May 18, 2013
Resistance: Fall of Man is a game of banal hues. Whether I’m referring to the grayish picture it paints of Great Britain circa 1951 amidst the invasion of alien forces, the grim outlook for humanity, or the game’s stiff difficulty, it’s not in high spirits. It was a game that I had a hard time getting drawn into. Sgt. Nathan Hale, the game’s protagonist was unrelatable as he was mostly silent, uttering a handful of words throughout the four days covered. The third-person “past-tense” storytelling also didn’t help draw me in, although it was unique and fitting. Lastly, I just didn’t think the campaign was balanced well.
What’s initially distinguishing about the game is its alternate historical setting. Presumably, World War II never happened as the alien Chimera were ravaging the Soviet Union for decades. The rest of Europe was most likely wary of what was happening behind the Iron Curtain and preparing for the worst, as Great Britain had done. After overtaking Europe, the Chimera crossed the English Channel and all preparations went out the window as the country was lost in a matter of months. Afterwards, the United States sent in a large task force to seek out a secret weapon the Brits claim will save humanity; enter Nathan Hale.
For most of the introductory sequences I was under the impression that Nathan was a silent protagonist. He might well have been as he spoke, like, three times throughout the ten hour campaign. Instead, most of the story was told by Captain Rachel Parker, a British soldier who determined there was something amiss with Nathan immediately – he had been infected by the Chimera. It was of little consequence in the game ultimately, although it was always a pressing concern for her. With Nathan hardly speaking, he really wasn’t characterized, he was little more than the player’s avatar. But through Rachel’s recounting, he was given a story, at the very least.
The narrative cutscenes had Rachel talking about the game’s events in the past-tense, as though they had happened only a few days ago. As she was the one narrating the story, all references to Nathan were in the third-person. I thought these two storytelling mechanics distanced me from Nathan even more than him being a (near) silent protagonist. Nathan’s survival took him all over Britain, but I found the campaign to be relatively event-free and ultimately forgettable.
Gameplay was standard fare for a first-person shooter and it encompassed sequences common across the genre. There was a driving sequence or two including an expletive-inducing tank sequence that had me banging my head against a proverbial wall for countless attempts. What set it apart the most from other similar games was its armory, which makes sense as Insomniac earns high praise for their innovative weaponry. Many staples were present although I felt the game was at its best when I was utilizing a secondary feature or dispatching enemies with a weapon unlike anything I had used before.
Bringing down the enjoyment I had with the game was its difficulty. I’ll start with the health system. Nathan had four chunks of rechargeable health. When one was depleted, I was no longer able to regenerate it. This is highly prevalent nowadays (and it was seven years ago too (I can’t believe this generation is that old!)) but I’ve never played a game where recharging health took so long! On the other hand, the enemies are bullet sponges. I love that the M5A2 Folsom Carbine, the standard human assault rifle, has a 50 round magazine, but dumping into enemies yields a few kills before needing reloaded. Finally, the biggest offender was the checkpoints. I found them so infrequent; I’d have to do battle with dozens of enemies multiple times thanks to a single mistake. Between the three difficulty levels available to me, I chose normal but in many parts, it felt more like hard. This probably earns kudos from some hardcore shooter fans out there, but for someone just wanting to enjoy the game and have a decent amount of challenge, it was off-putting.
The game’s difficulty had me frustrated on many occasions, but I persisted and still think Resistance: Fall of Man was a solid FPS. The story and characterization did very little for me, although the alternate historical setting was plenty enough to start me off. I remember very little astonishing moments or set pieces, but the core gameplay, excluding the difficulty, was really good. I even jumped into the multiplayer for a few matches and had fun, despite a losing streak. I wasn’t exactly raring to jump into Resistance 2 after completing it, but I’d take the plunge anyways.
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is a wondrously weird game. The character that first appeared in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has been divisive since his introduction. He was designed to be weird for weirdness sake and I’ve always been on the side of Zelda fandom that enjoyed his company. Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland never made it to American shores, but it was released in Europe, which means playing it isn’t hard. This version is in English and the DS is region-free so there’s no additional work needed outside of purchasing a copy.
The game begins when Uncle Rupee, a magical character in the shape of the universe’s currency appears before Tingle, a single, 35 year old man with little direction in life. Uncle Rupee promises Tingle entrance to a world unlike his own, a theme park of sorts, if Tingle can scrounge up the necessary money. And so Tingle dons his familiar green onesie and sets out to quench his thirst for excitement.
One thing I really like about this game is how it adheres to the concept of money. Everything requires coinage. Tingle’s stack of Rupees represents his health so if they ever deplete, its game over. Reason enough to always have a good amount handy. The characters that occupy Tingle’s world, all want dough too. If you visit a vendor, you have to pay them before they’ll open shop. Even having a conversation with them requires Tingle to cough up Rupees.
