so I start, with this year hoping that I will at least beat more games than I have purchased. Thus slightly lowering that monolithic stack of games I have.


AKA: I attempted to complete my PSP games as it becomes an increasingly redundant handheld, and managed to clear two games!

Ridge Racer

Still to this day, Ridge Racer is an exciting looking racer.
Still to this day, Ridge Racer is an exciting looking racer.

Ridge Racer was one of the first games released for the handheld, and may very well be the game that defined the handheld for me. It was a slick piece of racing, with a presentation that screamed (well, maybe politely demonstrated itself instead of screaming) class. Seven years ago, seeing the menus alone was such a huge jump from the Game Boy Advance that it broke people's minds. It's vehicle select shattering people's realities, ruining their perception of society and technology and turning them into decrepit homeless cannibals roaming the countryside due to their inability to cope with such a highly evolved piece of interface design.

They were classy ass menus.

This interface oozed the sort of class you would only see in the likes of Grand Truismo 4.
This interface oozed the sort of class you would only see in the likes of Grand Truismo 4.

It's game play was shallow, but the game relished in it. Namco must of felt embarrassed of the Ridge Racer formula for the longest time, trying to release a goddamn Car Sim under it's name. Readers, let me tell you about Car Simulations. They're all trash, they sell because their customer base love vehicles to a disturbing degree, and will always buy every car simulator ever made. They also sell because fools like us keep buying them because they look beautiful, and that we keep thinking that this might be the car sim that I'll "get" as if we're the ones who should feel bad for not "understanding" such a genre. We never click with them, because they play like trash under the lie that it's "realistic." No car sim will ever feel realistic. You ever see a fanatic play with a controller and be satisfied? No. They're all building five monitor cock pits with a custom wind fans and they're literally playing the game with racing gear on. That's the extent people go to try to feel what it's like to drive some sports car. And the amount of "satisfaction" they'll get with the game, in relative terms, is like fucking a pillow with a condom on. And you're just trying to play it with a controller. How can you even compare your experience to the muted pleasure that man is witnessing?

Okay, so that may be a fevered rambling from someone with the pent of frustration of trying to have fun with those kind of games. Also, I have six racing sims in my backlog. So you might hear more of that.

Fuck yooouu.
Fuck yooouu.

So I'm guessing with Namco seeing a handheld such as the PSP gave them the opportunity to create a racing game that played as simple as Ridge Racer PSP does while looking as good as a top tier PS2 game. You drive a bit, then you drift and basically lock on to the track. Drifting in Ridge Racer is a funny thing, you can drive in the opposite direction and as soon as you start drifting you'll watch as your car get's sucked around the corner as if possessed by some unnatural force. But it still, oddly enough, works. The sophisticated presentation does a good job at making you take it's absurd racing somewhat seriously. The cars themselves control quite well (a wonderful contrast at the time to Ridge Racer DS, which was a train wreck of a launch title) and the tracks were quite wonderful. The game itself still looks great today, even if the textures aren't as sharp or the vehicles as well rendered, the overall aesthetic is still in a handheld class of it's own.

Score/Fruit: 4,235,678/5,000,000. And a Star Fruit.

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror

Back in 2006, it was amazing that a handheld game could look like this.
Back in 2006, it was amazing that a handheld game could look like this.

This is an interesting title. It encompasses what goes against the popular opinion of handhelds gamers have these days. "Handhelds should be handheld experiences, not second rate console experiences." Maybe there is merit to that, but I find some odd holes in that logic. The PSP itself is actually a successful handheld, by all means, it's big thing going against it is the rampant piracy it exp erienced. And it's most successful titles has all been either portable counterparts of it's console big brothers (The GTA Stories, Daxter), or straight up console ports (Monster Hunter.) And the 3DS itself is the predecessor of the handheld that brought us Nintendogs and Brain Training. And it has been all about Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, or the handheld version of Ocarina of Time. All of those are rather traditional games that would've worked on the Wii.

The problem with the "Handheld games that act like console games" is when a game tries to do more than what is capable, which is simply, a lack of a second analogue stick. And holy shit is there a ton of PSP games that don't function well because the developers simply ignored that fact. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is a good example, a game that asked for a lot of tactical movement and planning yet gives us a camera we need to babysit in the middle of the action. And why the hell didn't it just go for a traditional top-down camera design that it's previous games used?

Syphon Filter tries to bring the best of both worlds together. It gives us a game that looks, smells, and tastes like a stealth action of that era (namely the Splinter Cell series) while addressing the single analogue controls. It's cover system allows the player to make tactical aiming adjustments under fire, various weapon types allow you to lock on to a target, and they make the AI a little more inaccurate to forgive you for just taking the easy way out of a firefight.

And yet, it's still rather clunky. Those shoot outs never feel as satisfying as they should, and operating a sniper rifle is downright awful, especially when you need to use it on another sniper who has his bead on you.

This may look cool, but it's relentlessly frustrating.
This may look cool, but it's relentlessly frustrating.

