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    Oct 19th, 2009 at 22:32:46     -    Audiosurf (PC)

    SUMMARY

    Audiosurf creates an arcade game from music. The game scans an MP3 of your choice, determines rhythms and beats, and creates a racetrack with hills and loops timed to the music. As you fly down the track, automatically speeding and slowing to match the tempo, you must fly through obstacles of certain colors and avoid others. Itís a fast-paced test of reflexes, all timed to your favorite songs.

    GAMEPLAY

    I was really impressed with this game. I tried several genres of music, from jazz to hard rock to speed metal to pop/hip-hop, and it created some really impressive tracks to correlate to the music. It was amazing how Iíd load a track with a very prominent beat, and the generated track would have a sharp hill with every beat. The game was very mesmerizing to play.

    I was too captivated with the pretty colors and the generated tracks to bother caring about score and the strategy of the game. But, I did at least notice them, and it seems enough that someone who is there for the puzzle will enjoy the challenge. There are different game modes to try, though I stuck with the simplest one, and obviously an unlimited amount of tracks. Essentially, your music creates the difficulty Ė load up a slow song, and your aircraft will fly through the course slowly; but choose something fast, and youíll have a hard time keeping up!

    All in all, itís a simple game of emergence, and it does a really good job at not only focusing on the song processing algorithm, but turning it into a full-fledged arcade game.

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    Sep 28th, 2009 at 23:00:14     -    Schizoid (360)

    GAMEPLAY

    I first tried Uberschizoid some more. Once you really focus a bit, you can start to get the hang of your thumbs working together; but I'd really like to hear from a psychologist exactly why it's such a challenge. I don't think it's a left-brain/right-brain sort of thing, I think it's something totally different. I've never played anything like it.

    But my friend begged me to go back to normal mode, so we did. We encountered powerups this time. Essentially, they are icons placed on the playing field; when a player runs over them, it follows the player. Then when the second player comes up and touches the icon (behind the first player), its power is activated. We were introduced to bomb powerups, which were very useful against the new enemy: suns.

    The suns are indestructible, but if they touch you, you die. They are a yellow color, so that they are obviously not red or blue and therefore not on the same hierarchy as normal enemies. They bounce around the field, and if you wait too long they will multiply! The only thing that can destroy these suns are bombs, and those are rare, so they really forced us to speed up and beat levels quickly before the suns got the chance to kill us!

    DESIGN

    The challenge curve is awesome. It feels very linear, but also pretty steep. This is a challenging games, and levels will need to be played more than once; sometimes, many times, as we definitely found out this go around. Most levels fit on the screen, but some don't, and the ones that don't are just that much more challenging because you don't know exactly what enemies might be just beyond the screen edge, until you venture that direction.

    The graphics and audio don't hinder gameplay at all; they are very futuristic and flashy looking, and the particle effects are great. It is a very excellent looking game to go along with its amazing mechanics.

    This is obviously a game of emergence. Especially discovering powerups, it was a nice surprise and added another touch to the game. I can only imagine as the game progresses further, there are more enemies, more powerups and more strategies to employ, but the basic gameplay remains the same.

    Overall, the authors took an innovative idea and simple controls, and formed a really amazing game.

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    Sep 28th, 2009 at 22:53:50     -    Schizoid (360)

    SUMMARY

    Schizoid is a game of few rules and simple mechanics, but exciting gameplay. It is primarily a two-player game, in which each player controls a ship-like vehicle/creature - one is red, the other is blue - by using the joystick. No other part of the controller is used during gameplay, so it is extremely easy to pick up. The red player can touch red enemies to destroy them (they destroy immediately on impact), but if he touches a blue enemy he dies, and vice versa for the blue player. Both players have a collective 10 lives; when one dies, both players are given a short period of invulnerability and the dead player respawns at the location of the live player. In addition, players can move through each other without any sort of damage. Together, these fundamental rules create amazingly challenging, exciting, and cooperative gameplay.

    GAMEPLAY

    This is surely one of the best small games I've played so far. My friend and I had an absolute blast trying to cooperate to get through levels. We quickly found out that it's best when we stick together, because when we separate, we end up getting cornered by enemies and then are destroyed immediately. It's really a challenge to try and cooperate at this sort of level, keeping track of colors and baiting enemies to the other player, and in turn following the other player to destroy his baited enemies.

    I like the balance that is created by only having 10 collective lives for every 7 levels. Not only are the lives shared, so they are a resource that both players have to manage together (which of course, further emphasizes cooperation) but as the levels get harder, it becomes more important to ration your lives so that you can go 7 levels only dying less than 10 times.

    There are two distinct types of enemies established fairly early on: I don't know their names, but I call them lobsters and stars, because that's what they resemble. The lobsters are slow-moving, and move towards the opposite color regardless of the position of the same-color player. They are easy to eliminate. Stars, on the other hand, are introduced very early on and are a stark contrast. They move almost as fast as the player, and they repel the same-color player at a similar magnitude to that of their attraction to the opposite-color player. Stars are difficult, we quickly found out.

