Month: October 2011

Dark Souls

You’d think that the most immersive game world would be the most fantastic, the most beautiful, and the most addictive. But often it is not the beautiful worlds and perfect scenery that capture and sell a game. Some games, much like Dark Souls are in no way perfect but capture you in that world. You feel life. You feel death. You feel cows. Well maybe not cows but it certainly drags you into the game like nothing else.

Even when you are away from the game of a night, because you are tired of death and misery, a feeling that you should actually be playing Dark Souls emerges. It then grips you and makes you obsessed. You HAVE to get past these enemies. You HAVE to beat that boss. Just as you finish a level you have feel that you must return to the dangerous world and play it again.

It gets under your skin like nothing else you will ever experience. I couldn’t leave it alone. In the course of a week I spent over 30 hours on it. I didn’t even know I had 30 hours of spare time to spend! Sometimes you just put the controller on the floor and walk away for 20 minutes because it is so hard but no matter the fury you had at it when you left it will be gone and you will be back playing Dark Souls within half an hour, still dying at the same point but perseverance will serve you well and you will finally get past your obstacle, however big and however deadly.

Dark Souls, unlike it’s spiritual predecessor Demon Souls, is very varied in the choices you make and the things you can do. Most of the game shows multiple paths you can choose, but some will be locked to you and some will show you nothing but death. There is a slight amount of trial and error, as some paths can take a lot of time to go along or hold the deadliest enemies along them but some reduce time spent travelling significantly and can help you avoid hordes of enemies that could pose a threat.

 

The enemy archetypes are varied. Early on you will only be facing zombielike creatures which are easy to take down and only vary in weapons and shields. Don’t get too relaxed though, they can still be tough if you don’t think about the combat and what you are doing. The game forces you to be awake and ready at all times. Every single second you are open to ambush and it really makes you feel like you are vulnerable no matter where you are.

My first experience of the game was not having a clue what everything was. Attacks got to be a button right? Wrong. Being completely inexperienced at RPG’s like this may have been a setback now that I look at it. I journeyed on, not dying for the first half-hour I had played the game. I was as pleased as punch, I thought that this game was really hard. I had conquered a boss with little difficulty and was making great progress. That was until I chose the wrong path. At first I thought I had hit the jackpot, treasure chests all around me, loads of goods I plundered.

There wasn’t an obvious exit in the form of a door so I took a small jump that didn’t hurt my health. What I happened to leap into, unbeknownst to me was a graveyard. No biggie I thought. It’s not like there will be skeletons rising from the ground. Next thing I know there were skeletons rising from the ground. I really should’ve guessed, what with it being a graveyard. I hit one of the skeletons with my sword and discovered it had little health and I knocked half of its body off. Easy. Too easy. And sure enough it was. The skeleton just rose again at full health. It was obvious that I would not defeat 1 bony assailant, let alone 2 I tried running. Through the graveyard. I couldn’t help feeling like an absolute idiot as I picked up about 20 skeletons who were now chasing me and to make problems worse there were now really big ones with weapons. Running wasn’t an option but death was.

I then knew not to go that way. That is a prime example of how Dark Souls gives you a boot in the arse for going the wrong direction and teaches you to be very wary at all times. From that moment in the game onwards I always checked my back, always made sure I was not wandering down the path of certain death and I must say it is fantastic. There is a thrill every time you defeat a boss, or do something smart, or go the right way. It makes you glad to be alive. And glad to be dead.

I would recommend Dark Souls to only the most dedicated players. It is a trek that will have you mad but gives a challenge that just no other game does. This in an absolute gem of a game from Namco Bandai and even if it has flaws you are too busy shouting to see them.

9/10

Destructopus

Games for the mobile community are notoriously difficult to get right. You can have a game that looks quite good, but is in fact a buggy nightmare and a disaster to play, or there are the games that are great to play, but look a bit like a reject from the days of the ZX Spectrum. Only a certain few games manage to get the balance between controls & graphics. Unfortunately Destructopus doesn’t quite fall into that category, but it’s a really good effort.

In Destructopus you play as a rampaging monster who has just received the wake up call from hell, namely an off-shore oil drill into the head – ouch! Clearly a bit aggrieved by this intrusion you stick your head up to find the planet in a bit of a state, namely down to those pesky humans. As an environmental activist you decide to take some direct action and destroy as many buildings, cities, power plants and factories as you can and if those humans try and stop you. Well, you have woken up hungry, so they probably deserve it.

The game takes place over four zones covering city, forest, desert and wasteland, with each zone containing five levels. You trample through each level destroying what you can using three basic attacks; swipe with your claw, chomp with your mouth or shoot a laser beam out of your eye. As the destructible environment is different you will need to use all three to get the most points. Some buildings are higher and require a mouth chomp, others are lower and need a swipe and some require a bit of both.

Of course the homo-sapiens aren’t about to let you destroy all they have built and will fight back in the form of soldiers shooting at you, as well as tanks, attack choppers and fighter jets. These also require a combination of the three attack moves to kill.

You control the monster using an onscreen set of buttons, a joystick in the left hand corner and the three attack buttons on the right hand side. Your monster can move forwards, shuffle backwards and duck. Duck is used to avoid certain enemy attacks and it’s at this point that the game moves from easy pastime to frustratingly annoying.

