What I've Been Playing

Thoughts on games I've recently played:

Prince of Persia - UbiSoft took Ico and made it all Hollywood. Know what? It isn't a dumbed-down knock-off but a carefully crafted homage with enough popular elements to make the game style appeal to a broader audience. The game features a rewind system that I can't imagine playing another platformer without. The platforming itself is darn good - Bessie often commented on how cool it looked as I was playing through it. In the included making-of feature, they say the Prince in PoP has more animations than any other game character and it is hard to argue the point after seeing the game in motion. The camera system of the game is bipolar; randomly switching from functional and cinematic to downright ornery and back again. Combat is also a let-down for such a well polished game. The Prince fights breathtakingly, but playing it feels sloppy and rarely second nature.

Beyond Good and Evil - BG&E is an amazing game that has been tragically overlooked. The designer of Rayman made this third-person game that borrows a dozen game mechanics from a number of genres (stealth, fighting, photography, racing, platforming, puzzle), mixed them beautifully with inspired art direction, and created a richly textured and consuming experience. Before BG&E, adventure games this good were only made in Kyoto.

This game is now $20 on all platforms and has one of the best game soundtracks. BG&E only sold seven copies total worldwide; why don't you make it eight?

Super Mario Bros. 3 - Wow, what an awesome game. I know, I'm about 15 years late on that opinion. I didn't like the game much when it first came out, but its 2 minute levels made a perfect companion to the 10+ minute compiles at work. Each level is gameplay poetry, each section expressing something unique and imaginative. The handy quick save makes it great to play when you only have a few minutes to get your game on.

Culdcept - I love strategy games and I love the ease of playing games on consoles, but most console strategy games are simple derivations of X-Com or Empire with square grids and tactical battles. I was interested in Culdcept because it is explained as a bizarre combination of Magic the Gathering and Monopoly. I probably spent over a thousand dollars on Magic back in the day (stopped playing with Alliances) and the thought of having a intricate gameplay system for a budget price of $40 makes me excited. Monopoly though? Hmmm. The only worse choice could have been Trivial Pursuit. I had to play something this weird.

Verdict? Interesting and at times compelling, but too random for my tastes. Imagine being dealt a poor hand in a card game. Then imagine an unfortunate dice roll in Monopoly. Since Culdcept is a combination of both of these games, the frustration of having either of these is magnified by the presence of the other. Great hands can be ruined by crappy rolls, crappy cards can spoil divine rolls, and too frequently there's no decision at all to be made on your turn.

Disgaea - Yet another console tile based tactical game. I probably didn't give this one enough of a chance to get a good verdict, but it seemed to be too much of the same and more of what I didn't want. I want more meaningful decisions in games, not combo-rific ways of dealing three and four digit damage to brain-dead opponents.