Stuntman: Ignition (360) – Initial Impressions

I already had tried and stated some of the things about the demo that make this game about ten times better than the original Stuntman game.  Notably: there’s a couple ways that you can play through the stunt completely (not quite sandboxing it, but close enough) either by switching to easy mode which gives you the opportunity to miss more stunts, or as long as you don’t miss a critical jump or the like, you can continue even knowing that you failed.  In order to clear a stunt, you still have to play through the entire stunt without missing 5 required stunts, but getting there is much less of a pain than it was in the first game.  Playing through a few more levels, the timing feels a bit more comfortable as the game encourages you more to score more via chaining stunts instead of just finishing a stunt and moving on.  They add motorcycles that can wheelie and also slide under low obstacles.  You can still put together your own stunt courses as well as a challenge mode where you have to meet certain requirements with the course you built (similar to TrackMania’s Puzzle modes).  There seems to be a lot more ‘pick and go’ options as well.

The only concern I have presently is that there’s a total of 6 movies with 6 scenes in the game, so I’m hoping its not too short.  It does look like you can’t just wimp through all the stunts; movies don’t get unlocked until you achieve a certain ranking and that can only be improved by gaining better score ratings on individual scenes.  I haven’t had this problem yet of having to go back to do better, as I only got through the first movie last night, but I don’t expect this to be a critical show stopper (eg I doubt its the case that you can’t do the last movie if you haven’t 5-starred all the previous stunts).

So far, so good…

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii) – Initial Impressions

I played through about the first hour of this yesterday (that is, up though the first boss); the trouble with those Wii games that actively engage both hands that if you’re not used to it, it’s hard to jump in and do long doses at the start (had the same problem with Zelda for example).

However, I have to say that the word about the control scheme being near perfect holds true – yes, I’m still at the stages of trying to get used to all the controls, but they feel tons more natural than Red Steel’s version.  The lock-on with side aiming is a very nice feature.  My only nit is that the “pull-twist-push” actions for door seals seem difficult to pull off, the same issue I had with Elebits’ door handles, because of the in/out motion with the remote seeming to not be registering well.  I believe there’s a setting on the Wii main menu that might help that, so I’ll check that again.  The only nit is the scan visor activation process which requires a bit more finger movement to hit the “-” key, then to select the visor, THEN to aim and target the scan area.  Again, haven’t gotten far enough to determine if this could have been mapped any differently.

I’m trying to figure out if the graphics look any better than the GC Prime games — certainly after playing lots of 360 games at 1080i and coming back to 480p, jaggies are very notable, but ignoring that, it doesn’t seem like the engine pushing too much beyond what Prime was doing before on the GC — not that this wasn’t bad or the like.

Persona 3 (PS2) – Initial Impressions

This…is a weird game.

I’ve watched some screwed up anime before (Lain, Neon Genesis Evangelion)  and the story of this game is already there, only after the first hour of play.  Unlike a traditional RPG, the combat side is a bit less emphasized (it took 45 minutes to get to a battle), and inbetween is a mix of Bully like elements (improving your performance at school) and Japanese dating-sim parts, as your friendships with the characters will affect your combat.

I get a very Killer 7 vibe from this game as well – it’s not so much in stat-building (yet) as it is making sure to play out scenes to completion.

Boogie (Wii) – Initial Impressions

This is definitely a weird game.  A first blush, it’s a combination of Karaoke Revolution and something like a free-form DDR – fortunately you don’t do both at the same time.  The KR part is pretty much as you expect, though the game feels quite generous in what it counts as correct.  You do get a nice free USB-based hand mic with the game, I don’t know how it works on a PC yet.   The DDR part is the most interesting side and feels almost like an SSX game.

And I expect you’re wondering how I can connect a dancing game to a snowboarding game?  First, most of the interface (game menus) feel like it’s borrowed heavily from SSX Blur (the last non-sports title EA put out for the Wii), not only in animations and bg music choice but how it’s very…non-rectangular and retro feeling.   More closely, while you dance, which is done by swing the Wii mote to the sides in time with the music, you score more by avoiding repeating a series of moves  much like you don’t score as many points for repeating tricks in SSX.  Also, as you get a lot of points in a row, you can attempt to active special moves by holding down a button and swinging the remote as indicated — not quite the same approach to starting Ubertricks in SSX, but the same idea.  Of course, you’re not trying to avoid obstacles or other skiers at the same time – – this is more a party game, but the same SSX approach is there.

