Friday, 25 January 2013

The Great Playthrough - BONUS ROUND!

So, this gaming blog is a bit different from the rest of the playthrough blogs - it doesn't obey any of the rules! "But why, Brawny?" I hear you ask. Well, because this blog is going to review three games that weren't on the original list, and consequentially do not have numbers - because they are the games I got for Christmas!

All three of these are games that I've been wanting for a while, and they are all current generation games (assuming that we are still counting the Wii as current generation - although the Wii U is out now, so I guess I should be setting it back as last generation now.. but sod it) so without further ado (and in no particular order), let's get on with it!

Resident Evil 4
Released on: Nintendo Gamecube, PC, PS2, Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, Mobile, iPhone, iPad
Played on: Nintendo Wii
Release date: 2005

You heard my thoughts on the original Resident Evil earlier in this playthrough, and the 5th instalment was one of the first games Neety and I bought for the Xbox 360 and we had a lot of fun playing together. Resi 4 is always cited as one of the greatest games ever, and I was interested to see how good it was in comparison with how good everyone says that it is. 

Short answer? It's great. The Wii controls introduced for this port work really well, and the game is very well balanced and designed. 

The plot? Well, it's a traditional Resident Evil mish-mash of virus's, evil beings and zombies. WRONG. These are not zombies, they are apparently infected people, not zombies. 

*Mumbles* I don't know what the bloody difference is mind you... *finishes mumbling* 

There are women in distress, (well, women is a loose term. Let's just say that there is one jug-eared blond annoyance in distress) and you run around shooting zombies infected villagers, using up all your limited ammo before coming face-to-face with a mutated boss who has extra limbs and metal claws, and you only have three handgun bullets left, and the only other ammo you have is the rifle ammo, which is particularly useless because you didn't buy a rifle from Rapey Clive when you had the chance!

(Just to clarify, Rapey Clive is the name that Neety gave to the creepy merchant who always greets you in a disturbingly growling voice and then flings open his coat as if he was going to flash you)

However, in spite of a few minor moments of frustration, it's a very well-balanced and addictive game - as proven by the fact that I have so far spent 12+ hours on it, finishing the main game and unlocking the side story etc, and I still want to play more. My biggest bugbear of the game? The proliferation of "Press X to not die" quicktime events. Although, with this being the Wii, it's more a case of "Waggle the Wii-mote inappropriately to not die", which does lead to entertaining (if slightly rude) comments from Neety. 

Rating: 8.5/10
Time Played: 12+ hours so far....
Would I play it again: Hell yeah!

In comparison with Pestilent Weevils the fourth (aka Resident Evil 4), the next game is an almost complete opposite. Whereas Resi 4 is an "adult" game, with a strangely muted colour scheme, the next game I'm going to discuss feels like someone has smacked you around the face with a four foot long cartoon fish! It's...

Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing
Released on: Xbox360, PS3, PC
Played on: Xbox 360
Release date: 2010

I love this game. I've had the one-race demo on my Xbox for months and have played it far more than any man should ever play a single demo. I've mentioned before (most recently in my previous post) my love for Outrun and other colourful, unrealistic, arcade racers - and this game represents all of that to me.  It's like someone crashed Outrun into Mario Kart, and this is the result.

Don't get me wrong, it's not the most in-depth of games, but it is ridiculously addictive (It's like the video game version of candy-coated, caffeine-infused smack) and even as someone who usually prefers advancing in the game to obtaining high scores, it really does have that "one-more-try" factor (which is helped by the number of achievements available - at this rate, it might become the first Xbox game that I ever complete every achievement on!)

Now I know what you're all thinking:

"I know who Sonic is. And Tails. And Knuckles. But who are the rest of these drivers. Are they really all-stars?"

To which I would respond: "Does it matter?"

Some of the characters are reasonably well known if you have knowledge of SEGA history or retro games in general - Alex Kidd, Beat, AiAi etc... but some are, I grant you, pretty obscure. But who cares when the game is this much fun?

Plus, you get to run over zombies, sorry, creatures on the House of the Dead, sorry, Curien Mansion tracks. (They can't call them zombies as it is a game for all ages, and they can't call it House of the Dead because firstly that could bump the rating up as well, but secondly, House of the Dead is banned in Germany and they didn't want this banned too!). And who doesn't enjoy hitting zombies creatures with a car???

The driving mechanics of the game are great, and the physics are rock solid (except for the fact that on some of the more outrageous tracks, gravity seems not to exist...) and the music is a selection of Sonic/Sega tunes and is therefore brilliantly annoying and catchy all at once. Plus, in a change from a certain racer I reviewed recently, this has plenty to do in single player - grand prix's and a full on mission mode as well!

Rating: 9/10
Time played: About 6 hours so far
Would I play it again? I'm loading it right now...

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Released on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS2, Nintendo DS
Played on: Xbox 360
Release date: 2008

Like Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing, I've had the demo of this on the Xbox for a good long while, so it was nice to pop in the full game and settle down to some satisfying destruction of everything you see.

However, straight off, I hit a slight roadblock. The opening level disappointed me slightly, and I'm still not sure as to why. It should have been amazing because of the following 2 points..

