i’ve had a PS3 for a while, and i’m guessing i’m one of the few people who got one pretty much solely to play PS3 indie exclusives such as the much-lauded journey. the unfinished swan was a game i’d heard a bit about, no doubt because it had been described as “innovative”, which is the surest way to get my attention. for various reasons i ended up finishing that one before some more-famous PS3 games, but it seems justified since sony supported the game’s development via its SCE santa monica studio in a somewhat similar fashion as journey.
anyway, the game’s demo covers the first section of the game, and immediately impresses with the fascinating and engrossing mechanic of navigating an all-white world solely armed with a supply of black paintballs. the game is all about surprise and exploration so i won’t reveal too much more, but the demo does a good job of enticing you to spring for the full game. although the rest of the game doesn’t match the brilliance of the opening section, the overall experience is memorable and satisfying, and the ending is quite fantastic and packs a nice punch. the game isn’t without its flaws, however. some mechanics (such as a few sections of awkward platforming) feel a little out of place and some sections feel a bit tech demo-y, and the game could have been more cohesive in terms of the story and themes. still, this is easily one of the best games i’ve played this year and i’m definitely looking forward to more from this studio.
some bedtime links for the unfinished swan:
– official site with trailers
– two-part interview with the creator/director that explains the ending in more detail
– pushsquare.com gave the game a perfect 10
– entry at metacritic
– entry at wikipedia
– entry at howlongtobeat.com
continuing my wiiware kick, i recently sat down with groovin’ blocks, which was released about 5 years ago (yikes!) and was also later released as a boxed retail version with additions including more levels and balance board controls. (for people who may be interested, apparently the game was also released on PSN, and was supposedly released on the iphone although it doesn’t seem to be available there now.)
anyway, the game is your pretty standard tetris-type game (although to be more specific columns is the closer relative), with the twist that placing blocks in time with the music (usually on the down beats) increases your score multiplier. depending on your love of house/techno this may be a great hook, but while i generally enjoyed the music i didn’t find much of it to be really rousing or memorable. i also found that the central mechanic got quite tedious and that being tied to the beat was too constraining to be much fun. on top of that it felt like it was easier to get chains randomly than through careful planning, and although the game is designed so that you have to fully master the mechanics to beat the harder stages and difficulty levels (apparently there are four), after a few hours of playing through all the stages at the lowest difficulty i didn’t feel at all motivated to invest more time in the game. on the plus side, the lumines-esque visuals are pretty polished, esp. for a wiiware title (although the yellow/orangish and red blocks were harder to distinguish between than they should have been), and i don’t doubt that the game has found a decent set of fans. wiiware itself has continued to be more mediocre than memorable, but there are still a decent number of highly praised games for me to check out, probably before too long.
stutter through these groovin’ blocks links:
– here’s the fairly bare-bones page on the game on the company’s official site
– tips on getting high scores, at gamefaqs
– review at nintendolife.com
– list of trophies for the PSN version
– entry at metacritic
– entry at wikipedia
still slogging my way through this endless game (which i hope to be done with in at least two weeks). so i just thought i’d post about a site i find useful and end up wasting time on, videogamepricecharts.com. if there’s one thing i love almost as much as lists, it’s charts. haha. the numbers seem to be fairly accurate, so it’s a great way to find out if you’re getting a deal or not; although keep in mind that they’re tracking averages, so if you’re patient you should be able to get a better deal than the average price. what i find interesting (and this is my geekiness coming through, prepare yourself) is seeing how particular events are reflected in immediate changes in price. for example, the chart for fire emblem: path of radiance is interesting b/c you can see the huge spike in price from november to december 2007 right before brawl was released; the game, of course, showcased path of radiance’s central protagonist, ike. and when you look at the chart of clubhouse games for the DS you see how the price stayed pretty high as the game became more rare, but then dropped drastically when the game was rereleased recently. it boggles my mind that publishers don’t use tools like this to rerelease games that are clearly in demand, e.g. tetris DS.
something that could use some more study is how the release of a game on the virtual console affects the selling price of the actual game. from my random spot checks it doesn’t seem like it affects it much at all, which leads me to believe that the people who are buying these retro games are for the most part retro fans who want to buy the actual cartridge to play on their actual systems (i.e. geeky people like me). the original harvest moon, on the SNES, was released on the VC in february 2008 and its price continued to rise steadily afterwards, the same as it had been doing before. the price of castlevania: symphony of the night, available on both XBLA and PSN, has been dropping steadily, but it was doing so even before the rereleases (march and july 2007 respectively). in contrast, though, the price of zelda: ocarina of time dipped sharply a couple of months after its february 2007 VC release, which could be b/c of all the un-nostalgic people who were happy with their VC copy and sold their old N64 copies. clearly there are a lot of factors at work here, but it would be, dare i say it, fascinating to see a more in-depth study that tried to make sense of at least some of the many variables. i read somewhere that annually video game prices tend to be their lowest during the summer, but i’ve forgotten where i read that, so if anyone has that link handy feel free to email me. [update: the vg price charts man himself posted a message saying that november is actually the best time to buy used games. i also just found out that he’s been running a whole series of articles on price trends on the site’s blog. sweet! more time wastage!]
the creator of the videogamepricecharts.com put together an article for vintagecomputing.com that looks at how much of a deal VC games are overall, given that they’re all consistently priced per platform on the VC even though some have become much rarer than others in the non-virtual world. his conclusion?
“The original Nintendo is the only system where buying the cartridges would be cheaper than buying the virtual games because many games for the NES would cost less than a dollar. Every other system, especially the TurboGrafx-16, boasts higher average prices for the cartridges than the Wii’s VC downloads.”
ah, if only i weren’t such a retro gamer i’d buy way more of these VC releases instead of shelling out $40+ for used copies of games like super mario RPG (only $8 on the VC!). but there’s nothing like the smell of dusty old nintendo cartridges in the mornin’! mm hm!