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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Last Guardian (2016)

Genre: Adventure / Puzzle / 3D Platformer  |  Players: 1  |  Developers: Team Ico / genDESIGN / SIE Japan Studio

The many delays and behind the scenes troubles that plagued the game's development are well-documented elsewhere, so I'll skip all of that. My stance can be summed up with a familiar phrase, 'better late than never'. And in a strange way the delay makes TLG more special to me, because it delivers the kind of one-player PS2-era experience that is becoming rare in titles on modern consoles.

But, subjective silver lining aside, there's a drawback to deal with. While not much of a problem at the beginning, what's required of you as you progress deeper into the game causes the camera mechanic to feel outdated. Because it has to acknowledge both the boy and the giant cat-bird-dog creature (named Trico) featured on the cover art, it can favour one when you need it to favour the other. It moves freely with the right stick, but in cramped spaces its functionality takes a hit, leading to frustration, and the game features quite a lot of such places.

Trico feels more alive and has more personality than any collection of pixels should conceivably have. Equal parts ferocious and timid, Trico is a genuine wonder, and it only takes about twenty minutes of play to become completely attached to its presence. The creature has its own mind, it's not an empty-headed steed, so when you want it to go someplace you'll have to encourage it, which often means assessing its mood and influencing it accordingly. If it's hungry, feed it; if it's frightened, soothe it, etc. Judge well and you'll have smoother sailing.

If you enjoyed Ueda's previous games, namely ICO (2001) and Shadow of the Colossus (2005), then the chances are good that you'll enjoy TLG, too. The world has the same kind of ancient, historically rich beauty as its predecessors; the same kind of forward progression and puzzle solving as ICO; and the necessary interdependence of the two main characters is once again where the heart of the story resides. You play as the young boy, but if you're an animal lover in real life then the winged Trico is likely where the majority of your sympathies will lie.

The many set pieces that punctuate the emotional journey are heart in throat experiences that I'll remember and no doubt relive for years to come. Takeshi Furukawa's music often heightens them, periodically adding mysterious, exotic, sympathetic and dramatic tones that help bring what's important to the surface.

4 nutritious barrels out of 5

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (2015)

Genre: Action, Adventure | Players: 1 | Developers: Grezzo, Nintendo EAD Tokyo

As with the 3DS remake of Ocarina, this revamp of Majora’s Mask successfully addresses every issue I had with the original. They were laser-precise in fixing the things that irked me the most, and even if I feel that those things were overcome-able by patient, smart players, I have to admit that there is an incredible sense of legitimacy to the changes herein. There is no similar great crime to rival the hand-holding present in Ocarina 3D’s trade quest.

The two largest alterations have a gigantic impact on how convenient it is to do a 100% playthrough. Owl statues now grant permanent saves, instead of temporary ‘memo’ saves. Resetting the time, however, no longer elicits one. I.e., get into the new habit of resetting, playing the Inverse Song of Time and running around the clock tower to the owl statue, now centrally located along with the bank. Having legitimate saves in the middle of cycles makes once trying things, like completing Anju & Kafei’s quest, completely tolerable.

The other significant innovation is that the Song of Double Time now allows you to pick the exact hour to which you’d like to travel within a given day. Picking a time in the next day will require a second rendition, but it’s still a huge boon in comparison.

While many other small refinements were made, sometimes the original tail-end dialogue for events will remain, resulting in a nice sense of preservation, but also a tiny loss of overall semantic logic. Further, relocating two of the masks may seem infuriating (especially given what one of them is), but this does result in a stronger story for an involved NPC.

The four boss fights are updated, unequivocally, for the better. They are more involved and cinematic. In order to maneuver underwater like an Arwing, Mikau now requires magic. Fear not, you can still dash and dolphin leap just fine without any, but if you want to have unfettered fun, I absolutely recommend going to grab a bottle of Chateau Romani before taking a swim.

