Evolution. The key to growth and expansion, and what keeps anything from becoming bland, uninspired and complacent with the "norm." In the world of Grand Theft Auto, it would be easy for Rockstar to become complacent with their games being critically acclaimed and continue to roll them out, one after another, splicing in new new storylines to the same old gameplay mechanics. But that's not how they roll, not at all. They strive to evolve, thrive on the growth of their games, never content with the east route to success.
That's what makes them so great, and why their games continue to revolutionize the industry standards. Just when you think you've seen their best stuff, they come out and show you something you didn't even think of.
And just when people thought the 80's were dead and that Vice City was going to be a one-and-done game, they came out and released Grant Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.They put this game out on the PSP first as well, in the same vein as Liberty City Stories, which they later ported to the PS2 and eventually the PS3 via the PlayStation Network. Again, they went the prequel route for this game, further proving that their storylines they bring to their games are never just individual experiences, but rather fully evolved, before and after whichever games they are presented in.
In Rockstar's eyes, their universe spans infinitely, and their games only capture specific moments in time of the universe they have created. Their universe doesn't start and stop with each game. Their world continues as it would even without games to showcase it. That's how they present their philosophy in each experience they create, at least.
For being a prequel and a smaller game than the full console experiences, they still decided to evolve the game and gameplay mechanics. There is "empire-building" in the game now, where you can open and operate businesses out of confiscated properties. How deep you go into this mini-game within the game is entirely up to you, but it's nice to see them continuously adding new elements to the tried and true format. In addition to that, when you get arrested or killed, you can now bribe police officers or hospital staff to lower your wanted level and keep guns that normally would have been lost.
Despite initially being reported to be a direct port when they brought it over to the PS2 the following year, Rockstar actually improved graphics and other little performance details, as well as adding a few more side missions and rampages. Again, just when people thought Rockstar would be content with the basic concept of a port, they evolved the idea of what a port can and should be.
Just when the gaming industry thought they had all the answers, Rockstar changed the questions being asked.
It's all in the details.
One staple of the Grand Theft Auto franchise has always been the amount of detail they put into their games, not just in graphics, but their characters, stories and environments as well. Sure, you can have a great game, rich in vibrant textures and graphical engineering, but if you only execute those details on the surface, core designs, it will still be flat and lacking depth. When it comes to depth of details and attention to the little things that most games wouldn't even think about much less try to recreate, nobody can hold a torch to Rockstar.
For some reason, I think the mighty developer felt challenged after the release of San Andreas however. Maybe they felt like people just thought they were pushing out individual experiences with each game they made, and relying on the mayhem and sandbox gameplay to carry their titles each time. I can only assume they wanted to come out and let the world know that their games were not one-and-done experiences, and when they developed each game, they had every intention on expanding the world as much as possible.
They also wanted to prove that their games were not strictly home console experiences, and they could make a game that felt like a Grand Theft Auto game into a portable gaming experience. Not because they had to, or felt like they needed to, but simply because they could.
I present to you, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
Originally developed for the PSP, it was eventually ported to the PS2 and then brought to the PS3 via the PSN. In other words, it has been around the block and seen its fair share of platforms. But that's really besides the point. The cool thing about thing about this game, which I didn't know going in since I had never played it before, was that it is actually a prequel to GTA III. Of course, it takes place in Liberty City again, which was a significantly smaller map than San Andreas, but perfect for the handheld console experience they were trying to create.
True to Rockstar form, however, no details were overlooked, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. There is a bride in the game that is still under construction that is up and operational in GTA III. There are other little changes in the city that would be overlooked completely had you not played both games. But in playing both, you realize how much care went in to making the two games flow into one another. Like motorcycles being in the game now, as it is explained that by the time the events of GTA III happened, motorcycles had been banned in the city by a city ordnance.
Just one little detail that makes a world of difference when combined with all of the other little details.
When it comes to buying video games, there is almost nothing better than getting package deals. Say you have never played a Mass Effect game - you can get the entire trilogy in one, nice and tidy combo package. Haven't gotten around to picking up that awesome game that came out earlier in the year, but now you have a few extra bucks to spend? If it was a critically acclaimed game, like say Borderlands 2, you can probably pick up the Game of the Year edition, which not only includes the game, but most if not all of the DLC that was released throughout the year as well.
And then there is the Orange Box, one of the most popular, best-selling and well received collections of video games ever, all for one low price.
