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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Games Catchup

posted by on July 6 at 0:57 AM

Have you played Space Invaders Extreme yet? Possibly not, since summer’s a good time for nerd detox. Months past Grand Theft Auto 4, months before the Christmas rush of big games, months during which the sun stays out until 10 p.m. But this new Space Invaders is something else. Something worth returning to the dark corridors in which you can actually see a Nintendo DS screen.

The old Space Invaders was a slow one, and various remakes have stuck pretty close to the formula; aliens descend slooowly, and you attack them by shooting behind shields. This one, a 30th anniversary edition, takes away the shields and the slow. Now, it’s a snappy shooting game that does a great job letting people play as they please. Memorize waves of enemies and make the most of the game’s new combo system, which has you kill critters of the same color or shape for bonuses. Or, mindlessly shoot everything with a perfect difficulty curve that’ll keep casual, bus-DS folks as entertained as the hardcore crowd. The art direction reeks of Lumines in all of the right ways—pictures and sounds match up in psych-disco fashion, and every time you shoot something, the sound fits into the music’s rhythm. And in the online mode, you and an opponent tear through your own single-player games, and the better you do, the more you muck up your foe’s game (and vice versa).

For way too much blather about other recent games (Boom Blox, LOL, Ninja Gaiden II, Diablo II, and more), let’s play catch-up after the jump. But really, Space Invaders Extreme, in spite of the stupid title, is where it’s at.

Boom Blox (Wii): This game delivers a pretty good visceral feeling, something that Wii games are supposed to inherently have. You aim and throw at blocky towers with the motion-sensitive Wii Remote, and the resulting crashes and block-tumbles fulfill the evil “sand castle destruction” thoughts in every boy-at-heart’s mind. Methinks this is what got so many praise-happy reviewers antsy. But there’s no reason to whip my wrist in a fake-throwing motion over and over. An arm reacts differently when it doesn’t complete a real throw, and that crap hurts.

Beyond that, this game gets old, in spite of peppering its core with a “quest” and a construct-your-own-level mode. Once you get the hang of it, the challenge in each level boils down to smacking an easy-to-find weak point with your balls over and over (hyuck hyuck). Combine that with occasionally unresponsive control, art that comes straight from a creepy, abandoned children’s park, and four-player modes that run as slowly as Mario Party, and you’re better off ruining a kid’s day at the beach.

LOL (DS): I don’t have a DS posse. If I ever form one—and I don’t mean breaking into a middle school cafeteria and kidnapping a bunch of Pokemon twerps—I’m going to try this four-player, um, thing. I figured LOL was some annoying DS-chat program, but turns out it’s free-form Pictionary. In each “round,” one person invents a question or challenge, and everyone else has to write or draw on the touchscreen to solve it. Then the group of four votes on the winners of each round. People who are too uncreative might be happier letting Cranium do the party prodding, but I like the sound of this one. Too bad about that whole “friends” thing.

Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360): I haven’t felt compelled to play this since screaming at the TV about it a month or so ago. I don’t miss this one. NG2 might’ve been more fun as a co-op ninja-slashin’ game—would’ve made it much easier to enjoy this game’s pretty, detailed gushes of blood and shameless slabs of gore.

Diablo II (PC): I had no intention of reinstalling this game after Diablo III was announced last week, but the housemate had other intentions. A few dungeon grinds in, I’m already tired. I’ve never gotten the appeal of games where you run around, kill endless armies of fiends, and hope that their dead bodies reveal magical swords and armor. The social aspect makes up for this mindless stuff to some degree, but Diablo II punishes players by making them run back to a home base every three minutes to accumulate more weapons and gold. This means I have to keep bickering with whomever I’m playing about whether or not we’re gonna go warp back to a stupid blacksmith for the hundredth time in the past two seconds. ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? Jesus. Word on the street is that Too Human, out in August for Xbox 360, splits the diff ‘tween Diablo II and Ninja Gaiden II for visceral, co-op, loot-crazed killin’. Fingies are crossed.

DS RPGs: I wanted to like The World Ends With You, an action-RPG set in modern-day Tokyo, but the game’s endless text scrolls are apparently written by Tom from MySpace. So that wasn’t gonna happen. Then I gave Final Fantasy Tactics A2 a shot, and its script is surprisingly good for a kid-friendly quest. But that’s all it’s got. The turn-based, “tactical” battles start off too easy and too slow, and I wasn’t compelled to keep on grinding through it (Advance Wars does the same style of play much better).

GTA IV (Xbox 360): Still haven’t beaten this; 2/3 through the main quest, it appears. This is the furthest I’ve ever gotten in a Grand Theft Auto game—usually I hit a brick wall of a challenge and give up, but this one has been manageably challenging. Trouble is, the game’s start, full of internal conflict and moral shades of grey, has darkened into a shitty shade of brown. Protagonist Niko Bellic has become a heartless criminal. Used to be, he was doing odd jobs to help his poor cousin raise a few bucks. Now, he kills for kicks? The game wanted so badly for me to respect its story and characters at first, and this dropoff in personal conflict for all involved is really pitiful. All we’re left with is another stupid video game. Shame.

The outdoors … no, not a fucking sim game. You know, the outdoors. Outside. It’s pretty awesome. I thought I’d make that clear, lest you people think my skin’s starting to turn transparent over here this summer.

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Great, fun post. It's nice to see some technology coverage on Slog!

Posted by Simac | July 6, 2008 8:03 AM

I absolutely love Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2, it's my favorite game e-v-e-r. There are two modes, normal and hard.

I remember when I first played FFTA #1 I thought it was painfully slow but I adjusted, and now it just seems like a part of the game so the pace doesn't frustrate me. Also, learning the menus and being able to zip through them quickly in battle helps speed things up. (I still use the buttons even though FFTA2 has touch-screen controls.)

Bottom line: If you enjoyed playing FFTA then you will love FFTA2. They fixed some annoying things in FFTA (such as missions that never reappeared, which could really screw up advancement), made the law system a little more lenient, added some new jobs, and made shopping fun (combining ingredients at the bazaar to make new equipment). So far the only change I don't like is that my thief can't steal weapons and armour like it could in FFTA. Thieves can still steal money, items, and loot (used in the bazaar), but not equipment.

Posted by Kristi in Kitsap | July 6, 2008 11:11 AM

The best handheld tactics game is probably Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis for GBA. Much better story and development than FFTA

Posted by vooodooo84 | July 6, 2008 12:45 PM

My ideal summer game is Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. There's something relaxing about the interface, the quiet music and UI sounds, the slow "don't go, the drones need you" that matches the "sit outside on the balcony and play on a laptop" mood.

Posted by harold | July 6, 2008 3:33 PM

Sam, are you going to post an update about your Wii Fit experience? I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it after having it for a couple of months.

And thanks for the info about Boom Blox, my son is dying to get it but I was on the fence.

Posted by PopTart | July 6, 2008 5:40 PM

@5: I'm working something up. I've even gone to "real" yoga as research. Will post the wrapup in about a week, as I'll be out of town for some of this week.

Now, if I were to review Boom Blox for a kid's perspective, my points would probably go up a little higher. The game's art direction and cutesiness certainly targets the younger set, and your kid's wrists might hold up. It's a must-rent for a young'un, at the very least.

Posted by Sam M. | July 6, 2008 5:54 PM

@6 Thanks Sam, I'll rent it first to check it out.

Posted by PopTart | July 6, 2008 9:01 PM

What, not even a mention of Metal Gear Solid 4?

Posted by Nic | July 6, 2008 9:56 PM

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