Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This one's a toughie..

A good friend posed the question, "What are your top 3 games? Two separate lists, single player & multi?"

This has turned out to be an incredibly hard question! I mean, when you have played like a billion games it's hard to narrow it down. Also I wanted to have list up list -- top 3 single old gen consoles, top 3 single handheld, top 3 multi pc.... I mean, you could list and list and list and, eventually, list everything you've ever played. I don't think this is quite the idea behind the question.

So I ended up with (in no particular order) --

1. Mario Galaxy is the most fun, cleanest 3D entry in the Mario lineup. And I think the open games are more fun than the platformers for a long-term relationship. Yes, I still go back to Super Mario Bros and love running from left to right with a few well timed jumps, but I can spend hours and hours lost in the worlds of Galaxy.
2. Harvest Moon (series) Again, a game where I have lost many an hour. It is so surprisingly fun to tend a virtual farm. Raise virtual farm animals. Spend virtual days watering your huge fields. Finally - harvest time. Ahh, 3 bushels of apples. It was worth it.
3. Final Fantasy VII - Honestly FF7 is one of the first games I really got into when I started gaming again around my sophomore year in high school. And it is a big one! I mean, who doesn't have fond memories of FF7? If you just answered "I don't" then get yourself a copy and play right now. It will make you so addicted to RPG you will never let it go.

1. Super Smash Bros Melee/Brawl - Oh man, the game that made me buy a Gamecube. Melee - I played and played you on that fateful game filled trip to Colorado so long ago. And your little brother, Brawl? So much fun. Melee wins out on true multi-player prowess, but Brawl had to put its foot in because it offered so much single player fun. Yes I know that doesn't make it a contender in multi, but it is basically the same game, so it deserves to be here.
2. Halo 3 - The game that made me love the 360? The game that thousands of people are logged in to every single night? At this moment, 1:04 am on a Wednesday morning, there are 93,273 people logged in. There is a certain level of commitment you feel with this game. First you learn to play. Then you have to get all the skulls, and assorted achievements. Then you have to hone your skills so that you can pwn p00bz forevahhhhh online. This game is hugely the reason I had to buy my Xbox Live account. I love it.
3. Mario Party (series) - What happened in college? I became Queen of 30 second mini-games, thanks fully to Mario Party. It all started with Mario Party 4 which a boyfriend-at-the-time and I rented and only played for about 20 minutes before the fire alarm went off! Blasted dorm rooms. But it was love at first rapid-A-button-tap. I still don't own Mario Party 4, it has been my elusive lover, refusing to be pinned down...but I have voraciously purchased 5, 6, 7, and 8. This game is amazing. If you have friends over, it is perfect. You look especially ridiculous playing this on the Wii, which makes it extra fun.

What's your list?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Grand Theft Auto IV

Another delicious taste of pure anarchy from the Grand Theft Auto lineup. And what can I say? IV delivers. Although, in my opinion (which you obviously want because - hello - you're reading my blog), this game is freaking hard. Not necessarily the concepts. Maybe just the controls?

Story 9/10: Niky, Niky... If you can play this game and not fall for Niko Bellic, I just don't know. You must be made out of steel. I love the story-line and how it progresses with Niko. You are constantly finding out just tidbits abou this life before he came to America. And everything you find out emotionally ties you to him as a character/person. Actually, I cared so much for Niko that it made me angry that I didn't have more options to be a "good guy". I wished GTA & Fable would have a little game baby where I could cause mayhem but maybe also be good. Niko wanted to come to America for a fresh start, and here I am with my Xbox just making him shoot drug dealers all day long. I guess, in a way, he's doing good for society?

Graphics 9/10: The graphics on this one are solid. I mean, there is a LOT going on in this game and I think that it is all handled well and with great detail. I love the chance to change Niko's clothes (although I wish there were even more options). The detail and damage system for the cars/motorcycles/boats/helicopters etcetc is great. Also - non-graphic related - I think the cars last longer in this GTA than they have in previous versions. Longer lasting car = more mayhem = more fun! The cutscenes are fun to watch, and play out kind of like a movie. This whole game is like watching a Scorsese film, actually.

Sound 10/10: I'm sorry, but I have to do it. I have to give GTA the 10. Most of the time in this game you are in a car. And what does GTA offer in the car? Your choice of TONS of radio stations. It is so sweet. I prefer Liberty City Rock, although the talk radio station is good for a laugh. I also enjoy the voice-overs in this game. Although I have to play with closed-caption on because half the people are so heavily accented I can't understand them. Believeable, but CC is a requirement.

