Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Mario Galaxy 2, Nier - Reviews

Covering Galaxy 2 after the dark and (slightly awesome-ly) depressing Nier reminded me how much fun games can be. It's the type of primary colour charged experience that made everyone in the room, well mostly my two kids, stop what they were doing and just gawp at what was going on. I was really interested to try and cover this one from a soulful angle, concentrating on all those happy playful memories you have from childhood and why Mario games have that certain Nintendo grade-A quality to them.

I'm not sure if I was successful in this regard or not - the biggest problem for me came when I honestly analysed how I felt about the game and more especially when I compared to the first Galaxy. It certainly looks and plays a lot better than the 2007 game but I really didn't feel the same magic was there. Most of those issues I raised in my previous post and in the review - all to do with the wrapper that goes round both Mario Galaxy games and how different they are. I imagine I must be a genetic anomaly or something but I really preferred the original. Or I'm turning into one of those insufferable people who cannot abide newness and change.

In any case the review is here - and my Nier review goes up on GamePeople later in the month but is accessible via this once-in-a-lifetime link -

Oh yeah. I also managed to spew out a user review on my Giant Bomb profile page. If I'm honest I actually prefer this one to my GamePeople review but it really didn't have a place on the site as it's just a plain old mainstream-style bit 'o work. Also, it's completely unedited so I expect there's even more grammatical ineptitude present than usual.

Next on my plate could be Persona 3 Portable. A game I'm really looking forward to playing but also mortified at the time it'll take to get through. Given that Dragon Quest 9 is out next month I can see myself imploding with turn-based combat and cute Japanese characters. Not a bad to go if you ask a freak like me.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

More Nier, less Mario

I'm hoping my review for Nier will be up very soon on GamePeople and in many ways I've enjoyed that game as much as, say, Mass Effect 2. It has nowhere near that level of polish but in many respects it felt a far more intimate experience simply because it hasn't been a popular title.

There's a real danger of overstating and over-praising a game like Nier because of the erratic reviews it's received from major publications - and there's always the temptation to criticise universally received titles just to get attention. However cool it might be to act the contrarian you've always got to back up your opinion with some form of evidence or reason. With Nier I feel the positive emotional experience far outweighed the technical issues and the awkward dialogue moments it had.

This leads me on to Super Mario Galaxy 2. A game I wasn't expecting to write about under the Soulful Gamer banner until I was asked to. I had, coincidentally been playing the first Galaxy with my son for the past few months and really enjoying most aspects of it. It's been a perfect 30 minute filler before dinner time and the one aspect that I've really enjoyed is the hub-world and all the Rosalina story-time parts.

It's probably a very odd thing to say but the whole narrative of the first Galaxy was enchanting and full of personality and character that gave all that awesome platforming a point other than the exceptional gameplay. I can't say the same about Galaxy 2 and everything that made the first one special feels like its been thrown out to just add more levels. It feels more like an utterly awesome expansion pack that unfortunately contains none of the charm outside of those levels the first game had.

Before I return to Nier I also want to clarify the Alan Wake review that's currently on the Soulful Gamer section on Gamepeople. Being a website that has some diverse sections rather than specific writers it means that there's a generous amount of guest/ghost writing across sections. Which means that the Canabalt and Alan Wake reviews were both penned by other reviewers. I'm not saying this 'cos I believe the reviews to be crap or anything, far from it, I just want to be clear that those views on Alan Wake aren't mine. Why I'm sounding all snotty and trite about it is because I've just started the game and really don't feel it's up to snuff... yet. By the gods, I just love being the contrarian at the moment eh? God-damn opinions.

But back to Nier and I really wanted to highlight a couple of points I never had the room to put into my review. Firstly, the music is exception. It's full of highly produced songs and themes that give each character and place a distinct sound. Some of the tracks, especially those for Emil or Yonah, melt the heart with their beautiful melodies. Some of the tracks are a little chant-heavy that work well within the game but sound excessively odd when I listen with headphones. Maybe I'm just not LARPing well enough for those but the rest of the tracks make up one of the best soundtracks I've heard for a while. And yes, I am a videogame music nerd. Go on, point and laugh if you must.

Finally, I have to flag up a negative about the game in order to not sound like the religious fanatic that would see me deported. I recently began a new game + which puts you back into the game about halfway through the plot. It seems the four endings you can get require four playthroughs, which is fine, and each of them focuses on the main characters in turn, which is more than fine. However, the second playthrough seems to be conveying the backstory of Kaine with page after page of text rather than offering any gameplay differences or alternative cut-scenes. It's disappointing that they have to resort to a wall of prose rather than offering something a little more compelling, but I guess if you're as invested in the game as I've been then you're probably going to lap up the hermaphrodites backstory with glee. Lap up, urgh.