Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Press Start to Continue (again...)

I recently spent a huge sum of 200 Microsoft Points on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 Arcade on XBLA. That works out at around £1.80. Bear this in mind while I have a moan.

As much as I love arcade gaming, and therefore love XBLA, there is one big thing about these arcade ports that I despise - laziness.

I understand completely that these games are designed for quick blasts of gameplay. Thats not a problem that you can probably tell from the whole premise of my blog. I also fully understand that these games were not originally designed for the home console market - they are coin-op games and therefore are designed with money-making in mind.

However, in porting this game over to XBLA, did the producers not consider tailoring the game to be more console friendly?

Example one - the only option is to have infinite continues. Don't get me wrong, being able to play through the entire game regardless of how rubbish I am is great. But surely having the option of choosing how many continues I have to complete the game in would be an idea? Suddenly the game is a challenge, rather than a chore. On playing the game through a few times I must have used literally over a hundred continues, often within seconds of each other. Knowing that it simply didn't matter how many times I died meant there wasn't actually an incentive to do things well. This is even taking into account the Achievements on offer, most of which are awarded to not getting hit by certain bosses - an almost impossible task for the mortal player.

Example 2 - the high-score system is completely flawed, merely giving you a score based on how many enemies you defeat. Each of the times I played through the game I got exactly the same score, simply because that is the number of enemies in the game. Why doesn't the speed you complete the game matter?

It brings me back to my original point that the developers were just lazy. As long as the game is up there, with working local & online multiplayer, the developers don't really give a stuff. The single player is left with a bit of a raw deal....

Clearly I'm being too harsh, and playing devil's advocate to a degree. The game is over 20 years old, it was £1.80 to buy, is best played by 2-4 players on screen at a time and is by definition an arcade port - expectations shouldn't really be that high and I've had my money worth on first playthrough. But just for the sake of a bit of common sense and understanding of the console format it could have been such a better game - a challenging game with longevity and loads of replay value.

...Balls to it, I'm off to perv over a pixelated April O'Neil like I'm 10 years old again.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The magic of Puzzle Quest

I've not posted at all recently due to complete laziness. That and the small matter of rediscovering the wonders of XBLA's Puzzle Quest.

It was one of the first full games (after Streets of Rage 2 of course) that I bought off XBLA's marketplace - its simple yet stupidly addictive 3-in-a-row style board puzzle combined with incredibly generic yet charming classes, characters, world map & music won me over. It reminds me of the days of playing Hero Quest and reading Fighting Fantasy books in my childhood... good times!

But it turns out that the local multiplayer element of the game is what makes it so great - more specifically the way that it seems to be universally popular as my wife likes it even more than I do. Unfortunately for me, she's also better at it - somehow. Surely girls aren't meant to be good at games? Don't they prefer cooking or watching Sex and the City maybe...?

By my limited reckoning, there are very few games outside of all the casual gamer tat on the Wii or Kinect that I think can boast to be a universally appealing multiplayer game for a bloke and his wife. I know you get the odd woman who will like nothing better than playing deathmatch Halo, or throwing hadokens on Street Fighter 4, but generally speaking the opportunities to slouch on the sofa playing video games as a couple don't come around too often.

Who needs sex when you have Puzzle Quest???

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Taken it easy

Just doing a bit of channel hopping and managed to catch the last 20 minutes of Taken. I've seen it a few times before and own it on DVD, but watching it now has just reminded me just what a great film it is.

It is a perfect example of a film that you can just watch from any point of its duration and it still be great. Yes, its full of happy coincidences & unlikely outcomes but I for one couldn't give a stuff. All that really matters is that Liam Neeson plays a superb double hard fooker as Bryan Mills, its got guns, fighting, bad foreign accents, car chases and a theme that is inspiring to any dad out there with a daughter. It's even got Holly Valance in it as a bonus.

It has also reminded me about Unknown, Neeson's new film, which oddly has just been released here in the UK. Looks like another decent exhibition of him being a nasty bastard. All this from the man who was the voice of Aslan, the kind lion from Narnia...

Friday, 4 March 2011

The wonders of XBLA: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Thought I'd just share some of my recent discoveries on XBLA. I've never, until now, been completely up to speed with new lauches on XBLA marketplace. But having now made some attempts to unearth some new games for the collection I've come accross a few that have really impressed me. Note my previous post "Demo Generosity" - I haven't actually downloaded any of the full games yet... anyway - here we are...

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (800 points)

I'm a big fan of scrolling beat 'em ups. Streets of Rage 1 & 2 are amongst my favourite games of all time. Aside from SOR2, there are a fair few other games in this genre on XBLA such as X-Men, Golden Axe & TMNT 1989 Arcade.

