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Summer catch-up 2009: Video Games

Posted: July 23rd, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Guitar Hero: Metallica
After the horrible disappointment that was Guitar Hero World Tour with its inclusion of far too many wet pop and indie songs, despite the inclusion of “Kick Out The Jams” and one of the greatest Guitar Hero tracks ever, in comparison this is the real deal. I’ve recently read a bunch of worried articles about a generation of kids now buying up “classic” rock and metal and getting into such basic and Neanderthal songs but who wants to be Sigur Ros anyway, I want to fly the V. That said though I have just seen they have released Subbuteo on the DS! [JGRAM]

Resident Evil 5
Because the Resident Evil games have always been an ace idea, but this one REALLY nails it. The graphics are up a notch, the zombie action is relentless, and it constantly finds new ways to surprise/scare the crap out of you. [Stuart Fowkes]

Pandemic 2
There was one I played recently online, Pandemic 2, like Risk for microorganisms. Choose your type (parasite or microbe?) and tactics (high infectivity or low visibility), try to conquer the world (even Madagascar) then wipe out its population. Like Risk, I played it twice then got bored with it. [Stan Tontas]

I haven’t played many games over the last few years – platformers are generally too fiddly and the adventure games of the sort that Lucasarts used to churn out really died a death with the advent of 3D. So it was a pleasure to be recommended and discover this beauty of an independently-made platformer that isn’t all about shooting everything in sight or making that jump by just the right millimetre. Instead you’re immersed in a gorgeous 2D environment that feels a lot like Mario, but plays like a puzzle game: every world changes the physics and your manipulation of time to negotiate the environment. Baddies are very much an afterthought: you can literally rewind any mistakes you might make and shift around between levels if you get stuck. But it’s not so easy: the puzzles you have to negotiate to make progress will make you scratch your head so hard that it bleeds, and then when you’ve found the solution you won’t believe how simple it is. There’s a free demo to download for the PC from the website, or you can get it from Xbox 360’s Live Arcade thingy. In either case, the full game is only a tenner and well worth dishing out the cashola. [Dave Stockwell]

Space Giraffe
I just got myself one of them XBox 360 thingies.  One of the advantages of coming to a games console relatively late in its lifespan is that you can pick up titles from a couple of years ago second hand at rock-bottom prices, so Crackdown and Dead Rising have both been keeping me entertained.  But if I have one recommendation, it’s Jeff “Llamasoft” Minter’s much-maligned downloadable title “Space Giraffe”, which takes apart the classic “Tempest” and rebuilds it as something else entirely.  The visual style takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s very much worth persevering with and learning to see through what appears at first to be an eye-melting psychedelic mess.  Photosensitive epileptics need not apply. [Alex McChesney]

Ancient Quest Of Saqqarah
Much of my time is currently spent slowly completing Ancient Quest Of Saqqarah, a simple puzzle game that’s hugely enhanced by outstanding graphics, touches of humour and a gradually-rising difficulty level. [Simon Minter]

Diner Dash
When I was in Thailand last summer my friend Claire was always playing this but it sounded pretty lame to me. I got a bunch of entirely legal games loaded on to my DS and Diner Dash was included. Having exhausted all the other games by this year, I gave it a go and promptly went a bit mental, in the ‘just one more go and then I’ll make dinner/go to sleep/do some work’ fashion. I eventually hit a barrier at Level 8 of the Retro restaurant where no matter how quickly I served up pizza and what looks like Vienetta to harassed office workers and fuming professors, I couldn’t earn enough tips to move on. Sadly Claire chose this moment to go on holiday for 2 weeks so I gave up, after the 17 billionth try. If I was ever to hear the theme music while standing in a restaurant I imagine I would immediately kill everyone.  [Marceline Smith]

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
I like that I have subconcious bizarre-o karmic timing; every time I’m asked to write something, it happens to coincide with a momentous occasion in my life, something worth writing about. Things like going to festivals, new editions of classic RPGs, sitting in the back of  a police car, and the re-release and makeover of one of my favourite games EVER.

Monkey Island was the first Lucasarts (then Lucasfilm Games, if I remember correctly) Graphic Adventure I ever played.  My GA roots lay with Sierra adventures, which were, in hindsight, illogical, cruel, unforgiving and ultimately unrewarding.  Despite this, I spent hour after hour battling the puzzles and interface to progress to the next poorly executed and ill-conceived challenge.

When MI came along, I was bowled over by the fact that its point & click interface was logical & intuitive, its graphics colourful and cartoony, its music and the much lauded ‘imuse’ system was atmospheric and memorable, and the characters and writing were not only well-developed, but the protagonist, Guybrush, was also lovable and easy to relate to.  It was everything that the Sierra games were not, and gave me hour after hour of enjoyable, rewarding gameplay and laughs;  this game was LOL funny, probably a first in my experience.  Some games had tried and failed to provide laughs (the awful Leisure Suit Larry springs to mind), but Ron Gilbert’s script was packed with laughs, from throwaway lines to running gags, self-referential jokes and set-pieces, every scene provided a smirk or smile.  It was also emotionally charged, with a love interest, Elaine Marley, and a despicable and unforgettable ghost-pirate villain, LeChuck, I was completely immersed by these characters and their stories, to the extent of the final scene of Monkey Island 2 actually reducing me to tears.

Hearing of the remake, I was as apprehensive as I was surprised and excited.  We’ve all seen our favourite movies given a modern make-over, most often followed by ripping out of one’s own hair, or our favourite books become a careless Hollywood pile of crap, and the last thing I wanted was some kind of full 3D pixel-shader 5.0 THX surround sound Quad-Core wank-fantasy total rewrite.  Reading the press-release, it appears to be nothing of the sort:  it’s a shot-for-shot, line-for-line remake, with full voice-over (at last – this was something I hoped for but was denied when the CD edition came out) and every character and background lovingly and painstakingly hand-drawn and displayed in glorious hi-res, and as if that wasn’t enough, the ability to flip back and forth between the remake and the original game at any point, with a single click – it’s that similar.

The release is on 15th July 2009 via Steam, and rather than dreading this day as I thought I would, I’m thoroughly excited and anticipating a nostalgia trip, a flood of emotions and lolz, and kicking myself numerous times for forgetting how to solve a bunch of the puzzles.  I recommend everybody gives this game a try, from old-skoolers to first-timers.  You will fall in love with it. [Greg Kitten]

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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