this week i finally finished the long game i’ve been playing, which is half-life, widely regarded as a landmark FPS (see this write-up at 1up.com for a sample of the effusions). i’ve been slowly working my way through the history of FPSes, and this game was definitely a step up from goldeneye, which i strongly disliked. (incidentally, i played the original PC version although the game is readily available on steam.)
overall there was a fair amount i enjoyed about half-life. i appreciated the lack of cutscenes, although it astounds me that the protagonist, gordon freeman, would rank so high in video game character popularity polls because he doesn’t have any personality beyond what the player gives him and what he accomplishes in the game. the downside to this, though, was that near the beginning i missed crucial information because the game doesn’t prevent you from wandering away when someone (usually a scientist) is talking, and i didn’t realize that this was one of the main mechanics used to point the player in the right direction. once i got over the hump of adjusting to the game’s setup and pacing i generally enjoyed its mix of exploration and shooting, although the platforming remained a very low point throughout (tip: if you’re not able to make a jump over a box or something that looks like it should be possible, do a crouch jump even if it looks like you wouldn’t need to). some parts are incredibly tedious and frustrating, but perhaps this is more understandable given that on a PC you have the ability to save at any time (which makes me wonder how the sole console version, on PS2, fares). at times i was also hampered by glitches that forced me to re-load a save due to being stuck in walls or on elevators. the progression of areas, objectives, and weapon upgrades is also fairly well done and i also appreciated the inclusion of a powerful female enemy, although i was left with a similar feeling as when i played resident evil 4 that the game had an admirable number of situations and locales, but that as a whole it would’ve benefited from more-judicious editing.
anyway, i’m glad i was finally able to cross this one off my list. a game that i admired more than enjoyed, so not one of my favorites, but it’ll be interesting to see how the series developed.
prolonged half-life links:
– the game was part of racketboy’s retro game club. check out the forum thread for candid reactions to the game.
– great walkthrough at strategywiki.org
– video of speed run in 29:41
it’s been a while since i’ve played a pinball video game, so i decided to tackle kirby’s pinball land for the original game boy. the game was actually the first of many kirby spin-offs, and as with the original game boy title he appears white in the box’s artwork instead of his now-familiar pink.
the game’s setup is highly reminescent of revenge of the ‘gator, also by HAL and for game boy which preceded it by four years. like that game, in kirby’s pinball land each board is made up of three main screens and includes bonus stages. kirby’s pinball land adds boss battles into the mix, as well as three different boards and a final boss battle (against king dedede, naturally). although each screen of each board has very similar objectives (generally, hit an object a certain number of times), it’s fun to play through them all to find out how each piece of the board operates. for example, in one screen hitting the on-screen kirby on the left will make it spit out an object, while hitting the kirby on the right will make it inhale it. and in another screen you have to hit a cloud three times which will cause it to rain on the on-screen kirby, who will then pull out an umbrella; landing the pinball on the umbrella will push it up to the next part of the stage.
the review at nintendolife complained about the boards being cramped since they’re focused on being made up of single screens as opposed to having continuity between them, but i didn’t find this to be a drawback at all. that reviewer strongly favored the breakout-style game kirby’s block ball instead, whereas i have the complete opposite opinion, which is that kirby’s pinball land is fast-paced and fairly enjoyable, whereas kirby’s block ball is slow and tedious. once i’d seen all the different parts of the stages and beaten all the bosses i didn’t bother trying to master the game enough to beat the final boss, but i enjoyed my time with the game. the game controls well and makes good use of the kirby trappings, and it was fun to see all the familiar enemies. not a particularly surprising game, but casual without being completely mindless like the majority of the main kirby series, and so one of the more enjoyable kirby games i’ve played.
smooth landing for these kirby’s pinball land links:
– as usual, kirbysrainbowresort.net provide all the info you might need, including a handful of codes and the text of the instruction book, which has gems such as “It is every Kirby’s dream to play soccer with a squid.”
– entry at kirby.wikia.com
– entry at nintendo.com
– entry at wikipedia
i’ve been enjoying my experience with games by treasure, including gunstar heroes which i’d played about a year ago. i’d heard good things about guardian heroes (some of which was in the context of code of princess for 3DS which has been called a spiritual successor) which originally was released on the sega saturn. physical copies of the game are fairly rare, so i opted for the XBLA version which comes with various enhancements but which, thankfully, also provides options to play the game more or less as the original. (incidentally, this marks the first game i’ve finished on my two-year-old xbox 360. finally! ha. :P)
this review at gameinformer.com gives a run-down of the game and its new features. the game is definitely more interesting than your average beat-’em-up, helped in no small part by the variety of street fighter-like moves. there’s some awkwardness in choosing which spell to cast and giving orders to your AI buddy, and i’m not quite convinced that jumping between the three planes (a la virtual boy wario land and mutant mudds) really adds much to the experience, but in general the controls are smooth and the gameplay is enjoyable. the game is colorful and the graphics and characters are appealing, and overall it has a somewhat similar feel to gunstar heroes despite having nothing much overtly in common. hardcoregaming101 does a good job of making the connection, though, when it says, “Guardian Heroes is not technically related to Gunstar Heroes – it does, however, share the same spirit, where ‘spirit’ is defined as ‘the incredible feeling one gets from causing extreme amounts of destruction with relative ease.'” the game also has a nice replay factor built in, in the form of several distinct characters to choose from and branching storylines. not a game that i felt compelled to drain every last drop from, but i was happy to have a nice short ‘n sweet experience via a single playthrough, and i’m looking forward to coming back to it … eventually!
sword ‘n sorcery star in these guardian heroes links:
– nice article at hardcoregaming101.net, with info on the GBA sequel
– entry at xbox.com
– entry at metacritic.com