The controls themselves are a little bit flimsy, you will find yourself pressing the same button a few times because you didn’t press it in the right place, the aiming for the laser beam is tricky to get right and you’ll miss targets more than you will hit them.  At the start the amount of enemies on the screen is at a manageable level, however as you progress it becomes more and more difficult to actually avoid any attacks successfully due to the amount of rockets/bullets heading towards you at the same time.

The control scheme and the abundance of enemies on screen do let this game down. Early on you can see the fun the developers had creating it, sending a stack of storage tanks flying to squash three people as they run for their lives. The game also looks great, with smooth running graphics and a fair bit of detail. The sound of the game is ok, in the menu screens you’ll have a riff of guitar music playing however in game there’s no music at all, just the screams and squishes of the human racing fleeing.

Glitchsoft seem to be committed to this game and are in the progress of preparing other modes and updates for it, maybe in one of those they will update the control scheme to something a bit more manageable.

Destructopus is made by Glitchsoft Corporation and is currently free on the App Store.

7/10

Metroid Prime

Being asked to pick your favourite game of all time and review it is, in my opinion, like asking a parent to pick a favourite child and to announce it in front of all their other children, and then give a list of reasons as to why this child is better than the other. I’ve been gaming for about 20 years now and I’ve played many games, some beyond awesome, some not so awesome and some I would rather forget, so trying to whittle it down to one game was a tough job.

After much floor pacing, list making and consulting with auguries, the afterlife and other gamers I managed to settle on one game and annoyingly it was one of my original choices.

Metroid Prime may not be the most iconic of the much loved, but lesser known Nintendo franchise, for that accolade please see Super Metroid, but it is the game that the word “game-changing” was invented for. Released between November 2002 and April 2003, depending on where you are in the world, Metroid Prime was the rebirth of a franchise that some considered dead. It was also the first Metroid game in eight years, the previous instalment being the aforementioned Super Metroid. The game continues the adventures of everyone’s favourite Bounty Hunter as she travels through the galaxy kicking Space Pirate booty!

For those of you that have never played a Metroid game Samus Aran is our protagonist in the ongoing fight against the evil Space Pirate horde. At this point in the series she is a bit of a mystery, but what we do know is that she was born on a planet that came under Space Pirate attack, her parents were killed in the attack and she grew up vowing to avenge them. She briefly joined the Galactic Federation, however she soon dropped out for reasons unknown at this time and went freelance.

The plot finds Samus answering a distress call from a Space Pirate frigate, finding some rather unseemly experiments and bumping into her old pal Ridley. Ridley was last seen burning to death in some lava eight years ago although as the Metroid Prime Trilogy takes place before the events of Super Metroid Ridley hasn’t actually been burnt yet. The Metroid timeline is a confusing place to be. Second degree burns aside; he has been put back together and is now known as Meta Ridley. New and improved Meta Ridley then scarpers to a nearby planet with Samus in hot pursuit.

Samus lands on this new planet and after a bit of exploring discovers the planet is known as Tallon IV and that it was once a part of the vast Chozo civilisation. Our heroine then proceeds to search the planet and try and find out what it is the Space Pirates are up to. The game continues to use the same path as previous Metroid games – an “open” world that requires certain upgrades to allow you to fully explore. So while not exactly a groundbreaking plot it was the way in which this game was presented that really makes it stand out.

In the eight years since Super Metroid, gaming had moved on in leaps and bounds. The move away from 2D side-scrolling games prompted Nintendo and Retro Studios to try something new and different. Nintendo crafted the moniker “first person adventure” and promised fans that they would get something completely mind blowing.  They delivered.

From the first moment Samus’ ship lands on the abandoned frigate Orpheon, to the final battle with the Phazon corrupted Metroid, Metroid Prime is a visual feast. The textures, the colours, the scenery, it is beautiful to behold.  After so long out of the spotlight Nintendo had to show fans that it was committed to the Metroid franchise, and that the eight-year wait between games had been worth it. Retro Studios cancelled four other games in order to concentrate on Prime and the dedication shows.

When the move from 2D Samus to 3D Samus was announced the fans reaction was overwhelmingly negative. Fans just couldn’t imagine how their beloved heroine was going to move and many thought that Nintendo was taking too big a risk and that Retro Studios should be given a project with less history and preconceived ideas. The gamble truly paid off and the game was a massive critical success. It won numerous “Game of the Year” awards, was given some of the highest scores on any game during the Gamecube era and beyond, and still to this day it regularly crops in the Top Ten of many “Games of all Time” lists.

The Metroid franchise has always been popular with the sub group of gamers called Speed Runners. The current quickest completion time for Metroid Prime is 1 hour and 1 minute! The best 100% completion time is 1 hour and 24 seconds! If you’ve played any games of the series before you know that that is an amazing achievement

I could literally talk and write for hours about this game, trilogy and franchise as a whole. Ever since those crazy Super Metroid days I have been in love with this series and even when the series falters (see Metroid: Other M) they can still produce something amazing. Metroid Prime was the first part of the “Prime Trilogy”, followed by Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Prime & Prime 2 were both on the Gamecube with Prime 3 being released on the Wii. In 2009 the whole trilogy was re-released with added wiimote capability on one disc for the Wii however I am aware that some regions have now discontinued this and it was never released in Japan. Personally I’m looking forward to the inevitable HD remake when the Wii U hits in a few years. The thought of Metroid in HD is beyond awesome!

So, if you haven’t played the series before or if you haven’t played it for a while I recommend you do so now. Dust off that Gamecube pad, hunt for that memory card, sit down and be prepared to remember why you love gaming.

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