The Backlog: Planes, Games, and Automobiles Edition

A hectic week for all involved in the Sasquatch-sphere, as we've been all over the proverbial world map. Doug's been to the south and back, Aaron's been busy in the Bay Area, Nick is taking off for points unknown (I'm convinced he's a government operative and I'd be killed if I knew), and Tyler, our man in Japan, has been finishing games faster than you can say "Hai, douzo!" However, there's been some time to play games in there — everything from JRPGs to iPhone best-sellers, with a dash of Minecraft thrown in for good measure.

Without further ado...on with the Backlog.

Nick

It's been one of those weeks where, for better or worse, everything just comes together all at once. And as a result, that's meant precious little time for playing games.

I sank some time into Minecraft while grabbing images for the article that ran yesterday, but my current pet projects will have to be put on hold for a couple of days while I head out of town for a bit. I'll be bringing Dragon Quest IX along and trying to give it another go. I lost all motivation when I brought it to PAX and booted up the game's mingle mode; as it turns out, most people there had played the game for well over 100 hours, and they still hadn't finished all the endgame content. And while I have enjoyed the twelve hours or so that I've spent with it, do I really want to keep throwing countless hours at yet another unassuming yet horribly addictive game?

Well, yeah. Of course. But I need to be careful!

Doug

Last weekend, I flew from Silicon Sasquatch HQ in Portland, Oregon out to Louisville, Kentucky in order to play Aussie Rules football for Portland's club in the USAFL national tournament. This necessitated entirely too much time in airplanes and airports, and since I was trying to be studious and get homework done, I didn't pack my DS and Dragon Quest like I'd planned.

Of course, things took their course, and I promptly attacked my iPhone battery with Angry Birds. Now, this game is very popular — indeed, if Marx asserted that religion is the opiate of the masses, then Angry Birds is a very close second. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you probably have this game or have seen it at some point; it's nigh-impossible to avoid. Bizarrely enough, that's not a bad thing; media that's made a stratospheric mass-market jump is often pretty terrible, but Angry Birds is a damn good puzzle game that's both addictive and rewarding. After getting stuck (and resorting to the developer, Rovio, and their official YouTube channel for a walkthrough), I'm back off and running — and, err, smashing pigs left and right. It's amazing how engaging a good puzzle game can be.

Speaking of smashing, I've been busting up plenty of carbon fiber in F1 2010. I still really enjoy the game, don't get me wrong, but having to race the AI on a track it's somehow very good at in weather that's terrible is the definition of frustration. And, now, I'm to the Monaco Grand Prix, the jewel in the crown of Formula 1 racing...but a royal pain in the ass to be quick at. A former Formula 1 driver once described the Monte Carlo circuit as "trying to ride a bicycle in your living room"; I wholeheartedly agree. It's something of a nightmare, and I'm having trouble finding a good setup.

Tyler

Like Aaron, I took have been hooked by a 2010 Square-Enix DS RPG...but I’ve always leaned more towards the Square side of things.  I’m about 10 hours into Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light and despite initial appearances, it plays closer to a game that came out on the SNES or even the NES.

All the terrifying rumors about this being a devastatingly old-school RPG hold a kernel of truth, but it hasn’t scared me off; quite the opposite in fact. After putting some time into another Square-Enix handheld title, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, it’s such a relief to play a new RPG that doesn’t rely on holding your hand for the first 5 to 15 hours while inundating you with cutscenes full of incomprehensible plot. 4 Heroes of Light is most certainly a challenging game with many archaic design decisions, yet I’ve never found it frustrating. Every problem you encounter has hints leading (without directly telling) the answer.  It’s a novel idea in contemporary games.

I also wrapped up the single-player campaign on Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light on PSN.  At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, games like this are exactly why services like Xbox Live Arcade & PSN exist. The story lasted pretty much the optimal amount of time — if it had continued any further the mechanics may have grown stale. I couldn’t have seen this succeeding as a full-retail boxed product, but as a summer DLC release it’s ideal.  While I can certainly understand why Eidos and Square-Enix chose not to release this under the Tomb Raider moniker, it is the most refreshing, unique game featuring the titular character since her first outing.

The plot is paper-thin and the voice acting is atrocious, but Lara Croft features stunning visuals and is a blast to play.  The Tomb Raider concept adapts well to a twin-stick shooter.  My only major gripe would be that the isometric viewpoint can become a hinderance to some of the platforming necessary to traverse the game.  With the allure of eventual online co-op and a slew of unlockable weapons and bonuses, I almost certainly see myself revisiting this title.

Aaron

I was in San Francisco this past week to explore a beautiful city I'd never been to before. I had an amazing time there, thanks to my girlfriend and her gracious family. Let it be known: I'm telling anyone who has yet to make the trip to go -- right away. Being the proud Oregonian I am, I used to scoff at the claims that San Francisco and the Bay Area are some of the most beautiful locations in the world. However, I'm able to refute my former ignorance. The fact is I didn't play any games this week, unless you count a few rounds of Connect 4 on an iPad. There were just too many activities and sights to see in the Bay.

But now that I'm back, I'm ready to get my game on as it were. My sights are set on Fallout: New Vegas, which is released next Tuesday.