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Playing Anything?

So what games are you people currently playing — or have played recently — of note?

I wrapped Rockstar’s “Bully” a couple of days ago. Good game. Basically the same concept and structure as the GTA series, but set in a somewhat smaller world and which substantially less complicated games and puzzles (only twice or thrice did I have to repeat a challenge because I failed it — as opposed to the last couple GTA games which both had some major difficulty points). It did, though, have plenty of the snarky cultural parodies that the GTA series was also known for (as Charles put it, sort of parodying the video game genre and even player themselves). Anyway, I enjoyed it. But it didn’t really break any new ground. GTA with slingshots rather than guns.

I also dipped my feet into “World of Warcraft” over the winter holiday. Which was… disappointing? I hesitate to call it, in my limited two-week experience, even an MMORPG. It’s a classic questing-kill-the-monster-get-the-trinket game except on a huge scale and with other human-played characters rushing around. Only on a couple of occasions did it feel substantially different than, say, the GTA series: Once when I happened upon another human character that happened to be on the same quest and we teams up for a bit and kicked some ass. Second when a group of human-played baddies raided my town and everyone fritzed out and got into a big kerfuffle. That was cool, except my sad little 14th level dude (or whatever) just got raked by the level 60 raiders. Oh, and my character was a Night Elf. Which, I gather from Chris P., is sort of the equivalent of posting whatever Cure song you happen to be listening to at the end of each of your LiveJournal posts. Or something. My free trial ran out, and I’m not particularly compelled to continue playing WoW. But it was worth trying out.

Anyway. Enough about me…

12 Comments

  1. Oren wrote:

    I just bought ICO, but havent received it yet. Played it a little when it first came out, but didnt get too far. Let my sister try it and she despised it.

    I also bought Psychonauts, which is supposed to be awesome.

    I was playing Zelda: Twilight Princess before break, but am now up to a part where I am stuck, so will have to pick it up soon.

    Guitar Hero 2 is becoming a favorite pick up and play a song or two game.

    Finished Gears of War on easy, trying it out on Hard. But no time anymore.

    On my DS, i have the new Castelvania out, ok, not great so far. And also got Samurai Champloo game, saw an interesting review of it and made me want to try it.

    I also just bought Phoenix Wright, the first one, but havent had a chance to test it out either. Damn these games, this is why I am not doing my thesis!!!

    Back to work…

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 5:22 am | Permalink
  2. frank wrote:

    Yes, Bully is a surprisingly good game. It is also somewhat surprising that no-one has mentioned Bully in relation to the Super Columbine Massacre RPG mess.

    There was some kind of controversy around Bully when it first came out, I can’t remember on what grounds, or imagine any, really. I mean, Bully is so clearly Rockstar’s attempt to demonstrate that they *don’t* need gratuitous violence or sensationalistic “edgy” content to make a compelling game in the GTA mold.

    In fact, Bully is, I think, a quite serious and interesting experiment in interactive narrative – there is a lot of focus on the story, the relationships between the characters, the social dynamics, and the way these things can be woven into the gameplay. It isn’t totally successful, but it’s really worth looking at and got kind of passed over.

    Along with Table Tennis, Bully shows that Rockstar is really trying to do more than just be the posturing bad boys of in-your-face content that they sometimes seem like. Good for them.

    I got a hi-def TV, and I’m playing a lot of Viva Pinata, like a lot of 360 games, it’s a game that sort of demands hi-def. I also hooked up composite cables to my PS2 so I could play Shadow of the Colossus in widescreen/overscan mode. Most beautiful videogame of all time? I think so.

    Also, speaking of we are the videogame preservation society, I’ve been playing around with a fondly-remembered old Chip’s Challenge style dos game called S.C.OUT, running in dosbox. Good stuff.

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 5:38 am | Permalink
  3. Bob wrote:

    I find myself in the middle of playing through cycles. Every once in a while I enjoy playing the MGS games or Ueda’s SOTC and ICO back to back in sequence, just like I enjoy watching all of Star Wars, The Godfather or Twin Peaks (obviously) in a marathon run. Nowadays, however, I find I don’t always have the time for these kinds of epic runs. SOTC, for example, is a pretty big commitment of a game, as any given colossus takes about an hour to take out if you’ve been out of the game for a while, especially on the hardest difficulty setting. ICO’s definitely a better game, but I feel obligated to play through the episode that comes first chronologically, as Ueda has said it does. Likewise, in the case of the MGS games, I often find myself taking a long break when I reach the MSX era games, not because I don’t enjoy 8/16-bit games, but because the kind of gameplay modern generation gameplay encourages makes falling back into retro limitations a bit counterintuitive. I’ll get back to them eventually, but the narrative wholeness keeps elluding me with this kind of a break.

    I have played MPO (Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops) twice, so far, to completion, and frankly find it one of the most rewarding game moments I’ve had in the past few years. Kojima’s definitely in the realm of autuerism here– he’s not credited as the director/designer as in the MGS games, but he effectively reigns the same amount and kind of creative control that Lucas did while producing ESB and ROTJ, or Michael Mann did on Miami Vice and Crime Story. Furthermore, I find that a lot of the core philosophy of the MGS games is concretized in the gameplay in very impressive ways. The more Kojima develops as an artist, I find, the more he pushes his ideas into his games themselves, and not merely his cutscenes.

