Monday, December 30, 2013

Year of Gaming (2013) - Part 2

If you missed it, part 1 is this way.

Fez (PC)
It seemed like nations rose and fell during the time it take for Fez to come out. Then after it came out, I had to wait for its PC release. Was it worth the wait? …not really, but it's still a good game. The 3D, yet retro, styled graphics are a beauty and the gimmick of turning the view to change the reality of the world is a really cool idea. There are Myst-like puzzles to solve and doors freaking everywhere to open and explore. The only problem is that there is very little interesting or challenging level design to go along with the cool concept. Many of the optional puzzles are quite challenging to figure out, but the majority of the game, simply getting from here to there, is often easy to the point of just being a waste of time.
(Image source)
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
It's a laid back game of bug catching, fishing, running errands, dressing up, decorating, collecting, and diving headlong into ever increasing debt. As great as the core gameplay has always been, though admittedly not for everyone, previous entries in the series added disappointingly little with each iteration. Thankfully, that's not the case with New Leaf. At last, this is an Animal Crossing sequel worth getting as it adds tons of new content in the form of new events and items, an island, swimming, pants and shoes, and duties as mayor of the town. It might not be your kind of game, but if it is, you're going to love it.
Mickey's Dangerous Chase (GB) (Review) (My speedrun)
For a GameBoy platforming game, Mickey's Dangerous Chase is pretty good. It's got some variety in stages, it's got the gimmick of picking up and throwing blocks, it's got catchy music, and it's unexpectedly challenging. But that doesn't explain how I've spent so many hours on a game that I can now beat in under thirteen minutes. The explanation for that is magical replay value of speedrunning. For me, Mickey's Chase will never again be the game it once was; it's now a race to the finish with every mistake as dire as a game over. But you don't have to speedrun this game to enjoy it. It's not the best game ever, but it's better than many and it's definitely worth playing.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted U (Wii U) (Review) (Videos)
If you wanted a sequel to Burnout Paradise, good, because that's what Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012) is. In it, you explore a large city to find other cars to drive, billboards and gates to smash, and speed cameras to trigger, in between doing races of course. Each vehicle has its own set of races, milestones, and unlockable upgrades. While the graphics, handling, and city design are improved over Burnout Paradise's, the spectacular crashes and variety of challenges are unfortunately taken down a notch. Also, if you're expecting much vehicle customization, prepare to be disappointed, as it doesn't exceed changing each vehicle's color and stats. Most Wanted might be a bit repetitive, but it's still very enjoyable and worth playing for the right price.
Cave Story+ (PC)
Having played the original free version of Cave Story a few times and the Wii Ware version one time, I was already fairly experienced with the game before starting Cave Story+. If you haven't played it yet, you need to. It has some elements from Metroid, but is a bit less exploration based and has more of a story. It's quite challenging (especially when attempting the super secret ending) and the soundtrack is fantastic. What makes it more amazing is that the original was made by just one guy. This remake is cool in that it adds some new challenges and has updated graphics and music. I used to consider this to be a flawless game, but upon my most recent playthrough I did realize that it does have a bit too much of needless backtracking in early areas. Still, Cave Story is a fantastic game that everyone ought to play in one form or another.
Kirby's Return to Dreamland (Wii) (Review) (Videos)
It's unfair that Kirby games don't sell better and that this one in particular came out so late in the Wii's lifetime. Return to Dreamland is truly fantastic and makes the New Super Mario Bros. series hang its head in shame. This entry in the Kirby series has more content, more difficulty, and brings back almost all of the best things from the series to make the ultimate Kirby game. I know it's hard to get a hold of and still rather expensive, but this is one of the best games on Wii and it doesn't deserve to be missed.
Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection (PS3) (Review) (Let's Play)
Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are amazingly fun, unique, and beautiful games, but you probably already knew that. They both manage to develop interesting stories with minimal actual storytelling and have an impressive amount of depth in gameplay for having relatively simple mechanics. Basically, if you took apart a Zelda game and separated its essential parts, Ico would be the dungeons and Shadow of the Colossus would be the adventure and epic boss battles. The HD versions look better than the already good looking originals, but the graphics won't blow you away like those of other PS3 games might. Even with the technical limitations regarding graphics, both of these games had great art direction which allows them to be timelessly appealing in spite of the limitations with which they were originally developed.
Custom Robo (GCN)
"Building and fighting robots? Meh." ... That's what I thought before playing Custom Robo. Thankfully I didn't let that stop me from giving it a try, because it's a lot more than meets the eye. The gameplay is far more technical and strategic than it first seems. Simple button mashing will not get you through Custom Robo, as there are weapon cool downs, cover, vulnerability windows, and tons of minor variables for each weapon to consider. Not only do the battles, the real meat of the game, have a ton of depth, but surprisingly, the story is actually really good as well and manages to present some serious themes while also being absolutely hilariously written and translated. I don't care how much you like fighting robots, chances are you'll enjoy Custom Robo regardless. Also, don't take Custom Robo Arena for DS as a substitute; the gameplay is still good but the writing and story is dull in comparison.