    I think that this being a game of cooperation makes it frustrating when there is a skill gap between the two players. It's really a test of patience when one player is performing flawlessly, and the other player is constantly using up all 10 lives. This sort of thing happened, and I was getting frustrated, but at the same time I was aware of the frustration, as if it were designed into the game. I think this is the sort of game that should be presented during couples' counseling; it really forces the players to work together despite their skill levels. I need to play it more often, if only to find more patience.

    Also one last note, there's another game mode, a one-player mode called Uberschizoid. I tried it for a few levels but it is really mind-bending! You use one controller, the left stick controls one player and the right stick controls the other. So you have to use both thumbs and control two objects on the screen at once. It is completely disorienting, and it's a challenge that I'll have to come back to next time.

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    Aug 23rd, 2009 at 23:15:01     -    Super Mario Sunshine (GC)

    GAMEPLAY

    First thing this time, when I got into the game, I ran around the island talking to as many people as I could. I thought more about what I wrote in my last entry, about how the citizens don't further the plot, and I wanted to prove myself wrong. Well unfortunately, all I did was bore myself with pointless filler dialog. So I am still of the opinion that the people in the game may as well be scenery.

    I first went to the area that I was last in, and followed the objective. It let me to a warp where my FLUDD was taken away and I had to navigate a puzzle. I failed at it, a lot, but eventually got to the end. The moral seemed to be patience; which I don't have much of, so I'd act too quickly, make a mistake, and fall to my death, over and over. Luckily the punishment for repeated deaths was very light; restarting the puzzle, or when my lives reached 0, restarting back to the main island (where I would then navigate back to the puzzle).

    After I finally completed the puzzle, I went to a new area that was pointed out to me in a cutscene. It was a new beach area that had some monsters that looked like disproportionate ducks. I quickly found out, by experience, that they flip Mario way up into the air (but do no damage). Here I found one exception to the previous paragraph; the citizens here look a bit like hermit crabs. They also have pointless dialog, but when you jump on their head, they retract into their shells. I had a lot of fun seeing how many I could get into their shells at one time (because they come back out after a short time).

    The actual gameplay in this new area was neat. I first had to uncover a sandcastle, which brought me to yet another of the puzzles, one that was much easier. The second objective was to climb on some mirror platforms and use a jump-and-pound mechanic to launch monsters off of the mirrors. This new mechanic was interesting and took some getting used to.

    Overall, this session was more fun than the last. Time flew by, and new mechanics and puzzles were introduced that kept the game interesting.

    DESIGN

    One thing I forgot to mention, but that I discovered last session, is the Delfino Emergency Broadcast System. It's a marquee that scrolls along the bottom of the screen when you're in the main island, and gives a few sentences to aid in the story and in finding your objective. I just think it's something that I've never seen in another game, and it adds another storyline aspect, no matter how simple or boring it may be to some.

    I like the physics in the game. Besides kicking the spiky fruit around, and Mario's actions, I found a swing. I stood on the swing, used FLUDD to spray water, and the swing swung in the opposite direction of the blast. It was a neat mechanic, and I look forward to other similar mechanics involving physics like this.

    When playing the puzzle, I died a lot, and I like that there is very little punishment for dying. This is a major design decision for all games; how do you punish the player for dying? In this game, Mario has a number of lives. Each time I fell off the puzzle into nothingness and died, the count would decrease and I would only start over at the beginning of the puzzle. But when my lives reached 0, there was a "Game Over" screen, I'd hit "Continue", and Mario would end up back at the beginning of the main island with 4 lives. This way, there is some penalty for dying, in that you then have to run back to the sub-island (and back to the puzzle, in my case), but it's not so harsh that I lose progress. That, in my opinion, is the ideal death situation for all single player games.

    My girlfriend watched as I played this time, and she commented that the world has very bright colors. I definitely agree. After all, a game about sunshine should have bright colors, right? The art in the game is wonderful; not just the great 3D graphics, but the colors and the textures all work together and create an overall bright, happy mood that fits the idea of a tropical island vacation that Mario and crew are supposed to be on.

    Finally, something that hit me as I was playing: this is a game about cleaning up graffiti. And I always thought about it as just a neat mechanic, and a wacky idea that's so out-there, it works great as a game. But on a moral/cultural level, it's great that the game is about cleaning up a mess! Mario is framed for making the graffiti and goop mess all over the island, because the perpetrator resembles him, and he is sentenced to clean up his mess. This is all revealed in the beginning cutscene; and while FLUDD (which talks) says that his situation is "pitiable", Mario never complains. He gets right to cleaning up someone else's mess. This really sets a precedent in my mind; I never before saw this as an educational game, but it seems Mario can be a good role model for kids, to teach them that they should clean up their messes without complaints, and that graffiti is bad.

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