Song list is ok — there’s a special place for any game that uses “Groove is the Heart” among other songs that have both good beats and lyrics (“Virtual Insanity”, “Celebration”, “Karma Chameleon” , etc..  It’s not EBA or Guitar Hero, but I can see how this game is probably better suited to a party environment than as a single player game.

Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology (PSP) – Initial Impressions

Played this for about 2 hours cumulative so far, and it’s pretty decent. It’s part of Namco’s Tales series, and actually is almost their take on Kingdom Hearts, in that the game involves all the characters from the past Tales games; I’ve certainly recognized those from Phantasia, Symphonia, Legendia, and the Abyss (with the last 3 retaining the same VAs from their games), and I’m sure there’s others I’ve not come across.

You play as a completely new character based on your specifications as to appearance, which allows you to develop him or her as you see fit. All the usual Tales mechanics are there: Artes and the Linear Battle System (though on a 3D map, so more like Symphonia and the Abyss), there’s cooking and other crafting skills, and the like. The game is structured by doing one quest at a time, with some quests necessary to progress the overall story. When you do a quest, you go to a field which you explore in a third-person, non-fixed camera view, fight and collect goodies. Some quests will have you work with another Tales characters or more, and while I’ve not gotten to that point, you can also hire characters for your party.

The PSP controls have yet to get in the way of the game – it plays perfectly fine.

So far, it’s a good addition to the series, and the incorporation of all the Tales games has yet to feel too out of place.

The Bigs (360) – Initial Impressions

I’m not a huge sports game fanatic.  I’ll play golf games like Hot Shots and Tiger Woods, but generally the major pro sports games are interesting but generally have the problem of being too realistic and too slow.  I did get the MLB07 game and it looks great, but again, there’s a huge time investiment to play a game.

Enter “The Bigs”, which is still based on major league baseball (though you start in the minors) but removes some parts and adds others to make it a great pick up and go arcade game.   You don’t wait between pitches to repitch (speeding up that process), and as there’s less focus on making the game presentation like a TV presentation, there’s few if any cuts to celebrations or replays that MLB07 has.  Pitching and batting are simplified significantly.  For pitching, you have 4 pitches and you set where you want them to go; how well they are thrown is set by a meter.  Should you miss the target area, there’s a good chance the batter will hit it, and if it’s a successful hit or worse, you’ll lose some ability on that pitch eventually making it unavailable.  Batting is basically swinging at the right time (but not worrying about area as long as it’s in the strike zone) and directing where you want the ball to go.  Both batting and pitching can active a power shot that boosts that one pitch, the power earned by making successful strikes and outs and hits.  I’m still working out trying to win a game in the career mode, but I’m getting close to that point, and it only takes maybe 15 minutes for the game.

I haven’t tried out all the modes, but there is a mode called “Home Run Pinball” where you are playing in Times Square in New York City; a pitcher repeated pitches balls to you, and you want to hit them to hit signs and other features in the Square to get points.  You keep playing until you miss so many pitches, so it’s a matter of aiming for a high score.  It’s a very simple addition to the game but it definitely is one of the fun aspects of the game.

Overlord (360) – Initial Impressions

(Ok, not quite initial, I’m about 1/2 through, but first time I posted on this).

Overlord is definitely an interesting game; its fashioned off of one of the best games ever, Pikmin, but adds a few twists.  Basically, you’re an evil being (read: somewhere around lawful evil to chaotic good in D&D terms) that needs to rebuild his castle, but to do this, you need to do good deeds to rid the world of nasty evil (chaotic evil!).  To do this, you can’t fight off those hordes yourself but you get access to minions.  Like Pikmin’s Pikmin, your minions come in 4 varierties: Browns are good fighters but otherwise have no special power; Reds can use fireballs from a range and can douse fires; Greens can withstand and neutralize poison and can perform nasty back-attacks; and Blues can attack magic beings, use magic and regenerate others, and can cross through water (the others can’t), but are the weakest fighters.  You “sweep” your minions around the levels as well as set vantage points; you can control all of them at once, or by color, or a small subgroup, and usually it’s a matter of puzzle solving: monsters are there, but it’s usually how you face them that is the puzzle.  For example, monsters wandering around in water need to be lured to land to allow the more powerful minions attack.  Minions themselves will wreck havoc on boxes and the like about, collecting the items for themselves to use as weapons and armor, while giving you money, life and magic potions they find.