Gameplay 7.5/10: Okay this is where I ding you, GTA4. I love you and all, but seriously? Could driving a car be any more difficult? And then trying to shoot and drive?? It's like punishment. And there are a LOT of missions where you have to shoot someone and follow them in your car at the same time. I feel like I need a second player to do one or the other because I just can't seem to do it. I'm failing missions left and right on this thing. The race missions? Forget about it. I don't know HOW you get going fast and take a turn without totally losing it (if you know, please please comment I need to pass some of these races!!). The walking around and shooting is pretty concise though, and with practice I've gotten sort-of-fairly decent. I'm not exceptionally good at this style of game, so I don't expect to excel. I don't expect to struggle like crazy either.

Overall 9/10: This game is awesome. It is fun. The map is unbelieveably gigantic. The options are so vast it's close to limitless. One bummer? All I heard was the hype for this game - it's going to be so huge, they actually used NYC blueprints to create the game, etcetc. Well, I'm bummed that I can't go into more buildings. Unless it's part of the current mission you're playing you are pretty limited. There are maybe 5 or 6 shops/bars/restuarants you can go into on each island, and they are mostly repetitive from island to island. It's just kind of a bummer. If you go to all the work of making the game look like a real place, how about treating it more like a real place? Open up a few more buildings for us to explore.

Buy/Rent: As always, I am far from finishing this game at time of review, but it plays a lot like any other GTA I've played. And that means Buy. There is never a time when it isn't fun to throw this game in and tear some shiz up. You can tear around town in a sports car, or a semi-truck, or any other myriad of vehicles. Your choice! And with guns! Go now and buy buy buy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fable II & Knothole Island DLC

Fable Fable Fable.... I loved thee on Xbox, and I loved thee, perhaps even more dearly, on Xbox 360. Actually a lot more dearly, because I finished Fable II but never got around to finishing Fable I. Oops. Also, wow! A game review of something non-Nintendo! Enjoy.

Story 7/10: Set 500 years (give or take) after Fable 1, and I really like how they tied the two together. You are a distant relative of the main character from the first Fable. Genius! This has never been done before... ha. A classic tale of hero with super-human powers having to go up against an evil-doer of magnificent proportions. Spoiler alert: Story ending? Lame times 1 million! Knothole Island? Doesn't add much to the story line, only rectifies a small portion of the original ending's lameness (if you choose 2 out of the 3 final options.)

Graphics 8/10: I liked the graphics a lot for this game. They were consistently good, and the transitions between day and night were pretty sweet. The details are lush, if you stop running around from quest to quest long enough to check out the grasses, houses, scars, etc. I suppose the greatest graphic feat is your characters ever changing appearance. Eat one too many liver pies? Guess what? Now you are a fatty! Die once or twice? You are now horribly disfigured by scarring and no one will love you. Knothole Island remedy? Potions! Huzzah now you can be taller or shorter or fatter or skinnier or more or less scarred. This is totally 'realistic' and I love it.

Sound ?/10: I have not spent a significant amount of time playing this game in a long while, and I can't actually remember what the soundtrack is like. Does this speak well of the game, that they have created a soundtrack that blends so seamlessly with the game that it didn't annoy me and stand out? Or does it speak negatively that there isn't a song so epic and catching that I would remember it even after a few months of neglect. Hmm. One thing I do like about the sounds on this game is the fortune teller's narration. She has a nice voice. Also you can skip ahead because hello, listening to narration takes FOREVER.

Gameplay 7/10: I hated the original Xbox and it's giant sized controller with too many buttons. 360 has improved upon that and this game takes full advantage. Sadly, I could never get 100% used to the controls. I kept pulling out my weapons in the middle of town or accidentally doing spells which make the townspeople hate you! Lame!! Other than controls, the gameplay is smooth. The camera follows pretty well. I liked the addition of the yellow sparkling trail that you can follow to the next point in your quest (or turn off if you don't want the help). It was very good for someone like me who gets lost in games, but it also meant that I paid a lot less attention to my game-surroundings and pretty much just followed that line everywhere. I'm sure I missed out on the graphic beauty of the game and actually learning the maps. (Yes I could've turned it off, but then I would be lost!) Also, because of the yellow line function, the game is lacking a really good in-game map. All you get are these stupid little maps that you can't even interact with. Hello? I would like to see exactly WHERE that tattoo parlor was so I can remove this awful Lionhead face tattoo please? You can't really set the line to direct you to specific locations so that can be frustrating if you haven't been paying a lot of attention and are, subsequently, lost.
I was not as pleased as I could've been with the maps either. I heard that this was some amazing wide open game and you can just explore everywhere but I found the maps to be much smaller than I expected and a lot less open. If you play this game with any expectations that the maps would be as open as, say, World of Warcraft, you will be sorely disappointed.

