I have a terrible habit of playing too many games at once. The result is I have a huge backlog of games which I’ve bought and simply haven’t had time to look at yet. I got Bad Company 2 the day it came out, and it’s still sitting here on my desk in its cellophane wrapping. I bought Final Fantasy XIII ages ago too and thats still sealed. And I even did install and play the first few hours of Bioshock 2, but then my PC decided to die on me, and I lost my savefiles…must get back to that soon. However, right now I have 3 games I’m focusing on, and aside from the fact they’re all dark and depressing, they couldn’t be any more different – one is a creepy 2D indie platformer, one is an old school FPS, and one is the most unforgiving RPG I’ve ever played.
This is out on Xbox Live Arcade, and it’s totally mesmerising. Essentially, its a 2D platformer with a solid physics engine, and truly stunning artwork and animation. There’s no music, but theres plenty of creepy sounds which make up the lonely atmosphere. You are a kid, apparantly lost in some god-forsaken world, and simply have to navigate your way through it. There’s no speech, nothing to read, it’s just you and the kid, figuring out what to do next. The puzzles are clever, and you will die horribly trying to figure out how to solve some of them, but the solutions are always fair and will make you smile briefly when you figure them out, then wince as you stumble into the next hidden trap. I can’t say I’ve ever been as creeped out by a game of this sort, and I love it. From a technical viewpoint, it’s also really impressive how there aren’t any load screens – the entire game has, so far at least, taken place in one continuous progression, a subtley not everyone will even notice, but it does a great job of keeping you immersed in this dark and lonely world. And the animation is lovely…
Return to Castle Wolfenstein was the game that brought PC gaming to my attention way back in 2001, so when the new one came out last year, I was keen to try it, even though it didn’t exactly meet with critical success. So far I’m about 60% through the singleplayer story, and its a very solid FPS, albeit a fairly mindless one. id have chosen to stick with what they know best – the over-the-top guns feel suitably powerful and are fun to use, the enemy AI is decent enough, and everything about the game is solid. It’s hard to go beyond this level of excitement for an old school shooter as this these days, since we’ve been treated to some vastly superior storytelling and gameplay mechanics from the likes of Bioshock in recent years. I will try to fight my way through the rest of it at some point, but I feel as though I need more from a game these days to keep my interest – blowing stuff up and shooting Nazi’s in the face, I’m pained to say, can in fact become boring.
Undoubtedly the hardest RPG I’ve played in a long time. Demon’s Souls has only just made it’s way to the UK (it’s been out in Japan for over a year I think, and it came out in 2009 in America), and after watching a friend play it for 7 hours last weekend I thought I’d like to try it. It’s a third person dungeon crawler, in which you pick from a number of fairly standard classes – warriors, wizards, thiefs, etc – and then enter a dark, depressing and quite horiffic world of demons. The land of Boletaria has been infested with a huge fog storm, and with it, all manner of terrible monsters have started claiming the souls of humanity and is slowly spreading across the world. It’s your job to stop them naturally. As you kill demon’s, you gain souls, which are used to spend on upgrading your character and buying new equipment, but as you’ll find out from the very first level, its all too easy to die and lose everything you’ve earned up to that point. You see, if you die in Demon’s Souls, you don’t simply restart from a checkpoint, you have to start from the very beginning of the dungeon you’re in, and fight off every single monster all over again. If you can fight your way back to the point you died previously, you can pick up all the souls you earned and they get added to your new stash. The combat is skill based, you have to manually aim where you swing your sword and use shields to block and parry attacks frequently, and it becomes very challenging when you get swarmed from all sides by multiple enemies. It can be very frustrating, but its also really rewarding when you make it through a dungeon and beat one of the enormous bosses, which are one of the highlights for me. It’s not for everyone, and I doubt I’ll ever finish it, but it’s worth checking out if you want to try something a little more challenging than today’s regular hand-holding checkpoint-happy games.
So that’s it. Go buy Limbo if you have a 360: it deserves your money.