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    Feb 23rd, 2007 at 11:45:48     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    After getting a bit bored wandering around the world, I decided to fight a few of my favorite Colossi. The actual gameplay in Shadow of the Colossus really only consists of 3 elements:

    1. Finding the current Colossus
    2. Figuring out how to climb and defeat them while staying alive.
    3. Actually climbing them and beating them.

    Despite the fact that it's the same basic thing for all 16 doesn't really matter since each of the Colossi are so uniquely designed that it's an entirely different play experience. Some might be simple traditional video game boss fights; you play a defense game until your enemy attacks and misses, leaving himself open for you to counter-attack. In these fights, the player usually focuses exclusively on the Colossus and pays no attention to the environment they're fighting in (unless it starts getting in the way somehow). Some fights are much more puzzle-like, requring the player to study their environment and exploit it. The fights that require the environment are much more immersive, as it forces the player to think "what would I do if I was actually here".

    On the subject I was mentioning earlier about this game being art, one effect that TRULY adds to that is the use of music. When the player is simply riding around the world exploring, there is no music whatsoever. The world is silent except for the sounds of the main character and his horse. When you encounter a colossus, quiet suspenseful music begins in the background. It starts so lightly and naturally that often one doesn't even take note that the silence is gone. Once the battle actually begins, the music matches everything going on perfectly. When the Colossus is far away, hiding underground, up in the air, etc., the music is quiet. The closer the player gets, the louder the music gets. When the player actually begins climbing his foe, it really amps up and gets dramatic. There have been times where the music matches the action on screen so well it seems almost as if it's being procedurily generated, but it's such a high quality orchestral score that this is impossible.

    In short, the key to what makes Shadow of the Colossus a great video game and great piece of art is the way it immerses the player totally and completely in its world, often to the point where they forget they're playing a video game until something removes the immersion, like being forced to pay attention to a grip meter/health meter or saving the game.

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    Feb 23rd, 2007 at 10:35:38     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    I've owned Shadow of the Colossus since the day it came out, but to me it's one of the few non-puzzle games that never really gets old. I believe this is because Shadow of the Colossus is much less an actual video game than it is art expressed in the medium of a video game. I spent the first hour of my current play session riding around the world and looking for things I haven't noticed before. The land you can explore in SotC is HUGE, and there are many parts of the map that the game never tells you to go to. Due to the structure of the game (no other characters to talk to, no items to find to progress the plot, etc.), there is no driving reason to explore these 'extra' areas, especially since the game gives you a map and tells you how to find the next Colossus you have to fight.

    Often, the only reward for exploring these areas is the scenery you would never otherwise see. I always think it's a interesting choice when developers put things into a game that obviously take a decent amount of work to draw and program that most players will never see simply because they're following the game's instructions. The fact that the developers care about the asthetics of the game world enough to add unessential but beautiful areas adds a lot to the game's artistic value.

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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 11:50:51     -    Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS)

    I've read in some reviews that this game is too short and the developers use tricks, like forced backtracking, to make the game seem longer. I'm beginning to see signs of this. Most of the puzzles I've encountered so far consist of 'find item X'. Often you'll have come across item X previously but you won't be able to pick it up until you've encountered the puzzle already.

    For example, in my hotel room I found a conspicuous paper clip sitting on my nightstand. When I tried to pick it up, the protagonist just said 'Hm, a paper clip...' to himself. After I found a lock I had to pick (in the same room!), I examined the paper clip again and he said 'Hm, a paper clip... Better take it, might come in handy.' That's why I tried to get you to grab it before, moron!

    Anyway, the dialogue more than makes up for my frustration with the puzzles. The key to a good adventure game is making the player want to explore the world, and my curiousity is going crazy now that the plot is beginning to solidify.

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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 10:40:08     -    Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS)

    I recently began playing this game. I'm a big fan of adventure games, and I've heard great things about this one, so I was expecting a lot going in. I'm only about an hour in so far, and it's good, but nothing special.

    From a presentation point of view, the game is amazing. The art is really captivating, in that it's shaded to look like noir comic book art, but it's animated. Black and white pencil drawn characters on full colour CG backgrounds is a really nice effect, and I'm glad the developers chose to go with it. The writing so far is top-notch too.

    It's hard to say much about the gameplay at this point since the story is still being set into motion. So far all I've really done is walk around and talk to people, which I suppose is standard adventure game fare. The interface, however, is really smooth. The player holds the DS sideways, instead of the normal orientation, so it's like you're holding a book. When the player is moving around, what the protagonist currently sees is displayed on the left screen, while the right screen (the touch screen) is a map of the room you're in. You use the stylus on the map to move your character around, and it seems really natural using both screens to view the hotel in different ways.

    One feature I'm loving so far is that whenever you hear something you feel might be important to a puzzle, you can write it down in the protagonist's memo pad. Actually, pretty much any interaction with the gameworld is done with the stylus. I've used it to ring a service bell at a hotel front dest, bent a paper clip into a wire by dragging the ends of the clip, and used that paper clip to try to pick a lock. The fact that you perform the actions in the game yourself instead of telling the character to perform them really adds to the immersion of the game.

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