Of course, Humble Bundles of PC games are in a league of their own when it comes to bundling games at one low price, and thankfully, the do it without worrying about making a quick buck, as their contributions to charity is proof that sometimes, the industry is more than just business. In cases like that, everyone wins, especially the consumers.
A while ago (maybe last year?), there was a package of games released on the PSN for the PS3 that I picked up on a whim, mainly because it was cheap, but also because the games included in the packaged looked fantastic, and definitely the types of games I could thoroughly enjoy. It's called the Arkedo Series, and while I knew nothing about the games before hand, I learned just how much trusting my instincts can pay off sometimes, and how package deals are totally worth it, when done correctly.
This package was done correctly, for sure.
The Arkedo Series package contains three games: Jump!, Swap! and Pixel!. Sure, the names are almost too simplistic, but "simplistic" fits the style and feeling of the games perfectly. The titles are essentially descriptions of the games themselves, which is irony in it's truest form. Thankfully, the simplistic nature of the titles and the games truly make the experience more enjoyable.
Jump! is a 8-bit platforming game, who's protagonist, Jumpman, bares a striking resemblance to Pitfall Harry. You simply need to just traverse level after level, collecting coins, defeating enemies and deactivating the bombs scattered throughout the level in order to open up the exit. In classic, 8-bit old-school fashion, once you lose all your lives, there is no "continue" options. You have to start all over, from the beginning. Thankfully, all the levels remain the same over and over again, so pattern recognition kicks in eventually allowing you to make it back to where you ended the last game fairly stress-free. If you're a fan of classic platformers, Jump! is right up your alley.
Swap! is a blocks-falling-from-the-top puzzle game with the match-4 style, resembling most games in the genre. The farther you progress in the game, the quicker and more challenging the games becomes. By the end, it's anything but a cake walk, which is exactly what you would want from a game like this. Aside from the basic story mode, there is a challenge mode which dares you to try and accomplish certain challenges in order to advance. Essentially, they just as replayability, but there is nothing wrong with that.
Finally, there is Pixel!, which you control a pixelated cat named Pixel the Cat, setting out on an adventure through a nocturnal, pixelated world. It is a platformer game as well, but much more of an adventure than Jump! is. It plays and controls well, and while the visual elements are exactly what you think it would be, the true charm of this game lies within the writing. For what it is, there is a lot of humor and quirkiness that you need to experience to fully appreciate.
All in all, this package of games was a steal, in my humble opinion. All three games spoke to my soul in different ways, mostly bringing back feelings of nostalgia while presenting them in classic yet modern versions of familiar-feeling games. And for only a few bucks, there isn't many more video games packages out there that give you more fun and entertainment than the Arkedo Series.
As long as we don't talk about Humble Bundles.
My quest continues, to keep chipping away at the massive list of PSN games I have downloaded on my PS3's hard drive, so ultimately I can fill it back up with games I've yet to even have room for to download. Most of these games I've been playing have been PS Plus free games, but some I've just randomly picked up on sale because they looked interesting. Sad part is, there are so many random games I have, I don't remember which ones were free or paid for, which really doesn't matter anyway since I can re-download them as I wish (as long as I keep my PS+ subscription, as if that's even an option not to).
I guess I just feel a bit of obligation to play and experience the paid-for games more so then the free ones, just to justify my purchase, despite how long it's been since I bought them. So with that, I just pretend every game was paid for. Makes some sense, right?
So another one of these games I had sitting around on my digital shelf was Labyrinth Legends. I want to say it was a PS+ game, as I didn't remember anything about the game, but I've been known to make impulse purchases before. Steam Sale, anyone? Anyway, I fired it up, and was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered.
Labyrinth Legends is a dungeon crawler ... and that's it. Game starts out with a little cut scene, explaining the story (wife is kidnapped on your wedding day, you have to go rescue her of course), and then it's just all action. No other cut scenes, no over-world exploration; just one dungeon to the next, your only goal being to find your way out of each one and collect some hidden stars along the way. The game play is a straight-up hack and slash style game, as you would find in any good dungeon crawler. There are puzzles to figure out, which can be a little tricky if you're not paying attention to your surroundings, but other than that, the game is pretty straight forward. And I can dig that.
When a game tried to do too much, or add elements to it that doesn't fit or lessons the experience of the game, it's always noticeable. Sometimes I can appreciate the effort of the developers, but for the most part, I would rather have some honesty served to me. Don't B.S. me and try to make me think I'm getting more than I actually am. Be truthful to me, but more importantly, be truthful to your game. If you know what your game is and what it offers, own it and show some pride in what it is, not dwelling on what it could be with a bigger budget or anything like that.
