Watcha been playing 010

For the week of January 5th 2009 (it’s-been-a-while-edition).

  • Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (Xbox 360)

    It’s not a platformer – get over it! I really do not understand why so many people seem to hate this game so much. The vehicular gameplay works very well, both in terms of controls and of the variety of tasks you have to complete with them. In addition to that, the vehicle building adds a nice little puzzle touch to the experience, for many tasks you first have to figure out and build an optimal vehicle before you can fulfil them. Because you do not have all vehicle parts from the start of the game, you have to revisit previous worlds with newly built vehicles later on if you want to collect all items available in the game. The basic structure really still is similar to the old Banjo-Kazooie games, it’s just that you do not complete your tasks on foot anymore, at least not many of them. Personally, this was one of the more pleasant surprises of last year as I also was sceptical at first about the new direction of the game, but Rare really polished this one well.

  • Banjo-Kazooie (Xbox 360)

    To be able to compare and evaluate people’s claims on the new BK game and also to reiterate some childhood N64 memories, I also got myself the XBLA release of the first adventure of bear and bird. It comes with the usual XBLA sugar coat: Achievements, higher resolution and leaderboards. But those do not matter much. BK is a 3D Jump and Run, similar to Super Mario 64 which was originally released ten years ago on the Nintendo 64. And it still is every bit as fun as it was back in the day. For 1200 points (15EUR), I highly recommend it to everyone who likes platformers.

  • Mercenaries 2 (Xbox 360)

    I actually started playing this one a long time ago, but got fed up after fighting through one of the later missions only to find out that I need a nuke to really get to the final boss. I liked the first Mercenaries back in the Xbox 1 days, but it always felt a little clumsy and it was quite hard to fight as one man against entire armies of enemies. The second game is not hard at all, because you a) auto-heal very quick and b) can run very fast for an infinite amount of time. If you are in danger of getting killed, you basically just run away, wait for a few seconds and come back. Even when you vehicle is hit by a rocket and explodes, you will only be down to about 10% of your health and still be able to run away and wait for yourself to heal. In addition to that, you get a lot of money for buying air-strikes etc. and the enemy AI is sub-par, maybe it actually even got worse compared to the first game. This really is the biggest problem of the title, apart from being easier, Pandemic did not improve on their previous game at all. Even the graphics, while being HD and all, look like they could run on an Xbox, apart from the SFX and explosions. All in all, I still had fun with it, because I like the war-zone GTA gameplay and the fact that a lot of buildings can be blown up, but in the end, this is not a good game in any sense of the word.

  • Saint’s Row 2 (Xbox 360)

    Another GTA-like game I stopped playing a while ago and finally completed this week. This is a 100% clone of the GTA franchise, but with a ton of minigames and a bit more action, but almost no plot. In comparison to the first one, Volition did not improve the graphics engine much, it still looks like an HDified build of GTA: San Andreas with some nicer SFX and explosions. The dialogue and art-style of the game is more like the comic-like style of GTA 3 than the realistic look of GTA 4. What really gets this game out of mediocrity is that the developers had a lot of fun ideas for minigames and missions. For example, there is a Hitman minigame in which you need to find a list of people and kill them. Does not sound very innovative? What’s fun about that is that you need to fulfil certain requirements to be able to get to the people, e.g. start a fight in a shop or drive around on a bike in a certain neighbourhood. Also fun is insurance fraud, which was already included in the first iteration of Saint’s Row. You need to throw yourself in front of cars, so that you can cash in from their insurance for any broken bones you got while doing so. To conclude, I enjoyed the game because of the fun mission ideas, but would only recommend it to people who really did everything in GTA 4. If you didn’t, better play some more of that.

  • Fable 2 (Xbox 360)

    The week of finishing games, so I also had to wrap up Fable 2. Most of the press really praised this game, but I cannot fully understand that. What’s nice about it is the very good art-direction, funny dialogue and really intriguing world. In addition to that, your actions actually have an influence on the world and there are a lot of ways in which you can interact with it. But frankly, the core gameplay of the title sucks. The move controls are quirky, the combat is repetitive and there is way too much of it. You can see that the developers also got that, because you cannot die in the game. The only thing you lose when your health-bar goes to zero are the experience points you did not yet collect from the ground. About half-way through the game, there is a mission where you have to do an arena fight, which consists for 10 rooms with each of them containing about 50 enemies. Is that your idea of creative missions? Basically, every quest just consists of running to random place A, killing all enemies there and running back to an NPC wrapping the quest up. Because of the very good voice acting and the immersive world, I still enjoyed Fable 2 quite a lot, but I cannot get myself to call a game good whose gameplay fails at such a fundamental level.

  • Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow (PSP)

    Not much to say about this one, it’s basically Dark Mirror again, with a few enhancements. Nothing wrong about that, because Dark Mirror was incredible for a portable console game.

  • Prince of Persia (DS)

    The ‘Games und so’ crew already warned about this one, but seeing it on sale at Game Stop and having enjoyed the new episode for the next-gen consoles so much, I could not resist. The game looks nice and seems to have decent level design. It could be such a nice 2D Jump and Run for the DS. But Ubisoft felt like a platformer really needed stylus controls. Fucking stylus controls! How stupid is that? It takes every bit of challenge out of the game and reduces the gameplay to the interaction you can do on your computer’s desktop, namely single- and double-click on random places. W – T – F?

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