Skyward Sword

February 12, 2012 at 20:17 (Games, Wii)

I’ve tried really hard to like Skyward Sword although I’m not really sure why. It could be my love of Nintendo or of the rest of the Zelda series but it’s probably more to do with the Edge score of 10. I’ve read Edge’s review a few times now, trying to work out what it is I’ve missed but I can’t find any justification for the fabled ten. It would be unfair to say Skyward Sword is a bad game, it isn’t but it is hugely flawed. There are moments of excellent and genius design throughout the game, I’d like to give you an example but genuinely can’t remember. That’s the problem for every fantastic piece of the game it’s surrounded by literally hours of tedium, bad level design and weak stories and characters. It has taken me 50 hours to get to the final (and I really hope it is final – this game could have ended at so many earlier points just as well) and most of that time was uninspiring and dull gameplay. I often found myself questioning why I was still playing. It’s Zelda, though, it has to be good doesn’t it? Surely a the most fantastic dungeon is going to be just around the corner and restore my faith and make it feel like the trudge was all worthwhile. In fact the dungeons are usually fantastic but the joyous experience of playing through them is seriously diluted by everything else you have to do to get there. Whenever I did complete a section or obtained a MacGuffin I felt like an old person who had just walked into a room but then couldn’t remember why. What did I need this thing for and where do  I go now?

There is a fantastic game in Skyward Sword, unfortunately it can only be around 20 hours long and is buried in 50 hours of play.

 
 

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Down With Control

September 10, 2011 at 12:01 (Games, Wii) ()

When I saw EA Sport Active 2 was only £8 in Asda, I thought it would be something active to do on my non-running days. It looked like an interesting package including a heart monitor, another sensor for a leg, options to use the balance board. I have to admit it probably is only the gadgets that make me do any exercise.

A few weeks in and I still don’t know how effective or good the ‘game’ is. One thing that I am certain of is that it is in no where near to any of Nintendo’s own sports titles. For starters it rarely appears to be fun, which perhaps isn’t the aim, but at least Wii Fit had a personality. The trainers are very annoying spouting the kind of crap which makes me avoid the real life equivalent. How can you “relax in to the stretch”, or not “breathe normally” and of course you are encouraged to give it a 110% effort. In fact, due to the excessive loading times (water breaks!) and frequent inaccuracies of the sensors all the workouts take considerable longer than the exercise time. 45 minutes for a 25 minute workout isn’t really acceptable.

Maybe the sensors are accurate and I’m doing things incorrectly but your on screen avatar is often completely out of sync with what you are doing. I was already worrying if I could be doing any damage by not doing things correctly which was only confirmed by the trainer saying “This exercise is great for your glutes, if you’re doing it correctly”. And what if I’m not doing it correctly, how would I know?  The game seems to be obsessed with working your glutes, I had no idea what these were? Should I? Even stranger when they mention hamstrings they explain what those are.

I’ll stick with it, it’s making me sweat so it must be doing something right.

Oh and “down with control” is one of the phrases often repeated by the trainer which just makes me thing of rising up against the trainers and starting a no-exercise revolution.

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Red Steel 2

May 29, 2011 at 13:20 (Games, Wii) ()

Like most of the games I own, I picked up Red Steel 2 when I saw it cheap and mainly because it was bundled with a motion plus controller-thing. I almost forgot I had it and then when I did I wondered if I’d even bother playing it. However it had got okay reviews, I actually liked the flawed original and I’m still waiting for Portal 2 and LA Noire to drop in price so I thought I’d give it a go.

The good news first, it looks fantastic, I’d say it was probably one of the best looking Wii games. There’s so much to be said for adopting a visual style and sticking with it to achieve great results. The setting of the game is also really interesting the samurai western seems to work much better here than the original. It plays well, the controls work although I’m not sure if I really noticed the difference Motion Plus worked.

Unfortunately I very quickly got annoyed by the smallest things. At the start you have to move back and forth between the same few areas for no real reason just to learn a new move. It isn’t helped by the fact the doors (or are they lifts, I genuinely couldn’t tell from the animations) can take up to 30 seconds to open. I was willing to put up with minor problems as I settled into the game but I soon realised that I had no idea what was going on. An hour into the game I’d been introduced to a few characters but had no sense of identity or story. I wondered if I needed to read the manual or if it had anything to do with 2006 original which I obviously can’t remember.

It wasn’t long before I got to the first boss and it was here that I sensed I would be giving up with the game. I hate bosses, they usually seem like an artificial way of slowing down the game when I just want to get on with the story. I know they are supposed to a be a test of the skills you’ve accumulated so far but this rarely happens (the Zelda games usually get it right) and when they do most of the games prolong the experience to unnecessary repetition to drain an overlong energy bar, three hits and you’re out should be the correct approach. I may not be the greatest gamer but I still died over and over, lowering the bosses energy a little further each time thinking that at least if I persisted I’d get there eventually. But I was already bored having to go through the motions (literally with the remote swinging) too many times before dying and having to repeat. It occurred to me that perhaps I made a mistake selecting medium difficulty rather than beginner but as many others have pointed out how are you supposed to select a difficulty before you’ve played the game. At least you can change the difficulty during the game so I did and it still didn’t seem to make any difference. Normally I stick with bosses because I want to continue the story and see what else the game has to offer but I realised after two hours of playing I had no idea who I was or what the story was about , I simply had no investment in the game and wondered why I should give up at least another 8 hours of my life to see it through. I beat the boss and moved on, playing a bit longer I was exposed to more of the same and didn’t want to go any further.

I feel bad, it is not a bad game and I suspect many people would enjoy it but I need a reason to keep playing and after two hours the game had offered me none. I may return to it but I’d rather spend my time trying to get 100% on Undead Nightmare or going after all the starts in Super Mario Galaxy 2 (or the first game for that matter) or bite the bullet and cough up for Portal 2 or LA Noire.

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Epic Mickey

May 7, 2011 at 14:20 (Games, Wii) ()

I stuck with Epic Mickey until the end and all the time a voice in my head kept repeating  “You do know Portal 2 is out now?”. It’s such a shame Epic Mickey doesn’t quite work becuase it has such good potential to be a great game:

  • Great use of a licence
  • Wonderful engaging and emotional story
  • It looks fantastic, especially the 2D sections – I’d have been happy if the whole game had been a 2D platformer

But

  • It’s too long, or more importantly, too repetitive.
  • There’s a lack of structure so you’re never quite sure what you should be doing next
  • It isn’t clear when you will or will not be able to revisit an area
  • Unlocking content was a huge incentive to keep going but
    • There are only two cartoons available – where else can you see early Disney shorts?
    • The artwork would not display for me (presumably a bug)
  • The paint/thinner good/evil decisions never really made sense or have any significant impact
  • All your painting is undone when you leave an area, it should have been like de Blob and reward you for painting everything
  • The special items are lazily introduced, never really explained and then hardly used
  • The biggest complaint in reviews seemed to be the awkward camera and controls but these rarely bothered me.
As I said the other week, if the game had been half as long I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more but at 15 hours most of the gameplay did just seem too much like hard work.

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