January 13, 2006

Je Pwn

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 1:22 pm

Je pwn,
Tu pwn,
Il pwn.

Nous pwnons,
Vous pwnez,
Ils pwnent.

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.


  1. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time for Gamecube. Beautiful, fluid motion and acrobatics, clever intertwining of cinematics and gameplay, especially at the beginning, and now in the bargain bin for $25. Only downside was a combat system that, while quite spectacular, got a little repetitive towards the end. Fortunately, the game really isn’t about the combat.

    If you liked the _really there on the edge about to fall into a spike trap_ feeling of the original PoP on the 386 vintage machines, you’ll like this.

    Comment by Amos — January 13, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

  2. I’m about fifteen minutes into Prince of Persia, and so far I’m not impressed. Maybe I need some time to get used to the gameplay, but so far the frequency of the two-second cut scenes, coupled with the fact that maybe 90% of them are Our Hero sheathing his weapons and looking stern, and the other 10% are falling rocks, are totally ruining any suspension of disbelief I’ve been able to work myself up to.

    I’m going to plug away at it for a bit, but early reports are not good. To be fair, though, it totally reminds me of the old 386 version, and I’m not used to the rewind function yet, so I’ll give it some time.

    Comment by Mike Hoye — January 13, 2006 @ 8:40 pm

  3. “…you should absolutely not touch your significant other or cook anything during your post-God-Of-War safety window. ”

    .sig! .sig!

    Comment by Jeff — January 14, 2006 @ 2:16 am

  4. Keep playing Prince of Persia. You do need time to get used to it, plus it starts out with tutorial-style stuff that doesn’t give you a sense of the proper game. It’s definitely very good.

    Metroid Prime is also an excellent GameCube game, managing to magically combine FPS gameplay with the atmosphere of the original NES Metroid in a way that actually works. The only problem with it is that it’s too big and involved for job-holding adults to reasonably play.

    Super Monkey Ball is fun, and probably the game that comes closest to Katamari Damacy in terms of wacky Japanese-ness, though it’s WAY more sane.

    I assume you don’t need to hear that Zelda and Mario games are good.

    Beyond Good and Evil is good. And short, which is a nice plus.

    Comment by Mike Kozlowski — January 15, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

  5. I would have mentioned Metroid Prime, but it was part of an earlier binge that consisted almost entirely of Metroid Prime and Zelda: Windwaker. If you’ve played Echoes, I’d love to hear about it; I’m considering picking it up.

    I’m also very seriously looking forward to the next Zelda, “Twilight Princess”, mostly because the promotional video for is so sweet that you can get diabetes just by letting it hit your eyeballs.

    Comment by Anonymous — January 15, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

  6. My roommate and I were mad for Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. If I had a PS2, I still would be. I hope the game experience improves for you.

    Comment by Jelly — January 16, 2006 @ 8:59 am

  7. I’m shocked at the absence of GTA from your list. I’m not nearly so fond of GTA:SA (the gang-sympathetic storyline and annoying roleplaying aspects marginally outweigh the coolness factors of the vehicle and environment upgrades for me, but YMMV), and I’ve never tried GTA:VC, but the “original” GTA III is a must-experience…game truly compelling, and utterly fun.

    Also, if you can find it, Rez is fucking incredible.

    Comment by Skwid — January 16, 2006 @ 12:18 pm

  8. s/must-experience…game truly/must-experience game…truly

    Comment by Skwid — January 16, 2006 @ 12:21 pm

  9. Yeah, Rez is great. I haven’t played it in a while, though.

    GTA3 is definitely on my list.

    Comment by Mike Hoye — January 16, 2006 @ 12:21 pm

  10. Timely! I have just finished a long-term fitness goal. My prize? A PS2…. Game on!

    Comment by Alex Rootham — January 16, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

  11. From the “your eyes will bleed from not blinking” category I’m a big fan of Amplitude for the PS2. Decent soundtrack, simple gameplay, and maddeningly addictive. In the same genre of Rez, but I’d probably take Amplitude if I had to choose. Even the remix mode is entertaining.

    Comment by kev — January 16, 2006 @ 3:56 pm

  12. I have the “prequel” to Amplitude, Frequency. Extraordinarily fun game, but can get extremely challenging.

    I wouldn’t call it the same genre as Rez, though. It’s in the same genre as DDR or Guitar Star, it’s a rythym game. The music in Rez actually *changes* depending on how well you’re doing, your timing in targetting, etc. It’s utterly unique, to my knowledge.

    Comment by Skwid — January 18, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

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