Last week’s Photoshop Phriday is a must-see.
I’ve played more video games recently than I have in a long time. I’m late to the console thing, so I get a chance to wait until other people shake out the good stuff from the chaff. I think it’s pretty much out of my system, for the time being; I tend to binge on these things, and then walk away from them for a few months. I’ll probably let these machines be for a while, but in the meantime let me tell you all about a few games I’ve liked.
- Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari
I’ve gone on about this before, but Katamari Damacy is a ton of fun, and by a long margin the most innovative game in the last decade. We Love Katamari isn’t as much of a new game as it is an expansion pack, but it’s still worth owning. I’m a big fan of video games with great soundtracks, and Katamari Damacy’s soundtrack is worth owning entirely on its own.
- Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus
If you’ve played video games for any length of time, the mechanics of the process are well understood – you enter a room, and it presents you with a possible mechanism, and you work that mechanism until you’re able to make it to the next space. At this point, it’s the trappings of puzzle-room games that make them worthwhile, more than the gameplay; that’s what made Myst so great. And Ico is very, very pretty, and who doesn’t like rescuing a princess now and then?
Shadow Of The Colossus, I’m much more ambivalent about. On the one hand it is stunningly, mind-blowingly beautiful. The landscape is vast, varied and lushly rendered. And the things you have to do in that landscape, as part of the whole “work the mechanism” process, are frequently very, very ugly. You’re confronted with monstrous, majestic creatures that you have to goad, cripple and kill, at the behest of a disembodied voice whose motives are not obviously virtuous. It’s clear, though, that our hero doesn’t care, and is going to do it anyway, and the incredible artistry of the game makes that difficult to stomach – we’re not talking about knocking mushrooms-with-feet or cartoonish spiky lizards around with fireballs, here. Tycho, over at Penny Arcade, wrote that
“The supposed hero is assaulting majestic, sometimes docile, sometimes curious, sometimes sleeping creatures. They’re almost all portrayed in a sympathetic light at some point, and it’s hard not to feel disgusted at times for iterating Hollow Game Mechanic X by rote without any sense of the moral spectrum the acts inhabit.”
At one point, you have to stab a colossus in the hand, not because it’s about to crush you but so that it holds its hand up to its face to look at you more closely. The colossi you’re sent out to kill are monstrous, for sure, but it’s not clear at all who the bad guy is. Not until the end of the game, at least.
- The Mark Of Kri and Rise Of The Kasai
The Mark of Kri is, in many respects, the opposite of Shadow of the Colossus. Instead of no chaff and sixteen bosses, there’s no bosses, really, and thousands and thousands of guys. The fighting system takes a while to get used to, but these are both really pretty games, even if they both start to feel like you’re just grinding meat after a while. One of the fun things about Rise of the Kasai is cooperative play, which while sadly not multiplayer does feature an AI engine that isn’t dumber than a bag of hammers, which is nice. Also very pretty, but cartoonish-realism, beautifully drawn but clearly never intended to be photoreal. All told, I enjoyed them quite a bit, and the stealth levels are fun.
- God Of War
This is an astonishingly savage game. If you’re the kind of person who needs a minute to shift gears after gaming, like you shouldn’t be driving anywhere for an hour after playing Grand Tourismo or something like that, you should absolutely not touch your significant other or cook anything during your post-God-Of-War safety window. This is the most insanely violent game I have ever seen. There’s no moral ambiguity here; you’re setting out to kill Ares, the God of War, and you’re going to butcher everything between you and him. Beautifully rendered, absolutely fluid gameplay and just swimming in blood. Truly awesome. If you can stomach it at all, you’ll absolutely love it.
If you’ve got any other must-haves that I should know about for the Gamecube or PS2, I’d love to hear about them.