Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Games I'm Finishing

So, GTA IV is out, and it's got a long-assed, involved, complex single player story of astonishing production values and scope. But since it came out, I've finished:
  • Assault Heroes
  • Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Volume 1
  • Band of Bugs
and I've made substantial headway on The Club, and Sega Superstars Tennis. All five of those games have one thing in common - they're quick to pick up and put down, and can be played in relatively short bursts. Yes, GTA can be played in relatively short bursts, but it's all part of one monolithic narrative, and re-immersing yourself in that mindset takes a reasonable investment.

Finishing a game is not necessarily a barometer of quality, either - GTA IV is a better game in every way than Band of Bugs, which is a largely over-simplified turn-based strategy game with a nauseating visual aesthetic and cast of characters. Still, I played it to the end - and I'm not the kind of person that finishes games that they actively don't like.

So why do I make a decision to play The Club instead of GTA IV? Why do I play Sega Superstars Tennis instead of finishing Episode 2 in The Orange Box? There's something to be said for a self-contained burst o' interactivity without the story to put it all into context and make it mean something. Sometimes I just want to hit buttons and have flashy lights go off.

  • Assault Heroes: B/65 - some interesting features (weapons, car as the default avatar) and some nice boss fights, but a really sloppy implementation that was often missing audio, with really badly timed cutscenes.
  • Band of Bugs: C/50 - a genre Live Arcade could use more of (I never got Commanders: Attack of the Genos, but it's in the same vein), but a really "bleh" instance of the genre. Not enough real strategy, too much randomness, a sometimes indecipherable UI/visual style with a story about bugs. Ick. Not a game for the turn-based strategy fan (not enough strategy), not a game for the casual player (indecipherable). Bad combination.
  • The Club: A/80 (so far) - have only made it about halfway through, and it's starting to feel repetitive, but the shooter-as-racing-game works *really* well. No other game has made me feel like I'm scrambling through an environment, desperate to find the next thing. Great stuff, and sadly overlooked.
  • Orange Box: A/100 - the best value on the planet. Portal would be worth the full price alone, but combined with Half Life 2 and Ep. 1 and 2, and Team Fortress... it's *ridiculous*. If you don't have it, you should.

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