I’m kind of late to this one given that it was a pretty big cult hit late last year, but the game that kept me from finishing Resident Evil 5 over the long Easter weekend wasn’t some big budget AAA title but World of Goo: a physics-based puzzle game developed by a team of two guys. Having been a darling of the independent gaming community for a while, it got released for WiiWare and has subsequently come out for various operating systems, and it was its inclusion in this year’s MacHeist that finally got me to play it.
At the time of writing my profile reckons I’ve been playing for around seven and a half hours, and that’s almost entirely been over the long weekend, a quick dabble with the demo when it was getting a lot of positive buzz aside. To my shame I brushed it off then, so consider this post my atonement.
I absolutely adore this game. It’s typical of the best indie games in the way that it’s built fun gameplay around a simple, strong central concept, and everything else from the sharp, detailed graphics with bags of personality to the jaunty, Elfman-esque soundtrack (free download here) has a couple of really great pieces. Even the writing, largely coming through the unseen ‘Sign Writer’, is often clever and loaded with in-jokes.
One moment that stuck with me was the beginning of the fourth world, the Information Superhighway. Whereas all previous levels had been similarly themed, here things are thrown into the green and black digital world, and even the gameplay changes to match the new design. New mechanics like the ability to ‘infect’ pieces to give them different properties and the use of gravity to curve shots around a planetoid are a complete switch from the basic bridge and tower building that made up the previous three worlds. That’s not to say the rest of it isn’t inventive, because it certainly is, but I think it speaks volumes about how much invention is in here that it can be so suddenly switched around.
Now I know how long this has been out so it’s quite likely that people have played it, but I also know what proportion of the players actually paid for it – so much for the ‘we only pirate because of DRM’ story, eh? Trust me: it’s more than worth the $20.
Same format as last year, but with added bitter fanboy tears. In chronological order:
- Microsoft – I wasn’t blown away, to be honest. Seeing live gameplay of Resident Evil 5 was initially my highlight, in the same way that the Call of Duty 4 was a gem in a pile of (mostly) shit last year. Gears 2 and Fable II both look good and are certain purchases that it’s nice to have dates for, but things like avatars do nothing for me and the occasional cool feature and probable gem do not a great conference make. No Alan Wake (the new Duke Nukem Forever?), no big new IP announcements, a new interface that I’m not convinced about. Just the warm feeling from the fact that there was no motion controller announcement… yet.
But then Square dropped the bomb. As last words go, FFXIII on 360 put most of Steve Jobs’ infamous “and one more thing” reveals to shame. Not even a rumbling of this news before the show, which is remarkable in itself, and it dealt a big blow to Sony early on. With the possible exception of Gran Turismo, this has been Sony’s trump card since FFVII in 1997, and it was the one third-party PS3 exclusive that I thought untouchable. Make no mistake; that announcement was huge.
It doesn’t change the fact that the rest of it was relatively lacklustre, but it feels like it was all a ruse to lead up to that. For the biggest E3 megaton – something that I thought was becoming a lost art – since “five hundred and ninety-nine US dollars”, this one gets a…
- Nintendo – If you ever need reason why so many hardcore gamers seem to have abandoned Nintendo to focus on the fight for second place, this is why. Last year’s Wii Fit reveal was a disappointment and in that respect this at least had something that vaguely interests me in Animal Crossing, but it’s still basically the same thing as Nintendo brought out on N64, GameCube, and DS. It might have more online functions, but all I’m going to be thinking about is how much better it could be done on Live and PSN.
Add another mini-game compilation, another peripheral, and, in Wii Music, one of the most pathetic ideas I’ve ever seen (I can’t help but think of the musical chairs game in The Simpsons when Bart was put into the remedial class). Someone summed it up for me on a forum post when they said: “At least now that Nintendo has show that it hates hardcore gamers we won’t have to pretend to like the Wii any more.”
Thanks for the good times back in the day, Nintendo, but I’ll take an insular industry that makes games that I enjoy over this popular tripe.
- Sony – Sony really didn’t deviate too much from what was largely a successful formula last year. The embarrassing Home jokes were gone, and no baffling cameo from Chewbacca, and we just got games. It deserves credit for making the most entertaining Powerpoint presentation in history. LittleBigPlanet can make anything interesting.
On the games front, Resistance 2 looked good but early, and while stuff like God of War III and MAG sound promising, didn’t Sony learn anything about showing CG trailers a couple of years ago? When your big reveals are CG and your lead game is one that pretty much everyone who cares enough to watch a conference has finished at least once since it came out a month ago, it doesn’t make it look like there’s a lot of content.
This E3 will go down in history for the Final Fantasy XIII announcement, which put the Microsoft conference ahead on entertainment value alone. Other than that, very disappointing in my opinion. No big new game announcements (so far), no proper price drops or anything, and the bitter taste in my mouth that the mainstream press is going to be fawning over Nintendo finding a way to charge you to play air guitar.
Continuing on from a previous theme, the Super Smash Bros series, though obscenely popular and capable of selling millions, is a series that I just can’t seem to get on the right wavelength to enjoy.
