Otogi 2. (PopMatters)

My review of Otogi 2 is now up at PopMatters. What amazes me most about this game — when I can stop staring at its prettiness — is the way in which they improved by leaps and bounds over the first game without actually fixing any of its flaws.

The controls are still as floaty as ever. In the first game, this tended to leave you at a great disadvantage against enemies as you flailed about trying to touch the ground. In Otogi 2, however, this floatiness is transformed into an advantage thanks to changes not in the controls, but in the level design. More topographic variety means more time spent jumping between low and high ground, which encourages hang time. A number of levels have you dashing between mountain peaks with nothing below you to land on, and one of my favorite levels has you literally flying through the sky as you take out an entire fleet of airships with no ground at all beneath you; it’s an exhilarating experience.

I’m still not sure why the camera didn’t drive me as crazy as it did in the first Otogi. It continues to spin slowly in directions you don’t want it to, but this time around, it doesn’t seem to lead to as many cheap deaths, despite the fact that there are just as many enemies surrounding you as before. The only theory I can come up with is that your weapons have slightly more range or speed than in the first game, so that blindly stabbing in all directions is more effective than it was. I don’t have a copy of the first game to check on this, though, and I’m too lazy to do any empirical testing anyway.

Not knowing exactly why it’s so much better doesn’t change the fact that Otogi 2 seems to have fulfilled the promise that I saw in the first game, and it’s rare for me to have such a fulfilling experience playing a sequel. It’s a nice thing to see.

The Last Tycoon.

What The Last Tycoon shows you is not just how Hollywood works as an industry, but how cinema works as a form.

2005 Winter Premieres.

A day late and a dollar short, here is a scorecard of some of the series that have premiered since the new year.

Shrek 2: Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra?

For every allusion that signifies, there’s one that makes no sense at all.

Gaming movies like it’s 1999.

Beyond such classics as The Blair Witch Project and Independence Day, there are scads of 90s films out there, just waiting to be remediated into hit games.

Video Games as Tools for Educators.

What was most rewarding for me personally was the opportunity to see games discussed in a new context, not only topically, but socially.

Alias, Season 1.

So now there’s a spy club even more evil than what Sydney’s used to, although it’s not the spy club that Zoe from Firefly works for. You’re probably thinking this post is full of spoilers for the first season of Alias, and you’re probably right.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.

Having a whole pack of Jedi backing you up rather than just a couple of schlubs with laser pistols can make a huge difference in how easy or difficult the later stages of the game are.

Super Bowl XXXIX: The music! The commercials! Oh, and some football, too.

The Super Bowl is about much more than football, and there was plenty of extra entertainment to be had; I didn’t skip over any of it, no matter how much I wanted to.

Fight Club. (PopMatters)

My review of the videogame adaptation of Fight Club is up at PopMatters. I was hoping it would be an amusingly bad movie-to-game conversion, but as it turns out, it’s just a plain old piece of crap. If you liked the movie, go watch it again, or read the review series at The Dual Lens. If you like fighting games, play Soul Calibur or Guilty Gear. Just avoid this game.