Bringing eXy back
X08, Microsoft’s holiday preview event for its XBox 360, XBLA and XNA platforms, has come and gone. Overall, the feeling i’m left with is the same feeling i had when i went to the movies recently and saw trailers for remakes of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Death Race (??). It was kind of depressing, sitting there realizing how hard-up for ideas Hollywood must be to be remaking Death Race. i mean, Death Race. Mere font emphasis fails me.
Ditto X08. i wandered the junket floor from kiosk to kiosk, looking for the gotta-have games for Christmas (or, if you’re Jewish, Black History Month) and came up wanting.
Here’s a quick rundown of my impressions, based on up to two minutes of hands-on gameplay in a noisy and distracting environment, completely out of my natural habitat (ie not sitting down):
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Old dog, new art.
Easily the biggest disappointment on the floor, the Nuts & Bolts build was incomplete, but not so incomplete as to suggest that its biggest problem will be ironed out by launch. The game is slow. Like, slow as a sloth riding the short bus. It seemed to take forever to march bear and bird from part of the enormous demo level to the next. i tried to explain this away by convincing myself that the levels were built for Nuts & Bolts’s's vehicles. That rationale lasted until i climbed into one of the vehicles, which actually drove like the short bus.
Word is that Rare is bringing the original Banjo Kazooie to XBox Live Arcade to finally deliver on their “Stop n Swop” promise. This would have been much more clever if it was executed on the original N64 cartridge. Daddy hates retcons. i’m trying to contact a representative from Rare to ask if he can go back in time and announce this to me ten years ago when i actually cared.
Old dog, new tricked-out artwork.
The latest from the guys (guy?) who brought you the ultra-punishing platform shooter Alien Hominid return with this cartoony, medieval beat-up. Like Alien Hominid, it’ll win big points with fans for its art and animation, which definitely set it apart from the pack. It’s too bad i played this game already, back when it was called Double Dragon.
And Bad Dudes.
And Final Fight.
And Double Dragon 2.
And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III:Turtles in Time.
And Golden Axe.
And The Simpsons Arcade Game.
And et cetera.
Viva Pinata 2: Trouble In Paradise
i can’t see a difference. Can YOU see a difference?
“Trouble in Paradise,” hmm? Could the “trouble” be that Professor Pester has erased the database storing all of your piñata records so that you have to spend hours upon hours re-collecting all of the same piñatas from the first game, plus about thirty additional characters? Or could the “trouble” be that the developers used this storyline as a justification to re-use all of the models and gameplay from the first game to try to knock a few remaining dollars from you with a stick? A more appropriate title would have been Viva Piñata 2: This Again or Viva Piñata 2: Same Effing Game or Viva Piñata 1: Oops Did We Say 1? We Meant 2, Honest.
A footnote: If you’re choosing the guy to do your Viva Piñata demo, make sure you don’t pick the guy with breath that makes you want to run for the border … especially since he has to spend the entire day extolling the virtues of PUHHHHHUUUHHHH-iñatas in people’s faces.
Worst Game Title Evar?
i only caught a brief glimpse of this Square-Enix title. It was easily the prettiest game in its aisle of kiosks. It’s, predictably, an RPG, but it has real-time combat, which i’m a big fan of. Battles looked very shiny and chaotic. As long as it doesn’t get too terribly button-mashy, it might be worth checking out. It’s out in a week an a half, so we’ll know soon enough.
Rock Band 2
i can hardly criticize Viva Piñata 2 for offering up more of the same and in the same entry, start gushing over Rock Band 2. Aside from it being far awesomer than the Guitar Hero series, which is for meth addicts and people who download animal porn, Rock Band 2 offers up roughly the same number of innovations as Viva Piñata 2.
Piñata has local and Live multiplayer co-op. Rock Band 2 has local co-op (as before) and Live World Tour (story) mode.
Piñata has a free-play level where you can print piñata cards from their online community database and scan them into your game using the console’s camera, without going through the hassle of catching them the “legitimate” way. Likewise, Rock Band 2 has a “no fail” mode so that when grandma comes over for a visit, she can still rock out with you instead of flunking simple songs on “Easy” vocals within the first fifteen seconds.
Despite this, the reason why Rock Band 2 is exciting and Viva Piñata 2 is not, is that Rock Band 2 allows you to bring all your downloaded songs and (for a nominal fee) the songs on the first game’s disc, in addition to giving you an entire disc’s worth of new songs. Viva Piñata 2 gives you essentially the same content as the first game, plus 30 new animals. It’s (very) roughly the equivalent of buying Rock Band 2 with all the same songs as the first game burned on the disc, with a handful of extras thrown in, and some nonsense story about how your millions of fans were struck with amnesia at the same time, and they want you to re-play all of your songs again.
i’m beginning to think “Rare” describes the probability of seeing a good game come out of that developer.
The bottom line is this: a friend of mine grabbed a copy of Rock Band from the US last year around thanksgiving, because the title was grossly delayed up here, and i have not stopped playing it all year. No other game in my library boasts that kind of staying power. Rock Band 2 presents an automatic, robotic, walk-to-the-store-and-plunk-down-cash-like-the-Manchurian-candidate situation for me.
Gears of War 2
I LOVE TO KILL TIHNGS WITH SHARP THINGS AND KILL
Friggin’ awesome. You’ve got this gun? That shoots bullets? And the bullets are tiny chainsaws? And they go in the locust horde’s mouths and, like, explode them from the inside? And it’s awesum! And your screen is, like covered in blood. My mom won’t let me play it but i played it over at my friend Timmy’s house even thow its’ not out yet because Timmy’s dad works for Microsoft and Nintendo and all them and he gets games urly.
One day, someone will have to explain to me why the word we chose to describe this kind of content is “mature”.