Last week’s glut of new games provided a focus for this week’s play, with all my other running projects (Katamari Damacy, Tempest 2000) falling by the wayside.
We Ski was the big winner – it was an absolute delight to play, and I’m almost a little sad to have Completed it (160 stars, all animals found, all questions from The Question Guy answered). I even rode the chair lifts without skipping, panning around and checking out the surroundings in moments of enforced relaxation. It’s a beautiful looking game, the feeling of skiing has been absolutely nailed (though I suspect that a 1080-degree Rodeo is a little trickier to perform in real life), and none of the “missions” outstay their welcome. I cannot express how much this game surprised me; I was genuinely feeling a bit iffy about buying this, but it’s turned out to be a Wii highlight. Sure, there’s not a whole lot of content in there – after all, I knocked it all off within a distracted week – but it comes highly recommended. I’d even pick up the sequel if it didn’t include those bloody snowboarders. Snaffle it from Play-Asia (I used the US version on my homebrewed Wii).
A couple of minutes each night were taken up by further progression through GridRunner Revolution, which finally threw up a sizable challenge on Level 48 of the Phaal difficulty level (I’m still stuck on the final level, which goes on for bloody aeons and just grinds me down). Once that nut is cracked, though, there’s another ten levels of Vindaloo and twenty levels of Madras to return to (which should be a doddle, once Vindaloo is conquered), then the fifty levels of the wacky Thrusty Mode and another fifty Vindaloo-ish Endurance levels.
Yak wrote an interesting blog entry during the week addressing the naysayers of GRR – that is, people like me – who claimed it was too easy; and I can kinda understand his points. After all, it is fun to experiment within the spaces that GRR provides, creating beautiful patterns of bullets that swirl around the screen and (maybe, hopefully) wrap your ship in a protective cocoon of weaponry; but my OCD nature wants to push onwards, to achieve something, and that drags me out of the Pretty Zone.
Recognising that I don’t naturally want to dwell anymore has been a bit of a revelation, and provides a pretty decent explanation of my gaming inclinations of the last couple of years. As previously mentioned, I don’t consider myself to be highly skilled – competent, sure, but completely lacking in finesse. Ikaruga is a fine example; yes, it’s easy enough to bludgeon one’s way through the game (just grind twenty hours of playtime, unlock unlimited continues, Bob’s-your-Auntie’s-live-in-lover), but getting A-Rankings? That just reeks of skill and memorisation and hard work. Relentless grinding to level-up to a near-unbeatable position? That’s easy-peasy for me, and it seems to fire off all the right synapses to make it feel enjoyable.
So I reckon that’s why I’ve been leaning towards the soft-RPGs and easy-OCD games lately; they give me all the satisfaction of completing the game, whilst still providing something that feels like accomplishment. Sure, there’ll always be moments where I’ll want to switch off and just be a little less “active” in my pursuits – those times when I’d normally play a couple of levels of New Super Mario Brothers, or try a speed-run through JSRF or Halo‘s Library – and the next time I get in one of those headspaces, I’ll fire up GRR instead… maybe that’ll change my opinion completely.
But the thing is, I also fired up the PC version of Space Giraffe this week (just to… y’know… check that it worked). And bugger me if it’s not beautifully balanced and utterly entrancing – my quick “check” turned into thirty levels. As I’ve said before, I instantly fell in love with the Giraffe, but GRR wants me to work for it’s affection.
My final excursion this week was a brief sojourn into MadWorld. My opinion of it picked up a notch, despite the odd game-hanging bug, and I was actually enjoying myself in its blood-splattered monochrome world… until I hit a level with a one-hit-kill character in it. He hit me from out of nowhere, I died, I muttered “fuck this” and shut the Wii down.
And then I thought again about buying We Ski & Snowboard.