Backlog - Just After Valentines Day Edition

new latest happy valentines day 2013 (3)

Valentines day has come and gone, so I hope you remembered. You remembered, right?

Oh shit, dude. Did you at least call her? Oh, man. And you didn't get her a card or anything? Jeez.

Well you're basically screwed, but look at the bright side - now that you're single, or in the doghouse, you can spend all that newly free time playing video games! Here's what we've been playing here at the 'Squatch. -Spencer Tordoff

gaming-spaceteam

Nick

I played another hour of Assassin's Creed III, and I continue to marvel at its spectacular ineptitude. I've never been so fascinated by something so poorly executed. I stabbed more people in the face/neck region, and I expect I'll do a little bit more of that over the course of the game's two remaining sequences.

But enough of this "core-gamer" nonsense. Let's talk about Spaceteam.

Spaceteam is the greatest party game for friends with iPhones. It's also free. If you have people in your life whose company you enjoy and access to two or more iDevices, you owe it to yourself to try Spaceteam out at least once. You and your cohorts are the crew of an endangered spacecraft. The gameplay is simple — each crew member pushes buttons and performs basic evasive maneuvers to keep the ship running — but the tricky part is you almost never know what to do based on what's visible on your screen. And that's where your friends come in.

Each player receives all kinds of insane, nonsensical instructions (usually words, sometimes symbols) that apply to the controls on your friends’ screens and not your own. As a result, your ability to accurately communicate with your friends is the difference between living to fly another day and exploding into space dust. In practice, it's a goofy and ridiculously fun group experience that's increasingly rare these days — I think the closest parallel is WarioWare: Smooth Moves on the Wii, and that came out six years ago.

In short: It's free, it's original, it's a blast. Get it.

ACM

Spencer

I don’t know what’s up with Gearbox, you guys. One year they’re releasing games on the caliber of Borderlands, the next, they come up with a stinker like Duke Nukem.

If you haven’t heard yet, Aliens: Colonial Marines is troubled. Deeply, deeply troubled. I'll go a step further - it's pretty bad. Don’t mistake, I’m having fun playing it, and it’s evoked a few moments of genuine fear from me. But ultimately, my refusal to not have fun is the major driving force in my playing of the game - it’s buggy, ugly, and incomplete. For a game that’s been in incubation for ages, it’s come out half-baked and gooey.

This won’t be a long rant. Gearbox’s output is maddeningly inconsistent, and that’s really what bothers me the most. I want them to do good work; and they’ve proven they can. They just don't always, like a developer following the Star Trek Rule.

Anyway.

Hawken is shelved for now, as I’ve broken Battlefield 3 back out to prepare for Emerald City LAN. Team Fortress 2 won’t be far behind. Look out, opponents, I’ll be kicking ass, taking names, and calling people “hetero” all night.

Audiosurf is, perhaps, one of my favorite games, and definitely one of my most-played on Steam. I almost exclusively play as Mono Pro, and the effect is zen, almost therapeutic. Hungover in the morning? Meandering through a nice slow track puts my throbbing head and churning stomach at ease. Bewildered from a feverish nightmare brought on by a nap-inducing bowl of cereal? Sliding down lively ska tracks bring me back up to speed. Stressed from a promising but harrowing job interview? Dodging bricks in a post-rock track gives me time for introspection.

You probably have a copy, from a sale or indie bundle. If you’ve never played Audiosurf, install it. Try a round with Retreat, Retreat! by 65daysofstatic - if you follow any one of my recommendations, please let it be this one. It’ll treat you right. I promise.

Sly_Cooper_Collection_PS3

Tyler

A new Sly Cooper game was released last week. You likely wouldn't know it if you weren't actively paying attention to release schedules thanks to Sony's seeming inability to adequately market it's own properties. I enjoyed the first Sly title, Sly Cooper and The Thievious Raccoonous on the PlayStation 2 a good deal, so I'm certainly curious, but I thought it might be prudent to check out developer Sanzaru's previous work in the franchise by finishing the HD Collection on PS3 (the original PS2 titles were developed by 'inFamous' developer, SuckerPunch; Sanzaru handled the port to high-definition).

I never completed the Sly trilogy, so this week I started Sly 2: Band of Thieves. The gulf between the two titles as gameplay experiences is wide. Whereas Sly 1 is a fairly linear experience primarily consisting of platforming with some stealth elements thrown in, Sly 2 gives the player a much more open world that needs constant traversal to find and accomplish mission objectives. Enemy placements and their ability to quickly call for reinforcements and gang up on the player puts a stronger emphasis on remaining undetected. It's still not an overly difficult experience but certainly more challenging than its predecessor.

Ordinarily I'd praise a developer for branching out into an open environment. Linearity can get tiresome, especially if you're playing through a level multiple times. In Sly 2, however, it feels like some of the appeal from the original is missing. Level design is a crucial aspect to platformers and Sly 1's was masterful. On the PS2, I not only finished the game and found all the hidden doodads, but I went through all the levels again for time trials. With how many times the player is forced to traverse a single environment during a chapter in Sly 2 to complete all necessary story objectives, the setting becomes bland and tired. It's a shame, because the world of Sly Cooper is charming and fun. The characters are, too, so long as you're not playing as them.

In Sly 1 the only playable character was the titular raccoon. In Sly 2, however, his cohorts now have their own sets of missions during a chapter. Sly never descends into Sonic the Hedgehog territory insofar as insufferable mandatory playable characters go, but it does move slightly in that general direction. Whereas Sly is quick and agile, his friends Bently the Turtle and Murray the Hippopotamus are both slow and largely a chore to navigate the environment with. Their specific missions aren't much better. Murray is referred to as "the muscle", and as such his missions usually consist of engaging large numbers of enemies in combat, a gameplay mechanic that is far from the title's strongsuit. Bently is "the brains", and his missions tend to revolve around a need to hack something and often end in a tron-esque twin-stick shooter; this is less fun than it sounds. The desire to add new content to a sequel is understandable, but a developer should be confident that what they're adding is at least equally enjoyable to the primary experience that brings fans to a series in the first place.

There is, however, enough of what works from its predecessor to be enjoyable, but Sly 2 is a classic example of a sophomore slump. Eventually I'll get around to playing through Sly 3 to finish out the HD Collection, but based solely on my experience with the first two titles, I can completely understand why SuckerPunch felt there was no need to return to the franchise on the PS3.