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    Dec 13th, 2012 at 16:29:45     -    Pokemon Yellow (GBC)

    Pokémon Yellow features upgradable characters, resource management, and exploration of an enormous map to find items, advance the story, and collect Pokémon. The designs of the caves in this game are reminiscent of those in Legend of Zelda games; they are designed to be puzzles for the player, with multiple levels and enemies hidden inside. My favorite part of this game is the highly variable emergent narrative that a person can experience; every time you play, different Pokémon will appear, you may get more or less lucky with the NPC’s moves, etc. I can replay a Pokémon game hundreds of times without getting bored; it’s never the same twice.
    A unique feature of this game is that your starter, Pikachu, follows you around in the game outside of his/her Poke ball. (Gender differentiation of the Pokémon doesn’t happen until later versions of Pokémon games.) The player can gauge his/her performance in the game by interacting with Pikachu, who will make a face based on how much it likes you. This allows the player to mediate his/her playing style to be more accommodating; not letting Pikachu faint often is a good way to get back into its good graces. Throughout the game, Pikachu’s expressions can alert the player to changes in the environment. It gets frightened in dark or scary places, and at one point runs up to a man disguised as a Pokémon and shows confusion, which can tip the player off to something fishy about that “Pokémon”.
    This game has no cut scenes, except in the very beginning when talking to Professor Oak; the narrative unfolds as the player completes tasks and visits different areas of the game world. NPC characters direct the player and reveal the story to the player through dialogue. The game rewards players for being “social” with the other people in the game; they often dispense advice, items, or clues to advance the game. This is probably foreshadowing Nintendo’s game-making trajectory of making gaming as social an experience as possible via the internet.

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    Dec 12th, 2012 at 23:51:39     -    Super Mario Bros. All Stars (SNES)

    Super Mario Brothers released this “All-Stars” pack for the SNES a long time ago; it has Super Mario Bros, Super Mario 2, Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, and the Lost Levels. This allows a player to quickly do side-by-side comparisons on all of the games. All of these games feature running, jumping, and gathering things like lives, and power-ups. The second game is a stark departure from the rest; the enemies, environment, and level design have much different properties. In SM1, 3, LL and World, enemies are goombas and koopas, led by Bowser. But in SM2, the enemies are bird things, shy guys, and bosses like Birdo. And some of the mechanics are different; in SM2, Mario looks for floating hearts and potions, and has no inventory to manage. By contrast, the rest of the games have nothing to do with potions and hearts; instead, players collect points and coins. Also, the level design in SM2 involves the finding of keys, climbing vines, and alternate worlds that come from the potions. In the other games, these mechanics are only for secrets, not for completing levels themselves.

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    Dec 12th, 2012 at 15:29:17     -    Batman Arkham City (PS3)

    This game is not only very engaging, but absolutely impossible to stop; the way that this game is set up, all of the objectives and missions are continuous. There is no point at which you “complete” an objective; the moment you do, the ending of that mission becomes the start of the next one. Your brain at no point feels that anything is completed to the point of, “ah, now that this is done, let’s shut the game off.” Hours can easily be lost to the exceedingly large game field; Batman navigates an entire prison complex the size of a city. The mechanics of this game include climbing, fighting, and exploring.
    One thing I didn’t like was the way the game taught you to play. Most games give signs or warnings early on, and then leave you to your own devices. This is normally invaluable; when a player is confronted with a similar situation later, s/he will know what to do next time. But in this game, the tutorial mode never goes away; perhaps due to the difficulty of the game, or maybe because I didn’t set it to “expert” mode, the instructions were always popping up. If I could have turned them off, the game might have been impossible to finish, though. It is a little disheartening for a player to feel like they didn’t really accomplish anything without help. A possible fix is to include hints in the dialogue (which they did; Batman would say things like “I should use my grappling hook to climb the building”), but just leave it at that. After the first five or so cut scenes, if something previously learned needs to come up, the player can try it on their own.
    One strange departure from the first game is that the remote-control batarang’s movement is inverted. Moving the analog stick left moves the batarang right, and there is no option (that I found) to remedy this. After being used to normal controls, why change it? It seemed like a strange thing to change.

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    Sep 11th, 2012 at 00:49:03     -    Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

    Finally, an answer to the plight of every video game player with a little brother: does every two-player experience with a little kid have to be terribly unfun? No, thankfully not. Using asymmetrical gameplay, Super Mario Galaxy has solved my problem in a way that even a family-friendly game like Wii Sports could not hope to aspire to. Normally, two player games are very dreary and not fun for heavily mismatched players. In a game where the 2 players are pitted against each other, a strong player always destroys the weaker one; in my case, a little brother who protests if I go easy and let him win. This quickly becomes frustrating for both of us. On the flipside, cooperative gameplay is a nigtmare. We'll scream at each other to "Jump you moron! No, go back! Stop dying!" a la New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii. (I don't know about you, but in my family, playing co-op mode in this game dissolves into the third world war within ten minutes as we holler at each other to pick up this item, dodge this guy, etcetera.) But in Super Mario Galaxy, co-op mode involves Mario (Player 1) being followed by an anthropomorphic star (Player 2), who assists Mario in collecting health, items, and can even stun and kill enemies. So, Player 2 is absolutely beneficial, perhaps even essential, in getting through the game and the secrets in the levels. It's like having an awesome cheat code that makes the game much easier, and more importantly, makes player 2 feel like they're really doing something useful to help, which is very important when your P2 is much younger than you are. Kids like to be involved. And the P1 doesn't have to slow down or coordinate with a weaker P2 to get anything done; its all very intuitive, and P2 can hardly do anything to mess up P1's gameplay experience.

    There is the small issue of miscommunication; if, for example, there's a fireball that cycles up and down once per 3 seconds, I time my jumps to avoid the fireball. But the if P2 is not aware of this, he will stun or freeze the fireball, and I jump smack into it because I did not count on it freezing at any position. But this kind of error is nothing compared to NSMB, where any move off by a milisecond ruins the flow of the level and leaves that one player who is young or uncoordinated like a giant sandbag in a sinking ship, and that isn't fun for little kids to be the weakest link that makes everyone lose. I think we're both happier when a game makes it okay if a kid isn't able to play as well as older peers. I haven't played many co-op games that struck such a good balance between giving P2 autonomy, but limiting his/her range to stuff that will not interfere with the stronger players' progress. It gives the P2 plenty to do, but doesn't make him or her pivotal in winning or losing, which is very important when a small child is at the helm and may not be able to help much if s/he is too young or lacks experience. I really love the way SMG's co-op mode allows two players of wildly varying ability to come together and save a princess. The little bro and I love this game as both a bonding experience and just a fun game. I'd highly recommend it to families with kids of very differing ages.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Sep 11th, 2012 at 00:51:11.

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    Entries written to date: 8
      Game Status / Read GameLog
    1Assassin's Creed II (360)Playing
    2Batman Arkham City (PS3)Playing
    3Crash Bandicoot: N-Tranced (GBA)Playing
    4Guitar Hero III: Legentds of Rock (Wii)Playing
    5Pokemon Yellow (GBC)Playing
    6Super Mario Bros. All Stars (SNES)Playing
    7Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)Finished playing
    8Temple Run (iPd)Playing

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