    As for Twilight Princess– I’m enjoying that game so far, but find certain aspects of it a bit stale, specifically all the parts where Link turns into a wolf. I’ll think about this more later when I’ve had time to fully digest the game, but for the life of me I can’t figure out exactly why this aspect was put into the title. Sure, each major Zelda title since LTTP has included some kind of dual-world mechanic which had Link transforming in some way, but in those games, Ocarina of Time especially, the transformation moments were organically implemented into the gameplay and narrative alike. Manuevering a powerless bunnyrabbit through the shadow world of LTTP or the Links of future/past in OOT are both interesting experiences. Playing as Link the were-wolf just feels like a gimmick, or maybe just a weird, labored reference to Okami (which I’ve just bought, and am waiting for, coincidentally.)

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 6:52 am | Permalink
  4. Charles wrote:

    Be careful Bob, I’m not sure that Ueda ever said that Colossus was a prequel to ICO, I think it implied that if they did have a connection, that would be the chronological order. Take that as you may, he seems hell-bent on never actually confirming any of the interpretations of his games.

    Also, Oren, I hope that you enjoy Psychonauts. It’s a really good game and a great meditation on the Super Mario series.

    I am currently pushing myself through the last few hours of Final Fantasy XII. I’ve always been a huge fan of the series, but I really hated Final Fantasy X. I feel in my heart that this will be the last one I play. FFXII is a deeply flawed masterpiece that speaks to the genius of its team, of whom I’m a huge fan. However they are, in a way, the last of the ‘old guard’ of Square Enix, and now that they’re gone, things just aren’t going to be the same.

    By the way, this is a great idea. We should do this every week. Even if we’re still playing the same games, we can talk about how our perspective has changed on them, or how it hasn’t.

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 9:48 am | Permalink
  5. Bob wrote:

    Actually, Charles, Ueda pretty much has confirmed that SOTC is a prequel to ICO, in this interview with Wired: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70286-0.html. Yeah, he’s still cagey here in his answers, but in acknowledging the shared worlds between the games and the fact that the first “boy with horns” is born at the end, Ueda’s pretty much admitted it. There’s more about it on Wikipedia, which is where I got the link. I’m curious to see if he’s going to explore this general continuity any more and pursue it as a larger narrative, or if he’ll simply start designing new, independent works.

    Of all the designers working today I’m most curious to see how he’d fare working in a different, more contemporary setting, but when a creator’s made such an indelible mark already in one genre/narrative, you really do want to see it seen to the end, whatever that might be. Then again, people can go both ways– George Lucas made American Graffiti besides all his sci-fi, and even David Lynch managed to make The Straight Story between stuff like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Branching out into different territory is often healthy for an artist– I just hope Ueda wasn’t serious about making a “super deformed” style game.

    On that topic– works made by creators which fall outside their usual highlights– I’m always interested in exploring Kojima’s adventure games, Snatcher and Policenauts. Has anybody played these titles? There’s a pretty vocal minority out there which prefers those games to his longstanding MGS saga, yet no matter how intriguing they seem, I remain somewhat skeptical.

    The same can be said of my estimation of Miyamoto’s Pikmin series, and I must say that I find the declining quality of the Mario and Zelda GameCube titles to be mostly thanks to his growing distance with those series. Just as the guard is changing at Square-Enix, I fear much of the same might be happening, slowly but surely, at Nintendo. Will their flagship titles really be as interesting without Miyamoto steadfast at the helm?

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 5:55 am | Permalink
  6. Charles wrote:

    I agree, I’m really looking forward to whatever Ueda is planning to do next. Right now it’s actually the only reason I can think of to get a PS3.

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  7. Bob wrote:

    Son’t forget MGS4. That’ll come out eventually, as well.

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  8. Bob wrote:

    (Can I mention how close the “D” and “S” keys are to one another? If only one had an edit option…)

    Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  9. frank wrote:

    Bob, you are so Otaku. ^_^

    Saturday, February 3, 2007 at 9:29 pm | Permalink
  10. Kunal wrote:

    ^_^…

    um.

    hey i don’t play any games except for on mondays, right before this class, so i can make it a game day.

    today i played “Contact” and I played one of the manifesto games weird adventure games.

    The last game I playeed that I enjoyed was Yakuza. The fighting system is incredible. That game is about context -not just narrative as the progression of a story ,but narrative as a part of a larger context including graphics, sound, (bad) music, the world and the facets of the world in which the gameplay takes place. But the gameplay itself is fucking great, which means its Shenmue

    Monday, February 5, 2007 at 11:24 pm | Permalink
  11. Kunal wrote:

    uh, the plus after shenmue disappeared.
    so pretend that said “Shenmue Plus”.
    please don’t try to parse “The gameplay is fucking great, which means its shenmue” That wouldn’t make any sense, now would it?

    Monday, February 5, 2007 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  12. frank wrote:

    Thanks for clearing that up, Kunal, I was confused. Shenmue was one of the greatest drawer-opening simulators of all time.

    Friday, February 9, 2007 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

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