1) You play as Darth Vader. And who doesn't love that!
2) It's a different way to do the opening of the story, rather than all being cinematic cut-scenes which I am always glad to see.

But it just feels... slow. Lacking in pace, if you will. And a big part of that is that Vader does not run. I understand why, it is to make him seem confident, and imposing... but it just makes the level feel tedious. (Plus, you are slicing your way through Wookies, and I like wookies damnit!)

After that, though, the game definitely picks up. You play as Darth Vaders hitherto unmentioned apprentice, Starkiller, and you rush through environments destroying Stormtroopers and rebels alike! It's almost as if Starkiller is the opposite of a smart bomb. You send him in if you want to destroy absolutely everything, including people, spaceships, planets...

The game is great fun, not particularly intellectually stimulating, but fun nonetheless. It does have a few flaws - the camera is a little erratic, control of force powers can be a little bit hit and miss, and I have not yet fully embraced the RPG-lite style powers upgrade system... but I'm sure I will.

This section is shorter than the other two as this is the game I have played least so far... but I am enjoying it at the moment!

Rating: 7.5/10
Time Played: About 2 - 3 hours so far..
Would I play it again? Of course

Next time - back to the playthrough!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Great Playthrough: Game 36 - Star Wars: Racer Revenge and Game 37 - Bit.Trip Runner

I begin, as I often do, with an apology. I know that at the end of my previous entry, I advised you that this next one would be along very soon. And it wasn't.

In my defence, I have been rather busy....

And while I'm in a confessional mood, I ought to point out that I'm not going to complete my initial plan of playing all of these games before the wedding - I still have over a hundred to go on the list! But that's not going to stop me continuing with this experiment, (Just to clarify, the experiment I'm talking about is the game playing - not some weird Frankenstein-style experiment that you think I'm up to), and today I present to you the next two games in the series! First up:

Star Wars: Racer Revenge
Released on: Playstation 2
Played on: Playstation 2
Release Date: 2002

I was looking forward to this game. As derided as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is, it is universally agreed that the podrace is by far the best part of the film, and I seem to remember that the N64 game that preceded this - Star Wars: Racer - was pretty good as well. These factors, combined with my love for silly arcade racers (remember my disappointment when Outrun 2 didn't work?) gave me high hopes for Star Wars: Racer Revenge.

And then I played it. And honestly? The best comparison I can give is to compare it with the Star Wars prequels themselves. There was initial excitement followed by the disappointment of good ideas being badly handled.

Don't get me wrong, the first race was fun. Handling was a bit strange, but I thought that I'd get used to it. And then, after losing the race (unsurprisingly - due to it being my first go at the game), so I tried again with a different racer and different pod, and then after a couple of goes, I won! And after winning, my reward? Getting dumped back into the track select screen I was in before.

And that is one of my biggest problems with the game - there's no single player mode. Yes, you can play the tracks one at a time, but it doesn't feel like there's any progression or reward for doing well. There's no grand prix, or mission mode, or anything like that. Couple that with the erratic handling and I was fed up with playing the game within 20 minutes.

Sorry Star Wars: Racer Revenge, but you were a disappointment - I'd rather play Outrun any day.

Rating - 4/10
Time played - About 20 Minutes
Will I play it again? - I don't think I'm likely to. 

Bit.Trip Runner
Released on: Nintendo Wii
Played on: Nintendo Wii
Release date: 2010

When I first played Bit.Trip Runner (back when I originally got it), I remember expecting it to be a platformer, and was therefore disappointed with it for approximately fifteen minutes of play, before the game suddenly clicked into place. 

It may look like a platformer. You may need to jump onto platforms and avoid spikes, but it is, in fact a rhythm action game. And the reason I didn't notice? Because it is so well disguised. It'd be like tasting an apple that looked like an apple, smelt like an apple, felt like an apple, but tasted like a 3-course gourmet dinner roasted by Gordon Ramsey whilst he was dressed in a Garfield outfit.

It's not what you expect.

Although, that's not necessarily a bad thing... because it is a very good game.

Basically (in case you didn't know), Bit.Trip Runner sees you controlling Commander Video (a wonderfully blocky 8-bit style man) who continuously runs, and you must make him jump, slide and kick his way through the level, all soundtracked by some wonderful chiptune music.

And the music is the key, because every action you perform with Commander Video makes a sound, and if you do the action at the correct time, it enhances the music, allowing it to build up to an aural soundscape of wonderment. It's almost as if the visual part of the game is irrelevant. You feel like you could play it with your eyes shit. (I don't recommend it though, I died very quickly when I tried that!) 

On the whole it is a very fun game - it can be frustrating when you get things wrong and get sent back to the start of the level when you miss one jump, but because the level re-starts straightaway, not giving you the option to quit, which is a very canny piece of game design. 

My only real complaint about Bit.Trip Runner (apart from the occasional moment of unresponsive controls, which I am assuming is the fault of my wii-mote as it is starting to fall apart from overuse) is that it does all start to feel a little samey after a while, and therefore it's a game more suited to short bursts of play rather than hours upon hours of continuous play. 

It's still bloody good fun...

Rating: 8/10
Time played: 1 hour
Would I play it again?: Definitely.