There are only two problems. One is a bonus feature, so I’m not inclined to hold it against this release: While it makes all the sense in the world to finally bring the one truly missing feature of 3D Zelda games to MM3D, the fishing is simply a complete disappointment. The IDEA of wearing certain masks to catch analogous fish is incredibly sound! Having to basically catch every fish in the lake to spawn “boss” fish, however, is tedium and there is no reward, at all. When I say reward, I mean a log, a menu to fill up stating which fish I’ve caught. That’s ALL I ask for when it comes to fishing in Zelda, and I’d imagine that’s true for most fans. Here, as far as I can tell, you catch them, (sometimes) hear a comment from the fishing hole attendant, and release them with no record whatsoever that you caught them in the first place. If I’m wrong, please correct me.

The other issue could be serious, depending on individual circumstances: There were two instances where I became caught up on the geometry in Termina Field. I was able to free myself both times by changing forms. I realize that you cannot go outside prior to gaining control over the Deku Mask, but that could easily occur in Clock Town, if you’re trying to be adventurous with your jumping the same way I was when I had trouble outside.

I absolutely recommend this over the original versions, but please be careful on your first cycle! That said, I don’t think I've ever made it entirely clear how much I adore this interactive piece of fiction. Majora's Mask 3D makes this dense, rich experience magnitudes more playable. It is an utter joy to execute actions in this game once you understand how to play it. Resonant emotional colors bleed from it profusely. Cherish it, if it speaks to you even a fraction as much as it does to me.

4½ Inexcusable Instances of Deku Scrub Racism out of 5

I do not have binocular fusion and are thus incapable of experiencing 3D. 
Don't ask me how it looks here, or in any other 3DS game.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Back to the Future: The Game (2010)

Genre: Graphic adventure  |  Players: 1  |  Developer: Telltale Games

If you're not already familiar with Telltale's brand of graphic adventure, I'll attempt to explain in one paragraph: TT are storytellers. The story is the main event. Because of that, calling it a game is being descriptively generous. The visuals are stuck in the PS2 era. The animations are clunky. The interface is as simplistic as they come, with the player required to interact with people or objects and walk from place to place to find them. Conversations have multiple possible responses, but quite often it doesn't matter which one you choose or in which order because the response will be the same. You don't buy a TT title just for gameplay - you buy it for story because TT know how to deliver in that dept.

It begins on May 14th 1986. Hill Valley. The events in the films are the past. Doc Brown is missing. Marty is with Biff and George, and he's worried. Things seem bad, but they're about to get a lot worse and it'll be your job as Marty to fix them.

The time-hopping shenanigans that follow reference the entire film trilogy but take cues mostly from the structure of Part II (1989). If you know and love the films then you'll spot a HUGE amount of additional detail. The people at TT must really be fans of the franchise. They captured the enduring spirit of the series perfectly.

Not all voices are provided by the original actors, but they sound like they are; the effort made to match them exactly really paid off, with the discernible nuances of each actor's dialogue being present and largely correct. Ironically, some of the original cast sound less like their 1986-selves than the replacements do!

The adventure is split into five episodes, each individually priced, but if you buy the Complete Pack digitally or the retail edition (on an actual disc) then you'll have them all. Play them in the correct order to properly finish the tale.

It gets more and more self-referential each time. Ep III is very talky but also funny, clever and with a high level of satire. The puzzle solving is fun but can quickly slip into being frustrating. Deductive reasoning alone isn't always enough to get you though, so be prepared for much trial and error and seeing multiple times animations that can't be skipped. Nevertheless, it's worth the inconvenience.

3½ scientific predilections out of 5

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Silent Hill 2 Expanded Editions (2001-03)

Genre: Survival-Horror / Action | Players: 1 | Developer: Konami

Unlike Rise from the Ashes, Maria’s sub-scenario was never released individually. However, I’m going to argue that because of it, the variously titled augmented release of Silent Hill 2 is significantly different from the original and is therefore worth addressing in detail, in the service of aiding potential or subsequent purchases. 

Right off the bat, I have seen this expanded version of the game advertised as containing new weapons. While undeniably factual, it sadly exists as a marketing machination and nothing more. They’re weapons for Maria, not for James, and they are simply variations of standard ones found in the main game, and the series at large. Put no weight into this bullet point.

The new endings are of course Maria’s and the UFO ending. It’s retroactively hard for me to believe that they initially left that out, but they did. If you’re the sort to shoot for the 10 star ranking, it’s a bit easier to do on the vanilla release as you don’t have to spend time doing a UFO run. One less available ending is one less ending to achieve. Maria’s is done well and cannot be divorced from her journey, hence it is a legitimate selling point.

