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

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