Saturday, November 19, 2005

games that didn't make the cut

This week I reviewed The Movies (the first tycoon game I ever really liked, in which you run a movie studio and can also make your own cool movies (check out this brilliant satire of intelligent design), Karaoke Revolution Party (which I like for the mode in which you both sing and dance, although a lot of critics seemed to have trouble with this one), Dance praise (Christian Dance Pad game, perfect when you want to kill time waiting for The Rapture) and Guitar Hero (played with a guitar peripheral - loads of fun).

Here's what didn't make my column:

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse
Okay, in idyllic civilization a zombie inexplicably appears. You are the zombie, and what you do is wander around killing people. And that's pretty much it, no motivation or anything. The game is cartoonishly bloody and lets you do things like through your intestines at people and fart, but is that enough? Also, you can eat brains, but you don't have to. Shouldn't you have to eat brains? I mean, isn't that something zombies need to do to stay alive? It seems dumb to not give you anything beyond the viscerable pleasure of carnage.

Why it didn't make it: It is beyond me why this game received such good reviews. In spite of some mildly amusing satirical elements (similar to Destroy All Humans but less pointed) this just seem like a pointless game, though a well made one.

Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green
Another zombie movie, but this one is far worse. First off, the controls suck. It just feels awkward moving around. Second, the game starts you off with zombies attacking and you have to run around and find weapons before they kill you. So if you don't find weapons in time you will be killed. You can't fight them off by hand, nor can you shove them aside and run away. I found a shotgun, but there were more zombies than bullets. Presumably I have to find the shotgun and try and run downstairs and find other weapons, only shooting when necessary. Or maybe I needed to go someplace else first. The game gives you no chance to get acclimated, I got killed over and over just trying to figure out where weapons were. Horrible, horrible game.

Why it didn't make it: That's not the question to ask here. The question to ask is, why does this game exist and how are we going to punish its designers.

Soul Calibur III
When I played Soul Calibur II I thought it was the best fighting game ever. When I played Soul calibur III I thought the same thing: Soul Calibur II is the best fighting game ever. As for III, it's quite good, but lacks a lot of the interesting touches of the first one, like fighting in high winds, and has a rather unimpressive strategy mode. It's a good game, but just a bit of a let down after the last one.

Why it didn't make it: because I want my sequels to be so much better that I have a lot to talk about or so much worse that I have so much to complain about. And because there were just other games I liked more.

Call of Duty 2

Why it didn't make it: Because the publisher didn't even send it to me until a week after it came out. Too bad, because I was really looking forward to it, but by the time it arrived my next column was filled up.

Civilization IV

This is a sad case, because it's one of the few times 2K Games was willing to send advance code. So now they'll probably think, well, that didn't work. But I just couldn't get into it. It's got interesting ideas but I just wasn't sucked in.

Why it didn't make it: Well, I can't like everything. For some reason I recall finding Civ III more to my liking, but who knows what I'd think today.

Crazy Machines

Cute little rip off of the Incredible Machine games.

Why it didn't make it: This time of year every game has to compete against the year's major games, and this one is just too little to compete. Simple as that.

Castlevania Curse of Darkness

You know, I just cannot get into the Castlevania games. The critics love them, they're hugely popular, and I just don't see what the big deal is.

Why it didn't make it: Because it's a Castlevania game, I suppose.

City of Villains

I loved City of Heroes. City of Villains is pretty much the same game, but instead of playing superheroes you play supervillans. It's fun, but it feels more like an expansion pack then a sequel. It's so much like the first one that all I need to write in a review is, "read my review of City of Heroes."

Why it didn't make it: because I could have just written "see my review of City of Heroes," and because there were just several other interesting games to talk about.

And Then There Were None

I really was interested in this, and I might have given it more of a chance if I'd gotten it earlier. For some reason the game did not arrive when it was supposed to. I had a week where I was having a terrible time; The Movies had security code that prevented the game from running, I had to download City of Villains over a week because the server was so slow, and And Then There Were None was lost in the mail. I kept asking them where the game was, and they kept saying it will arrive any day, and then they checked and someone had signed for it at my building, apparently. So I guess someone stole the game. Anyway, I played it for an hour and it didn't grab me, and by the time I got it I also had The Movies, which I was intrigued by, and finally had City of Villains running, so at that point it would have had to be far better for me to play it then if I'd got it a week earlier. It looked like a standard, okay adventure game, but it begins with a sort of wandering around rummaging through guest's rooms that just seemed pointless.

Why it didn't make it: Blame it on the post office. Or the PR people who didn't immediately overnight me another copy when they realized the first one was a few days late.


This is a sort of interesting game. You run around a castle that you have boobytrapped, trying to lure your pursuers near the traps. I like this in theory, but in practice there's too much running around for me, and it quickly becomes repetitive. The game is also notable for long load times; sometimes there will be a cutscene broken up by long pauses while the next scene loads, which is surprising and suggests there was very little optimization in this one.

Why it didn't make it: This was sent too late for a review, I only played some of it because it sounded like an interesting idea.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

This game came to me basically too late to consider for a review (2K games is almost never willing to send out pre-release games), but I was intrigued so I played it for a while. The first part is a sort of interesting, somewhat atmospheric adventure game in which you wander around talking to people and investigating, with a little stealth thrown in. Then the action starts with a big chase scene that I tried over and over and over again, and got killed every time. If I'd received the game earlier I would have asked the PR flack for help, but since it was too late and hadn't excited me all *that* much, I said screw it. Now there's a walkthrough for the game online and the point I got stick in is a place where you're supposed to climb a ladder; the problem is I never could get in a position where the game would let me climb the ladder, so I was never sure if that's what I was supposed to do.

Why it didn't make it: Came too late and did a dreadful job on ladder climbing.

From Russia with Love

It was an interesting idea to bring back Sean Connery for a Bond game, but Russia has a rather uninspiring first couple of hours. Not terrible, but not exceptional. It just didn't feel right, in theory there were stealth moves but I found bad guys always just saw me when I was anywhere near and I had to shoot it out. Then I got stuck in some stupid garden maze, got bored and stopped playing.

Why it didn't make it: Because wandering around aimlessly gets on my nerves.

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