What Did You Play Over Christmas?
So first of all, Happy New Year to all Play readers! This might not be the first new Play blog post in 2011 but it’s the first one I have written in 2011, with the others appearing courtesy of the ‘schedule to go live’ button that let me cheat by writing them before the Christmas holidays. Shhh. Our secret.
In any case, the point of Christmas/New Year is to be too full of turkey/too hungover to do anything useful. You know, like work or getting out of bed at a reasonable time or even getting dressed. So that made it the perfect time for some gaming. Here’s what I played over the Christmas holidays…
Gran Turismo 5
I like it, even though I’m terrible at it, and I know I’m terrible at it because I trundled through the B-License tests to the sound of clanking bronze trophies rather than the silver or gold on offer. Didn’t dare play it online but it kept me surprisingly entertained. It’s not normally my kind of game but taken for what it is and not what some might expect it to be, it’s pretty damn good.
This, on the other hand, is pretty damn terrible. I wanted a mindless button basher and it starts off that way but also throws in horrible side-scrolling sections with instant death traps, even worse platforming bits and enemies that can only be killed with one type of move. There are so many bad design decisions too. Why have an enemy with three consecutive slashes that can’t be interrupted, that accounts for half your life? Why does Rick’s grab counter go through the full animation including a reeeeeally casual headstomp in a timed level where he’s rushing to save his girlfriend being sacrificed? Why do finishing moves performed near platform edges see you fall to your death after you’ve handed control of your character over to the cutscene? The banter between Rick and the mask he wears is good… but that’s about it.
James Bond: Blood Stone
While Splatterhouse was bad because you were dropped into a minefield of awful gaming design, Bloodstone is bad because it’s too scared to let you poke around the seams and cracks of its code. It’s dot-to-dot gaming that gives you no chance to explore, with HUGE PULSING MISSION OBJECTIVES to keep you on the right track and level design that bores you with its simplicity. It’s a strangely sterile, bland experience.
Dead Rising: Case West
The bad news? It’s Xbox 360 exclusive. The good news? PS3 owners aren’t missing out on much. It’s roughly two hours worth of content which serves as the bridge to the inevitable Dead Rising 3 but it’s too short and the camera feels like a wasted gimmick. Still, it was fun to fanny about in Dead Rising co-op again.
Discounted on PlayStation Store and bloody good fun. I never played it for prolonged periods but jumped on every now and then to try new courses. Seems to be a massive game too with millions (well, maybe tens) of levels and a clever combo system that manages to combine accessibility with depth. And the title music? So good.
Also discounted at PlayStation Store and something I regretted buying with 0.8 seconds of playing it again. It hasn’t really aged well.
Final Fantasy IX
Can’t decide if it looks ugly or not nowadays. Its art style is as distinctive as ever while the technology used to bring it to life is creaking… but once I started playing as Vivi in the market square, nostalgia kicked in and I fell in love again. Final Fantasy VIII remains my favourite but Final Fantasy IX is one I promised to revisit but never did. The characters and the soundtrack alone meant it was worth the money to revisit Square-Enix’s RPG again.
The best game I played over the Christmas break was the original Sly Cooper. Seriously. It feels like a relic from a bygone era – colourful platformers are, like, so passé – but there are a lot of lessons to be learnt here. How to make sidekicks funny, how to make interesting levels, how to strike the perfect balance between on-rails design and giving the player control… it’s brilliant. It’s one of the most under-rated platformers of last-gen and deserves another look via this trilogy release.
Another purchase from PlayStation Store I regretted. It’s so SLOW. Was it this slow originally? I really don’t remember. It feels slower than it did. The soundtrack is still good but the nostalgia kick is lost to the glacial speed. Sigh.
So that’s my gaming this Christmas explained in painful and needless detail. What games have you been playing over Christmas? Anything that surprised you with how good or bad it was, any hidden gems that you stumbled upon?