I found this annoying at first because nobody told you how much they wanted; you had to make an offer and hope you didn’t overspend. Once I got accustomed to this mechanic and the going-rate for things in the world though, I began to “know” how much something would cost. Lowballing characters could result in lost Rupees if they rejected my offer but still took my money. However, when I successfully came in under a suggested amount, I felt like a wheeler and/or a dealer.
This concept of cash rules everything around me was also a large hang-up of mine because of its correlation to the combat. It seemed to me the major source of income early on was fighting enemies to harvest the recipe ingredients they’d drop, make soups, and sell the end product. Enemies weren’t too prevalent and I spent a lot of time entering areas, fighting and harvesting ingredients, exiting to allow the enemies to respawn and repeating over and over. I didn’t find this gameplay loop enjoyable, especially when the combat was nonexistent.
Brushing up against an enemy created a cartoonish dust cloud fight which lasted until one of us croaked. I could tap to speed up the process, but I honestly didn’t notice much impact. Wrangling multiple enemies into the fight multiplied the amount and quality of items that would drop so I always tried to fight groups rather than individual enemies. Finding groups was hard though; I typically found a close-knit group of enemies and returned to them over and over again when harvesting ingredients. Mercenaries could be bought for extra oomph in combat, but many times, they ruined my attempts at gathering enemies together. They’d either trigger battles when I was trying to set something larger up, or wipe out an enemy before I could get another into the fight.
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland was a humorous game, but in my opinion its primary gameplay mechanic was both its reason for being and its Achilles heel. The game’s devotion to the concept cash is king was distinguishing, but I didn’t enjoy the repetitive gameplay loop I had to go through early on to get ahead. The art design was fantastic and the characterization was top-notch so there are solid reasons to import the game. Heck, being able to say I own/played a game from another country is cool in itself.
May 13, 2013
The final game my friend and I played was Light Wars. This was a game highly influenced by Geometry Wars and it wasn’t afraid to show it. It was the same concept, an arena-based shooter where players fended of loads and loads of enemies. The major difference, and perhaps the only one, in comparison to Geometry Wars was the weapon used. When firing, an energy beam extended from the player and bounced around for a few seconds before disappearing. When I played, I used this like a windshield wiper, cleaning the stage of the enemies.
Everyone was pressed for time at this point as the designers were given the order to begin tearing down their stations. I was fortunate enough to have gotten to play Light Wars for a few more rounds. Like Geometry Wars, it was an addicting score attack game. I also didn’t get any contact information for the designer behind it and unfortunately, I didn’t even catch his name.
May 13, 2013
The next to last game my friend and I played was Cannon Golf. It was probably my favorite game of the show as I really dug the learning curve and the responsiveness of the balls. Attempting to make it to the hole in as few strokes as possible was the name of the game and this was made difficult by the various obstacles on each stage. However, at players’ disposal were three different types of balls; a normal one, one with inverse gravity, and a third that would stick to surfaces.
I remember discussing with Kevin Meier, one of the game’s designers, the efforts he went through to have the balls react realistically when hitting walls. From what I could tell, his work was a success. The only thing I noticed was that sometimes, when my ball looked like it was in the hole, the game wouldn’t recognize this and I’d have to take an additional stroke or two so that was always a bummer. Still, I dug the succinct stages and the puzzle-like nature of the game and it held my interest for the entirety of the demo.
May 12, 2013
Now try not to get confused here, but the next game my friend and I played was Shotgun Wizard. Previously we had played a game called Gun Mage so the fact that there were two games with drastically similar names was something of a comedy, like Dead Space and Killzone. Even the developers were joking around with each other. These were two dissimilar games however.
Controlling the eponymous shotgun wizard, players were confined to a side-scrolling room that was continually bombarded by skateboarders, babies on balloons, and bouncer-size men. The shotgun used had three types of magical ammunition that players could switch between on the fly. In fact, it was encouraged through the game’s scoring system. Getting kills by alternating ammunition increased the score multiplier. Not utilizing this tactic would result in lackluster scores.
Shotgun Wizard was a score attack game and my only gripe was with its controls. Movement was done with S and D or the arrow keys, looking was the result of moving the mouse left or right, jumping was W or the up arrow, ammunition switching was the E key, and shooting was done with a left mouse click. I never got the hang of moving left and right and also having to look left or right, so when it got hectic (and believe me, it did) I cratered quickly. Still, with enough practice, it was fun trying to outdo my best score.
May 11, 2013
Having actually completed Gun Mage, my friend and I moved onto Pet Duck, another game that I was able to see through to the end. Pet Duck was a lighthearted top-down action game which saw the player searching through maze-like stages in search of their pet duck. The player character was equipped with a gun but I found it inefficient – I wound up playing the game doing my best to evade enemy fire and I found enjoyment through that.
There were about five stages and humorously, when the player found the duck in all but the final stage, it turned out to be a decoy. The text explaining this had me grinning each time. The most impressive aspect of the game was the soundtrack. It was an epic summer-blockbuster sort of theme that totally didn’t match the game. But, it was just one more contextual thing that made the game humorous. Pet Duck wound up winning the game showcase so congrats are in order for End to Begin Games.