Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (2001)

Genre: Sport  |  Players: 1-2  / Up to 4 online (PS2 only)  |  Developer: Neversoft

THPS 1 and 2 were both fun games but in truth they weren't quite as sophisticated as some of us would've liked. Sometimes even the simplest thing was more difficult than it ought to have been, and the frame rate was inconsistent on the larger levels. On the surface THPS 3 doesn't do much radically different from its predecessors, but to play it is to discover that Neversoft successfully honed the formula to perfection; everything, that is, except the tricky frame rate.

The new revert manoeuvre effectively balances gameplay for people who prefer ramps to street, enabling combos to be continued while tricking on vert. Do it successfully and you can even ease into a manual, hop off the vert and transition to the nearest street obstacle or rail for the best of both worlds with your score multiplier unbroken. Keep the balance meter from tipping over and you can chalk up massive scores. (Combine with Gaps for more impressive numbers.)

The character customisation isn't extensive but nor is it lacking too much. Hats, hairstyles, glasses, tees, etc, can be unlocked and worn. The same applies to hardware, new decks, wheels, etc. None of it makes a damn bit of difference to how your skater performs, but it’s a nice touch, nonetheless.

Once you've chosen your preferred style it’s onto career mode with your custom skater. There are only eight levels, which doesn't sound very much, but there are multiple goals to achieve within each one. If you only achieve one goal per run, save it and try for something else on subsequent runs; they carry over so you don't need to do them all in one try. It’s the usual TH procedure.

There’s incentive to replay each level with the Pros, provided you enjoy watching unlockable skate videos. If you’re playing a skating game then you’re probably going to enjoy skate videos. Rodney Mullen’s is mind-blowing. I strongly suspect he’s an actual wizard, unbearded and in disguise.

Perhaps the most enduring aspect for me personally is that I can no longer hear Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ without thinking of the game’s opening credits. The two things are forever wedded in my mind.

5 crucial stat points out of 5

Note: originally on PS1 (developed by Shaba Games and a lot less technically advanced), PS2, GameCube and GBC, it was ported to other formats by various devs: N64 (Edge of Reality); PC + Mac (Gearbox Software); GBA (Vicarious Visions). Obviously the GBC and GBA versions will be radically different than even the PS1 version, but I should also mention that while the GC version looks prettier than the PS2 it has major problems in other areas. In short, consider anything written above this Note to apply ONLY to PS2, PC and Xbox.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Donkey Kong Country (1994)

Genre: Platformer | Players: 1-2 | Developer: Rare

While DK was launched into the star-studded realm of playable characters with this sub-franchise….it didn’t last very long. His little buddy Diddy stole the spotlight almost instantaneously. That Rare saw it fit to cave to ease of use and genericism as soon as the first sequel is ridiculously disappointing. Donkey Kong himself is quite unique in his platforming because of his immense weight. You have to play smarter and more carefully to compensate for his decreased jumping ability and sluggishness. Diddy does have a weakness (bigger enemies will bounce him backwards while taking no damage) but he can still take them out assuming he has the room necessary to roll into them.

Having since played DKC Returns, this game is far easier and less ambitious in terms of secrets and level design than I remembered, but that’s to be expected given that it’s the first game in the series and an SNES release from 1994. It isn’t fair of me to make this comparison outside of stating my preference for the rebooted franchise, I acknowledge. In a vacuum, OG DKC is a fairly difficult endeavor, but for whatever reason I’ve always had near-infinite patience for it. It may simply be because it never feels particularly cheap. If you screw up it’s because you don’t know what’s coming (alternately, don’t remember) or you simply haven’t played it enough. It’s challenging and it’s on you to step up.

That said, you will have to rest your entire enjoyment on the development of that skill if you aren’t the type who is willing to check video walkthroughs to locate some of the bonus rooms that count towards your completion total. The vast majority can be found with eagle eyes and a knowledge of what types of walls are usually breakable, but a few are impossible to find without help or some incredibly serendipitous screw ups. You can achieve 101% and the game IS nice enough to indicate on the map screen when you’ve found all of the bonus rooms in a given level. As far as I can tell the only reward is a slight change to Cranky’s dialogue. Lame.

It may show signs of age and use too many boss re-colors (i.e., any at all), but if you’re visiting for the right reasons this is more than smooth enough to still warrant your time in 2015.

Buyer’s Guide: It was originally on SNES, but it’s since been ported to the GBA and the SNES mini. It WAS on the Virtual Console, but apparently Nintendo (or some legal remnant of Rare) doesn’t like to make free money. You know what to dooooo~

3½ Friendly Acts of Violence out of 5