It doesn't seem like this game will take much longer to beat, and that's OK with me. I'm really enjoying these short games recently, especially with some huge, time-consuming games on the shelf waiting for my free time. Not sure if I'll go back and try to wrap this game up or just let it walk into the sunset, as I haven't actually deleted it yet, but either way, I think I justified my purchase already.
I think so, at least.
Do you ever play a game, and even if it is a decent one, it still makes you just think about wanting to play a completely different game instead? Not that it's a bad game, but you know there is another game of similar genre and style that is just simply better or more fun, and as much as you try to get in to and really enjoy what you are playing, your mind just drifts away to the other game?
Of course you do, but as normal gamers, you can easily transition from one game to the next, provided you have the game you want to play. If you don't, well, then your out of luck. For me, however, especially in the context of this blog, when I'm playing one game for the blog, I can't just go and switch on a whim. I have to be dedicated to the project. Besides, if I switch and want to write about the other game, then I'll have to play the first game again if I want to add it to the blog.
So instead, I'll just bite the bullet and play the first game, write about it, and try to move on.
I played Big Sky Infinity. I've had this game sitting on my hard drive of my PS3 and my memory card of my Vita for what seems like forever, pretty much untouched. It was a cross-buy game from the PSN, that may have actually went free on PS Plus sometime after I bought it, but I may be mistaken. Regardless, I bought it, thinking I would love it, as it is a twin-stick shooter, with the shtick being that the game progressively adjusts the difficulty of itself as you play, depending on how well or terrible you are doing.
Seems good on paper, and while it is serviceable for what it is, all it did was make me want to play Super Stardust Delta on my Vita, and even more than that, the upcoming Resogun on the PS4, made by the same people responsible for Super Stardust Delta. I'm sorry, but that game looks AMAZING, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Sounds weird that one of my most anticipated games for the "next-gen" consoles is a downloadable PSN title, but hey, the heart can't help what it wants.
Anyway, I'll probably keep the game on my Vita for now, as mindless twin-stick shooters are good to keep around for random moments of boredom and quick fun, but I need space on my PS3 hard drive, so I don't think it will make the cut. At least I gave it a shot, though, even if I wanted to play something else the entire time.
I've never was a Sega kid. Growing up, I had the Nintendo consoles, and always relied on friends who were Sega kids to play Sega exclusive games. For the most part, this meant Sonic games, and then the awesome Dreamcast collection, so for the most part, there is a huge Sega Genesis library of games I've never touched. While I don't feel like a piece of my gaming universe is missing because of this, every once in a while I think about a game that I wished I had played as a kid, if only for some context, especially for this blog.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is one of those games.
While never playing the original game, I have heard plenty of good things about it. I was always curious about it, but never had a chance to check it out. Well, I still haven't played it, but I did get a chance to play the brand new remake of the classic game, aptly named Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. What, did you think they would come up with a cooler name, or add an "HD" or "Remake" or "Remix" to the already absurdly long title? Think again, my friends.
Anyway, this is your run of the mill 2.5D platformer game with 3D background, or however it is people usually describe this type of game. In simple terms, it's a platformer through and through, in every sense of the genre. It's side-scrolling and you jump on platforms, jump on enemies and collect things along the way that end up helping you advance in the game. I wouldn't want it any other way.
While it is a Disney game, they really don't have many true Disney references in it other than Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and the witch that seems to be the witch from Cinderella, who has kidnapped Minnie and is imprisoning her in her castle away from Mickey, who is on a warpath of sorts to rescue his fair lady. All of the enemies though are creations specifically for this game, as far as I can tell, and while I find it a little odd, I don't see it as a bad thing, as it could easily get muddled down if it were nothing but actual, existing Disney characters. More power to them for creating an entire world of characters just for this one game, that are now officially, unofficially part of the Disney family.
So what did I think about the game? Well, I beat it. In one sitting. Because it was fun, and it was totally one of those games that you keep saying, "Just one more level, just one more level." And then you realize you are getting to the point of no return and you might as well finish it. Sure, I could go back and finish up the trophy list by collecting every single thing in the game, but let's be real here. Me beating a game is an accomplishment in it's own right, so why push myself to tie up lose ends when I have so many other great games to play?
I wouldn't have done it back when I was a kid. Of course, that might have had something to do with not having a Genesis. Just saying...