That journey is the crux of the entire issue. Do I think her scenario is worth purchasing the enhanced edition of the game over? I personally feel it IS a worthwhile use of one’s time. However, I am very aware that I am a diehard fan of the game and consequently biased. It exists as part of Silent Hill 2 and gels with themes of the franchise and specifics of the game proper, so of course I would feel that it’s indispensable. To someone new to the game, I would objectively say: if you can find a version of it containing the extras for up to ~$5 USD more than the standard release, grab it to avoid having to double-dip, should you end up loving the experience. If you have the original and adore it, go ahead and double up. I cannot see a big fan of it being disappointed.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s short. Incredibly so. However, the atmosphere is unique in the scope of the series and it’s even given nods in other entries. All of the following are the complete version of the game containing the additions covered herein:

Silent Hill 2 for Windows
Silent Hill 2: Inner Fears for Xbox (Europe)
Silent Hill 2: Director’s Cut for PS2 (Europe)
Silent Hill 2: Saigo no Uta for PS2 & Xbox (Japan)*
Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams for Xbox (North America)
Silent Hill 2 Greatest Hits release for PS2 (North America)**
Silent Hill HD Collec.....DON’T. YOU. EVEN. THINK. ABOUT. IT.

3½ NOPE Moments Actually Not Elicited By A Radio out of 5
This score is obviously for Born From A Wish and the UFO Ending

*Listed solely for completion's sake. DO. NOT. expect to be able to play this on a NA or PAL console, or it to be entirely in English.
**Be sure the disc is shown in listings before purchasing. I've seen listings on ebay that are the Greatest Hits case and the black-label disc. Make sure the disc has the red coloring beneath the PS2 branding. If it's the GH disc and the original case, however, I'd say snap it up. Best of both worlds!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Soundless Mountain II (2008)

Genre: Survival-Horror | Players: 1 | Developer: Superflat Games

Seeing the above picture in a Google image search may lead someone to believe that it's simply a kitschy bit of fanart. As awesome as it would still be if it were indeed nothing more than that, this is actually the artwork for a genuine computer game! It sadly does not come close to encompassing the entirety of the source material's journey, but it is a loving 8bit-esque homage to it. The text predictably skirts just to the right of the actual dialogue and the pathfinding is simplified to a notable degree. The combat is best avoided when possible, but it doesn't really distract from your limited exploring to have to dodge things on the 2D plane utilized here. There's one screen I guarantee you'll be capping, even if you never return to this the way I do from time to time.

I'm happy to tip my hat to Jasper Byrne, Phil Duncan, The Mysterious Lorc, and C418 for all the work they did to make this a reality. It's incredibly quaint, but its heart is unquestionably in the right (special) place. Further details and download links can be found on Jasper Byrne's page, Superflat Games.

3½ Tiny, Yet Incredibly Inviting Parking Lots out of 5

Friday, July 1, 2016

Final Fantasy XII (2006)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: Square Enix

XII will always have a place on my shelf for being the thing that led me to the circle of friends I’ve cherished for, what will soon be, the past decade. As a game, however, it is a monumental failure in my eyes. There's very little in the way of things to grab someone both at the outset and in the long run. You're presented with sweeping fields of people as faceless crowds and then faceless combatants. The combat and many of the environments are competently rendered but are boring and un-engaging. Also, what manner of sadistic developer sets the X-Axis to be inverted and doesn't allow it to be changed?!?! You’re provided with a rudimentary programming language by which to indirectly command your party members and while you’ll be quick to tell me that this isn’t dissimilar to XIII, I will tell you right now that you CANNOT make XIII play itself the way you can with XII.

