In Which I Quickly Review a Bunch of Games

I had good intentions. I was going to start blogging up reviews of all the video games I played and posting them here for you all to ignore. I even did a few, which the laws of probability say you can eventually find by performing random clicking motions on the site. Turns out that I really didn’t have it in me, though, and I kept letting things slide in favor of the parenting updates, the book reveiws, and the 52-Movies-In-52-Weeks thingie.

So I decided to just get all caught up by doing some rapid-fire, one paragraph reviews. Here we go!

Psychonauts (Xbox)

Here we have veteran game designer and funny guy Tim Schafer’s and his development house Double Fine creating a summer camp/school for young psychic warriors, to which plucky hero Raz inserts himself. It’s a platformer with a VERY weird art style and really funny writing. I hate platformers, though, and Psychonauts reminds of why as frequently grew frustrated trying to simply move through the hub world. On the other hand, the writing and the level design are really funny. The “Milkman” level where you infiltrate some kind of weird suburbia fever dream is one of the best game levels I’ve ever encountered, and the level that parodies Godzilla movies inside the mind of a giant fish isn’t far behind.

Civilization Revolution (iPod Touch)

It’s the Civilization turn-based strategy series totally rebuilt to work on consoles, then ported to the iPhone minus multiplayer. You control one of several civilizations and try to be the best in the world through military, diplomatic, cultural, economic, or technological avenues. It’s simpler than hard core Civ games, but it’s still pretty good and it’s amazing that you can play a game like this on a freaking iPod. It strikes me as the kind of thing that you would want to take with you if you could time travel back to the 90s and wanted to utterly blow some people’s minds.

Halo 3 ODST (X360)

Yep, it’s Halo 3, minus Master Chief and plus a half-assed version of the Gears of War Horde mode. Given that, it’s still pretty good, and it’s got the best Halo single player campaign yet on account of how the designers pared down all the fat and left just set piece after set piece without long corridors to pad things out. I also loved how it handles the collectibles angle by having you seek out and find a series of audio recordings that tell a B story that’s frankly more interesting than the game’s main plotline. The game also comes with a second DVD containing the entire Halo 3 multiplayer experience, which is nice if you’re like me and don’t have that already. It’s just forehead smakingly infuriating that they didn’t include ANY matchmaking with the new Firefight multiplayer mode so that you can only play with people on your friend’s list.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (X360)

The nerdigalian was pretty down on this game, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s a third person action game where you get to play Darth Vader’s seeekrit apprentice, Starkiller. This is a name that sounds absurd until you remember that this is a world where people are named “Skywalker,” “Han Solo,” and “Darth Sidious,” at which point it still sounds absurd, but at least it’s not weird. There were major targeting and control issues, but I loved how you could just use grossly overpowered Force abilities to slap your opponents around and tear stuff up on an epic scale. The storyline and cut scenes are also pretty good.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (X360)

I’m just going to go ahead and say that this is the best game I played all year. The setup is that you’re Batman (“I’m Batman!”) at the end of a long night of apprehending the Joker and locking him up in the infamous Arkham Aslum/Prison. Only Joker takes th joint over and you end up beating the ever living daylights out of a long succession of villains and nameless thugs. But what’s really great about this game is the presentation and the Metroid-style gameplay where you gradually acquire gadgets that grant you access to different areas and secrets. Oh, and the combat is awesome. So is how the collectables are handled. And the sound. You know, just about everything about this game is awesome.

Brutal Legend (X360)

Tim Schaefer and Double Fine make another entry in this list, and this time the game is a LOT better. Imagine a world inspired by heavy metal album artwork from the 1980s and you’ve pretty much got Brutal Legend’s setting, only more rocking. The game kind of suffers from being a mish-mash of real-time strategy (on a console, yuck), open world adventure, driving, and God of War style action game, but in the end it somehow comes together because of how original and fresh everything is and how good the script is. It was just really fun despite its flaws, like how your avatar is constantly stymied by three in lips of dirt in what’s supposed to be an open world game. And whoever was in charge of the animation and “acting” on the computer generated characters in this game deserves some kind of award, because they knocked it out of the park.

Torchlight (PC)

This game is more like Diablo 2 than Diablo 2 could ever hope to be. It’s all there –the clicking, the looting, the character classes, the skill trees, the named mobs, the loot collection, the running back to town to sell the loot, the going back for more loot, even the soundtrack. Torchlight does add its own polish and improvements (your pack mule of a dog or cat for one, and a quest system that rips off that other Blizzard game for another), but it has the good graces not to even pretend to hide the fact that it’s a Diablo 2 clone with a splash of World of Warcraft. And like Diablo 2, it gets pretty repetitive pretty fast, so much so that I’m not sure I’m going to finish it. But at the budget price of $15 to $20, I certainly got my money’s worth out of it.

Whew. All caught up.

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