Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What am I playing?

Here's what I've been playing over the past week or so:

DOS Games!
Downloaded DOSBox and went back to a few old favorites - and games I'd never tried. Among these:

Descent: What a great game, and a start to an awesome series. Maybe this will refresh your memory a little?

It's essentially Doom, but with zero gravity and you fly a spaceship. It's a really unique game and still holds up well today. Try out Descent 3, the most recent one, for a real treat.

Escape Velocity: Arcade flight combat game, pretty cool for its open-world style gameplay. You can fly just about anywhere and shoot up everything you see, and explore for hidden tunnels, but there's always an objective arrow to your next target. The game is fun if a bit simplistic.

MechWarrior 2: Wow. I didn't know what I was missing but this game is insanely fun! It's basically a detailed simulator for large battlemechs. Much slower and more realistic than other titles like Armored Core(if a nonexistent vehicle can be portrayed realistically), it's much more immersing as a result. I'm already looking for the more modern MechWarrior 3.

Monkey Island: I'm terrible at point-and-click adventure games and this one is no exception. It's really funny and clever, but I'm just unable to advance without walkthroughs and this really hurts my enjoyment of it.

Planetfall: What? An Infocom text adventure? Astounding! A fairly good one, too. I'm trying to play this one correctly by making a map and keeping track of things better, so I might have a chance of progressing a little.

Other Games
Aside from the oldies, I downloaded the recent free release of Trackmania: Nations. This is a racing game built entirely around time trials, with insane courses that include trick jumps, obstacles, and difficult layouts built on top of a good physics engine. I'm currently something like 15th in Connecticut. Some of the gold medals are just really hard to get, though, hindering my progression to the top of the ladder. This game can be downloaded for free here.

Another game I downloaded just today was FaceWound. It's a side-scrolling zombie shooter with impressive effects and ragdolls incorporated with 2D graphics. It's a lot of fun for anyone who has a hankering for shooting a zombie's head off and seeing a shower of blood. It can be downloaded for free here.

Finally, I'll finish this entry off with Rome: Total War. I haven't played it too much yet but I do love me some realistic strategy. Good luck sieging Sparta, because some bearded guy keeps kicking me into this pit after yelling about something. It's just getting annoying now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Metroid Mania!

I'm not entirely sure why but I've had a hankering for Metroid over the last week or two. I'm currently stuck on Ridley in Super Metroid and Mother Brain on Metroid: Zero Mission, and I have games going in Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. I've been attempting the original NES Metroid but I'm not a big fan of that one.

What's so Cool About Metroid?
The name of the game in Metroid is "explore." This is both the series' greatest strength and its greatest weakness. It's awesome because, well, you get to explore alien environments, and you never know what's in store for you up ahead - or behind, but I'll get to that in a moment. It's bad because often you simply don't know where to go next. Most of the time this isn't a problem, but when it is I find it very frustrating.

At the start of each game, you basically land on a planet, and from then on you're free to go anywhere you wish. As you explore, though, you'll find many doors or geographical features that are impossible to conquer with your current abilities. This is what makes these games just so addicting. As you progress through the game, you get different suit abilities, beams and missiles. Once you get a new ability, you'll almost always want to go back and explore previous areas to see if you can get anyplace new. The feeling of getting all these new abilities is fantastic, because each one changes the gameplay and adds to your arsenal. Unlike a game like Zelda, where you use a new item to defeat the current and maybe part of the next dungeon before it becomes mostly useless, in Metroid you'll always be using all of your abilities as you explore for lots of puzzles, platforming, or combat. The game design is based around the use of your abilities, so each time you get a new one, the game world effectively expands around you.

This type of gameplay is a ton of fun at the beginning, and end, of the game. At the beginning, you have virtually nothing but jumping and a regular beam. Your initial range of movement is quite limited because there aren't a lot of places you can access. At the end of the game, you can go almost anywhere and you have so many abilities and weapons that you're essentially a walking, flying (screw attack), rolling death machine, and this is when you really feel like the powerful bounty hunter Samus Aran. And being immersed in a game is a big part of what makes a game stand above others - I'm also looking at you, Half-Life series.

As I said, I only really don't like it when I get lost in a Metroid game. With Zero Mission, and each Prime game, this is rarely a problem because the games give periodic hints about where you should head next on the map screen, although they never say how to actually get there, and you're always free to explore. In the NES original, and Super Metroid, however, there are lots of times where I just don't know where I should be going, and there isn't much fun to be had backtracking aimlessly around the world looking for any tiny detail you missed.

I want to end this on a positive note, however, and say that Metroid is one of Nintendo's best series. I like it better than the Zelda series by far. Metroid Prime is just an incredible experience so far, despite the sometimes annoying controls. And Metroid Prime 3 fixes the control problem completely with Wiimote aiming. I consider these two games to probably be the best in the series (Prime 3 over Prime, though).

Also, Samus is the hottest videogame character ever: