Monday, June 12, 2006


Weekend Gaming Binge

This weekend I spent quite a bit of time gaming, and had a blast.

Perfect Dark Zero

I played Perfect Dark Zero, which is a first person shooter where you’re some kind of spy/troubleshooter character. I haven’t actually figured out what you are – it’s like you’re a spy, but you work for a private organization it seems, that works for money, not a government.

Graphics are pretty good but not better than anything I’d seen before on the PC in most recent FPS games. It really takes a lot to wow me on FPS graphics, and PDZ doesn’t really wow me.

However, the gameplay is good, albeit it’s kind of easy. I’m playing on easy, so I may bump up the difficulty and restart. I’m only on mission 4 or 5 so far. I like the fact that you can use cover, by hugging a corner of a wall, or getting behind a crate, whatever. Since I’m on easy, however, that isn’t mandatory, in fact it can just make things harder, when the easiest thing actually is to dodge and move to melee against your opponents then take them out with punches/kicks, or a quick blast from an SMG or shotgun at point blank. I think if I bump up the difficulty to the next level maybe cover will become more necessary and make the gameplay better. So far the puzzle solving has been pretty simple and not a big part of the game.

So far I'd give Perfect Dark Zero an 8/10.

Kameo: Elements of Power

I also played some of Kameo: Elements of Power. This game is a classic Rare platformer, it’s fantastic. I’m surprised it didn’t get better reviews, this game is truly special. You are Kameo, a fairy. Yes, you are a fairy. And you have magical powers to switch your form into different creatures, like you can turn into this plant guy called "Pummelweed" who can beat up on trolls and orcs, and also dig under ground to get under really low places. At the start of the game you can switch between 3 creature forms for a lot of puzzle solving opportunities. But after the first large ‘level’ (I’d guess about 2 hours of play, maybe 1 if you’re really good unlike me), you get your powers taken away in a cut scene and you have to start all over re-learning all your creature powers.

The graphics in this game are truly "Next Gen", they are amazing. It has a cartoonish feel to it but it is incredibly detailed and has all kinds of cool special effects. The gameplay also seems Next-Gen to me because it is so unique to be able to switch powers by changing forms and that makes for a lot of cool puzzle solving opportunities. Different creature-forms are definitely better at different tasks or against certain enemies. For example, the Pummelweed guy is great against orcs, while the roller-ball troll guys you can only kill by pushing them into a hazard, like lava, so the roller-ball form you can do works well for them. Figuring out how to get by all the different enemies and obstacles is what makes this game a blast.

I'd give Kameo: Elements of Power a 9/10 so far.


I also played a PS2 game that was a renter from GameFly, called Teen Titans. This is based on the Cartoon Network cartoon. I love the Teen Titans. This game, however, is not that great, it’s just one big massively long fight, interspersed with Teen Titan cut scenes, which is the main reason I keep playing, and that’s it. So far about 4 hours into it there have been no puzzle solving whatsoever.

You learn tons and tons of combos you never need to use, and no matter which character you use, it seems like it makes no difference really, as none of the titans seem like they are better at the enemies than any of the other titans, so you could just stick with Robin the entire game and it makes no difference. Even the flyers Raven and Starfire don’t make any difference, because they hover, not fly, so it’s still essentially a 2D game even for them. Even if you’re almost out of health, switching to another Titan doesn’t help, because the titans all have a linked health meter, so whatever you’re active character’s health meter is like, that’s what they all are.

The best scenes so far have been with fights against the H.I.V.E. Five villains, Jinx, Gizmo, and Mammoth. But even against these potent super-villains, it’s still just a button masher, and the super-villains don’t require using different Titans or anything like that. Admittedly it can look pretty cool when you have all five Titans beating the crap out of everything all at once with superpowers flashing all over the screen, but gameplay is still kind of trite.

Graphically, this game is woefully ugly especially after having just played Kameo, but even compared to other PS2 games, the graphics of this game blows chunks. The Titans are not cell-shaded, comic-book style like you would expect (and like found in other PS2 games such as Ultimate Spiderman). Instead they’re goofy deformo looking versions done in 3D. I guess, though, I still enjoy this game because I like the Teen Titans so much, and it does have good voice acting that seems to have been done by the same actors from the show (or competent sound-a-likes). So I will probably end up finishing it.

Since the game’s price plummeted I was able to "buy-it" from GameFly for $15, so probably worth what I paid I guess. I did that so I could get the next games in my queue sent to me, some Xbox 360 games. Speaking of GameFly, if you are thinking about signing up for it, let me know, I can send you a referal email and I get some bonus credit if you sign up that way.

I'd probably only give Teen Titans a 5.5/10, unless, like me, you love the Teen Titans, and then maybe a 7.5/10. Loving the show gives a bit of a blind spot to overlook the game's obvious flaws. Still, it's budget priced now, at $19.99 at Amazon for PS2/Gamecube/Xbox, so if you don't expect much, and if you like the Titans, I'd say it's worth a rent for sure and maybe a buy.

Tomb Raider Legends Demo

The only other thing I played is the demo for the Xbox 360 version of Tomb Raider Legends. This is a great demo, and pretty long, it took me about an hour and a half to beat it. Someone more dexterous could probably beat it quicker, or who could figure out some of the puzzles faster. I had fun with it though. I died a lot. And I fell down a lot and had to re-climb to wherever I was. Sadly the gun fighting parts were a bit too easy, even handling 10 or 15 bad-guys at a time was no problem for Lara. They need to make it so if she gets hit it hurts a lot more. Other than that one minor flaw, I felt this game really captured the feel of the original Tomb Raider game, which was a classic. I’m definitely renting this one as soon as it becomes available on GameFly. I heard it was like a 10 hour game so I’m not paying $60 for it.

Retro Gaming

Oh, I also did play a little bit of Baldur’s Gate II for the PC. It’s a great RPG, but it’s oldish, so unless you like retro gaming you probably won’t like it. Still, it has an awesome story line, with tons and tons of quests, and great characters. You could do a lot worse! The graphics aren't that dated, yet.

I also figured out how to get Infocom games on my new phone (Treo 650). So now I can play Zork, Enchanter, and all the other Infocom Masterpieces text adventures on the bus ride every day. Plus, I can also play more current z-code adventures written by fans, available on the Interactive-Fiction Archive. Right now I'm using a z-code interpreter called FrobNitz to play them, which is nice, but there is a more feature-rich interpreter called CliFrotz that requires and supports the memory card slot that I'll be using when I get my 2gb memory card. Totally sweet! Retro gaming with a high-tech twist!

The Treo 650 phone is really cool, BTW, and I’m thinking about writing some software for it, if I can find some Palm developer tools on the cheap somewhere.

I remember playing Perfect Dark Zero - I got that as soon as the 360 came out basically, but I ended up chucking it because I was so damn frustrated that you couldn't jump ;)
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