Thursday, June 10, 2010

May Was Games, Part 1

Ignoring the precedent set by the May months of previous years, May of 2010 played host to one of the largest barrages of mid-year quality the game industry has ever seen -- after Activision took their prospective sales hostage with the release of Modern Warfare 2 last fall, it's understandable that rival publishers wouldn't want to compete. In part one of this four-part series, our two heroes take on a cubic-pixel sandwich encasing a delicious skateboard in the middle.

Picross 3D - May 3rd

The nation of Blockica has been overrun by "Grey Ones", an evil attacking force of grid-adorned rectangular prisms! It's up to you and your pet stylus Wisp to fight back against these evil creatures and quite literally carve out a new civilization for your countrymen, cheered on by a talking motor-duck and his clip-art compatriots.

Svet: This game sets my imagination afire! There are like a million puzzles in this thing, all of which are perfect for playing while lazing about with something else in the background -- cool jazz, Newsradio reruns, crazy cartoons, masturbation, and especially newspapers. The models you make are a little pixelated; I'd have preferred to work at a higher resolution -- carving out individual triangles and normal-map layers to create a stellar rendition of current-gen Mario's face, let's say. It would take several hours for each item to complete, but at least I'd be able to justify giving my Game-Reviewer's-Template review for this game a graphics score higher than a 2.5 out of 10.

Phen: After an extended playsession of Tetris, I often find myself picturing theoretical arrangements of a game in progress and where to place the next hypothetical piece. Very few puzzle games grip my attention long enough that I start getting Tetris-Vision, but Picross 3D is one of them. After solving a few puzzles, I'd set the game down and look around my cave, only to find that I'm seeing numbers scattered across the walls, describing the number of spaces separating every nook and cranny and providing clues on which spaces still need to be carved out. It turns out it's a platypus!

Skate 3 - May 11th

After your numerous adventures in San Vanelona in Skate (alternate titles: "skate.", "Skate OG") and Skate 2, you wake up in a newer, more colorful city filled with impossible architecture that just-so-happens to be brilliantly navigable with the control system provided to you! Your task is to rid this skater's Valhalla of as many neon blue icons as possible and help fill a progress bar with a million skateboards, preferably aided by up to three friends at once.

S: I've been playing this almost universally online with Phen! We spend endless hours dogpaddling in city water fixtures, throwing ourselves off tall buildings to break as many of our human avatars' bones as possible, and stacking ramps on top of each other to create more and more interesting ways to kill ourselves on park-editor architecture. My only complaint is the amount of useless numbers and multipliers that obstruct an otherwise-perfect view of the bottom of the screen, but I suppose they have to save some refinements for Skate 4.

P: I've been playing this game offline behind Svet's back, as well! The score-attack challenges are great, and I've been having a blast with the photo challenges -- especially the new Team Ads, which let you place a camera anywhere in the game world and snap a photo of your skater doing whatever you please, bails and inappropriate hand-gestures included. However, I know next to nothing about skater culture, so Skate 3's occasional name-dropping doesn't elicit from me the excited response I think the game expects from its audience. Playing S.K.A.T.E. against celebrity skaters is no longer required to progress in Skate 3, but it's been replaced with one-on-one score battles, and I still feel like my success is dependent on the game arbitrarily deciding whether my opponent bails at any given time.

3D Dot Game Heroes - May 11th

As a randomized cluster of dynamically-lit cubes that hover in a scattershot fashion above a 2.5-dimensional playing field, endowed with the mystical ability to sprout a giant sword from its center-mass, your task is to rescue the Princess of Oldschule from the Evil Draygun of Blast Processing, or some other such nonsense.

S: Hey, all right! Idea Factory apparently took some time out from creating stellar spinoffs of the Metal Wolf Chaos IP to revive the original Legend of Zelda in bootleg form, with the same snazzy washed-out colors, individually outlined pixels, and depth-of-field effects you remember from the NES days. I'm looking forward to the cheeky asides added-in by Atlus's brilliant localization team, which may serve as adequate field-dressing for what my preconceived biases have already labeled a barely-functional workhorse of a story. Haven't picked this one up yet, but I might when the clerk at my local Target isn't looking.

P: I also haven't picked this one up just yet, mostly due to the sheer amount of games on the table I need to plow through first! I'm looking forward to generating custom content that's as symmetrical as it is uninspired, just like I do with every other build-your-own-game game. Also, I never played a top-down Zelda game -- shame on me, I know -- and 3DDGH seems as good an analog as any.

Join us next time, where we wrestle pirate wolves, ghoulish nighttime townsfolk, and grizzly bears.

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