2011 – A year in games – Part 4

Continuing on from the previous post. Here’s the next set of games I played last year:

PixelJunk Shooter

I started playing Pixeljunk Shooter with the demo which I had downloaded once it became available, just to dip my toe in the water. Straight away, the demo had that feeling of being immediately playable. Having only seen videos before, I was afraid of hitting the sides would kill me or that there was some hidden level of complexity that would ruin it for me, but it’s actually remarkably easy to pick up with simple controls and a well balanced difficulty curve. The main game trophies are dependent on collecting all of the treasure in each level, so even after completing the game, it’s likely you’d have to go back to pick everything up.

I think the most beautiful feature of the game is the fluid effect used for both the lava and the water. I saw Jaymin Kessler (@okonomiyonda) talk about the tech used in PixelJunk Shooter 2 at SIGGRAPH 2011 (graciously reproduced on altdevblogaday.com here), even going so far as to be one of the few SIGGRAPH talks that breaks out the SPU code. PixelJunk do have a reputation for a great parity between gameplay and technology.

PixelJunk Shooter is one of those “easy to learn, difficult to master” games that I found enjoyable to play but for which I was unable to earn many trophies due to random mistakes that I made. I’m definitely going back to this one and will try to play it to perfection when time allows.

Plants vs Zombies

Although I knew Plants vs Zombies was a Tower Defense variant, I really assumed that it would be another bog standard example of the genre. Since it was a freebie from PlayStation Plus, I thought I’d give it a good go before consigning it to the tried-but-didn’t-really-like list. I was really surprised when I found out how good it was.

The game has been well polished – I’d expect this happened early on and then more polish was added during porting between so many different platforms. The polish shows through in several places: the simple controls that allow you use both the directional bottons and analog sticks; the balancing of the rate at which you need to collect the sunshine required to grow new plants; the difficulty due to the range in choice when selecting the plants for the next level; the range of zombie types; the different level layouts; and finally, the lawnmower concept where the first zombie to break through the line releases a lawnmower that kills the rest of the zombies on that row to give you some respite from the invasion.

I think the highlight for me was when a group of zombies in a bobsleigh jumped out of the bushes and it’s that kind of comedy and surprise that you’ll find at several different places in the game. I’d recommend finding a copy for your favourite platform and giving it a go. It’s a long game and I’m going to go back to it to finish it off.

God of War: Chains of Olympus (from the Origins Collection)

This was a game I had completed many moons ago on PSP and I really wanted to see how well the port had gone, especially since the PS3 ports of the PS2 versions in the God Of War Collection were remarkably well done.

It was a very well done port with some obvious points at which the effects had been updated from the PSP which makes me feel better about it than a minimalistic port. The gameplay is as good as I remember and has all the classic God Of War style even with the reduced stick and shoulder button count of the PSP, only resulting in a minimal change to the standard PS2 and PS3 controls.

I managed to complete this one but I did it on normal since I thought I’d go back for the super hard difficulty later since it needed unlocking (which I’ve previously complained about). I later discovered that I could have just played it on the hard level between normal and super hard and got myself a gold trophy instead 😦 This is definitely a good thing to play while waiting for the next new God of War title!

Castle Crashers

I always thought of this game as a bit of an indie darling with a lot of fans and was interested to know what I’d make of it. When it became available on PlayStation Plus, I thought it would be good to grab and try. If you’ve not seen or played it, the art style is cartoony and the gameplay is very like Golden Axe with the standard jump and hit and then a couple of other buttons. There’s also some elements of character development with attributes you can improve as you play and a range of weapons that you can pick up.

Although it starts off quite easy, I found I was getting hammered in the boss fights and any time that the screen filled up with lots of enemies. I feel like there’s something I’m missing in the controls or gameplay that would simplify it for me or that I could master. There’s other parts of the game that make me believe I’ve missed something too, for example, the relevance of the sections that have no enemies but may have some meaning – I may have to go to gamefaqs to see if I can find some more background.

This currently remains uncompleted due to my predisposition to dying near the end of each level.

Resistance 3

For me Resistance 3 was the beginning of Shooter Season 2011 (as coined and heavily used by Zero Punctuation). Of all the games in the Resistance trilogy, I believe number 3 was the best looking and most playable. I had taken part in the multiplayer beta and although I thought it looked great, I wasn’t impressed with the gameplay at that point and I was worried that the improvement in visual quality had hit performance so hard that it was taking processor time away from gameplay.

The game itself is rather weak in terms of continuity of plot between the different sections and I personally didn’t feel influenced by the story to help the old fella across America. Since the child of your character has the same name as my own, I’d have been happy telling the old guy to jog on and find another sucker. I think the fact that I continued to play the game despite the lack of compulsion by the story is a testament to the quality of the gameplay. I think it was sufficiently varied with each level having something new to do. Before playing, I did watch one of the Developer Diaries which highlighted some of the gameplay changes from Resistance 2 such as being able to switch between all of the weapons you’re carrying, and I think it’s those kinds of changes that made it more accessible and playable.

This was a game that lasted a lot longer than I expected up until the climactic final section of the game, more often making me happy that there was more, rather than wondering when it was going to be over. Strongly recommended if you’re looking for a shooter and I wish there was a Resistance 4 planned.

More shooters from Shooter Season 2011 coming up…


2 responses to “2011 – A year in games – Part 4

  1. Pingback: 2011 – A year in games – Part 5 | dickyjim

  2. Pingback: 2012 – A Year In Games – In Haiku form | dickyjim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s