Catching Up: Quick Impressions of Some Games I’m Playing

Over the last two days I’ve been gorging on videogames. I’m indulging now before reality hits me and the worries of money, finding work and finding my own place take over. Before then, I can numb it all down with a barrage of new and old games. Here’s some brief impressions.

Geometry Wars Evolved 2. The original Robotron-inspired twin-stick shooter, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, was the game that was played on my XBox 360 on more days than any other. I’m sure that there are many games that I’ve played longer, in cumulative time, but as a measure of times played none come close. The brief, but frantic, action was a good interlude between other activities in the dashboard. It was something that was always there, when waiting for someone or something to download, or in those moments that my internet connection (or XBox Live’s) was down. The sequel to that was high on my “catch up” list.

What I like best about Geometry Wars Evolved 2 is its streamlining. The one problem with the original game was that, if you were decent enough, the ramp up of the game, before everything became crazy, took too long. You’d spend a couple of minutes, bored, waiting for the score to rise up to 100,000, the point when it starts to get fun. With the sequel they’ve added five new game modes and all of them become spastic in no time. They’re quick and zippy with high flying scores. With the great friend list leaderboards always on show, this is the ultimate occasional game. A session, or ten, here and there between more involved games.

Unfortunately, being several months late to the party means that I’m playing catch-up on the leaderboards. They’re also far less active now than they were nearer to launch which takes away from some of the back and forth that makes the game fun. That said, if you are on my friends’ list and you have Geometry Wars Evolved 2, then I’ve already defeated one of your high scores[1]. The gauntlet is thrown down.

Braid. A lot has been said about Braid already so it’s repetitious to say that it’s beautiful and ingenious. A simple platformer that minimizes the necessary timing and reflexes required in the genre by giving the player an unlimited undo button. With the platforming requirements greatly reduced, Braid is allowed to focus its full attention on its time manipulation puzzles. They’re often mind-bendingly difficult without ever feeling unattainable, which is a testament to their design. I’m two away from completing it[2].

Although I do have to say that two puzzle pieces in the first world are frustratingly annoying because their solution is completely incongruous with every other part of the game. I had to “cheat” to get these even if seeing the solution was a complete duhhh moment. But other than those two, it’s all quite genius.

WipeOut HD. Brilliant. Stunning. A complete sense of deja vu. WipeOut Pure was my second favourite PSP launch title[3] and its sequel, WipeOut Pulse, was one of only two games that got a lot of play during my four month sojourn[4]. You could say that I’m a fan of the series.

That’s my only beef with WipeOut HD: I’ve played it all before. Every track in HD is a higher resolution duplicate of a stage from the two PSP games. Having to campaign through all the same events a second time over will likely get tiresome after a while, but before that happens I’m soaking in all the glorious 1080p hovercar action. It is quite pretty. Brilliant. Stunning. All for a reasonable $20 price tag. It’s definitely worth the cost, though it does make me yearn for a real next-generation WipeOut. Or a new F-Zero.

Little Big Planet. Wonderful and charming. I have an idea for a level I want to build, but I need to play more of the single player “campaign” to unlock the various materials and items I need to construct it. This is stupid. If LBP is supposed to be this giant creative playground then why use forced game mechanics to prevent me from playing with it out of the box? It’s like I bought a giant play-do set but it came with a chess board and I can’t make anything until I play twenty games of chess first. It feels artificially limiting.

Still, it has charm to spare and there’s already plenty of awesome stuff for it.

Super Stardust HD. meh.

Mirror’s Edge (demo). Oh man, this is totally up my alley. Or jumping over it.

And now I’m going to start Fallout 3. I can put off the job search for another week.

  1. Except in “Pacifism.” I inexplicably suck at that.
  2. In the “elevator action” level.
  3. Lumines.
  4. Civilization Revolutions on the DS.
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