Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Shortage of Time

Honestly, time has been a luxury for the past few days, so there has not been much gaming around my house. My focus has been divided between Half-Life 2, Mega Man 9, and Dungeon Runners. I am currently working my way through Ravenholm in Half-Life 2, which is fairly appropriate for the Halloween season. Creeping through a seemingly abandoned area can eat at your nerves, especially after a character looked toward its entrance earlier with nothing to say but, "We don't go there any more." Playing with the gravity gun is almost as cool as my Portal and Braid experiences; chucking boxes and barrels around the screen is great fun.

Star Trek Online has piqued my interest, because the developers (at present) seem to get the source material. If they can deliver on the promise of galactic exploration without typical MMO busy-work quests, I might have to pony up the cash to participate.

For the retro game fans out there, I found this blast from the past at the website for the Escapist. I played through the text adventure on Monday, and the puzzles require no Myst-style bizarro logic. While there, you might want to take a look at the site's "Unforgotten Realms" video series; the spoof of tabletop roleplaying is pretty entertaining.

Game well, and may you find all the right verbs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Don't Call It a Throwback

While waiting for an update to Dungeon Runners to install last night, I gave Mega Man 9 a spin. The guys at Penny Arcade probably summed up the experience best here. For all intents and purposes, the game acts as a time warp back to the glory days of the NES, complete with its penchant for mind-blowing difficulty. So far, I have managed to make it to one of the game's bosses, and I was crippled when I arrived. To make matters worse, I doubt the weapon I will get from her will do what I thought it would do to help me through another level. In other news, I feel really politically incorrect in pointing out that my first triumph in the game will most likely be the series' first female robot master. In Mega Man 9's defense, concessions have been made to give mortals a chance at completing the adventure; you can purchase items like extra lives, energy tanks, and special boots that save you from one landing on insta-death spikes. A part of me feels like using this resource is cheating -- that I should conquer this new frontier just as I did in the olden days. If I fail to convince myself otherwise, could someone please make sure I eat occasionally?

I still totally rock at Mega Man 2, though.

Game well, and may you find the optimal pattern for tackling your stages.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Neglected to Mention . . .

In case you failed to notice the shift in my drive contents, I completed Portal. I actually played through the game twice, because my wife is a ardent puzzle-solver who struggles with three-dimensional movement. I can honestly say I have not laughed quite so hard at a game since I met Frank the ninja in Shadow Hearts: From the New World. The song that plays during the closing credits (and the accompanying ASCII code which displays) is pure genius, but that is only evident if you have actually finished the game. What follows is only for 'through' gamers, so highlight at your own peril. While I have no reason to believe the point of 'Still Alive' is prophecy, the song may ring true, even in our world. Like Pac-Man and Tetris, I have a feeling that Portal may outlive all of us. The game's mind-bending experience should be a must for anyone who can avoid motion sickness.

Upon completing Portal, I had planned to begin playing Too Human, but my plans have changed. My journey through Aperture Science was evidently some sort of electronic gateway drug, and I am now several hours into Half-Life 2. The game's pacing is brilliant, and it does NOT assume that you have made your own Gordon Freeman costume from cardboard and duct tape. I might pursue a PlayStation 2 copy of the original Half-Life eventually, just so I can get the full Black Mesa experience.

Game well, and may your next barrel take out multiple Barnacles.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Return of the Old School

Among some other purchases with the rest of my birthday funds, my wife succumbed to the adorable cover art of Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon for the Wii. I think the original plan was for her to play it, but that went by the wayside somewhere between the store and the disc slot on our console. I have to admit, though, that I do enjoy the title on the whole. Underneath the cutesy exterior (leave it to the good folks at Square Enix to mash every ounce of juice out of the Wii's rooty-poo graphics processor) beats the heart of such classic fare as NetHack. This, for those in the know, means that the game can be maddeningly hard at times. While not quite as punishing as NetHack, Chocobo's Dungeon clearly stands in defiance of the current trend of success-oriented mainstream games. There is stuff to love in here, but you must go into the experience prepared to fail -- several times. Why would I want to subject myself to this in your spare time? I can only point here for those who seek the answers.

We also found, after several months of fruitless searching, a copy of Wii Fit. While I do not really consider it a game per se, I figured the occasion merited mentioning here. It has taught me that I am virtually incapable of shifting my weight; I am, it seems, a mighty sequoia when my feet touch the earth. To my surprise, it makes me look pretty good at yoga, which does not require massive amounts of balance-shifting. I managed to bring my Wii Fit Age down to 33 today (from a staggeringly bad 46), and the hilarity that ensues whenever I attempt the slalom or soccer minigames is probably worth the price of entry.

Game well this week, and may your next level leave you right next to the stairs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Could I Enjoy This?

I finished Braid last night, and the experience was more than worth the price of admission. As others have noted, the final (gameplay) level of the game is mind-blowing. Apparently, some people find the game to be more than a little self-important. Like N'Gai Croal, I disagree with that sentiment; Braid merely takes itself seriously in a realm not known for gravity.

Over the weekend, I spent some time with the non-campaign multiplayer of Halo 3 while visiting family. Since my brother-in-law's console is not connected to Xbox Live, this was restricted to local matches against him and his two daughters. I was rather surprised to learn that I enjoyed that more than the campaign. As I have noted before, this might stem from my lack of foreknowledge of the series' ongoing plot, or it may be a consequence of the game's indecision on how serious the campaign's tone is supposed to be. My time with the shooting and the smacking and the whatnot has left me wondering if I would actually like playing a shooter online. Make no mistake -- I have no intention of running to purchase Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4 to become a deathmatch junkie. However, since I already own Team Fortress 2, I may give that a spin when I fire up my Live membership cards.

Game well, and may your sights aim true.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Puzzles . . . The Puzzles . . .

Between Braid and Portal, I am up to my eyeballs in puzzle-solving, and I am loving every minute of it. The mind-warp the two games are combining to create may result in the spontaneous proof of the Riemann hypothesis for all I know, or it may rip the fabric of the universe and send us all into eternity. No matter what happens, I am in a gaming Shangri-La at the moment. Fortunately, the real world requires me to leave this utopia for work each day, which gives me the chance to do other important things -- like eating and sleeping. If you do not yet own these two titles, I cannot endorse them any more fully.

I promised a few closing words about Super Paper Mario, and here they are. As always, I rushed to the defense of Luigi's honor by using him in every situation possible. In many games I play, the motto 'speed is life' motivates my style; in a Mario-themed platformer, I amend that creed to 'jump height is life.' Without fail, the man in green is always the guy with the edge in that department. The overall tone of the game is, of course, pretty light-hearted, but it had a couple of serious moments. I was a caught a little off-guard by the ecological message of the Land of the Cragnons, although I recall laughing when a character mentions tossing garbage into a river at the start of the chapter. That continued a theme of games fudging the line between good and evil, and I still need to write up something about that trend. I had wondered about the romantic plot thread running through the chapter conclusions, and my suspicions were confirmed as the game progressed. I found something resembling an actual love story inside a Mario game refreshing, even though its ending is somewhat bittersweet.

Game well over the coming weekend, and may you time your rewinds perfectly.