Thursday, December 01, 2005

Gamer Geekery Alert

This post is likely only to appeal to you if you are a gamer or know a gamer. Sorry. It happens.

Through digg.com I found this link: Joystiq’s top 10 hidden gems of this generation

It's actually 11 games, but who's counting?

Personally, this list is of interest because, out of the 11 games listed, I have owned – and in most cases still own – all but one of them. Be warned, I will slip into gamerspeak throughout the rest of this post as I talk about my feelings for each of these games. Now on to the geekery.


10a. Stubbs the Zombie

Yeah, obviously I bought this one. I'd been watching it develop from the first rumor I heard of its existence over a year ago because, deep down, and this may shock most of you, I like the zombies. This was the first game that I can recall where you get to play the zombie and build a hoard. Every other game that I've played that had to do with the walking dead, from 'Zombies Ate My Neighbors' on the SNES to the 'Resident Evil' series, had you fighting your way free. This one promised the ability to BE the menace and it sounded great on paper. It was still good in execution, but not great.

A big problem is you move slow. Slow, slow, slow. You move faster than the other zombies that you create, but slower than the living that you are trying to kill. They can even walk backwards while shooting at you and remain just out of reach. Also, it's on rails. Those of you not familiar with gaming terms (assuming you are even still reading this) know this means there is basically only one path to take. They aren't tight rails, it doesn't move for you, but there's still pretty much just one way to do everything all the way through the game.

Ever since playing Grand Theft Auto 3 on the PS2 I've been aching for someone to turn that engine into a zombie game. My original thought was that it would play like the RE series only with GTA3 openness. You would start the game with the majority of the people around you as the living, only as time goes on the dead spread and the game get darker. Set the game clock to an actual 24 hour schedule with your ultimate goal being to survive for three days. As night falls and chaos increases you would try to stock up a safe house. You can still use vehicles, etc. only the later the game gets the more hazards there are to deal with. Missions would be to reach certain locations, try to rescue family and friends and get them back to the safe house to help with the defenses, to make ammo and medical supply runs, etc.

I know there has been a total conversion made for the PC version of GTA3 that runs something like this, but I have a Mac so I'm shown no love.

With the announcement of Stubbs, I was hoping for similar gameplay to what I've just described, only flipped. You would be trying to take over the entire city, root survivors out, build an undead army, etc. But no. Stubbs is tightly scripted with you locked into the area of the moment. No progressing backward unless it's in the script.

If it had been that type of game I would have held onto it for as long as I could. Instead about a week ago I traded it, while it still had a decent trade value, in order to pick up Half-Life 2 for the XBox. My intention is to pick it up again, used, in a few months for $15 or so. As you will see in a bit, that can be a bad gamble. I did beat it at normal difficulty before passing it along so if I never see it again at least I'll have the memories.



10b. Indigo Prophecy

This one looks cool, is very engaging, clever, and creative, but moving around will make you INSANE! It suffers from cinematic camera angles and abrupt control changes when those preset angles change.

There's a point early on when you have awakened in your apartment after having escaped from the murder scene and a cop starts knocking on your door. You have a limited amount of time to hide all evidence of the crime you committed and answer the door before he breaks it down and arrests you. I got arrested the first two times through because of the damn camera shifting too much as I passed through the rooms.

I took a break from playing this one just past the stage where the giant bugs are attacking you among the cubicles in your office building. I haven't returned, but not because it's not a great game. It is, in spite of its flaws. I just got distracted by Stubbs the Zombie. I will return to it someday. In the meantime, my son beat the game. He's warned me that I'm going to hate the ending. This is one that I will not be trading, even when I do beat it and I'm hoping very much for either a sequel or a whole new game with this level of depth and BETTER CONTROLS.



9. Rez

Rez was cool. It was like an interactive album. You got to play around in the music while blowing stuff up. Every shot you made or didn't make changed things up a bit, as I recall. I miss Rez. See, this is where really wanting a new game can get me into trouble. I traded Rez, and I can't even remember what game I got in its place, but whatever it was, it wasn't worth it. Rez is next to impossible to find now. If you can find it, it sells for over $70 used. This wasn't the first time I've traded off a game that later became rare. The other one that sticks out in my mind was Final Fantasy Tactics on the PlayStation. It was another situation, like Stubbs, where I traded it thinking I could pick it up cheap later only to have it go rare on me. I finally did re-purchase it used for close to what I paid for it new. Around $50. Then fate nudged me in the ribs, smirked and said, "Watch this." Sony re-released it as a "Classic" title that cost only $20, new. Bastards. This wasn't the last time that fate worked against me. Keep reading. In the meantime, I miss Rez and would like to play it again. Here's hoping for a sequel or re-release.

minor update: I checked Amazon for Rez for the heck of it. The prices ranged from $59.99 to $199.99. The odd thing was, the people who were offering it still new and in the wrapper were on the low end of the spectrum.