This isn't you dad's Galaga, that's for sure. As long as you know that right off the bat, then and only then can you proceed into Galaga Legions DX and the utter insanity that goes along with it. If you're not ready for it, trust me, you won't know what hit you.
I wrote about Pac-Man Championship Edition DX several months ago, and praised the game for being unique, different and reinvigorating a franchise that needed a shot in the arm a long time ago to remain relevant in the present day landscape of gaming, instead of floundering in the realm of retro gaming. Well, apparently Pac-Man wasn't the only old school arcade game to receive a shot of adrenaline, as the classic shooter Galaga got revamped as well. Thankfully, lighting in a bottle was capture all over again.
This new version of Galaga mashes together two different genres into one insane experience, as it could be considered both a twin-stick shooter and a bullet-hell type of game. Both genres are fun in their own right as stand-along play experiences, but together, you get something that is fast-paced, intense, nauseating and chaotic. And I love it.
There isn't a lot of strategy, no puzzles, no story lines, dialogue or cut-scenes. From the moment you push start, it is just a flurry of remarkable space battles, a flurry of neon scattered all over the screen and a soundtrack that keeps the pace and rhythm of the game cranked up to 10 on the dial, never letting off the pedal until the game is over. It's perfect, mindless fun, combined with leaderboards and trophies, quick play sessions and non-stop pressure to make each run better than the last.
The controls are actually very tight, and while it feels hopeless over and over again, with waves of enemies coming at you from all directions, the control of your ship is refreshingly accurate enough to maneuver out of even the toughest of spots. And just like the Pac-Man game, when you get close to running into your demise at the hands of an enemy, the game switches to slow motion mode to give you just enough precious time to quickly escape via alternate route, or blast your way through the oncoming barrage.
PS Plus continues to deliver awesome games that otherwise would have been all but forgotten about in the PSN cavern. As much as I liked the Pac-Man game of similar accord, I didn't even realize this game existed. When it popped up in Instant Game Collection for PS+, I downloaded just out of curiosity, in hopes of the "DX" subtitle indicating something similar to what I was already fond of before hand. Of course, as fun as this game is, I can't play much it for long periods of time without starting to see neon clusters of insanity all over the place. But in the best possible way, of course.
I have tons of new games to play. Literally, tons of games, in the non literal sense, of course. I have games I started for this blog that I never have made it back to, I have games I've downloaded that I've never installed, games I've bought that I haven't even taken the wrapper off, and of course, games I have that I haven't been back to play and write about for this blog, that I started before this year. Shank 2 is one of those games, and to be real with you all, the only reason for me going back and playing it now was to hopefully clear up some unfinished games on my PS3 hard drive so I can start working on untouched ones, finally.
Essentially, I'm trying to clear up what we like to call in the industry, my backlog. If only so that I can start adding more games to it, one at a time.
Shank 2 was one of the first games I downloaded when I got my PS3 thanks to PS Plus. Over a year ago, when I first jumped in, Sony was offering free games as part of the service, but they were no where near the awesome monthly titles we see now. It was a spattering of games, usually indie or PSN titles, which was fine and dandy, but let's be real. It wasn't even close to what they give us every month now. Regardless, I snagged Shank 2 back then, and played it for a while before being distracted by some other game. Since then, I have kept it at the bottom of my hard drive, waiting to be played again, at some point. Maybe even be beaten as well!
So, I played it. I wanted to give it another shot, and either beat it, or decide if it's worth keeping around if I don't with the intent to beat it at some point. Sure, it's not a huge game and not taking up a bunch of precious gigabytes, but the more games I can get rid of now, the more new games I can put on the hard drive. That's my logic, at least.
Anyway, this game is fun, I suppose. It's your typical side-scrolling beat'em up game, and the art style is very comic book-ish, which is really cool. The storyline is a little bizarre, but a rogue mercenary out for vengeance always seems to work in games, however it is presented. It's not a hard game, and while the combat is enjoyable, it gets tedious after a while, as do most beat'em games like this one.
I didn't get through the game, but I think I've played enough of it to be satisfied with it and not worry about having to finish it. So with that, I deleted it from my hard drive and will wipe my hands clean of Shank 2. Thankfully, if I ever get that itch to ever beat it, driven by sheer boredom, then I could always just re-download it at a later time.
Or I could just finally buy a bigger hard drive for the PS3, replace it with the one that's in there and have all my games at my fingertips, like I have been talking about forever. As if thinking about my backlog wasn't bad enough, looking at the entire thing would be maddening.