Further, the characters in XIII are engrossing and they do what they do out of love, which is individualistic and easy to get behind unlike the political drone of XII’s plot. Sazh and Vanille serve as an everyman and obligatory cute girl, sure, but as the game progresses they are given compelling and critical story relevance unlike the whingy Vaan and non-existent Penelo. Because of the structure of XIII and its post-game content, you cannot faff around long enough to lose the thread of the plot. You can work on XII’s side-content, which adds virtually nothing to the story, for literal days on end, losing it entirely for insanely massive periods of time. It’s all tick-the-box fare and hunts that don’t have the emotional pull of XIII’s, which demonstrate how the fate of a L’Cie destroys all manner of human relationships. XII also sets up requirements you’re sure to fail at, nearly instantly, damning you to a second playthrough, endless resets, or direct RNG manipulation. None of which are fair to players and simply force your hand in buying a guide or gluing your eyes to GameFAQs. The things you can reattempt, like spawning rare game and chaining enemies for drops, are usually incredibly esoteric and convoluted, especially as those two are not always mutually exclusive.

It feels like they designed a single-player MMO and that’s simply a contradiction of terms. This sort of content needs to be made bearable by the banter of your friends and done over the course of years, for hours at a time, when you’re all available. There really is something genuinely pathological to me about tackling the depth of it alone, in isolation.

For me, XII fails in every way that XIII succeeds. The characters and political nonsense are (almost entirely) flat and uninteresting. The side-quests outweigh the main story by many magnitudes. There’s no legitimate emotional resonance in it for me, or between most of the characters. A slight hint at something in the ending cinematic is far from enough. There's virtually no humanity on display, whatsoever. The focus of this entry is one that does not gel with me, even though I did put in multiple hundreds of hours, during a different era of my life. The only purpose it ever served was to kill time, which has not been enough for me, for quite a while now. Perhaps it was the beginnings of me expecting more, out of gaming, out of fiction, and out of life.

1 Stirring Statement in the Entire Bloody Thing out of 5

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (2011)

Genre: Action, Adventure | Players: 1 | Developers: Grezzo, Nintendo EAD Tokyo

To get it out of the way, I’m ecstatic to say that the two small issues I mentioned in my nut of the original game have been resoundingly rectified! It’ll be easiest to tackle everything new in a bullet-point fashion, so let’s go:

*Indicators on the world map tell you when you’ve cleaned out all of the Gold Skulltulas in each area.

*The ocarina is now appropriately afforded its own touch-screen button and you’re allowed to view the songs as you play them assuming you aren’t the type to obsessively memorize such things. In fact, the HUD for the ocarina on the bottom screen makes it far easier to see the patterns making up each song as you play them, thus making them easier to memorize than ever before! Yes, I do miss seeing the N64 buttons, but it wouldn’t make sense. I’ll just buy a Song of Storms shirt.

*The same soundbites are used, for good and ill. Don’t front, you’d be upset if Navi was changed.

*In terms of graphics, some things look astoundingly identical. Specifically, certain character models. Most things, however, are utterly gorgeous. A lot of love was put into the fishing hole, especially!

*One heart piece and several of the Big Poes were a bit glitchy, but because of the nature of Zelda I was able to simply vacate the area and try again.

*Both pairs of special boots are now classified as items, making equipping and removing them a lightning-fast process.

*This version does skew towards new players with some Sheikah stones giving advice without having to wear the Mask of Truth.

*The locations where you can change the water level in the Water Temple are now color-coded to denote which door leads to each and are emblazoned with washing machine-esque diagrams.

*I don’t mind the above addition because labeling tools doesn’t negate the work the player has to do. Those nails aren’t hammering themselves. Conversely, I am very annoyed that the trade quest is now mapped out step by step. The world is not large enough, at least in terms of NPCs, to justify this.

* You can hold L1 to center the camera and use the gyroscope to peer around w/o having to use the look button. It’s usually exactly as much as you need to get a glimpse above you. Incredibly useful!

*You can sleep in your bed and retry bosses from there, “in the realm of dreams.”

*A version of the Master Quest is included, which unlocks upon completing the regular quest. Please look elsewhere for detailed coverage. Perhaps here, in the future.

