Archive | June, 2009

Review – Mario Kart DS

INTRO

The game has no real intro other than the main interface menu. It leads you straight to the action you’re looking for. It gives you the choice between several different game modes, which are fairly self-explainatory.

I knew what to expect from the game because Mario Kart SNES was my favorite game of its time, but non-players might be thrown into confusion. This could have been avoided by giving the game even a short intro movie.

GETTING GOING

The controls are easy to figure out. During the first race, I started reving my engine too early, and ended up spinning out, which was a little frustrating. This could have been avoided by giving you a hint on the interface of how long you should rev your engine for.

The interface is also easy to figure out (laps, race position, power-up). The power-ups arn’t all obvious as to what they do, which is part of the fun of the game. Overall, this game is easy to get into, and gets fun really quickly.

FUN

The variety of obstacles, courses, characters, vehicules, and power-ups makes the game fun for a very long time. The various levels of difficulty adds a challenge of the game, and the race unlocking adds an element of acheivement.

The new elements of this Mario Kart game, relative to its predecessors, still held suprises for me. I found that important to the game, because otherwise I would have found the game to be bland.

VISUALS

I enjoy the cutscenes at the start of the races, giving you an overview of the map. The bright (or exceedingly gloomy) landscapes are very entertaining to race through. The mix of 2d and 3d elements is clever, and gives an impression of surrealism. The cartoon feel of the game makes it very fun.

INTELLIGENCE

The intelligence of the computer players isn’t impressive. I don’t consider this game a test of wits so much as a test of quick reflexes. Most of the time, I felt myself playing the game instead of the challengers.

Without adding more elements to the game, I don’t think it’s possible to add more intelligence to the computer players. Adding more elements to the game would make it clumsier and more complicated, so I think the game is right the way it is.

IMMERSION

The cut scene at the beginning of each race makes it easy to become immersed into the game from the very start. The vivid environements and sound effects also help.

The immersion lasts from start to race to finish. I found that if the race was on a too easy level, the game seemed repetitive, and I felt less immersed. The more constant the action is, the more immersed I felt.

CAMERAS

The camera is fairly straight-forward, and easy to get the hang of. The camera follows you directly from the back of the vehicule, on the exeption of when drifting (which is clever; otherwise it would make me dissorientated).

CONTROLS

The controls are easy to learn and use. However, I felt a little confused at the start of the game, since there were no instructions or tutorial to guide me. I had to figure out a few controls by myself.

I would have added a short tutorial (capable of skipping) at the beginning of the first race to avoid this frustration.

IDEAS

Half the race courses being reruns of the old Mario Karts was clever, and gave me some nostalgia. Being able to choose your vehicule is a fresh idea. There was nothing dramatically new from the first Mario Karts, which dissapointed me slightly.

MEMORY

I’m left wanting to do some intellectual, because of how unstimulating the game gets after awhile. I find it conveniant for Mario Kart DS to be made for a portable console, because it gives me access to a portable quick action fix.

I would describe the high point of the game as being: “A fun racing game with a couple of twists. Vivid worlds and simple yet elegant game controls offer a couple of minutes of satisfying fantasy action.”

Review – Half-Life

INTRO

The introduction cut-scene, although a bit too long, adds a lot of suspence, foreshadowing, and wonder to the start of the game. The fact that you can move around in your lift also puts you into character. It being one of the first games of its genre, I can only imagine how much awe the introduction put into the players of its time.

I also like the fact that the tutorial isn’t built into the game, giving experienced gamers the choice to skip it altogether.

If I could change one thing about the intro, I would shorten it a little bit. After 2 minutes, I started to get a little restless, and annoyed.

GETTING GOING

The learning curve was dead on. The game requires you to use certain actions to move on to the next stages, making the eventual fights challenging only to intuition and reflex, and not as much to prior FPS experience.

The lack of “out-of-character” guidance (messages poping up on the screen) kept you immersed in the game, even through the “pre-action” stages of the game.

I found the foreshadowing a little excessive, however. I don’t consider the storyline a big element of the game.

FUN

There were a lot of suprises, which most of the time got my heart beating fast. The game definitely keeps you on your toes, almost never letting go of your nerves. At one point, noises around my house made me jump.

The challenges in the game are very intuitive in nature, which makes even the hardest ones fun, and not frustrating. If there was one thing I would have added to increase my experience: more hidden ammo/health, and a bit more NPC interaction.

VISUALS

The occasional darkness gives you suspence, a sense of caution. The flickering flashes of “energy” gives you a sense of the supernatural, which makes the game very freaky.

INTELLIGENCE

Some enemies in the game have a primitive intelligence (See live thing, jump on live thing), which suits them well. Other more evolved enemies prefer to attack from a distance, which makes the combat more tactical in nature. I enjoy the variety of different AI attributed to different enemies.

The NPC AI is also suitable; the fight/flight instinct is displayed well.

IMMERSION

The combination of visuals, sounds, and constant need for alertness makes for a very immersive game. My curiousity also becked me to keep playing to find more weird alien things.

A couple of things that could have enhanced my level of immersion would have been a more complex background story, and more safe areas to relax in. Playing the game felt like a test of endurance for my nerves, since I almost never got a break from the action.

CAMERAS

The game only incorperated a first person view of the action. I think it’s a good thing they did, because I think a third person view would hurt the immersion in the game.

There were no camera problems that I could find.

CONTROLS

As with most first person shooters, the controls are very straight-forward, and easy to get the hang of. I wouldn’t change anything about them.

The in-game interface is well done. I like it how the weapons menu only appears when you want it to. I also like the feeling they gave you that the interface comes from your biohazard suit (the interface only appears when you slip it on).

IDEAS

I like the concept of a parrallel universe, with mutated things travelling between it and our world. It gives the game a supernatural and wonderous feeling. It made me want to keep playing, so I could experience more surreal events/creatures.

In-game advanced technology is nothing new to the gaming world, but I like it how Half-Life introduced the modern day “Frankenstein” to it. By that, I mean: What if we meddled so far as to corrupt the fabrics of time/space?. When the events in the game led to that discovery, a small feeling of uneasiness came over me for that reason.

The game doesn’t have much in the way of customization/freedom, but I think they did a good job at dragging you through the horrors in the game.

MEMORY

After finally closing the game, I was left feeling a little shaken, but still curious to see what other strange things the game holds in store. Because I feel compelled to, I’m definitely going to play it until completion.

I would sum this game up like so: A horror first person shooter game, where you’re always left wondering, and most of the time fearing, what’s around the dark corner.