Pinball tables, my old nemesis. Don't get me wrong, I love playing pinball tables, but unfortunately, they tend to own me on a regular basis, which is basically every time I touch one. I love the feeling of being so close and personal to the game, to have actual control over what is happening rather than digital representation of a button push. Seeing the ball bounce around, the lights flashy and going crazy, the sounds of the points racking up ... and the devastation of seeing the ball slide right down the middle of the table, fitting perfectly between both paddles on its way to certain doom.
Trust me, I've seen that more often than I'd care to admit. Seems inevitable that with my quarter comes certain disappointment, quicker than I would hope.
Honestly, I think pinball tables are created to make you feel inferior as a gamer. I admire thoroughly those pinball wizards who can keep a ball going for seemingly as long as they want, because for the rest of us casual pinballers, that gap between the bottom paddles seems ridiculously impossible to overcome. None the less, I come back to pinball tables every chance I get, just because I think maybe I'll get better by trying, or that the next time the quarter gets dropped in, I'll have an incredible run.
These are what we call pipe dreams, my friends.
Thanks to PS+, I was able to satisfy my pinball craving at home, without having to lose a roll of quarter while doing so. I got Star Wars Pinball, for both my PS3 and my Vita, as did every other PS+ member. I've played some Zen Pinball tables before, and even bought the Plants vs. Zombies table, because well, it looked fun. And it was.
But the Star Wars Pinball? Yeah, now that's what I'm talking about. These tables actually feel like they could be real tables, except of course for the animation and stuff going on outside the table. Other than that, I could totally see these being real tables, and man oh man, that would be some fun. Regardless, these digital versions of pinball tables are a blast, and while I probably wouldn't have bought them because of how many other games I need to play, it was nice to be able to experience these for free, and be able to whenever I get that itch to play some pinball.
Unless of course my itch is to lose a bunch of quarters, in which case, I'll see you down at the arcade, folks.
Any time a game has to include the tagline "The Game" after a colon that's at the end of the actual name of the game, I tend to be worried. Usually this means that the game is based on something from another form of media or entertainment, like a show, movie or comic book. This of course usually means that it is a recreation of something in video game form, which if we have learned anything over the years, is usually a really bad thing. Especially when ":The Game" is based off of the latest summer blockbuster movie.
But what happens when ":The Game" is based off of a movie (more indy than blockbuster) that is based off of a comic book? Well, you get Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, which thankfully, isn't a bad thing in the grand scheme of things. It quite handily strikes down any preconceived notions you may have had about the game prior to playing it, and disproves the notion that every game with the subtitle "The Game" is a throw-away quick money grab disguised as a real video game.
Scott Pilgrim is awesome, and he is awesome in any form he is presented in. Thankfully, everyone playing the game gets to reap the benefits from this truth. Because the game is awesome too, and even more fun to play.
It pays homage to the old school, side-scrolling beat 'em up genre perfectly, but adds its own twists to the style in a way that makes it feel refreshing, interesting, engaging and an absolute blast to play. There are RPG elements thrown in to the mix, with the option of upgrading your abilities to better serve you in battle. And when I say "option," I mean it's an absolute must, as this game gets hard quicker than you would expect. Sure, it is probably designed to be played co-op, with up to three more people, for solo gamers like myself, it's more than just a challenge to struggle your way through the world. While the difficulty is frustrating, it never feels like it lessens the amount of fun I'm having playing the game, which is a true testament to this universe. Fun is fun, no matter how you spin it.
The real star of the show though is the game soundtrack. Now, I'm not usually one to slobber all over a game's soundtrack, as for some reason that stuff gets lost to me when I'm playing games. Good/bad voice acting I'll take note of, but the soundtrack of the game? It's just usually background noise to me, unless of course the game is actually created to harbor the creativity of a music in one way or the other. But in this game, the soundtrack shines through the lack of voice acting and beautiful and creative level design, adding tempo and personality to the flow and play style. It's fun and energetic, and takes you back to a place in gaming where everything was just simple and fun, when games were just games.
Thankfully I was able to put prejudices aside long enough to give this game a shot. While it makes me want to go back and read some Scott Pilgrim comics and watch the movie again, and even see if the soundtrack is available to download from anywhere, the game itself was fun and enjoyable, despite the multiple near-rage quits.
Not bad for a game with ":The Game" in it.
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Games played for project : 365