In the current gaming climate, I’m willing to spot a company as meticulous as Nintendo two glitches that were not damning in any way. Further, as annoyed as I am with them for hand-holding new players during the most iconic side-quest, I cannot deny that this is the definitive version of this game and that it deserves a full,

5 Parties Worth Forgiving A Plot Hole For out of 5

I do not have binocular fusion and are thus incapable of experiencing 3D. 
Don't ask me how it looks here, or in any other 3DS game.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice (2008)

Genre: Adventure/Visual Novel | Players: 1 | Developer: Capcom

As I stated in my review of Case 1-5, Ace Attorney as a series is a game of archetypes; this entry is the main reason. There’s a Maya character, an Edgeworth character, and…there’s Ema. She transcends and brings her forensic experti….mini-games back for another few rounds. Even if the other main characters seem familiar it isn’t done in an insulting way and they are pleasantly enjoyable for what they are. I.e., comfortable, yet admittedly inferior imitations. The aesthetics are slightly different as well, but it is a bit strange to acknowledge this as I never got burnt out on the consistent art style of the main trilogy. Again, an ultimately welcome change. What isn’t inferior or comfortable, however, are the events comprising this new collection of trials. This outing gleams as it presents not only legal and social commentary but genuinely shocking and riveting happenings, one of which is most likely the biggest ‘whoa’ moment I’ve ever experienced in gaming.

While we’re given the chance to discuss this as a game, it’s worth noting that, on the whole, it plays like T&T, if Ema were around instead of Maya. For his part, Apollo brings a perception system whereby he’s able to notice the ticks and twitches of witnesses as they’re lying or being unforthcoming on the stand. As with most things here, it’s perfectly welcome if not something that necessarily puts me over the moon. Psyche-Locks are better.

In the end, this entry brought about in me two beliefs I have never wavered on: 1.) Hobo Phoenix is a magnetic and enigmatic evolution of the character and 2.) Apollo is a different enough protagonist at the center of his own strongly compelling maelstrom. These work together, in my mind, to justify my insistence that Apollo should have received the two sequels he was owed.

Based on some symbolism in the first trial, however, it now seems to me that at least some of the creative staff actually intended this to be an ending for the series, even if there are some infinitely tantalizing loose-ends and they did continue on with both Nick and Apollo. Think the ending credits to Iron Man 3. This, combined with my feelings about a decision made for Dual Destinies, makes me feel completely comfortable in saying that, for me, Ace Attorney concludes with this game.

A single blue card in the final red hand, indeed.

Buyer's Guide: It's a DS Exclusive. Sadly, it hasn't gotten a Wii Ware release and isn't part of the Trilogy collection.

4 Beliefs That Toku is the Best Gift Anyone Could Ever Give out of 5

Friday, April 8, 2016

MotU: He-Man: Defender of Grayskull (2005)

Genre: Action / Adventure  |  Players: 1  |  Developer: Savage Entertainment

The objective of the game, if I'm not mistaken, is to advance through poorly designed and repetitive levels battling bland enemies, employing badly animated sword strikes to end their miserable existence. You'll use a roll manoeuvre during combat in an attempt to add variety, but it's not necessary and you'll soon grow tired of even that. You'll discover that it's quicker to simply lock onto them with L2 (if you're lucky) and hack and slash until they become a crumpled heap.

He-Man can also jump, which comes in handy for cocking-up the awful platform sections. At those times, collision detection in hinted at but largely absent.

He-Man's muscular physique is referenced often, in the piss-poor animation and in having each step he takes be accompanied by monotonous heavy footfalls that drill deeper and deeper into the player's brain with each laboured step.

You'll be required to hit switches and then wonder if they even registered, collect keys that are approximately half as big as you are, and reset your game often because of getting stuck in parts of levels that are easy to get into but impossible to exit from. On the plus side, you don't actually have to carry the keys once you find them, because he has a magic gaming pouch in his furry pants.

If you endure, like a real hero would, you're rewarded (compensated?) with special moves that do more damage but take an age to enact. I'm genuinely not sure if they were purposefully slow-mo or if the frame rate actually shit itself.

The Eternian hero is voiced by Cam Clarke, who also played him in the short-lived but fantastic Masters of the Universe reboot in 2002. That series was never released outside of R1 territories, whereas this game was only released in Europe. MotU fans from R2 got shafted in the first instance, but MotU fans from countries other than Europe should consider the second instance an act of mercy.

My time with He-Man: DoG ended when I rose from sitting, walked purposefully to the console and said aloud, "Get the fuck out of my machine!"

