Things you never thought your game would ask you to do.
Well, I'm back from my trip to Eugene and the Indie Games Con. It was good to get out of the home office and among my fellow game developers, but it's even better to be back home. I'm still trying to readjust to the time change. I'm no reporter, so I'm not sure if I'm qualified to tell you about some of the things I saw there. (Note to Indie developers - press releases!) But I'll see if I can relate the news to you when I've sufficiently gathered my thoughts.
In the meantime, let me tell you about the latest installment in the successful Zelda franchise, The Phantom Hourglass. Suffice it to say, they don't mess with what works in the series. Though I'm wondering why our hero always has to wake up on a beach?
At any rate, what's new is that this game takes advantage of the unique inputs of the DS. Using the touchscreen is a given, but even here they go to extraordinary lengths. Sure, you use the stylus to steer Link around the environment and to attack enemies (he has three different sword atttaks based on tapping, slashing and spinning the stylus). But you also use it to make notes, writing clues and symbols down on your map, and even tracing lines that reveal the location of hidden treasure. Certain doors won't open unless you draw the proper strokes on them, and to find those strokes you have to read the clues and "connect the dots." But it doesn't end there. Certain objects (most notably the boat you use to get from one place to another) navigate by following a route you draw on the map. Don't like where you're going? Draw a new route.
But there's more to the creative input. Use of the microphone is also encouraged to blow out candles, make windmills spin, shouting to get attention of other characters and to defeat monsters sensitive to sound. And just when you think they've scraped the bottom of their bag of tricks, they have one more surprise which I won't spoil for you. It's better if you discover it for yourself.
All in all, I've found little to dislike in this latest offering from Nintendo. Old fans of Zelda will find this an enjoyable game and it is sure to make new fans out of those who have never played before. This game is a must-have for DS owners.
At last, the saga of the broken XBox "officially" ends. Actually, the saga sprang from this individual cartoon, which in turn was inspired by the conversation I had with an a pleasant woman at XBox tech support who suggested that we might want "share a private moment" with the malfunctioning machine before sending it on its way.
Sorry for the lateness of this post, but tomorrow I'll be at the IndieGamesCon in Eugene, Oregon. If you happen to be in the area, look me up.
Well, the saga of the broken XBox continues. Never fear, it all ends happily.
I know I did a brief review of Halo 3 last week. Now I'd like to spend a little time talking about how other people have reviewed it. More than a few magazines and professional websites gave Halo 3 their highest possible rating, which (for me at least) calls into doubt the standards by which they review a product.
I mean honestly, is Halo 3 one of the best videogames ever? Better than Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Tempest? Here's my standard for making inducting a game into the hall of fame:
ONE: ACCESSIBILITY - To be one of the best games ever, a game has to be one that anyone can enjoy. It's obvious that Halo 3 is going to be a hit with folks who have followed the franchise, and stands a good chance of winning over folks who are familiar with the FPS genre. But to be the best, a game has to win over folks who may never have picked up a joystick. It's got to transcend its genre and (dare I say it) become a cultural phenomenon. Pac man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders all did it. Halo 3 has a devoted following, but it also (perhaps unintentionally) errects huge walls to keep out those who may not have been following the trend that closely.
TWO: REPLAYABILITY - A great game withstands the test of time. You not only have a good time playing it the first time, but when you decide to dust it off and play it again, you know it will deliver. Time and time again. Like most games with a scripted single player element, Halo 3 undoubtedly has the odds stacked against it. Clearly, you are likely to enjoy playing it the first time, but after you have finally beaten a particular level after dying countless times, you most likely will (a) be glad that you are finally able to save your game and move on and (b) never, ever want to slog through that particular level again. It's a delicate balance that plagues designers of games these days - the player has to have a sense of accomplishment, but not be so frustrated that they give up in disgust. In the process, replayability often gets thrown out the window.
THREE: IMPACT - Actually, this catagory could just as easily have been called "legs" or "gaming zen." A great game has an impact on the player, and after playing the game, the player actually feels like they've done something truly memorable and different. They actually had fun while playing, not caring whether they won or lost. It's undeniable that Halo 3 has had an impact on its fans. But when you strip away the flashy graphics and code, just how different is Halo 3 from other games in its genre? Will its success last one minute past the next offering from Microsoft and Bungie Studios?
Oh well, those are my standards. I'll be interested in hearing from you folks and what your standards might be.