Monday, October 29, 2007
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground (PS3)
I'm trying to remember what number this installment is in the Tony Hawk series. Let's see, we had Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1, 2, 3, and 4, Tony Hawk's Underground 1 and 2, Tony Hawk's American Skateland, Tony Hawk Project 8, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam, and countless portable titles. So basically, we're in the double digits. You may ask how Neversoft could possibly keep the series fresh after all those games, and I get the feeling they're asking themselves the same thing. Whereas Skate introduced a completely new way of controlling a skateboard, Proving Ground feels like the same old Tony Hawk with a few new additions. My favorite is the Aggro Kick, which lets you propel yourself forward much faster than normal. You can also hit select to bring up a "rigger" menu at any point to place new environmental objects. They're a couple nice additions to the formula, but not quite enough to escape the "been there, done that" feel.
Mercury Meltdown Revolution (Wii)
Back when the original Mercury Meltdown was released on PSP, I immediately thought it would be a fantastic title for the Wii. The motion controls seemed like a natural fit for the Marble Madness-meets-chemistry class gameplay, and now it's here. Sure enough, the tilting controls perfectly with the Wiimote, and the clever gameplay and puzzles are as fun as ever.
Games like this surprise the hell out of me when they make it to the States. Folklore is one of those uber-Japanese, extremely quirky titles that seem like a gamble to present to FPS-addicted, ADD-riddled American gamers. I have to give Sony credit for taking that gamble, as it offers up some interesting ideas. It presents an extremely creepy atmosphere and interesting environments, complete with some odd "haunted carnival"-esque music. You'll play as two characters as you unravel the narrative, beating up countless ghoulies and gaining powers along the way. Motion control is implemented nicely, as you'll pull the "ids" out of defeated enemies with an upwards jerk of the Sixaxis. It certainly won't appeal to everyone, however, and many of the levels take far too long. If you can deal with a certain amount of repetition and a very odd narrative, give it a shot.
Eye of Judgment (PS3)
Speaking of games that cater to very specific segments of the gaming public, here's Eye of Judgment. Perhaps one of the oddest setups in gaming history, it comes with a game mat, Playstation Eye camera, and a starter deck of cards. Imagine Magic: The Gathering on the Eyetoy, and that's a very basic description of its gameplay. In fact, there were many times during my time with EOJ that I wondered whether the PS3 was even necessary to play it. At its core, it's a pretty basic game that consists of placing your cards strategically on a 3x3 grid. The theatrics begin when the PS Eye recognizes your card, as it springs to life onscreen and goes through its attack animations. It's a pretty cool novelty at first, but the strategy wasn't nearly deep enough to hold my attention for long. That's just me, though I've never been big on card games like this. I'm sure Eye of Judgment will become very big amongst a very specific group of gamers.
I was ready for this fighter to be a full-on "flail-a-thon", but was pleasantly surprised to find a solid fighter beneath all the waggle. I have no knowledge of the anime whatsoever, but there was enough crazy shit happening onscreen to satisfy even the most ADD-afflicted young gamers out there. Basic attacks are controlled by three general gestures, and these can be modified when holding A or B. You'll go into an insane berserk mode by flicking the nunchuk when a meter fills up, which allows you to pull off some seriously flashy maneuvers. While it's not a genre bristling with winners, I'd have to say Bleach is near the top (if not the top) of Wii fighters.
PGR4 (Xbox 360)
You pretty much know what to expect when you open up PGR4 for the 360. It's a solid racer with fantastic visuals, feature not-too-sim-not-too-arcade gameplay. New to this edition are fantastic weather effects and the inclusion of motorcycles. It's nothing revolutionary, but it comes with more solid tracks, cars, and a new version of Geometry Wars. A solid entry in a solid series.
EA Playground (Wii)
This is what we all feared when we started hearing about the new wave of "casual games" on the Wii. In this case, "casual" translates to "insultingly simplistic". All of the minigames feature terribly repetitive motions that require little to no skill whatsoever. I realize EA is going for the extremely casual (as well as young gamers) with this title, but I can't imagine anyone wants to move their hand slightly every 3 seconds while watching a ball bounce against a wall for 10 minutes. I appreciate developers that build games from the ground-up specifically for the Wii, but this is not the way to do it. We want solid, responsive motion controls, not waggle for waggle's sake.