1 drawbridge out of 5

Sunday, April 3, 2016

3D Dot Game Heroes (2009)

Genre: Action / Adventure  |  Players: One  |  Developer: Silicon Studio

If I say the words: sword, shield, life meter (red), magic meter (green), bomb bag, bottles, boomerang, magic boots, maze-like puzzles, side quests and fairy companion then there's a high probability that you're going to think of The Legend of Zelda, right? I would too, but now you can add 3D Dot to the list. It has a stupid title, I know, and it would be natural to assume before playing it that the blatant theft makes it deserving of derision, but the opposite is true, it deserves much praise. It takes the classic, honed to perfection, 8-bit LoZ 2D aesthetic and translates it into a homage-filled 3D adventure for PlayStation 3 owners.

I don't mean the Ocarina of Time (1998) kind of 3D, either. It keeps the angled/overhead perspective of an older LoZ title and instead of turning pixels into regular polygons it lovingly builds everything from blocks, keeping it old-school even while it utilises modern tech, imbuing everything with an almost tilt-shift photography vibe (for the technically-minded, it uses voxels).

Furthermore, despite there being no need to do so, the screen even slides from designated area to area just like it would on a handheld. It's that kind of game; you can feel the love and nostalgic charm in every constructed part.

Speaking of construction, you can customise your character completely (except weapons), as long as you can visualise him/her/it in square blocks. There are tons of pre-made ones to choose from, but if you're feeling adventurous you can start from scratch and build Link, Samus, Mario, Iron Man, Voltron, Jesus (on or off a cross), anything you want! (For extra jollies, name your character 'Bates'.)

If you get bored being who you are then simply change at the load screen. And it's even possible to share creations with friends because, unlike some other developers, the people at Silicon Studio haven't locked the save files. They made it as easy as pie to pop them onto a USB stick and give them to the world.

Your chosen hero's swords are upgradable. If you have enough cash you can leave the blacksmith's with a weapon that'd give Cloud Strife an inferiority complex.

Note: Beware, a large portion of the side-quests are time-sensitive events, requiring a player to have discovered and completed each one in-between clearing Temples. If you've not triggered an event before polishing off a Temple Boss then that particular quest (and its reward) is gone forever. Likewise, any branching quests that are dependent on the first one being brought to fruition will also be gone forever. It sucks when you remember too late that you forgot to revisit a particular corner of the map and speak to a specific fretting NPC.

4 swords for a jobbing hero out of 5

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (2005)

Genre: Sport  |  Players: 1-2 / 2-8 Online  |  Developer: Neversoft

Oh, no, not another Tony Hawk game post! Yes, but there's something positive to say this time, so I don't have to feel depressed by the end of it.

The main one-player game has the same awful 'One Goal at a Time' structure as the previous three entries, but for an 'open world' setting it does an admirable job at fooling you into thinking there are no loading times between areas.

The story is better than T.H.U.G's was. It's even kind of funny at times. You're a regular nobody, a wannabe, fresh off the bus, required to prove your skills to the local doucebags skaters before you can get a foot in the competition door and land some sweet sponsorship deals. Along the way you'll make friends and play a key role in the building of a private Skate Ranch.

You could play through that half of the game if you want, you might even enjoy parts of it, but the best thing about T.H.A.W is that it has CLASSIC MODE!

Classic Mode is respectful to the structure of THPS 1-3. You're given a set amount of time and a set number of goals (including Secret Tape) that when completed don't halt the action – you can keep going, stringing goals together in one glorious run. And, as before, you can boost your abilities by finding and acquiring Stat Points. The difficulty level is set kind of high, so new players may well be succumbing to frustration at times, but eventually you'll learn the layout of the levels and the button presses needed to score big combos.

More praise: the soundtrack has some excellent tunes from the likes of (in no particular order) Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, D.R.I., Public Enemy, Spirit Caravan, Green Day, The Doors, The Bravery, Motley Crue, and lots more (sixty-three in all).

Interestingly, the voice of the main character (Kensucky) in the one-player campaign is Will Friedle, who you may know as Terry McGinnis/Batman from Batman Beyond (aka Batman of the Future, 1999-2001). His new best friend is voiced by Cree Summer, who played Terry's friend Max in the same show.