8. Killer 7

THIS is the only game on this list that I've never played and never owned. Why? Because, in spite of the fact that both of my children have watched me play, and/or have played, probably every game I've owned, this is one I can't risk them watching or playing, no matter how much I want to try it. The reason is because from all I've heard about it, it is a sick and twisted game. Beyond anything I've ever owned. So until they are grown up and it shows up as a retro title I'll have to do without. Pity me. You know you want to.



7. Alien Hominid

This one is also sick and twisted, but it's funny and cartoony so I can forgive it. It's also difficult which tends to keep the kids away. I got it for the heck of it and it turned out to be surprisingly good for a retro, side scrolling, shooter ala. Metal Slug or Contra. It's also the only game I've owned where you can jump on an FBI agent's back, ride him around for a while as he's screaming and then bite his head off. It's the little touches that make this game fun. It's even more fun with two players. I think I might dig this one back out and play it again this weekend. Maybe make Heather play it with me. She likes when I do that.



6. Ikaruga

Hard. Hard, hard, hard. Difficult, you might say. But gorgeous. Ever since my arcade laden teen years... actually, ever since getting the handheld Super Cobra game for Christmas when I was (wait for it) nine-ish... I've had a soft spot for shooters. Mind you, with the exception of that handheld Super Cobra, I've never been that good at them, but I've always liked them. And this is a pretty and clever one. Have I beaten it? Hahahahahahahah. No. Will I? No. But I still hang on to it because it's one of the best I've ever played.



5. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

This wasn't on my gamer radar until the news came out that it wouldn't be published on the Nintendo 64 and would instead appear on their next-gen system, the Game Cube.

Eventually.

Then I forgot about it for awhile.

Then, as the release date approached I started to see more and more about it, and the more I read the more I craved it. CRAVED I SAY! I bought it as soon as it was released. Now, I'll admit I don't finish every game I buy. Either the game gets too difficult or I get interrupted for an extended period of time and would have to start over, so I set it aside. I'm not the kid I once was. I can't game all the time.

Eternal Darkness was deep and dark. You play the game throughout many time periods as different people with different abilities and you have to battle creatures out of a Lovecraft universe while maintaining your sanity. It gets hard. I gave up about six hours in. For at least four months I didn't touch it. Then, one Summer I started it up again because Justin was begging me to. He wanted to see what was going to happen next, but he hates playing "scary" games. He would rather watch. That's been true for the whole Resident Evil series, the Silent Hills and Fatal Frames.

I didn't start all the way over though, I just jumped back in at my last save point. I got killed a lot, regained what skills I had and finally beat it. On the first color. See, early on you choose a colored idol that represents a certain elder god. There are three to choose from, each with it's own power. Each color is stronger than one of the other colors and weaker than the third. The catch is, when you choose an idol, you are really choosing the enemy god that you are going up against.

I chose red the first time through. It turns out that's the hardest one to fight. Red is strong magic. So I finally beat it. Then played again, this time choosing green. Beat it. Again. Blue. Beat it. AGAIN. Why? Because once you have beaten it on all three colors you can gain access to the purple idol. I'm pretty sure it was purple. I've seen someone say it was orange. Either way, it trumps all colors. Everything else is powerless against it.

That's probably enough babbling about this game. Suffice it to say, I got my money's worth out of it and I still own it. It was fun.



4. Ico

This is another game that I stopped playing because I was stuck and then returned to finish later. It's a great, expansive game. The scale can be boggling at times. Essentially, you have been imprisoned in a mammoth castle, you find a princess in a cage, and you have to drag her around – minus the cage – while trying to find your way out. You have to fight off smoke demons who appear from time to time and attempt to snatch the princess from you. If she gets taken, you lose. It's hard to explain why I like this game so much, but I do. Just thinking about it makes me want to play it again as well. Good choice for the list.



3. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

This is a tactical role playing game with attitude and very clever writing throughout. The problem is, it's HUGE. The only way I'll be able to beat this game is if I'm bed ridden for several months. It's just too deep for me to be able to play through without interruptions. This game has convinced me that I can no longer play RPGs, no matter how much I love them. I just don't have the time to commit. This one has also gone rare, and while I DO still have my copy of it, there's a scratch on it that came from a time when I'd loaned it to someone. I buffed it out for the most part, but I'm not sure if it'll play past that point and it will suck mightily if I do manage to find the time to play it again, reach that point, have it crash and then be unable to replace it. Time will tell.



2. Beyond Good & Evil

This is yet another game where I got stuck, quit and then returned to, actually starting entirely over, and beat it months later. Turns out that I had the wrong mentality the first time through. I tend to prefer the scorched earth style of game playing, even in stealth games like Splinter Cell and this one. That means if I had any way to take someone down, I took them down. I hate the thought of a mobile enemy at my back. Makes me itchy. Well, there's one part in Beyond Good & Evil where it MIGHT be possible to take out the three guards, but it's far smarter to just sneak on through, grab what you need and then sneak out. When I realized that the rest of the game went pretty smooth. It's a bit short, but it's top notch gaming all the way.

This is also the other game that fate shafted me on. I bought it for $50, new, a month or so after it came out. A week and a half later they slashed the price to $20 because it just wasn't selling. At the end of it all though, it was worth the full price and is certainly worth the $10 you can find it for now.



1. Psychonauts

This game was already firmly on my radar when XBox pulled the plug on it. They decided they weren't going to publish it and it looked for awhile as though nobody was going to step up and get it finished. I was seriously bummed when that happened. Fortunately, Majesco picked it up and released it.

This is, without a doubt, one of the most creative games I've ever played. The basic idea behind the game is that you are training to become a "Psychonaut"; someone who travels into the minds of other people to dig out information. Something bad is going on behind the scenes though and it's up to you to stop it. While you are in another person's mind, you are in another world.

The trip that stood out to me the most was when you enter the mind of a man who was a descendent of Napoleon. You start off in a tiny room with the guy whose mind you're in and Napoleon. Between them they are playing a board game. The guy has given up and he's being berated by his ancestor for being a quitter. It's up to you to help him win. So you climb on the table, and then climb down into the board game. You are now a giant standing on a hexagonal field, yet smaller than you were originally. You find the spot you want to be on the board, press a button and you shrink down until the board is the whole world. If you look around the houses that are on the game board you can find one that has windows you can see inside. What you see is the man whose brain you are in playing a board game with Napoleon in the room you started in. If you go all the way back out of the board game to the original room and look out the window you'll see the terrain of the board game. It's much cooler to actually experience than I've described it and that's only one of the many heads you'll enter.

SO. Have I beaten it? No. But I came sooooo close. I got pissed off.

Here's why. Later in the game, as you travel along, you are looking for the brains that were stolen from the other children who were in training. You gather some up and then return them to a lab to be reinserted in their proper noggins. This makes you more powerful. There are also cards and cobwebs that you gather and trade in at the same place for more cards to also gain power. Great so far. However, there is a point where, once you've passed, you can no longer trade them in. I passed that point and didn't have a saved game within several hours of there with my pockets full of brains, cards and cobwebs. I lost it all. Color me mega-pissed. Will I return to it? Probably. Just not yet. Not yet. Still pissed. What I won't do is get rid of it. In spite of the frustration it's a wonderful game.


And there you go. Sorry for all the geekery, it shouldn't stain you permanently.

8 comments:

Derek Knight said...

I know this will come as a TOTAL shock to you, but I've never played ANY of those.

Collin said...

Yep. I'm shocked all to hell.

Heather said...

Eeyeew! I'm all govered in geek goo!! And I have to mention this - the voice in Psychonauts is Zim!!!

Collin said...

Ah yeah. I forgot to mention that. Zim.

HappyFunBall said...

Huh, and I thought I was so cool because I mastered this: http://www.widro.com/throwpaper.html

Trevor said...

Go here,
http://www.flickr.com/photos/49217505@N00/68895065/in/set-1485254/
Witness my awesomeness!!!

Pat Angello said...

OK, so you are a little nerdy, but I could probably put together a longer post teaching people how to listen to the Hives.

AndyC said...

I find I'm in gaming Limbo; I enjoy them when I play, but lately seem to be choosing to do other things. Hmmm...till I figure it out, give Far Cry: Instincs a go--great graphics and fun game play for a FPS.

"Boring a hole in the patient’s head creates a door through which the demons can escape, and - viola! - out goes the crazy."