It was later ported to the PS2, but I can't really imagine it being a good console game either. It was intentionally made simple, with small levels and less mechanics to worry about than other games like it at the time. But it is pretty, and it did somewhat evoke a sense of a game that was on a grander scale than your average portable title. But in the end, it's just

Score/Fruit: 3,453,256/5,000,000. And Microwaved Cranberry Sauce

That's it for the backlog blog log for now. Stay tuned for my next installment as I talk about the underrated Metal of Honor: Airborne, and prattle on about World War II shooters, and EA's failed attempt to make a dead horse look alive.


The Instantious Lack of Valiance in the Intersellar Nightmare '94


  You will stumble the first time in this room due to the game's weirder pre-wasd controls.
  You will stumble the first time in this room due to the game's weirder pre-wasd controls.
I awaken from my low polygonal sleep chamber into a world of silence. There's no life behind these walls, no warmth or laughter, just the clicking static of machine - the half life of the civilization that existed for what felt like moments ago. "Welcome back to Citadel Station. We hope your somnolent healing stage went well. Today is the 6th day of November, year 2072. We hope you have a pleasant stay on Citadel Station." I try to navigate the room, but I stumble in failure of my balance. I step outside of my room, the medical hall is as dead and empty, but I hear movement under the humming of electricity. The cameras witness my presence, they gaze at me with sterile curiosity.  
 System Shock will always be to me one of the most impressive feats of game design. There are many dated aspects, but the fact that these aspects existed in a time of video games where such mechanics as reloading, audio logs, ammo variations, leaning, immerse environments, and others weren't even around. In 2007 people went wild for Bioshock, it's dedication to the atmosphere transported the audience into a world of curiosity and terror and it's take on various key mechanics were seldom used in other RPGs. Bioshock, as fresh as it feels, is derived from a game from 1994. This isn't an argument against Bioshock, but a argument for System Shock. System Shock feels incredibly ahead for it's time.  
Just like in Bioshock, you are thrusted into a disaster-conflict you have little knowledge about.
Just like in Bioshock, you are thrusted into a disaster-conflict you have little knowledge about.

March, 1994. Five months after the release of the first release of Doom. This game was signs of a smarter civilization in the stone age of first person shooters. They were ambitious in the face of low tech. ID's Tom Hall wanted a realistic space station in Doom, having the idea that horror could be heightened if it took place in more convincing environments. John Carmack said it couldn't work. System Shock however took this idea and executed well. We have an explorable world that feels convincing enough to lapse our disbelief. In this world we have a history and backstories that unfold in data and audio logs. Much like the world of Rapture makes it's player wonder how it all fell apart, System Shock will do the same. 
To draw parallels further, Andrew Ryan was a memorable foe. But even he is evolved from System Shock's Shodan, a now infamous villian cited in many discussion topics about "Gaming's Best Villian." With quotes like this:
 "In my talons, I shape clay, crafting life forms as I please. If I wish, I can smash it all. Around me is a burgeoning empire of steel. From my throne room, lines of power careen into the skies of Earth. My whims will become lightning bolts that raze the mounds of humanity. Out of the chaos, they will run and whimper, praying for me to end their tedious anarchy. I am drunk with this vision. God: the title suits me well." 
Who can argue?
Other things worth mentioning:
Using Light, and your Cowardice, as a barrier to Progression
There's a level in the game that in order to progress you need to grab keycards. These keycards are located in office areas where the electricity is off. Usually games these days solve the lack of electricity with a flashlight but with System Shock you are given a choice: You can either search and fight your way through the area, turning on electricity to certain parts of the complex or you can decide to run into these pitch black rooms filled with the nightmare machinations of Shodan. Usually environmental barriers will force you out completely, acting as literal brick walls. But this light mechanic was really clever, and I haven't ran into something like it sense.
The Interface, or "The Windows OS is in my Head" 
This may be just a weird niche part of the game that I enjoy, but the interface is really clever and justifies the weird
   Oh yeah, the network. There's a vector   based Decent-esque minigame  inside the game. You need to hack into it   to open various doors, get  certain pieces of data, and to turn on   certain machinery.
  Oh yeah, the network. There's a vector based Decent-esque minigame inside the game. You need to hack into it to open various doors, get certain pieces of data, and to turn on certain machinery.
ls of the game. A little explanation how weird the controls are: You steer your head (along with the rest of your body) with the keyboard and you navigate your interface (along with interacting with items and aiming your weapons) with the mouse. It may be a little intimidating at first, but once you figure out the basics you discover a lot of neat little features. You can swap ammo types, select alternative weapon modes (and set the damage modifier on your phaser-like weapon), check out different vitality indicators, mess with display options, you can even put down map markers to indicate places of importance and play video games you found in the network.
Revive Pods With a Twist 
Remember the Revive-o-matic (whatever they're named) in Biosh ock? They ended up being a bad feature that minimalism the threat of death bec ause of the lack of penalty, this criticism was loud enough that the company had to patch in an option to turn it off. However, System Shock's method is much more clever:
When you enter a new area, the Revive pods are under the control of SHODAN. If you die while these pods are in her control, you become a cyborg. You can however gain control of these pods by hacking into the network and taking them over for yourself. How the heck does a game from 1994 have a more sensible revive system than a game derived from it in 2007? 
Anyways, I'm done with this love letter for now. System Shock is still a great game, and still something worth looking at if you don't mind it's age.