Friday, March 30, 2012

More Thoughts on More Games

Despite a significant chunk of my time being devoted to the development of my next iOS game, I have been playing some other folks' recently-released games that I've been enjoying enough to warrant a post. While I've played through a decent chunk of each, these shouldn't be taken as "reviews," just some comments about my experiences with them:

Ashura's Wrath (PS3/360)

If you like anime, if you like power fantasies, if you like seeing your television brim to capacity with the finest in nearly-overwhelming absurdity, you need to play this game. And yes, it IS a game. The cut scenes and quick time events are copious but they are also masterfully executed in a way that feels more engaging and direct than many other more traditional games. Is it for everyone? No, but if it's for you, you'll love it.

Ridge Racer: Unbounded (PC/PS3/360)

It comes across as a sort of "Greatest Hits" of arcade racers, with features and presentation that feel like they were cribbed from predecessors in the genre like "Burnout," "Blur," "Split Second" and others, but that really shouldn't be a surprise given developer Bugbear's previous "Flatout" series, which is a great, if somewhat derivative, arcade racing experience all its own.

Having said that, the pieces really come together in this game in an interesting and satisfying way. From the built-in track editor to the mechanically simple yet tactically technical driving model to the way the game instantly restarts races without pesky loading screens, there's a general feel of quality and novelty to "Ridge Racer: Unbounded" that's a refreshing change from what's come to be expected from the series.

It's biggest weakness from what I've seen so far is that it can be very unforgiving. For a game that's about smashing through things that you'd normally drive around, it's surprisingly easy to fall behind by crashing into impenetrable objects or being taken out by other racers. It's certainly not a deal breaker but go into this one knowing that it can be very challenging despite the esthetics.

SSX (PS3/360)

For me, "SSX 3" was the ultimate snowboarding game. It had everything I was looking for from an extreme sports title: a cool trick system and cool places to use it. The new SSX is a bit more uneven as a total package with far more peaks and valleys, both literal and figurative.

When it's good and you're screaming down one of the many well-designed runs, stringing together tricks and feeling completely connected to what's happening on screen, it is simply sublime. Conversely, when the camera freaks out, or you get stuck somewhere in the middle of a run or you find yourself plummeting into one of the many bottomless pits that litter some of the areas, you'll find yourself yelling at the screen and clenching your controller in frustration.

There's a lot to like in this game, but there are also significant problems. It's not the gem that "SSX 3" was, but it does bring enough new that works to the table like a clever asynchronous multiplayer system (RiderNet) some unique and stimulating challenges in several of the "Deadly Descent" missions (though some of these are not so good) and its stellar HD presentation and soundtrack that it's pretty easy to overlook the blemishes.