Sunday, August 30, 2009

Classes Start Tomorrow! Stop Having Fun!

Yeah, you heard me!

Rather than do my usual itemized game review thingy, I'm just going to rant on a bit about some games I've been playing lately. I've been back at school for the last week for band camp and classes finally start tomorrow, so I've got to get a bit of bloggery in edgewise before I'm required to have actual duties again.

Texas Cheat 'Em

Let's see what new icons I have on my desktop... First one that jumps out at me is Texas Cheat 'Em. For those of you who would never believe I'm a poker addict, you're actually quite right. I played a bunch of Triple Jack back when it was popular on the site, but I never really got into it as much as some. I've never gambled real money, nor do I intend to anytime this century. (And yes, the opportunity has been there.)

Texas Cheat 'Em, then. Unfortunately, with only the demo, there's only so much you can really do with the game, but what I saw was enough to convince me not to buy it. The main selling point of TC'E is that while you're playing, you can use cheat points to alter the community or hole cards, peek at someone else's cards, steal someone's chips, and all sorts of otherwise-illegal tactics, pending your success on a small skill mini-game. The problem is, especially when playing against a somewhat thick AI (and I had selected the hard difficulty, mind you), it becomes a bit too easy to skew the cards in your direction a little too often. I don't know if online multiplayer play changes this at all, but it just seems sorta flawed. The advert videos stress that "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how good you are at getting away with cheating" or something like that, but frankly, the cheating's rather unlimited if you do it right.

So it's a shady concept, but how about the execution? I appreciate the fact that you can play the game pretty much entirely with the left hand (on WASD keys), and I like the little twist on how you bid (all players put in a "maximum bid", and anyone below the max has to call to keep in), but stylistically, it rather sucks. There's really nothing that jumps out as amazing in the graphics or sounds, but the "annoyance factor" gets a tremendous boost because it takes literally ten seconds to begin a new round. Once the winner is revealed, there's a (not) flashy animation with a (not) flashy sound effect telling you that "You Won!" or "You Lost!". This is then followed by a recap of what cards you had in your hand, and if you lost, what the winner beat you with. This is then followed by a recap of everyone's hands and whether they won or lost money over the course of that hand. It's not until this screen has been up for at least two, maybe three seconds that you're finally given the ability to press on with the game. This entire process takes about ten to twelve seconds, and if you think I'm exaggerating, an on-screen timer confirmed it for me.


So with poker out, I guess I now have to justify some other game genre. Let's go to the adventure platformer Trine. There was only an hour-long, two-level demo that came along with this one, so I can't really critique too much of it, but from what I experienced, it was pretty fun. In a nutshell, a wizard, a knight, and a thief become kinda "bound" in the way that magical crystals of weirdness usually do, and you've got to get from point A to point B switching between their three forms, using their special abilities to get there. The levels are beautifully designed and have a lot of nice physics puzzles to wrap yourself around, although it can get tricky at times, and you might wish you had more checkpoints lying around.

As I only have the demo, I've only played a bit of the one-player campaign, although there is apparently a three-player co-op mode, which sounds like a lot of fun, each person controlling a different aspect of the team. Trine also gets definite bonus points for getting a reasonably good review from Zero Punctuation (note: if you're at all familiar with 0P, you'll know not to click that link until there are no kids in the room). And while I've probably given enough reason to like the game enough to buy it, the main thing keeping me from buying this game is the $30 price tag. I dunno, I guess I'm cheap. I usually try to pick out games that are either on ridiculous markdowns or are just inexpensive to begin with. I'm sure this game will probably come down in price eventually, hopefully down to $15 or less, then I'll pounce.


Speaking of things that were on sale, I grabbed Droplitz on sale this weekend for two bucks. In a nutshell, Droplitz is like most Pipe Dream-esque games that you know, in which you rotate the pipe segments to direct the flow to a certain goal. In this case however, the pipe tiles are hexagonally aligned, and the flow of droplets [sic] runs with gravity. Using splitting pipe segments, you can rack up a ton of points by making a bunch of top-to-bottom connections at once. On the whole, it's a very simple game to learn, and you'll end up losing a lot of time to this game.

The truth be told, as you progress through levels, you really don't notice the changes of background and graphics as you're playing. If anything, you'll notice the changes in the music tracks. The music seems to be on perpetual music loop, which, just off the top of my head, is a strange chord progression that runs something along the lines of vi-IV-I-V, but the music changes to match (somewhat) the themes that you pass through, from a coffeehouse theme to a valentine theme to an arctic theme to a warm jungle theme. And when you do rack up those huge combos, the music swells and a heavier drum beat kicks in, to let you know you're kicking butt and taking names. So aesthetically, it's a game that you can let yourself get lost in, and play for hours.

...Which is exactly why I'm not sure I should recommend this game. It's relaxing, and it's addicting, but I'm surprised to hear myself say that I'm not entirely sure that that's good. There is a point where a game might get to be a bit too addicting, and you don't realize until 45 minutes later that you've been playing the exact same game, repeating the exact same process hundreds of times over. And while replayability is definitely a good thing, I started to wonder why I was replaying it. It was simple enough that I could go on for hours, even though I shouldn't have. It was addicting enough that I found myself imagining ideal situations in my mind while not playing the game, trying to mentally rack up a ton of combos with the X blocks. But for some reason, it still doesn't feel "right" recommending this. I guess it's because I know some people will genuinely hate this game, but then again, that's the risk of recommending any game. So let's settle this once and for all: If you've got the ten bucks to shell out, this is probably worth a look. If you're still not sold, wait until the next sale rolls around. (Good luck.)

The Lightning Round

Bedtime's coming soon, so I'd better hit the rest of these icons on my desktop kinda quickly. 3Tones could have made for an interesting match-3 game, if it actually lived up to its promise of taking your music files and creating a unique gaming experience from them. That's bull, there's no correlation between the music and the game. Fail. Yumsters! 2 takes an interesting concept of threading like-colored objects while making sure your ropes don't cross, and kinda spoils it with the premise that you're helping a bunch of musical worms. Sorry, the plotline's just killing it. The demo for Plants vs. Zombies has been sitting on my desktop for months now, and I've not felt the urge to buy it yet. It is quite fun, and all the characters you get to play as are quite hilarious, but I guess I'm just not feeling the push to buy it. Coming down the pipeline, I pre-ordered AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!, and if it's anything near as fun as Dejobaan's The Wonderful End of the World (which comes as a free bonus for pre-ordering AaaaaAA!), then I know I'm in for a good time.

So go play games! Before school starts! DO IT NAO!

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