Tag Archives: Music

2008’s Honourable Mentions

Not every game can be as good as Fallout, and indeed there are many excellent games from last year that I didn’t like as much as Mirror’s Edge at number ten but still deserve a mention, so here are a few more games from 2008, in no particular order, that fell short of making the main list but still deserve a mention.

  • Lost Odyssey – It was going to be between this and the game below for tenth spot on the list until Mirror’s Edge stormed in on Christmas Day and pipped them both. As one of the few JRPGs not to have disappointed this gen – I won’t play the well-received Tales of Vesperia until its PAL release – I found this to have likeable characters, an interesting story, and yes: some nice towns too.
  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village – When this became the surprise hit of the end of the year, it was well-deserved. It’s teasingly close to being a point-and-click adventure, it has a charming art style that looks like French animation, and Level-5 even managed to cram FMV cut-scenes in there to further the story. It helps, of course, that the puzzles and brainteasers are uniformly excellent and just the kind of thing to play on a handheld. Wait until the price has normalised and then give it a look.
  • Dead Space – It may be hard to describe this game in any terms other than its plainly obvious inspirations – Alien’s Nostromo with a dash of Doom 3 and a liberal sprinkling of Event Horizon, all topped with Resident Evil 4’s controls – but it’s still a highly satisfying and actually quite scary horror game. The companion animated movie is worth a rental as well.
  • Rock Band 2 – As I hadn’t bought a music game since Guitar Hero II, Rock Band 2 was my attempt to see how far things had come in the intervening generation of plastic instrument-based room-clutterers. Not all that far from the perspective of someone who only plays the guitar, but the boom in à la carte downloadable songs and the sheer amount of music that’s now on my hard drive to choose from makes it pretty irresistible. It makes you feel like a rock star and fulfils all similar clichéd review quotes, and I’d imagine it’s even better with the room for a set of drums.
  • Geometry Wars 2 – Pretenders be damned, this is the only twin-stick shooter to play. Take the successful gameplay of the first one and give it six more modes and some brilliant music and you won’t find many deals that are as obviously worth getting as that. Played on a big 1080p TV with surround sound, it may well give you a seizure, but you’ll have to agree that it’s worth it.
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix – The degree to which I still love Street Fighter II has already inspired its own post, and this has made the other versions irrelevant. Looks great, plays well online, the balance tweaks are enough to actually improve things while not being sweeping enough to rile the hardcore, and if you disagree with any of those comments you can turn off whatever it might be that’s offending you. I don’t have a bad word to say about it, and it only didn’t make the final list because… well… no matter how good the game is, it’s still Street Fighter II again. Roll on February.
  • Persona 3 FES – This would have been in with a shout if I hadn’t played and preferred its sequel in the same year, but it’s still worth a look for its sufficiently different setting and tone. It’s also available for a pretty good price by now, so it could be one to bear in mind for when you’ve finished all your Christmas goodies.
  • Rolando – ‘An iPhone game!?’ you say? Yep. I liked LocoRoco a lot when that came out, and this is pretty blatantly ‘inspired by’ that game but with the benefit of what the PSP game lacked: tilt controls. It’s unfair to call it a clone, though, as it has a lot more gameplay variety and more creative level design, all designed from the ground up to take advantage of the iPhone’s particular gifts, and I might well end up making a case for it with its own post before too long. In the meantime, if you have an iPhone or iPod touch and are looking for a game with some meat to it, it’s only £5.99 and bodes well for the future of dedicated iPhone development.

I think that’s enough looking back for another year. See you in 12 months for more complaining about the state of [insert genre here].

How’s This For a Deal?

Rock Band 2 = £37.99 from Game

– £3 credit for a late price reduction on Fallout 3
– £15 Reward Card credit from the last few months’ pre-orders
+ £3.40 (400 MSP) for Rock Band export key
£0 to rent Rock Band on a free trial of Game’s rental service 

That gives us Rock Band 2 and almost the whole track list for Rock Band – 139 tracks in all – for a total expenditure of £23.39. Admittedly I’m getting by with my Guitar Hero II guitar instead of the Rock Band model, and I had to spend a tad more than I saved to build up that much credit, but it’s still nothing to be sniffed at.

I have no idea what’s been happening with this Rock Band 2 launch, though. It didn’t even seem to have a firm release date at all until a couple of weeks ago, and then after I eventually pre-ordered it I got an email saying that my order wouldn’t be fulfilled for launch day, and neither of the branches of Game in town even had copies, despite their large presence for the first game and its various bundles and versions. This is a major EA release coming out in the run-up to Christmas that’s been promoted on TV and I can’t even see a poster for it?

Probably just a delay in shipping to retail. Blame Somali pirates or something…

Who’s More Evil: EA or the Taxman?

