Quick opinions of some games I’ve been playing

I’ve played a couple of new games this weekend. Well, new. New to me. Here are my impressions based on about an hour or two per game:

  • Zuma. Nice, if a bit low-res. Lots of interesting feedback and risk-reward aspects. Move the mouse away from the center and you can be more precise, but it takes longer to aim somewhere else, etc. I pretty much finished the 60 minute trial period. I wouldn’t mind playing again, but I don’t want to pay $20 for it.

  • Peggle. Another nice casual game. I was surprised something requiring so little skill could be fun, but then it’s basically Pachinko, so why should I be surprised? This game has the best level complete feedback I’ve ever seen. The production values are really nice. Again, I would play more, but not for $20.

  • Mass Effect. My initial impression is negative. The story was meh to me. I was hoping for a well-developed sci-fi setting, but somehow it is not compelling. I found the UI annoying and cumbersome, and the levels unreadable. I literally got lost the moment I set foot on the first planet. How hard is it to turn the characters the right way at the start of the level? However, the unreadability might be because my flat-screen TV was set to the wrong mode. I will give it another try. Maybe I will grow used to the UI as well.

  • Assassin’s Creed. Looks great, and kudos to Ubisoft for making the story a bit more complex than it needs to be. However, I just failed the pickpocketing mission twice and I am still angry. I had to read the manual to find out what ‘Low Profile’ means – it means walking around without pressing the right trigger, i.e. ‘not High Profile’. The pickpocketing target is insanely jumpy and I have no clue how to pick his pockets. Once detected I couldn’t find a single hiding place and being cut to pieces by my own colleagues (what the hell is that all about?) was preferable to running around like an idiot. What a waste of time. I also found the controls overly complex. Press this trigger, than that button, then find out you can and should release them by jumping to your death a couple of times. Gah.

What did you think of these games?

Update: I just remembered Penny Arcade warned me about Mass Effect. Also: all Assassin’s Creed FAQs say ‘just pickpocket the guy’. Thanks. Thanks so much.

Comments 9

  1. Mark Barrett wrote:

    Haven’t played AC but I’ve seen the ads and the whole vibe reminded me of another maddening game: Thief. Not that there weren’t moments of interest in that game, but it seems to me that the idea of threading the narrative moment through the perfectly-time-input needle has been tried plenty.

    Interesting, too, that a non-narrative game which involves tricky inputs (whether keyboard or controller) doesn’t seem to carry this kind of penalty. I wonder why that might be?*

    * Rhetorical bait

    Posted 27 Jan 2008 at 14:57
  2. Stitched wrote:

    “Also: all Assassin’s Creed FAQs say ‘just pickpocket the guy’. Thanks. Thanks so much.”

    What does that say about the game design?

    I own both Peggle and Zuma and my girlfriend and I enjoy them both; as well as the obiquitous Bejewelled.

    Puzzle Quest, which I have heard as “Bejewelled with Mana”, is good, but wears thin after a while.

    “Haven’t played AC but I’ve seen the ads and the whole vibe reminded me of another maddening game: Thief. Not that there weren’t moments of interest in that game, but it seems to me that the idea of threading the narrative moment through the perfectly-time-input needle has been tried plenty.”

    Yes. Tried plenty and FAILED! Look at the gratuitous lockpicking in Oblivion. Ridiculous to have even included it in the first place but maybe they added it because of the release to console, where rhythmitis has taken a vice-like hold. Don’t know too many, if at all, PC games that included that kind of mechanic that were not ports of console titles.

    “The kids LOOOOOVE rhythm games. Let’s just through it in and see if it sticks!”

    Posted 27 Jan 2008 at 15:06
  3. Stitched wrote:

    Found this on Bioware’s own site. Front page.

    “One of The Most Epic RPGs Ever”
    [Jan 23] The Game Critics have voted Mass Effect as #7 on its 2007 Game of the Year list, praising its “compelling storyline, stunning cinematic presentation, masterful voice acting, and fully-realized universe.”

    Too bad there is no mention of that old chestnut, “gameplay”. You know, the thing that makes you WANT to play the game. I guess you can get by with “compelling storyline, masterful voice acting, and a fully-realized universe.” After all, Hollywood has been doing it for years now.

    Posted 27 Jan 2008 at 15:10
  4. Jurie wrote:

    @Mark: Yeah, if you fail a challenge like that in AC, the game does sorta kinda react properly, but you still have to do that one single thing to continue. So for all of its groundbreaking simulation and its setting that explains a certain amount of gaminess, it quickly drops into a kind of social uncanny valley.

    @Stitched: Welllll… there is a pretty long history of using mini-games for lock-picking in RPGs and such. Not that I liked Oblivion.

    And yeah, I should try Puzzle Quest.

    Posted 28 Jan 2008 at 1:00
  5. Chris Wells wrote:

    AC: The pickpocketing things also gave me a problem a dozen or so times after my first successful attempt. Turned out I was forgetting to “lock-on” to who I was trying to pickpocket.

    ME: I finished the game with 95% of side quests in just over 40 hours (not continuously). The story definitely improves as you get into the “meat” of the game around hour 30. The controls and AI throughout the game are rather odd at times, but they become better as you get used to it. The only real gripe I had with it was by the time you have leveled up quite far and have some decent weapons the game is over.

    Overall a nice game. I am sure it will kick off a franchise and I can see ME2 improving on a lot of aspects that didn’t appeal to the gaming community.

    Not sure about your unreadability. If you are using component cables for your TV, you really should think about switching to VGA as the scaler is infinitely better for text and AA.

    Posted 28 Jan 2008 at 1:54
  6. Chris Wells wrote:

    Note on the ME storyline. There are some twists later on that really help make the story. This is really one of those games you must finish before reviewing properly.

    Posted 28 Jan 2008 at 1:57
  7. Jurie wrote:

    Chris: I meant figuring out where I need to go and what I can interact with, not reading text per se. And sadly my TV only does component or HDMI. But I had my TV in a mode where it pretties up the color and contrast, and that makes things harder to play. I will give ME another try.

    Posted 28 Jan 2008 at 12:06
  8. 'O' wrote:

    Has anyone tried any of the more robust games for the Wii? Specifically, Metroid Prime and the like? Wii’s hardware limitations aside, I wonder if there will ever be a killer AC-type game for it that takes advantage of the interface.

    I say this only because I just FINALLY got a Wii, and I’m wondering how long Wii Sports will do it for me.

    Posted 28 Jan 2008 at 13:54
  9. Jurie wrote:

    Heh. I also finally got a Wii a few weeks ago. Get Super Mario Galaxy!

    Posted 29 Jan 2008 at 0:55

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