Monday, October 20, 2008

3 Quick Gaming Reviews

About a month ago, I wrote an entry reviewing 5 movies in a Remembering style, and I thought that there were a few games that I could give the same kind of treatment.

I bought these three titles for the Playstation 2, each for 10 dollars new, so barring any availability issues, you should likely be able to find them for an affordable price as well. In addition, 2 out of the 3 of the titles below are also available on multiple platforms, so you can take my reviews in a more general sense (they aren't PS2 specific).

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. I loved the cartoon version of Harvey Birdman so much... an unbelievable amount, so I was prepared to shell out some dough to play this game no matter what... however, the amount of money I was willing to pay was directly proportional to what kind of game it was. Well, seeing as Harvey Birdman is, as the title says, an attorney, it seems fitting that the producers of this game decided to mine the interface and play style of another game series, Phoenix Wright. This means that the gameplay is built from elements of finding clues and then presenting evidence and pressing witnesses in court. The fact that the witnesses happen to be such former clients as Secret Squirrel, Magilla Gorilla as well as Birdman's adversaries like X the Eliminator and The Deadly Duplicator makes it entertaining, but advancing through a level/case requires that you match evidence against a particular piece of testimony in a specified order, which means there is a lot of trial and error, no pun intended.

This also means the game is short. Real short. Like Verne Troyer short. You could complete it in a couple of hours, and the replay value is minimal, as the narrative is very linear, though the jokes and presentation may make it worth playing again. Now there is something else you have to know if you are a fan of the show: Stephen Colbert was involved with it. Yes, it is noticeable that he is not playing Phil Ken Sebben.

However, another role formerly played by Colbert on the show, opposing attorney Myron Reducto, was rather well done by the replacement voice talent, and it is unfortunate that his character, a fan favorite, did not make a more major appearance. But other than that, the voice work is top notch, with everyone else who is in the game being voiced by their counterpart from the cartoon. If you find it cheap, try it out, but just keep my warnings in mind.

The Red Star: This was a game I hadn't heard of when I first saw it in a video store bargain bin a few months ago, and after doing some research, I discovered it was a kickass game. Based on a series of graphic novels by Christian Gossett, the game takes place in an alternate history of the Soviet Russia featuring both high tech weaponry and magic. The game was originally developed by Acclaim in 2002, but due to that company's bankruptcy, it was only released for the PS2 last year. The gameplay virtually resurrects two almost lost genres of gaming: the 2D beat'em up like Double Dragon and the top down shooter and fuses elements of both genres seamlessly. It also rewards Co-op play, as two fighters are much better than one, especially when you face the huge mechanized bosses, which throw out a lot of firepower at you. To me, those battles are almost an introduction to the Bullet Curtain genre of shooters.

While the difficulty starts off moderate, the game really starts ramping up throughout the 19 levels, which means when you finally beat certain levels, you feel some sense of exhilaration. And speaking of finishing levels, the game also has an upgrade system that is tied to your performance in individual levels... the better you do, the more points you have to upgrade your weapons and other abilities, thus it pays to do well in the earlier levels, as you will likely need all the firepower you can get. If you enjoy a challenge, and you have a friend that does too, or if you are nostalgic for a well-put together blast from the past, The Red Star has much to recommend it.

Lumines Plus: This game is like crack. It is as simple as that. It is electronic crack. This is coming from someone who doesn't have any particular love for puzzle games. I didn't get sucked into Tetris or the various knockoffs that followed, I owned Klax for the NES, but it became an obsession mainly for my sister, and while I did play a few games of Bust-a-move at the arcade, I didn't really take to the game. In fact, the closest I gotten to loving these kinds of games are my forays into the Katamari series which have so much more going for them than simply puzzle elements. Sure, I've also tried some of the arcade games that are included in Taito/Capcom/Midway classics compilations, but I bought those for the action titles they feature, though I admit that games based on Qix still get my attention for a short time. But I digress. The object of Lumines is simple: drop 2X2 squares composed of 1-2 colors and try to make single color squares. It is a simple goal, I know, but somehow, it is very compelling for me. Maybe it is the fact that the soundtrack is linked to the gameplay (there is an element of the game called the timeline which is what clears blocks. This video should illuminate the process), or just the soundtrack in question, which has had me seeking out some of the house and techno music I listened to in the early to mid 1990's, as the backing tracks are in many cases reminiscent of those glory days of electronic music.

I have noticed however that after playing for a while (an hour or so at a time), I have developed eye strain for the first time in my life that is directly attributable to this game in particular (as I played other games around the same time and the same symptoms didn't materialize). Of course, as I type this, I am thinking "You know, you could be playing Lumines right now", so perhaps I will now just run off and play through the pain.


Lee said...

I will definitely be buying Harvey Birdman as I'm a huge fan of the show and any new Birdman will be accepted.

The second game sounds really interesting so I might check that out too.

Been playing a Hulk game of late which is quite good.

Soiled Sinema said...

I couldn't get into the Harvey Birdman show.


Arjan said...

The red star sounds cool, alas I don't have any console.

GatheringDust said...

I have Lumines 1 and 2 for PSP. :) IMHO, it's still one of the best games for the system. :) Simple design, brilliant game.

- RB

MC said...

Lee: I would recommend The Red Star for you, especially if you can get Tracey to play with you (as the game starts with a playable male and female character).

Soiled Sinema: Well, to each their own.

Arjan: That one is only available for the PS2.

GD: I just wish the PS2 version had the deleted stat while you are playing.