Rock BandSo today it was confirmed that we, in Europe, will be getting a game several months after its US release. Still, can’t blame the publishers when the console manufacturers and enforcing these draconian region locks. What’s more, the price will be a direct dollar-to-pound conversion, but with the exchange rate at around $1.40-£1, that’s fair enough if you take into account taxes and shipping costs. Oh, and I wonder what it’ll be like in a couple of years when Tony Blair is Prime Minister?

Oops, sorry. I was using a post template from 1995 and forgot to delete it all. I was really ahead of the curve on this blogging thing.

So today it was confirmed that we, in Europe, will be getting a game several months after its US release. This is a game that is region locked on the 360, despite it being an option. And with an exchange rate now closer to $2-£1, an already-expensive game coming in at £179.98 (that’s £49.99 for the game, plus £129.99 for instruments) equates to $354.34. By comparison, a complete US copy will cost you $169.99 from EB, which comes out as £86.34.

It’s not really on, is it? The timed exclusivity is nearly here nor there for me, because if I was going to buy the game – I’m not, regardless of price – I have the facility to play it on either console and I’d be comfortable importing the region-free US PS3 version if I had to. In any case, even if you got slapped by the full complement of import duties (17.5% VAT and 3.5% import tax), you’d still only be paying £104.47 plus shipping for the import.

So, to return to my original question, who’s more evil: EA or the taxman? It may seem like a rock and a hard place, but EA won’t pay for schools and hospitals, will it? And you’ll end up paying less anyway, so it’s win-win.

Rez HD

In case you didn’t know, Rez HD is out on Xbox Live Arcade now for 800 points. It’s basically the same game as the Dreamcast and PS2 versions, but with HD graphics, 5.1 sound and all the expected online leaderboards gubbins. Buy it if you haven’t already.

Yesterday’s download was the first time I’ve played the game in a couple of years – pretty much since I bought a bargain copy in Japan in 2005 – and it’s even more of a trippy assault on the senses than it was then. If you have an HDTV and a 5.1 system I consider it to be a must-buy, in a similar way to how Geometry Wars became an unlikely early poster child for HD gaming. I’m so glad that stuff like this is getting a new lease of life in downloadable form, without the limited print runs that marred its retail performance on release.

Ignoring the inexplicable oversight to make the game default to stereo sound (go into the settings and set it to 5.1 if you haven’t), essentially turning off one of the game’s main selling points, I spent a couple of hours playing the first couple of stages. It’s the ultimate chillout game – even against similar ideas like flOw or Electroplankton – that you can just sit back with and only worry about a stick and a couple of buttons while it plays some great music for you. I love it, and consequently was listening to the Rez soundtrack at work for most of the day today.

Given that Rez HD also supports using controllers as up to three trance vibrators, much to the presumable delight of Jane Pinckard, unless you’re desperate to have the game on your shelf as part of the collection there’s no reason to bother with the disc-based editions. This one costs £6.80 – that’s SIX POUNDS EIGHTY PENCE, or roughly 1/7th of the recent going price for a Dreamcast copy on eBay – and even has the original 4:3 standard definition version in there for the luddites. Just try to make an excuse not to buy it.

Phase: A Harmonix Game for Less than $170

Phase

Anyone who downloaded the iTunes 7.5 last week probably noticed something in the change list about a new game called Phase. It’s now out on the iTunes Store (link), priced at £3.99, and it’s a rhythm game from Harmonix.

Yes, that Harmonix. And yes, it’s an iPod game.

It’s basically Amplitude in miniature, and it’s made all the more impressive by the fact that it allows you to import your own music. Hopefully this is an indication of where we’ll be going with the next Rock Band – or the next Amplitude? – because if an iPod can do that analysis of a song (actually it’s iTunes that does the analysis, but let’s not be so pedantic that I ruin my point) there’s certainly no reason that a modern console can’t do it. It’s probably the only possible feature that would make me entertain paying £170 for Rock Band.

The quality of the experience really depends on the music – dance music and anything with a prominent, repeating rhythm works well; more subtle music not so much – but when it works well it works very well and what it could represent for the future of Harmonix’s rhythm games is very exciting. I just hope that the implementation of mass DLC in Rock Band doesn’t cause dollar signs to blind them to the potential of importing one’s music collection manually.

Phase isn’t as good as Guitar Hero or Amplitude, but on this showing I see potential in bespoke iPod games that the ever-nascent mobile phone gaming market continually fails to fulfill. And Guitar Hero and Amplitude, least of all Rock Band, aren’t £3.99, are they?

Okami Soundtrack

Check this baby out. Got it in the post this morning from YesAsia. Thankfully I didn’t order from Lik-Sang…

Okami Soundtrack

I haven’t had a chance to listen to most of it since it’s five discs, 218 tracks, and over five and a half hours long. I think that I actually have albums that are quicker to listen to straight through than it’s been to import this thing into iTunes.

The music while playing the game has been very good, obviously with strong traditional Japanese influences and more modern elements for good measure. If you like that kind of music I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. In any case how can you say no when it’s this purdy? Anything less wouldn’t do the beauty of the game justice, I suppose.