Games - the Early November 2007 Edition

The holiday title deluge is underway so perhaps I should hit some high notes. Before next week when I'll probably disappear inside a Rock Band vortex of timesuck.

The Legends of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass - I talked about Zelda a bit previously, but I didn't really give my overall impression, and that talk got pulled aside into a lot of chatter. Overall, I enjoyed this Zelda. The microphone thing is still stupid, the [redacted for spoilers] puzzle was just asinine, and I continued to hate using the stylus for movement throughout the game. Using the d-pad plus a jump button would have improved it very much, as opposed to the auto-that-looks-a-jump-to-your-death-request movement system. The one temple (the Ocean King) that you have to work through like five or six times was sucky. Having said all *that*, there's still a very good Zelda game in here. And in the interest of fairness to the oft-maligned (by me) DS hardware there were some neat things that needed the touch screen to do. I wasn't thrilled by the "draw on the screen" runes, but the "trace out a path for your boomerang/bombchu/whatever" mechanic was neat. Overall, I give it a . . . Meh-Plus. I'm a little tired of Zelda as a formula game, but you could argue it's a classic, and this is a good iteration of said formula. If they hadn't obsessed over using the stylus for EVERYTHING, it would graduate to Good Game.

Portal - I rented The Orange Box pretty much for the express purpose of playing Portal. I mean, I've played more Half-Life 2 then I wanted on the PC three years ago, so I'm not excited by those "three" titles. Team Fortress 2 is not my bag, baby, and that leaves Portal. I liked Portal, but a three hour game? That's sort of pushing things. And a 19 level game where something like 15- 16 of the levels are training levels? That's sort of crazy. I was less wild about the humor than most talk I hear on the net. It was funny, but not like I ever stopped to just laugh at the comedy. Portal is definitely worth renting, but I can't really justify spending money on it, unless you see significant value in the rest of The Orange Box.

Eye of Judgment[sic] - I talked about playing this at PAX before, but I didn't go into great depth. I did end up buying this and have acquired a theme deck and a few boosters, just enough to start messing around with deck tuning. Surprisingly I like it a lot. Nobody has done a really good job (even Penny Arcade was only so-so) in explaining how it works, and why the 2 mana a turn isn't slow. Ignore all the camera and PS3 hoo-hah for a moment and focus on just the card game. As far as I know this is the first CCG to incorporate a board. That's huge. The game is much more tactical than I realized at PAX. Simple stuff like "Oh I'm going to rotate this guy to the left" can have major implications. Also, the way the mana flows slowly means you have to plan several turns ahead. Additionally, whenever you kill an opponent's creature they get one mana immediately, so just because you can sweep the board doesn't mean you should. Having said that, I also think the PAX decks were poorly constructured. They were jam packed with the big flashy creatures, but you couldn't really play them very effectively. The starter deck and the theme deck focus more on smaller creatures, meaning that the 2 mana a turn thing is a major strategic element, but it's not "passing every other turn" the way it looked at PAX. I haven't played it online yet, I'm having enough deck-nerd fun playing against the computer and slowly realizing how some spells are better than they look and some are worse.

A lot of props for A ) making the first really new thing I've seen in a long time in CCG's (usage of a board and tactical elements like facing) and B ) figuring out a camera game that works with my ambient room light, as opposed to having me fiddle forever with special lighting as the PS2 Eyetoy games and the Xbox 360 Camera game (and WTF is the singular there about?) did.

If you're not careful, I'll talk more about Eye of Judgment, so let's just wrap there, shall we?

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