May 14, 2012
In the interest of making money, some companies resort to rebooting their classic franchises and the results are usually less than stellar. This is a common practice for Atari and its stable of classics from the 70s and 80s. Since the era of the Atari 2600 and the golden age of arcades, Atari has struggled and been in the hands of many. In the late 90s when Hasbro owned Atari, Pong, Missile Command, and Centipede were rebooted. They’ve once again fallen back on their classic lineup and last year’s Centipede: Infestation from respected developer WayForward Technologies is one of their newest reboots.
With a strong Saturday morning cartoon vibe, Centipede: Infestation is definitely skewed towards a younger audience. In between stages, stills of animation and goofy voice-acting propel the budding relationship of Max and Maisy. The young gun-for-hire and gardener live in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by giant, radiated bugs and surviving is their day-to-day goal.
Centipede: Infestation cribs from another early 80s classic: Robotron: 2084. In that game, stages were very quick and players were tasked with destroying enemies, rescuing innocents, and surviving. The common element between them is the control scheme and arena-style stages. Robotron: 2084 spawned the dual-joystick shooter that has been oh-so popular in the past handful of years.
The analog moves Max while the face buttons shoot. Shooting in four directions isn’t very fluid and it caused me to try and shoot in one direction the entire time and “walk” my weapon fire into enemies. To be fair, you can shoot diagonally as well, but it didn’t make me change my strategy.
Stages in Centipede: Infestation take place in small arenas and players help Max survive by killing enemy bugs with his gun, powerful stomp, and power-ups. Capping off stages are fateful battles with a centipede whose movements call to mind the original Centipede. Stages are short and sweet and although the shooting isn’t perfect, the dual-joystick genre is still easy enough to get into and most importantly, fun.
Reboots of classics usually aren’t successful but there are always exceptions – Pac Man Championship Edition (DX too!) comes to mind and I’ll include Galaga Legions because I like it. Centipede: Infestation isn’t the Centipede game people will remember and, while enjoyable, it’s not for me.
By the way, a dozen or so classic Atari 2600 games are available to play for free on Atari’s website.
March 24, 2012
Nintendo’s two Picross games for the Nintendo DS (Picross DS and Picross 3D) easily top the list of great timewasters. In them, players use logic and a hint of math to fill in empty grids that then yield an image. They can take anywhere from a few seconds to a half hour depending on the size of the grid, and each game contains hundreds of puzzles. The ease of playing them and the sense of accomplishment fuels their drive to consume any of my free time.
Mario’s Picross was the original Picross game from Nintendo and it was released on the Game Boy in 1995. It’s also available as a downloadable on the Nintendo 3DS via its Virtual Console storefront. I recently picked it up, and as is always the case when I play one, it consumed my time and had me staying up late saying to myself “just one more” over and over.
Picross puzzles are grids of blank squares that need to be filled in. Beside each row and column are numbers designating how many squares are to be filled, and in what order. For example, imagine a 15 x 15 puzzle with a row that has the numbers 7 and 7 beside it. Because the row is 15 squares long, I know that the first 7 squares are going to get filled in, there’ll be a space, and the last 7 squares will be filled in. That’s an easy example because the numbers indicating how many squares to fill in total 15; 7+1 (blank space)+7=15. It gets trickier when a row or column has only a few filled in squares. In situations like that, players really have to examine other rows and columns and view puzzles in their entirety.
In the Nintendo DS games, when I’d fill in squares, their corresponding numbers beside the row or column would become grayed out, making it easier for me to keep track of what I hadn’t done yet. This feature isn’t present in Mario’s Picross and it made solving puzzles not necessarily tougher, just a little more annoying. Another facet that hinders my play sessions is the size of the screen. If you don’t remember, the screen on the original Game Boy was tiny; it’s probably the reason I wear glasses today. I tended not to play Mario’s Picross for extended sessions to avoid eye strain. The screen is enlarged on the 3DS, I just wish you could distort the perspective to make it fit the handheld’s screen entirely. Still, Mario’s Picross is a great timewaster and a great game for just a couple of bucks.
January 21, 2012
Nintendo has made news with its downloadable services recently. Their approach to the digital space rarely is news worthy and when it is, it’s usually not for a good reason. When they began offering demos on the Wii, they decided to limit when they were accessible instead of having them permanently available, until about a week ago when they released all previously available demos for no apparent reason. In other news, the Nintendo eShop (the 3DS downloadable service) has been garnering praise recently for hosting quality games; an uncommon reaction considering the lay of the land of original games on Nintendo’s downloadable services.
This brings me to the point of this article. Newsworthy only because I’m writing about it, the eShop received its first demo recently. Resident Evil: Revelations is the title and it’s one of my few experiences with the venerable series.
I was wowed by the game’s graphics. It seems Capcom likes to flex their technical prowess with the series as of late and Revelations looks great. Of course, it looks great in the pantheon of handheld games, but even thrown alongside the output of current home consoles, it’s still eye-catching. The environment I played in had many rooms and they contained nice detail. Dressers had items scattered about them and bookshelves were brimming with books. I wasn’t impressed with the 3D though. I tried playing with it for a bit and it didn’t look much different; text did pop well though.
Because I lack knowledge on the series, the plot would be above my head, if the demo had contained much info on it. I played as Jill Valentine, a familiar heroine for the series, and she woke up confused as to where she was and how she got there. She had contact from another person who she spent the rest of the demo trying to reach.
The game’s environment and Jill’s impression of it being a mansion led me to believe she was in a mansion. But it turns out this was just a clever nod to the original. Until she reached her cohort, I was fooled; it turns out she was on a ship. The rooms I explored looked as if they belonged in a mansion; well decorated rooms, long hallways, gala rooms, this ship was nice. Except for the zombies.
Zombies, or whatever Capcom wants to call them nowadays. Revelations takes place in between Resident Evil 4 and 5, so the creatures didn’t look like stock zombies. They staggered towards me like zombies, but they looked like ghastly deformed humans. The demo culminated with Jill fighting a “super” creature, one who had spikes extending from its arms.
Instead of tank controls as was custom in the series’ early years, Revelations inherits the control scheme from Resident Evil 4. The newer control setup gives gunplay an enhanced role in the game, and prevents me from “fighting” the awkward movement found in the earlier games. I controlled Jill with the analog stick and although I lacked a second one (good for camera control) the way the camera moved with Jill was fine. To shoot zombies creatures, I pulled up Jill’s gun and I then saw from her eyes. I couldn’t move when in first-person and this stillness has received much flak from critics. It’s frustrating when a creature is right in front of my character and I have to exit this view and quickly run away to get some distance again, but I’m okay with it as it’s a design choice and not an oversight on Capcom’s part and I’m not here to critique it.
Perhaps my favorite part of the demo was scanning for hidden items. Because there’s a scarcity of ammunition and healing items, it can be tough to survive. This item management can amplify the tension when a creature suddenly appears and I need to decide whether to take it out quickly with a shotgun and sacrifice hard to find shotgun shells or risk loss of life and get in close with a knife. This scanner gave me the confidence that I could succeed as I was better equipped after finding hidden items.
Even though Resident Evil: Revelations features a more action-oriented control scheme, the pace of the game was quite slow. Jill didn’t really run, but the level I played wasn’t full of creatures so I could take my time. There was a simple “fetch this to progress” obstacle in Jill’s way which makes me wonder what puzzles, if any, will be in the game. One thing I’m not in the dark about is Nintendo’s continued off-kilter policies regarding the downloadable space – the demo for Resident Evil: Revelations has a limited number of plays, albeit thirty is plenty.