Sunday, November 16, 2008

Games to Try (or not)

Been trying a bunch of new games recently. Given that Christmas is on the way, figured I'd let people know my opinions, to help them with their shopping.

Wii Fit (Wii)
Thumbs Up!
Finally, you can find these in stores, though who knows how they'll fare during the Christmas rush. Basically, Wii Fit is a step board, capable of determining centre of balance and weight. The game itself simply unlocks a variety of activities and mini-games completed with the board and occasionally remotes, including a full assortment of yoga poses, strength training, cardio/fitness, and balance games.

The balance games are the most 'fun' - downhill skiing being my favourite so far. The fitness games are a good middle ground, with Einin being a huge fan of the hula hooping. The strength and yoga break the illusion - there's no mistake here that you're doing exercise rather than playing a game, and they don't try to hide it. I'd also say these last two are weaker in that it's far more difficult to detect correct execution of the techiques from balance alone.

However, Wii Fit is still win. The balance games are sufficiently entertaining to be party games, and the rest are nice for when you don't feel like trekking to the gym. I don't like the lack of solid multiplayer (you have to go all the way to the main menu to switch) nor the lack of pre-programmed exercise routines, but those are in no way fatal flaws.

Plus, hackers have done some sweet things with the Wii Fit board.

Final Fantasy III (DS)
Epic Fail
A port of the Japanese classic not only to English but to the DS (complete with advanced graphics). Summary: I can see now why they skipped over this one when they originally ported the series.

The game is the worst RPG I've ever played. The characters may as well be random pixel blobs - they're so undeveloped that I don't even remember their names. The story is a sequence of mini-quests, but beyond "I'm saving the world from the darkness", and there's some crystals involved, the story is nearly non-existent.

The class system is ridiculous. There's maybe 20 classes to choose from... you get a few more after each crystal. Each character may change at will. However, short of the Internet, there's no way to know what class does what, is good for what, or can use what equipment. Plus the fact that you have to level each class you try separately, so experimenting is an expensive proposition.

The final straw for me was the end tower. I fight through a bunch of very difficult areas, get to the final boss world, decide I want to save. Walking back the way I came leads me not to the exit, but to an encounter with an unkillable boss who kills me and sets me back 3 hours of play time.

I quit at that point. It's not worth another half-dozen hours of playtime to see the end. And I use 'play' time in the loosest sense.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies (DS)
Surprizing Win!
Capitalizing on the success of Geometry Wars: Evolved and Geometry Wars: Evolved 2 for Xbox Live Arcade, a clever company decided to make a DS version. To justify the value they added, they included a 'campaign' mode and an upgradable drone. Oh noes...

I thought this was going to be serious cheese, but I bought it anyways, figuring that it'd still be Geometry Wars, and thus fun enough for a short plane ride. But wow, it took me by surprize. The campaign is excellent! Yes, you just play a bunch of rounds of what is essentially the same game, but they mix it up a bunch. Levels with different shapes and borders; a level with Astroids-like dividing shapes. A level with minelayers whose mines you have to set off. Even a giant spinning gravity well.

I hope they adopt these features into Geometry Wars 3!

Wrath of the Lich King (PC)
Say goodbye to your non-WoW friends.
Everyone expected good things from the second expansion to World of Warcraft. Blizzard exceeded expectations. Their updated engine shows; the new world is all about tall peaks, snow lines, and waterfalls. There's times where we've just stopped in the middle of a battle for a town to just admire a breathtaking view! Death Knights are great fun, and make use of seamless instance transitions to script an elaborate opening scenario. Not a bug to be found, and except for a couple of queues, solid as a rock.

If you've left WoW, now is the time to come back.

Other Games I don't have yet, but want to try

Fallout 3 (PC/Xbox)
The first two were epic; you're sent on a grand quest into the post-apocalyptic wastes, and by the time you're done, your entire worldview has changed. Turn-based RPG that actually emphasises freedom of choice, and lets your character and even the world evolve based on your decisions on and off the battlefield.

While the new FPS style worries me, I've been assured that the game is still excellent.

Saints Row 2 (Xbox)
A blatant ripoff of Grand Theft Auto. But it took the announcement of this game to really appreciate some of my dissatisfaction with Grand Theft Auto 4. While I did love GTA4, it really spent too much time doing realism over the fun factor that makes GTA great. As Yahtzee points out, taking my cousin bowling got boring after the 12th time, and distracted from running over pedestrians.

Saints Row had no such qualms. Loose driving mechanics, readily available weapons, and hilariously entertaining subgames by the truckload. Saints Row 2 looks to play the "If it ain't broke" card; every description looks like it's the same as its predecessor; down to a cheezy retcon of the first's ending (even the cliche coma). I can't wait.