Though I’ve been known to, I’m not going to get on that high horse about how it’s not a proper fighting game and the world would be much better off if everyone would master the intricacies of Street Fighter III or Mark of the Wolves. It would, but the point is that Smash Bros is as much a party game and a Nintendo museum as it is a fighting game. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek; a snakes and ladders to Street Fighter’s chess. I’ll just leave that argument there since I’m sure you can find several theses’ worth of fanboys clashing over it.
I have my copy of Brawl, just like I had Melee and the original game before it, and yet the huge appeal still eludes me. Subspace Emissary, the bizarrely titled adventure mode, is a painful slog that’s totally at odds with the classic mode and that had me bored senseless after an hour. I’m not opposed to a story mode in this – indeed, the FMV scenes and the ludicrous contrivances that bring Mario, Sonic, and Solid Snake together in one universe can be pretty brilliant – but the platforming just doesn’t do it for me. How about wrapping the story around the normal fighting engine?
Regardless, the basic fighting has a certain charm, and when played online (when that decides to work – Nintendo WFC makes PSN seem reliable) or in local multiplayer it’s a blast. The arenas also never fail to impress me, from the schizophrenic Wario Ware stage to the quite beautiful [insert ‘for a Wii game’ disclaimer here] Twilight Princess one, all with their own little idiosyncrasies and gimmicks. Coupled with the fact that the game’s basically one big fan-wank – hundreds of music tracks, even more obscure characters to unlock in the form of trophies and stickers – I can see the appeal, but to me the underlying game is just incredibly overrated.
Still, credit for Nintendo for really going all out with this game. The fact that it allows you to create maps and save screenshots (the above one is mine) and replays to be shared on SD card or – get this – traded online, shows that if they can move on from the friend code rubbish (mine’s 2621-2435-6589, incidentally), Nintendo might not be completely left behind when community features like those in Halo 3 and LittleBigPlanet become commonplace. God knows what they’re going to put in there for the next version. Every Nintendo character ever playable?
Super Mario Galaxy is a brilliant game, and the best Nintendo game since the almighty Ocarina of Time. It’s a Wii game that feels like that’s what it’s always been. And all without a minigame in sight.
It’s probably best to explain here why it’s not number one. I’ve said in the past that I think Super Mario 64 is almost flawless, and a game that is maybe possibly kind of a bit better (or is it, etc?) should surely then go straight in at the top of the list and all subsequent ones. Well…no. And it’s not you, it’s me.
I just don’t feel it like I used to, and I don’t know how to explain it without sounding really shallow. Mario Galaxy’s story is a bit more prominent than Mario 64’s and the talking stars get on my nerves. The platforming is still as good as ever, basically playing like those suspended play areas that made up the Bowser levels extended to fill an entire game, but the camera hasn’t moved on with the imaginations of the developers and therefore technical issues which were occasional niggles in 1996/97 are now more problematic.
Don’t let my justification of the placement make it sound like I’m entirely down on the game. It just seems that most are putting this at number one almost out of duty because it’s Mario and because Nintendo are the kings of their castle again, and as a result I have to justify my blasphemy. And it’s not because the Wii having almost nothing all year and then stealing in to take its second top spot running would annoy me.
That Mario Galaxy is one of the best games of the year is beyond doubt and, really, the ultimate number is irrelevant. Just knowing that it’s Nintendo’s best in years speak more than any single digit.
Somehow, Corruption is both the best and worst of the Metroid Prime series. It’s the best looking, it has the smoothest difficulty curve, and yes: it has the best controls.
It proves once again that when controls are tweaked with the Wii in mind rather than crowbarred onto the remote that it’s a very capable control system. I couldn’t imagine playing Halo on the Wii remote but at the same time I couldn’t imagine playing Metroid Prime on a 360 controller. It has its place, and that’s fine.
My main complaint is that it’s continued the shift away from what makes a Metroid that was started in Metroid Prime 2 and Hunters, and this one really suffers the most from it. This series is about isolation on a hostile planet, whereas Corruption has an opening that infamously echoes that of the first Halo to an almost plagiaristic extent, and most of the planets will have you running into fellow bounty hunters and receiving communications from the Federation. I’m not the only one to have also noted that these aspects aren’t particularly well done either, making them especially alienating for fans.
Still, these issues are with the story, which is thankfully a largely secondary distraction. The good stuff is just as good, and the token gimmick (the titular corruption of the phazon variety) is better than the annoying Dark Aether guff in Metroid Prime 2. It’s a great sci-fi adventure and, if Retro can get over the temptation to lean too much on the story, leaves me keen to see what they can do with their obvious talent and the best first-person shooting controls on a console.
I think I’m with most gamers when I say that my biggest question regarding this unusual collaboration is what exactly Mario is doping to enable him to match Sonic in a foot race. After having spent an afternoon with the game at the Wii Flat in London, I’m even more confused. Mario was pretty brisk if you held the run button, but when Bowser, Wario, and Eggman can keep up…well…it’s madness!
Once I was over my apoplectic fit and could put aside my inner fanboy, however, I couldn’t stay angry with it. I was too exhausted to…
Continue reading Mario & Sonic at the Wii Flat