Overall 8/10: I enjoyed this game. You have a lot of choices which I really like in an RPG. And it does a really good job of letting you upgrade your character to your personal specifications (like if you are all about magic you will get more exp points towards magic. This makes perfect sense!) I also thought it was nice that there isn't a lot of crawling dungeons over and over. I hate having to repeat the same areas of a game. Sometimes the extreme changes in your appearance/personality were frustrating. Like if you accidentally steal something you get really evil and it takes a while of doing good deeds to get back to your previous status. Why is it so much easier to be bad?
As for achievements: this game deals them out well, and for fun things! The achievements really get you to experience and explore factions of the game that you might otherwise ignore. Like jumping off of a 300 ft drop off and living. I can't tell you how many times I jumped off of everything in sight. Actually I think I accidentally ended up getting this achievement. Go figure. The only bummer is that there are 300 available gamerpoints for the end game options, and unless you "cheat" you can only get 1 without having to replay the entire game. And you can only have one game saved under each profile so you would lose all your progress just to go back and get those other end game scores. Is it worth it? I don't think so. Also there are a lot of achievements for which you have to be either all the way good or all the way bad, and if you go one way or the other I can only imagine it is a super pain to get the opposite ones. I went all the way good and have not 100% gotten all the achievements.

Buy/Rent: Well, I borrowed it from a friend and eventually bought it later on. It is a fun game. I always find that Fable is fun to just throw in and run around for a while, although now that I have completed it it's not quite as fun. I have so much money and all the exp I would ever need so what's the point? I guess exploration. *shrug* And Knothole Island? In my opinion it was NOT worth all the money I spent on it. Yes, it rectified the situation with my dog, but seriously? There were only like 2 hours of gameplay and I think a couple hundred gamerscore points. Lame.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Super Mario Brothers

I swear, I play more than the DS. I play an awful lot of Xbox these days. I just can't seem to actually finish an Xbox game. Maybe they are just too vast of a scale for me and the time I'm putting into gaming these days. Games I have played recently but not finished include: GTA IV, Lego Batman, Guitar Hero II. I also recently purchased Battlefield: Bad Company, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Fallout 3. There will come a time that I will play these games, and review them. Wait for it, preferably with bated breath.

New Super Mario Brothers

Story both 1/10 and 10/10: The story of Mario. It is epic. It is timeless. It has never changed in the last 16 years. I love getting into a Mario game because I know I don't have to pay attention to any of the cut scenes. They will be as follows: Mario & Peach are on a vacation together. Peach is abducted by Bowser and/or Bowser's little minions. Mario seeks out Peach. Mario rescues Peach and she kisses him on the head and/or bakes him a cake. I, personally, prefer the cake method. Mario deserves something for all his time and effort.

Graphics 9/10: For the DS I think this game is awesome. The graphics are smooth, and they hearken back to a better time. A 2D time. A left to right platformer time. But with awesome 3D background images. And I love how recent Mario games play with the gravity in the game. In New Super Mario Brothers there are levels where you play and have to hit switches that turn the level upside down. So fun! (I believe this was also done, more extensively, in Super Paper Mario-- I'm noticing a naming trend.)

Sound 9/10: The soundtrack is a trip. It's so fun to hear the Mario songs we've known and loved throughout the ages again. That said, most of the time on my DS I have the sound turned way down, until I accidentally hit the slider and it skyrockets my eardrums out. (Apparently the DSi has fixed this issue, but I won't have one of those for quite some time.)

Gameplay 10/10: Like I said earlier, this game is a total walk down memory lane. When you play it, you feel like you are 10 years old again, plugging in those awkward NES controllers. Because, let's face it, in a game like this the DS is so uncomfortable. My wrists want to fall off after about half an hour. This does not diminish the fun that is the game play. In fact, it might accentuate it because old school gaming was so uncomfortable. I love the secrets hidden throughout this game, it gives it great replayability. I feel like it will take a while to 100% this game, and even once that is done I will find myself going back and playing favorite levels.

Overall 9/10: Just because I feel nervous about giving a game a perfect 10/10. This game is so fun. I recommend it for all gamers. I feel like anyone could get into this game. Hardcore gamers can use it to cleanse their palate in between gaming sessions. Not so hardcore? Play a few levels and take a break. It's as easy as the original Mario Brothers, but better because you can save. (Although I think the saving feature sucks until you purchase all available mushroom house paths. You can only save by buying a path, or beating a castle. Lame!)

Buy/Rent: I say buy. But you know me. I do think this game has good replay factor. I mean, how often do you go back to the original Mario Brothers? It's one of those games that just sticks with you.

Oh PS - In writing this I forgot to mention that this game also has an awesome and fun selection of minigames. I have spent a lot of time playing them when I am just too frustrated with trying to find the secret exits to the levels. Also they are excellent for letting your 18-month-old child play when she refuses to take no for an answer. I'm raising a gamer!