Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii is turning up with some good reviews for the beleaguered franchise. The average review score is 76/100, according to Game Rankings. Reviewers generally seem to appreciate the return to speedy and active gameplay and the diminished story elements, while criticizing the limited player freedom. I spent the better part of an hour with the game yesterday, and really enjoyed the time. The story is eye-crossingly bad, unsurprisingly, but the levels have creative design that doesn’t bog down their repetition. Who could have thought that the venerable sport of jousting for brass rings could have made such a charming transition to the digital era? Forth, Seabiscuit!
I’m a sucker for stories in puzzle games. Thin as they might be, there’s just something delightfully otherworldly about narrative obstacles being solved by the judicious placement of colored blocks. It’s why I love the old classic The Fool’s Errand, and why I’m looking forward to Puzzle Quest. Now the intriguing PSP-exclusive Crush apparently has been given a narrative thrust significant enough to warrant its own press release. According to the press release linked here by PSP Fanboy, Crush is kind of like a localized version of Psychonauts, with our protagonist/player character navigating the twisted confines of his own brain to unlock the secrets of his past. Emotional baggage to be represented by pulsating spheres, and place bets in quatloos.
I’ve been poking around at various bits of news for the upcoming DS title Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, mostly because I love the Gambit system introduced in the latest PS2 iteration of the franchise which is set to transition down to the handheld. The conditional programming of NPCs earned more of my brief time spent with FFXII than the main quest did (thanks to the borrowing of a friend’s save), because I love games like these ones. It’s a lot to ask, generally, for players to fulfill the role that developer-designed AI is supposed to, but done right it makes for a game in itself. Plus, it’s educational! What gamer wouldn’t want to become familiar with the basics of computer programming to a similar degree that Sesame Street prepared me for engaging in film criticism?
As a followup from yesterday, GamePolitics has posted a comment from ESRB president Patricia Vance regarding the apparent decision to hire full-time staffers to rate the games that cross their threshold. Vance’s comments are here. Vance mentions that the staffers would also "play-test" games, which is an odd choice of words that needs a little bit of clarifying. Playing to determine a rating makes sense, but play-testing? Regardless, this shows an increased commitment from the ESRB to provide the public with a more cohesive ratings system for games. As an educational measure, I think that is a wonderful idea.
Speaking of all those politics, irreverent gaming site GamesRadar.com has had its hand gently slapped at by the editor of Gay.com. GamesIndustry.biz carries this reaction story from Gay.com’s Hassan Mirza responding to GR’s "Are They Gay?" article, written by Matt Cundy. This minor dust-up will only interest you if you like to see concrete reinforcement that, yes Virginia, words occasionally incite reaction. On a slightly deeper level, it fascinates me because it underscores how deeply connected to archetype (and stereotype) the characters in the noted games are. We’ve got icons as the recognizable faces in games, but very few iconoclasts. Much fewer than in film and literature.
Let’s hop right over to GayGamer.net, shall we? They have a little gallery of concept art and a small writeup of what appears to be another entry in American McGee’s line of fucked-up fairy tales, this time going meta with Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The quasi-series began with Alice, which was fun, and then pretended to continue with Oz, which never progressed beyond action figures. Since then, McGee has lent his name to a GTA clone (Scrapland) and branded himself over the title of the atrocious Bad Day L.A. The artwork for the rumored game is plenty moody, continuing the best thing that Alice had going for it. I wouldn’t mind another mediocre platformer with gobs of atmosphere. I like atmostphere. I practically live and breathe atmosphere.