Until today I've never looked into Scott Pilgrim the game and what is was all about. I've not got round to seeing the film let alone the original comics. Shame on me - should have guessed that it would be a scrolling fighter really.

It seems to be a really neat game - a lot of character & charm with clever little details and a strong moves list. There are a ton of available weapons to swipe, throw & kick including the typical baseball bats, bottles etc but also things like dustbins, basketballs & even snowballs. Downed enemies can be picked up and used as weapons themselves - caving in the head of a bad guy with his own buddy before lobbing him over towards another certainly raises a smile.

Its a really neat looking game with an art style to match the film & comics. Everything feels very snappy too - combos can be easily strung together and juggling is possible. Its fun to play and empowering - you feel you can defeat the bad guys in different ways each time just for the sake of it - a really important factor in any side scroller if you want to feel a bit flash.

Such a lot of other good things about it - anyone with half an interest in retro scrollers should give the trial a whirl. I'm not making a habit of downloading much at all nowadays - so I guess the best praise I can say it is a 'will probably download' for me.

Demo Generosity

I've been spending a lot of time recently in scouring the huge but still badly organised Xbox Live Arcade back-catalogue in the hunt for those hidden gems.

Downloading trial versions has unearthed a wide variety of generosity from the developers - and it makes me wonder whether there are other people like me who are quite happy to just fill time being utterly cheap & scummy with just playing the free demos of XBLA, Indie and full price games?

I would say my gameplaying time is approx 2 hours a day max - aside from a lengthy play of Fifa I'm milling around my XBLA & full game demo collection each night playing a bit of each - a blast on TMNT Arcade here, a bit of Golden Axe there, a whirl on Scrap Metal, a race on NFS:Shift or Days of Thunder Arcade... you get the picture. I mean, you get practically half the game on the Golden Axe trial.

While I'm tempted to shell out a bit to download or buy the full games, I'm wondering if there really is any point? Am I really going to get significantly more enjoyment for the short time I'm playing them by getting the full game? Could I actually get by never purchasing another game again (at least for a short while) and just skimp off the generosity of developers & Microsoft?

For Indie game developers in particular, the availability of a free demo and how to judge its length & content must be a struggle. Out of curiosity I downloaded a game called Toddler Tantrum off the Indie marketplace - it is apparently designed for toddlers to play, pressing buttons on the pad to make very simple coloured smiley face shapes to appear on screen. Being a parent of a toddler myself, I tested the free trial on her, and she was actually quite taken by it. Unfortunately for the developer, the demo just never seemed to finish. Two minutes was all it was going to occupy any toddler for, so the trial did the job. Why the hell I'd download the full game... I have no idea. The fact I have took the decision to occupy my daughter with the Xbox is bad enough as it is. Next stop: putting the DVD of Hostel on next to keep her entertained...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Beyond the Reviews

Don't get me wrong - reviews are great. I'm a daily reader of Eurogamer and value a 10/10 in Edge magazine as much as anyone could. I fully appreciate the opinions of experienced people in the industry and they are a huge help in guiding what games I may want to buy.

However, with the introduction of the internet there comes a whole barrage of crap opinions. Opinions from people who don't know what they're talking about. Opinions from those who exaggerate everything with no basis. And opinions from those who follow the sheep and unable to look beyond the mainstream.

With this in mind, I was playing a trial of new XBLA racer Days of Thunder Arcade the other day. Blindly hoping it would be the budget re-incarnation of Daytona USA, or at least close resemblence, I gave it a shot and came away having had quite a bit of fun. The handling was kind of eratic, the crash mechanics were less than polished & there seemed to be a complete lack of powerslide as I've come accustomed to nowadays.

But the key bits were done well enough - it felt quick, the cars felt weighty and it was entertaining. The 'hammer' or boost function worked well, built up through 'drafting' or slipstreaming, clean laps or overtaking. I even bumped up the lap count to 20 laps of the circuit (seem to go up to an epic 60!), making the pit stops pretty essential. Rough around the edges sure, but containing a lot of the ingredients of a proper old-school arcade racer that is rarely seen nowadays.

I was intruiged as to what the world thought about the game, and quickly found out that, generally speaking, the world thinks it is, frankly, a bit shit. Problem is, a lot of these opinions are from those thick people as outlined below. One blog gave it a score of 1/5 - yet it turns out that the reviewer didn't even download the full game, so based this judgement on playing 1 track with 1 car.

Its no Daytona, but I quite liked it and am considering a full purchase. Its all opinions - thats why Microsoft make the trials free.