Destroying monsters gives you life force for your minions (each color tracked separately), but you can use your minions to upgrade your armor as well.

The game has a decidedly twisted bent, reminding me much of the humor in the (newer) The Bard’s Tale.  E.g. in this game, halflings (read: hobbits) are evil, and their hero “Melvin” is so rotund as to make him a tricky boss.

The only major issue with it is the lack of camera controls: the left stick is used for movement, the right is used to sweep your minions; moving around will move the camera, but I found the easiest way is to turn in the direction you want to look and then tapping a shoulder button to make the camera jump that way.  Also, the game feels like it was built off the Fable engine, not so much in the gameplay, but just how the people respond to you, how the camera follows you around, etc… which is not the best engine, but so far, it hasn’t failed me yet in the game.

Grim Grimoire (PS2) – Initial Impressions

Just a note that this is slightly spoilerish, though if you’ve read any pre-press literature for the game, it’s not revealing anything new.

The game is done in a very similar graphics style as Odin Sphere including what appears to be the same artist, but also the same use of 2D “living” art, and the like.  It is definitely up there among the pretty games.

The game as far as I’ve gotten is a simplified RTS.  There’s resource gathering (using elves to mine mana), offensive units, and more.  So far, I’m still in the “training” portion of the game where each unit is introduced, but so far nothing terribly hard.

What I’m waiting to see is how the time loop comes into play.  Your character, after 5 days, will be brought back to day 1, and will try to prevent events from happening a certain way, but I don’t know if you make choices or gameplay decisions that affect the direction of this plot.  I’m really hoping for something like a Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask type experience where, as you play, you learn what you need to and when you need to be at places to stop events, but in this game, the time resolution is by “days”, each day comprising a bit of story/plot and then an RTS battle, so I don’t necessarily see how that will play out.   I’m going to try to at least work through one loop today to see if it’s just a linear plot or if there’s more flexibility given what the player does. If Odin Sphere is any indication, there’s more than just a linear plot involved, but we’ll see.

The Darkness (360) – Initial Impressions

Played through about 2 or so hours of the game so far.   It’s got a weird combination of Deus Ex and Condemned: Criminal Origins to it in that there feels like there’s some non-linearity and that you have a couple opinions besides pure firepower to deal with tight situations (including some stealth attacks and the Darkness powers).  The setting (in this case, NYC late one night) also brings these games to mind.

I’m a bit odd about what the game considers “dark” where your powers are supposed to manifest themselves better; the graphics don’t see to have a strong contrast between light and dark, but there are several profiles that can be set depending on your TV along with a gamma setting to adjust this further; however, there’s no ‘guide’ (eg, selecting a profile to make a near-black square disappear or the like) to help with the lighting setting.

My only concern in the longevity of the play is how many more powers the character manifests.  When you defeat a foe regardless of method, you eat their heart, and eating so many hearts raises your Darkness level, but there are only 5 such levels in the game; the fact I hit one within a couple hours makes me hope this game isn’t too short.

I was almost tempted to see how long into “To Kill a Mockingbird” (the movie with Gregory Peck) is used within the game, shown somewhat early in the game.

Haven’t tried multiplayer yet.

DiRT (360) – Initial Impressions

I will say this, that while the demo actually came out before the game (what a surprise!), the demo only had a single race mode that really didn’t display the best of this game.

It’s NOT as graphically amazing as the PS3 Motorstorm, but it’s sufficiently pretty for a next-gen title.  And after play Forza 2 a lot, having two different in-the-cockpit views, including the safety meshing, makes for an interesting gameplay experience (there’s also bumper view, hood view, and two trailing cam views incase you need to see more of where you’re going).

There looks like there’s about 6 different single player modes, including a full-on race mode against other cars at the same time, “crossover” tracks against 1 other car, and then timed courses where you need to go as fast as possible on twisty terrain which can be quite harrowing.   Career mode is a large pyramid structure; you need to complete races and accumulate points going left to right and down to top to get to the single ultimate career race series.  Like most racing games, you earn cash to buy new cars, 43 in all.

Haven’t tried online yet.

I will say that the menu system/loading screens are the most interesting and beautiful ones to look at (same as in the demo)  in a long time, like floating panels within a large 3D environment, yet they move fast from one selection area to another.  Plus at the start of career mode, the announcer quickly (5 minutes) gives you a low-down of how everything works from the menus side, which is pretty nice as well.