Recent Games

Been playing a whole crop of new (to me) games lately, thought I'd summarize a few of them.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (Nintendo DS) Yeah, it's another DS game that could go on any console. The second screen makes some things more convenient, but it's not critical. They've even dropped the weird "two battles at once" mode from the previous AW title. Advance Wars has always represented great turn-based strategy and this installment is more of the goodness. There are several significant changes and I suspect it has made the game overly favor the defender, but I haven't played enough multiplayer to be sure. The AI has always been pretty bad, and that is still true.

I haven't completely finished the campaign, but I'm only a few missions short (I think) and the last few missions weren't fun so I think I'm done. But there are something like 40 "Trial Maps" which are fun.

This is the first version of Advance Wars to support internet play, and that seems fairly solid. It is worth nothing that it doesn't support saving an online game, so I'd give the edge to Field Commander on the PSP in that regard. It does support internet voice chat but it's terrible. Tony and I have been disabling the built-in chat and using Xbox 360 for chat, which is superior technology.

Basically, if you enjoyed a previous Advance Wars then you'll enjoy Days of Ruin.

Pixeljunk Monsters (PS3) This is a "tower defense game". I'm not sure this is a real genre, I'm only aware of two other games in the "genre" - Desktop Tower Defense (Flash) and Hordes of Orcs for OS X. Hordes is in mind a very inferior ripoff of DTD. Pixeljunk Monsters doesn't play much like the other two. On the one hand, yes you're building towers to attack oncoming monsters, and different types of monsters are vulnerable to different towers. On the other hand in PM you have an avatar that runs around the screen and you have to collect the coins, as well as the power-up gems (which aren't present in DTD). You also have the ability to level a tower by standing on it for a while. Lastly in PM you can only build towers on trees. Different levels have different tree arrangements and more complex monster movement patterns which makes each level a different and unique challenge. I like PM a lot. If you have a PS3 it's worth the $8 or so it costs (it's a downloadable store title)

Mass Effect (Xbox 360) This is where Bwana will try to make a joke as I start covering November titles. I believe that Gamefly doesn't buy enough of the big Christmas season titles, because this happens every year. They start sending me B PSP titles from about 7 places down my queue and then after Christmas they slowly ship all my backlogged high-profile holiday titles. Mass Effect falls into this category. Historically I've liked Bioware's PC games and disliked their console games. Even Knights of the Old Republic I thought was a crummy console game with clunky mechanics and a PC interface shoehorned onto a console controller. I'm definitely in the minority here, but I didn't care for KOTOR. Mass Effect is finally fun in combat. They still have technical issues - the game drops frames like crazy and the "AI" of your squad mates deserves the quotes I give it. But if you can get past those the story is interesting, and it's not as pause-happy as KOTOR was.

Now, I'll warn you it does talk your ear off at the beginning. I finished the very first tutorial story in a touch less than an hour. Then I got to the Citadel, and it was just "As you know Bob, it's been over a hundred years since blah, blah, blah," for quite a while. I got up to about four hours of gameplay before I saw another combat.

If you think you can survive the RPG world-building datadump at the start it's a solid game.

Commanders: Attack of the Genos (Xbox 360) Last week's Live Arcade title came out of nowhere as far as I was concerned. It's more turn-based strategy! I find the retro art-deco looks (tanks with fins!) amusing, and the game seems pretty playable. Haven't tried it online yet, but I like the singleplayer game.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3) Woosh. I really wanted to like Uncharted. Truthfully this is a game that had I bought it I'd still be playing. But since I rented it I'm just sending it back. I had been looking forward to Uncharted, but when I played the demo I felt that A ) the melee system was stiff and awkward, B ) the attackers took entirely too much bullets to drop, C ) there weren't nearly enough bullets provided, and D ) the cover was both very "sticky" and just didn't work well. Having played the full game now I still think all of those things. The demo is Chapter Four of the game and I didn't see that very much had changed. I feel like the designers of the game decided it was too short so they compensated by making the combat encounters too difficult (they call that "adding replay value"). The platforming is a lot of fun, but I got tired of restarting combats multiple times until I learned where everybody was going to spawn from.

Patapon (PSP - demo) I mentioned the crazy download process a few posts back but I checked out the game yesterday. It's cute, and it certainly has some interesting ideas. But at the end of it I sort of went "Meh." It seemed like too much work to try to figure out which command was needed when, plus the repetition of drumming the "march forward" command over and over just seemed plodding. I could be convinced the final game is worth playing, but the demo didn't raise my interest level at all.