Dope Farmer. (PopMatters)

My review of Dope Farmer is now up at PopMatters.

NBA Street V3. (PopMatters)

My review of NBA Street V3 is up at PopMatters.

Diner Dash. (PopMatters)

Speaking of casual games, my review of Diner Dash is now up at PopMatters. I’m a sucker for an “adult-oriented” game that’s actually for, y’know, adults. I’m also a sucker for pretty much anything by gameLab, so it’s safe to say I like this game.

What do we want out of games journalism?

The question is whether you can get all this writing moved off the web and into print, and if you do, whether anyone will buy it.

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.

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.

Alien Hominid. (PopMatters)

My review of Alien Hominid is now up at PopMatters. It’s one of those games that’s a ton of fun, as long as you don’t stop to think about it. Thinking bad!

Bejeweled 2. (PopMatters)

Continuing with the theme of pleasurable addictiveness that I brought up last week, my review of Bejeweled 2 is now up at PopMatters.

And because I’m too lazy to go look in a thesaurus at the moment: is there a word for “addictive” that doesn’t carry so many negative connotations? I don’t really think that seeking little morsels of happy fun from a video game (or a TV show, or a book, or whatever) is necessarily a bad thing, but words like “addictive” or “compulsive” really make it seem like I’m describing pathology rather than pleasure. I wonder if I could get away with using the word “crackalicious” in a review.

BloodRayne 2. (PopMatters)

My review of BloodRayne 2 is now up at PopMatters. In an attempt to reach new heights of pretentiousness, I led the article with a quote from a Baudelaire poem; my only defense is that I wrote it last week while still hopped up on tryptophan, so my bullshit filters were impaired. Anyway, let me know if you think other parts of it are particularly full of bull, or (less likely) if it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever read.

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. (PopMatters)

If it seems like I haven’t been writing quite as much about games on this weblog as I used to, it’s probably because I haven’t. If I was feeling particularly geeky about it, I could do some kind of graph based on posts to different categories over time, but that would just be silly.

The main problem has been an interruption in the flow of games through my home. A few months ago, I cancelled my RedOctane account, mainly due to their sketchy availability. Of course, not working generally means not having much money to buy lots and lots of games at $40-$50 a pop. Then there was the distraction of television: between TiVo, Netflix, and the fact that I’m taking a class on television criticism at the U of M, I’ve been using my TV set more and more for things other than games.

This is changing, though, and the pitch of the multimedia battlefield that is my living room (and I just realized that radio is an innocent casualty here) is shifting the other way again. In a fit of desperation, I signed up with GameFly, so hopefully I’ll once again have a regular stream of game rentals coming into my mailbox.

I’m still afraid, however, that these new games may not add up to an increase in the number of game-related postings to this site. This is because I’ve started writing game reviews for PopMatters, a very groovy “magazine of cultural criticism.” My first review, of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, is up now. I’ll spare you all the “oh, I’m so embarrassed, how could I have written that” spiel that I go through in my head whenever I look at something I’ve written. I’ve slowly come to realize that I am utterly unable to evaluate my own writing; I just assume that everything is horrible and should never see the light of day. In this case, though, it’s too late; the review is up and I can’t take it back.

Re-reading the review, it occurs to me that while I was busy with my ridiculous crypto-structuralist babbling about the game’s narrative, I totally forgot to mention one really important thing about Nocturne: it’s really, really difficult. While a large part of the game revolves around the usual RPG levelling treadmill, it’s also vital to have the proper skills/spells and immunities available at all times, because even mid-level monsters have a tendency to use status effects and elemental spells with a frightening amount of skill. At one point, I was stuck in a dungeon for a ridiculously long time because some random demons had a habit of casting Sleep on me (causing me to be unable to dodge attacks), followed immediately by Death (game over). The only way out was to level up until either I could acquire an immunity to their spells or bash them in one turn before they could get around to pulling their nasty tricks. The game is full of situations like this, making the whole affair a complex juggling act where you have to keep all the right party members, skills, and equipment close by to handle whatever rough terrain you’re going through at the moment.

Actually, it’s just as well I left that out of my review; that’s the kind of low-level technical stuff that’s amusing to think about (for me at least), but doesn’t really fit in with the kind of criticism that I’m being asked to do. At any rate, I’m expecting to save those kinds of remarks for this weblog, while I write the more generalized reviews that I used to practice on here for PopMatters. At any rate, even if you think my article is crap, give the rest of the site a spin; there’s a lot of good stuff there.