So, I managed to break away from pick-axing one meter square digital blocks in Minecraft and get myself a copy of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It has turned out to be very solid, and I haven't found myself this engrossed by a platformer since 2003's standout Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. In fact, it may be the similarities between that two that drew me to Enslaved in the first place. It has that same spooky, empty world feeling that I loved so much in Sands of Time, which was sadly abandoned by later entries in that series. And like The Prince and Farah, the interaction and eventual rapport between Monkey and Trip is a breath of fresh air in games. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Andy Serkis (Gollum, King Kong) lending his voice, face, and mo-capped body to fill out Monkey's persona. Trip is voiced by relative newcomer Lindsey Shaw, but the chemistry between the two is spot-on, which lends gravitas to the savory, post-apocalypse (robot apocalypse!) story from writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine). I have heard complaints that the platforming and combat are too simple and repetitive for some people's tastes, but for me the writing and characterization mortar those cracks just fine. And in a time when many big game titles are followed by 2's and 3's, Enslaved provides a top notch balm to relieve that franchise fatigue.
How about yourselves? Are people coming down from the Halo: Reach high, or is it still all multiplayer, all the time?
Here's what I want to play: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It's by Ninja Theory, the same team who made that gorgeous mixed-bag of a PS3 launch title, Heavenly Sword. This game also looks absolutely beautiful, but the word on the street is it's actually quite good. Hooray for the benefits of hindsight! The action is set some 150 years from now among Earth's crumbling urban ruins, which are overrun with colorful plant life, and lumbering robot sentinels. Our hero, Monkey (voiced by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame, no less), has been (ahem) Enslaved by a woman named Trip who needs a guide through the wasteland. Hijinks of a satisfying gameplay variety ensue, or so I hear. Want.
Here's what I probably will play: Minecraft. Because it's what I've been playing during every spare moment since last weekend. It's a "game" where you Mine. And Craft. Over and over, in a way that's disturbingly similar to addiction. You have nothing when you start a new game, but the land, rocks, trees, and even water are made out of pixelly blocks that can be broken down and added to your inventory. Day 1 goes a little like this: Gather some lumber (by punching trees!), convert it into refined wood via your 2x2 crafting menu, and build a workbench that has a 3x3 crafting menu. Build an axe and a pick-axe. Gather more lumber, and then, before the sun goes down, dig into the nearest hill for shelter. Use the blocks you gathered while digging to wall yourself in for the night, because if you don't, zombies, spiders, skeletons and exploding greenies will wipe you out fast. While you're there, you might as well start digging. Down. If you find coal, you can build torches to light your way. If you find iron, you can build a better pick-axe, and dig ever deeper. When you come up for air, build a tower (or the Enterprise D), surround it with a moat of water (or lava), and on, and on. Days 2 through 100 (more?) go pretty much the same.
Ok, so last weekend it turned out I lied a little. I meant to play more Cave Story, but what I did instead was put a capstone on F.E.A.R. 2. It had been on my PC for almost a year, but I never quite managed to slog through to the end. Don't get me wrong, it's super creeped-out, extremely impressive visually (whips Wolfenstein's ASS), and the controls are very satisfying. It just seemed to be missing some indefinite something, which kept me from gobbling it up. I finally found my motivation, though - my hard drive is so choked with games that I can't fit any more. I got a little program to tell me which are the biggest, and F.E.A.R. 2 clocked in near the top at 10GB. Since I was pretty close to the end, it was the first to fall. This is why, despite any promises to myself that I'll try something new, like the oh-so-intriguing Minecraft, I'll probably spend my gaming time revving up ye olde 15GB Dragon Age: Origins. After that, maybe Crysis?
I spent about half the day trying to decide whether I should buy Halo: Reach immediately after work. I'm pretty torn. I want to play the single-player campaign, because a) I've consistently heard/read that it's ten (or so) hours of great, and b) I'm really not a multiplayer person (yeah, because I suck. What of it?). Of course, tossing out the notion of multiplayer also tosses out maybe 80% of the play I'd get otherwise, so my money hand has been stayed thus far. I don't think I'll miss out all that much waiting a few months to play it alone.
Also, I'm not really lacking in games to play, and this week I've taken a trip back to Bee-onia in Civilization IV. The game is a really odd mix of almost tedious maintenance, and a constant dawning realization that you're either completely badass, or totally hosed. Everything is so bite-sized, though, it's easy to get caught in and endless loop of "Oh! That did something! Ok, just one more turn..." For someone more inclined toward shooters, the not-so-breakneck pace has taken some getting used to, but my Steam account says I've now spent 27 hours playing it. I'll take that as pretty solid evidence that I like it.
Anyone else hesitating on Reach? I can't be the only holdout in town.
I'm trying to get a StarCraft II match going with my one friend who's willing to play RTS games with as borderline an RTS player as myself. He's running on a guest pass I got with the game, and I'm hoping to burn through it before the weekend's out.
My son continues to insist I play Cave Story for him (he's still a bit young to pull off much platforming), which is still a terrific game. So far it hasn't been very difficult (I hear this persists for the duration), but I'm neither skilled nor masochistic enough to play something more challenging like Mega Man 9, which I've never managed to squeeze much more than 3 minutes of play out of. Cruel. Compared to that, Cave Story is a walk in the park. On Maui. At sunset.
How about yourselves? Any gaming in the works this weekend? Halo: Reach players, I'm looking at you ...
Halo: Reach, the 5th and final Bungie developed game in the series will become available at retail tomorrow, but for those of you who just can't wait, there will be several midnight launches tonight. Gamestop has 10 sites opening at 10 p.m. They'll sell you a copy as soon as the doors open, but they won't hand it to you until after 12:01 a.m. Best Buy will have a midnight launch as well, but it sounds a bit more like a party than what Gamestop is doing. Their craigslist ad says things kick off at 10 p.m., and has a flier that can be printed for entry in a raffle to win a free copy of the game. 24 hour Walmarts will also start selling the game at midnight, but call your local store to see if they've got anything interesting planned.
Many retailers, midnight launch or no, will have some deal or other attached to purchase the the game. The most generous is a $25 coupon at Kmart, though it is restricted to a somewhat uninspiring selection of Xbox 360 games. Check out this thread at Cheap Ass Gamer for the most comprehensive Halo: Reach deal list out there.
StarCraft II! I got a 2 week (or 7 hours of play, whichever comes first) guest pass from a friend, and it runs out this Saturday evening. So far I'm enjoying the game, but am woefully short on chops. I may spend a good part of my remaining time playing through the tutorials, just so I can exit with some amount of dignity. The first few levels were relatively easy, but as the game has added more things to keep track of at once, my success rate pitched dramatically downward. Some of this is that I'm not the best real-time strategy person, but getting some skills could really help.
My other plan is to play Cave Story on the Wii. I've gotten through a couple of levels so far, and I'm finding it pretty terrific. I wound up buying it in a roundabout way. I was trying to explain to my son that really old Mario games existed before Super Mario Galaxy, so I got Super Mario Bros. from the Wii store to show him what the old school was like. It's just as good as it was back when I played the arcade version at my local P & C grocery store, but the absence of modern things like savegames makes it a steep hill to climb, and the constant repetition (of me dying) has bored the boy to tears. The cure for that was Cave Story. It's also a platformer, but you can save, go backwards, shoot neat guns (bubble gun!), and not die anywhere near as often as in Super Mario Bros. Better yet, you don't have to pay for it if you don't want to! Cave Story was released for free on the PC in 2004, and is easily available to this day.
How about the rest of you? Got any thing good in the works for the weekend?