Check it out! My backlog has shrunk. Yes, I realize it’s still comically huge, but I need to stay positive here if I’m ever gonna get through it, so just humor me.
Here’s some brief thoughts on some of the games I’ve finished recently (in alphabetical order!):
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – When it was announced, I thought this game sounded like a questionable idea at best. There’s a reason that the stoic, methodical, silver-haired guy in every anime is always the rival, not the hero–he’s boring. Also, no court scenes? Just investigations? Did Capcom forget that those are the parts that we barely tolerate so we can get to the good stuff? Not to mention that they really highlight the silliest point of un-logic in the series–that trial lawyers routinely comb fresh crime scenes for clues. But, whatever, I thought. It’ll be satisfyingly goofy and twisty in that Ace Attorney way, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it on some level. Turns out that assessment was pretty much exactly right. Predictably engaging, but…ho-hum plot, blah new characters, didn’t really contribute much to the overall series. Oh well. Hopefully this won’t be the last AA game that we ever get in America. And where the hell is Apollo Justice 2?
Alan Wake – If I had gone into this game completely blind, not knowing that Remedy had made it, I probably could have told you after about ten minutes. It’s basically a spiritual sequel to Max Payne and certainly benefits from the connection–but maybe more than it deserves. I would imagine that the design docs for both read almost identically. In both, the narrative comes from a deep understanding and love of a particular type of fiction (classic noir for Max, pulpy horror novels for Alan), and both go to great lengths to marry these stories seamlessly to the gameplay, which is third-person shooting with a gimmick. That last part is the problem with Alan Wake, though. The twist in the shooting this time is that you’ve got a flashlight on you at all times that must be used to stun enemies before killing them. Interesting? I suppose, but significantly less exciting than Bullet Time (back when it was still kind of a new thing). There was stuff that was excusable in Max Payne because, look, jumping around like you were in the goddamn MATRIX was awesome. Without that novelty, the same things end up making Alan thuddingly dull. The enemies are pretty damn boring, for instance. You’ve got your ghost guys, stronger ghost guys, some birds, and then random physics items flying at you. Yawn. But guess what? In Max Payne there was a grand total of one enemy type: a guy with a gun. But guess what again! It didn’t matter because there were a million of them and you were fucking NEO. Similarly, the so-dead-serious-it’s-actually-kind-of-not tone and story in Alan is much tougher to swallow because, I don’t know, I guess it’s easier to appreciate self-parody when you’re having fun? But hey, it’s definitely not all bad. Remedy continues to set standards for story in games and I really wish more developers would notice how ahead of the curve they are and try to step it up. Also, great use of licensed music. Something else more games really, really need to start doing.
Aliens: Infestation – Rock-solid WayForward stuff here. Awesome art, tight controls, smart design. It ended up being a bit disappointing, though, in that it lacked content overall. I’d say it’s about half as long as it could have been, but I’m actually glad it wasn’t, because there weren’t nearly enough concepts, weapons or areas to sustain it for that long. They really slavishly stuck to the source material, which is something I usually really value, but not when it hamstrings creativity.
Child of Eden (and Rez HD) – I made a point of playing through the first game again before I delved into Eden, and I’m glad I did. It gave me the appropriate standpoint from which to say…I think I like Rez better! Eden is certainly prettier, and I like the integration of FMV into the game, even though at times it felt a tad too much like a music video. I guess it was all just a bit too much in this one, though. To be honest, there are still times when I feel pretty overwhelmed by Rez too, so I’m probably not the 1337est virus killer to begin with, but I found myself confused and not understanding why I was getting hit way more in the sequel. Also, the way you progress through the levels in this game is pretty heinous. Imagine if, to get to the third level of Starfox 64, you had to replay the first and second ones. And to get to level four, you had to do those three again. Um, no fucking thanks.
Demon’s Souls – Beating this game made me feel like a superhuman genius from beyond the edge of space-time. Seriously, I was walking around for a while acting like I was Q or something, like I could set up little games for mere mortals to test their wits, thereby judging humanity’s worth. But then, of course, I tried to start New Game Plus and immediately got embarrassed beyond belief by easy enemies. It was a nice slap on the back of the head as if to say, “Hey asshole. You didn’t beat us, we let you win. And don’t forget it.”
Earth Defense Force 2017 – This is a game with a very, very clear audience, and I’m glad that I am in it, because I had a lot of fun. If you’re not familiar with this one, watch the trailer. There are only two possible responses: an astonished, smiling “WTF?” and a nonplussed, slightly irritated “WTF…” This will be your exact emotional state while playing it, for as long as you choose to. It is also probably your reaction to a movie like Fast Five. Proceed with your life accordingly.
Katamari Forever – Well, they finally did it. They finally recycled Katamari to death. I’m officially sick of it now. Basically the third shameless port of We ❤ Katamari that they’re straight-facedly trying to pretend is an all new game. Not even an 8-4, Ltd. localization could save me from snoresville on this one. I don’t foresee ever getting a Vita, but if I did, the version for that thing would be the first one I don’t own. Sadly, it seems that Katamari is not Forever for me. 😦
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Hopefully I’ll write a whole post about this soon, but I just do not have the energy to tackle it now. Remember my short, glowing praise right after it came out and I’d only played the first couple hours? Surprise! I ended up fucking hating it. One of the worst Zeldas ever, in my opinion, and I’ve played through all of them over the last year. Certainly the worst 3D entry. Yuck.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter – I talked about this one a little bit earlier, and nothing much has changed from my midpoint impressions. It definitely ranks ahead of the third game, for me, but I wonder how many more of these I have in me. I’ll see this second trilogy through to the end, certainly, but if they start another three I’ll have to think about it. That second game that was included, Professor Layton’s London Life, started out very interestingly, but it quickly betrayed its origins as a cell phone game and was put away for being very menial and repetitive. Charming, though, and well translated.
Trace Memory – Or as I like to call it, Hotel Dusk Zero. No, that’s not fair. It’s a quaint effort, but screams ‘early DS game’ with its tiresome touchscreen interludes. Shares Hotel Dusk’s aesthetics and sensibilities, but lacks much of its character. It’s kind of an anime Myst starring Nancy Drew. So, basically a non-stop rollercoaster thrillride.