3½ boulevards of broken wheels out of 5

Monday, January 4, 2016

Path of Neo (2005)

Genre: Action | Players: 1 | Developer: Shiny Entertainment

The biggest problem with this release is probably the philosophical/moral one. This was sold as your chance to dictate the path of Neo. It’s the name of the fucking game, man! Thing is, you can only really change ONE THING. And, that only results in the absence of a clip or two from a rapid-fire montage of scenes from the film. I feel sooooo empowered… No, this isn't an art house game, and I didn't expect it to be a Western RPG, either. Choice was promised in a straight-forward game and I RIGHTFULLY expected a few, simple branching paths at the very least.

At some points, the gameplay can now make me feel nauseous because of the visuals, movement, and filters utilized. The combos can be quite elaborate but the longer unlockable ones feel like they can only be executed via luck and/or button mashing. Some upgrades are dependent on small set-pieces that can easily be missed. Once you miss something, it’s almost irrevocably absent from your file, even if you load up a prior save, get it, and continue forward recreating the data. This is most unacceptable with the super jump ability that mostly fills in for your ability to fly. In fact, it tends to be gone altogether when you load up a save AFTER receiving it.

It is present in the levels that absolutely require it for traversal, thankfully, and those are the most interesting in the game. You may not be able to change much of anything in terms of Neo’s narrative but what was newly added tends to be the best aspect of what’s on display here. Merv’s levels are delightfully Escher-esque and now remind me of an area in Silent Hill Downpour. Though brief, I’ve still never forgotten the train-car segments in the subway.

The requisite new ending is cheeky and clever enough that I’m able to laugh at it and I have sincerely always been satisfied and glad that it exists. Thumbs up, Wachowskis, for navigating a minefield.

It’s a shitty, shitty action game and is incredibly unpolished but there is creativity buried in here if you’re willing to fish it out. There’s no great imperative to, like there originally was with Enter the Matrix, but there are worse things you can spend your time doing. Not many, but a few.

Buyer’s Guide: PS2, Xbox, PC

1½ Nods to Marsellus Wallace out of 5

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Enter the Matrix (2003)

Genre: Action | Players: 1 | Developer: Shiny Entertainment

This is a much maligned game, and in terms of gameplay, I 100% agree. The movement is animated poorly, the environments are shoddily rendered, and frankly there are some glitches afoot that can prevent forward progress altogether. I played this when I returned to gaming around 2005 and even then I knew deep down that it was a fairly miserable interactive endeavor. I never would have expected the Constantine game to be the eternal champion of those initial purchases. You CAN mess around with what I will retroactively call a hacking app and make your controller vibrate on command, if that does anything for you. It shouldn't.

When it comes to the story, however, this a case of a diamond being completely enmeshed in an elephant turd. The cutscenes are MAGNIFICENT, flat out. They are hyper canonical, in my book. Not only are we treated to more footage of Mary Alice as the Oracle (who I prefer in the role) but we're also given a more balanced glimpse of Lock, a wonderful and funny fight scene for Ballard (Roy Jones Jr.), our third hilarious Operator/Everyman (Sparks), and everything I need to justify Ghost being one of my favorite characters in the entire saga.

The Wachowskis must be commended for realizing their value compared to the mountain of trash they were buried in, and consequently liberating them. They can now be found in the Reloaded Revisited materials on the Ultimate Matrix Collection. What took place in the game between them can easily be inferred even if you haven't touched this, which, you shouldn't. The only (non-)issue is that the scenes have an air of taking place during Reloaded AND Revolutions because of Mary Alice's presence. I tend to watch them in between the first movie and Reloaded but watching them in between either is the best you're going to do outside of splicing them into Reloaded yourself. That is, of course, if you've seen the trilogy before. If you want to watch them on your first run of the films.....don't. It's like the alternate ending for Kamen Rider Blade or Rise From the Ashes. There's no super clean way to do it as a virgin to the property.

I haven't much spoke to this as a game, because to me it really isn't one. It was a miserable little cage that no longer need exist in my world or on my shelf.

Buyer's Guide: Don't you dare. PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC. Blu-Ray, DVD

1 Purpose Properly Reinstated out of 5