Saturday, 25 October 2008

Dead (Good) Space

My first report from the frontlines of the busiest gaming Christmas since, well, last year, is this: Dead Space is good. Dead good, in fact. Hence the pun.

Despite having a few things wrong with it. The plot and characters have failed to excite me so far. There's a lot of things to collect, Bioshock style, which is a bit annoying. And it's not exactly scary. Not yet, anyway. It's as if, because it's an EA game, it has to be a little bit too polished, too action-movie to truly become the game it aspires to be. Whenever you forget who made this game - which is easy because it's far superior to the usual EA stuff - the largely unnecessary weapon upgrade system and incongruous "kinesis" abilities are around to remind you.

Still, it seems churlish to complain about that when the game is so visually and aurally overwhelming. The brilliance of Dead Space is all in the dark corners, billowing smoke, and constant, unsettling cacophony of clatters, clangs and howls. Oddly, the bits when you're actually shooting things are probably the least scary bits of the game. There's some eek-get-it-off-me moments, and I always get a bit twitchy about what might be behind me when I'm aiming, but generally the tension is relieved when you actually have something in your sights. It's still a lot of fun, though. Having to lop off limbs rather than just spraying the enemies with bullets makes combat very fiddly, in a good way. It's reminiscient of having to shoot the parasites off the Regenerators in Resident Evil 4.

On an almost completely different note, De Blob is quite good as well. Jury's still out though.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Shaky Disappointment

"Give me a reason to love you" as Portishead once sang.* I'm starting my post with a song lyric in the hope that you'll be too busy laughing at my pretentiousness to notice the colossal volte-face I'm about to do on Wario Land. It's almost as bad as when I upgraded my opinion of Halo 3 from "disappointing" to "incredible" in the course of a single play session.

Once the entertainment value of the excellent animation and Wario charm has melted away, the game stinks of "will this do?". There's no sense of each level having a concept, or of the development team thinking "why is this fun?" at any stage. Put some platforms together, add waggle, add achievements (which I still find really weird in a Nintendo game), five worlds, job done. Out the door. And I thought Mario Galaxy was slightly underwhelming. Christ. Come back, all is forgiven.

Only the bosses display any real invention, and even they're a bit annoying. Oh, and there's the odd nice use of waggle, although I found my wrist really hurt after a quick session. So I went and played Wario Land to relax lol etc. Crap I've done that one before. Even the animation and Warioness isn't as good as in Smash Bros.

Despite all this I might have kept on playing if it wasn't for the game making me go back and collect more coins before letting me in to the third world. What the hell kind of game design is that? Is this a Nintendo game or what? Seriously, if a game is going to make me do that, it had better have some actual interesting levels to ease the pain. All you get to break up the monotony is some absolutely horrible submarine sections. Screw you guys, I'm going home. I can't even be bothered to find a quote from the manual to fill in that gap in the last post.


*This article is part of a series inspired by Portishead lyrics. Next week, "Tempted in our minds / tormented inside life / wounded, I'm afraid / inside my head, falling through changes" in relation to Picross DS.