Super Monkey Ball 2 (GCN) (Videos)
What's with this cutesy kid game? It's ridiculously hard, that's what. By the unfortunately short lived developer, Amusement Vision, the team also responsible for F-Zero GX, Super Monkey Ball 2 features a very simple concept: roll a ball into the goal. It's starts out simple enough, but before long, you're rolling up, over, and around ridiculous abstract structures and moving parts. You'll need a keen feel for managing momentum and angles, and a bit of luck, if you want to finish all of this game's levels. For some players, the level of difficulty might just be frustrating, but the game's super fast menus make retrying a level easy and painless. It's one of those games that you'll want to just try over and over until you're finally able to get that monkey-in-a-ball through the goal.
Wii Fit U (Wii U) (Videos)
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Wii Fit U is its purchasing options. The game can be downloaded and played for free for a month. If you want to own it forever, you can buy a special $20 pedometer which syncs up with the Wii U and activates the game. I only played the free version (and I skipped Wii Fit+), but it did have a few welcome improvements to the series. There were some new games and exercises in addition to old ones. You could also join specific Miiverse communities according to how you intended to exercise. Probably the best feature was being able to see which kind of exercises you've been doing the most and easily select exercises that focus on different muscles. The GamePad also has the option to use the camera as a mirror to see how your form matches up with the example. All-in-all, it's a worthy addition to the Wii Fit series, though I expect that it's still going to get old fast and turn into just another bothersome way to exercise before long for most people.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
I haven't played either the first or the third game in this series, but this one was impressively well-made. It has lots of options for how to tackle each situation, buttloads of hidden things to find, and really imaginative scenes involving fear gas. Apart from the fairly lengthy main story, there are also additional challenges to try. My only complaints are that the story isn't anything super interesting and that the last boss is incredibly underwhelming. If you like Batman and/or actiony, sometimes stealthy, bad guy face punchy games, definitely play this.
TrackMania²: Stadium, Canyon (PC)
TrackMania is one of my favorite racing games and it's pretty unique too. It has realistic looking cars and relatively realistic physics, but the tracks are off the wall, with loops and ramps and half-pipes all over the place. It's all about conserving momentum and having perfect execution. Rather than racing against other players directly, TrackMania has you racing to get the best times. Even when playing online on any of the thousands of custom tracks, you'll be racing alongside ghosts of other players and competing to get the fastest time in as many attempts as you can fit in the time limit. Unfortunately, even though the core gameplay is fantastic and addicting, the game isn't without flaws. Since there are three versions of TrackMania², each with its own theme, focus, and physics, the once thriving community has been divided somewhat. The game's many point systems are also confusing and poorly explained, so you'll be hard pressed to figure out what everything means without asking someone. Also, Stadium is hardly any different from the old free version. Still, if you can get it on sale, I'd recommend it. As for which version to get, I'm still partial to Stadium, which is also the cheapest.
Super Mario Bros. 3D World (Wii U) (Videos)
Was it worth the hype? I'd say so. Super Mario 3D World is a prime example of how a 3D Mario game can still be fantastic even with a linear design. This game has tons of cool ideas in each level, fantastic music and graphics, and enough challenge and extra levels for experienced players to enjoy. It's genuinely fun and one of the best Mario games ever. Its only faults are an often wonky camera during multiplayer and an unfortunate lack of online multiplayer. Still, for single player, Mario doesn't get much better than this.
Virtual Boy Wario Land (VB) (Review)
It's short - only about two hours long - but it's pretty sweet. I wouldn't say it's worth buying a Virtual Boy for, but if you already have one, Virtual Boy Wario Land is worth playing for its well designed platforming, exploration, and plentiful secrets. It's a really solid game all around with quick, responsive controls, smooth animations, and cool 3D effects. You might not be able to play it, but at least you now know that it exists. Here's hoping it gets a 3DS remake.
Tales of Xillia (PS3)
I haven't made it very far into the game yet, but here are my impressions so far: The real-time battle system is as good as ever and has the welcome additions of being able to link with a party member for various effects and being able to swap out characters mid-battle. There's also a more interesting skill tree, though it's nothing special when compared with other RPGs. Sidequests are plentiful and easy to spot and they often give you amusing items as rewards which serve no function other than dressing up your characters (mine have bushy eyebrows, aviator glasses, and drippy noses). The overworld and dungeons are thankfully more interactive as well, with objects to climb and jump off of. On the other hand, the story thus far is painfully generic for the genre (though I suspect a twist may be coming), and the quality of the graphics is far below what one would expect for a PS3 game. I can't pass a final judgement on the game at this point, but fans of the series will certainly appreciate all of the improvements to the core gameplay.


Thus ends another year of gaming. Thanks for reading this and other articles on What They Call Games throughout the year! Be sure to follow on Twitter and Facebook to keep updated and show your support. I really appreciate it!

Here's a look back at this year's most popular posts:
1. What's in a DS Download Station
2. 8 Unflattering Depictions of Well-Known Games
3. Pokemon According to my Dad
4. Why do I own this GBA racing wheel?
5. The Terrible PC Version of Super Mario Bros.

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