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    Feb 23rd, 2007 at 00:32:54     -    Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

    I think what makes this game such a classic (aside from being one of the first of its kind) is that the game can be played on multiple levels.

    On the outside, the game provides a fairly straightforward platforming experience. For the beginner player (e.g. me), the challenge is just overcoming the various brilliantly executed stages. Were it just this, the game would still be noteworthy.

    What makes this game so outstanding are all the secrets buried throughout the game. An iceberg would be a good metaphor for the game. There’s the little amount that is visible the whole time, and there’s the huge amount that’s hidden, waiting to be discovered. By now players have uncovered these secrets. However, since this was my first time playing, it gave me a chance to find these on my own, and it was very satisfying finding one of those hidden mushroom for the first time.

    Ultimately the game’s about memorization. Memorize the levels, memorize the secrets, and that’s pretty much it. Whether that’s good or bad I won’t judge. Strategy games are my specialty, not platformers, so they’ll always be a little tint of unfamiliarity.

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    Feb 22nd, 2007 at 23:21:13     -    Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

    I have a confession to make. Today marked the first time that I have extensively played a Mario game. I grew up as a PC gamer; my first console was the Sega Dreamcast, so I missed out on quite a bit of the old console classics.

    Playing this game now, for the first time, puts me in a unique position for critiquing the game. Without the rosy tint of nostalgia, I am given a chance to see whether these old games really do stand up to the tests of times. In the case of Super Mario Bros. 3, it does…for the most part.

    First off, this is not an easy game. I imagine anyone who says otherwise has played the game for so many years, that they have probably forgotten their initial struggles. The biggest issue lies with jumping. It seems that different jump heights can be attained depending on how hard/long the button is pressed, so figuring out the strength of jump required takes some adjusting. That, combined with the sliding effect when landing, resulted in me dying again and again in stupid ways. It was incredibly frustrating, but does create a sense of satisfaction once said obstacle is overcome.

    One last note before I resume playing. The level design is very well executed. They create just enough challenge to make the game interesting, but not so much of a challenge that the game feels impossible.

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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 19:56:16     -    Sid Meier's Pirates! (PC)

    There are two times during a game of Pirates! where the enjoyment fades slightly. One is when you play the game for the very first time; the other is once you near the end of the game.

    The problem with the beginning of the game is that the player is thrown into the game world without much explanation. I read the instruction manual before playing, so that helped me jump in without difficulty. Everyone else I’ve showed the game to has a hard time getting started. It’s a big gameworld, and there’s a huge number of options available to the player, so it can get daunting in the beginning.

    A similar problem occurs as the player approaches the end of the game. There’s no way to make notes about which cities to go to, and for what purpose, so it’s very easy to forget what you wanted to do and where to go to do it. This problem is even worst when the game hasn’t been played in a while.

    Once these issues are overcome, the game is incredibly fun. I already talked about some of the gameplay mechanics, so I’ll close on one aspect that I think is really interesting. When in a city, the music changes depending on which area of the city you’re in. To clarify, the song is the same, but the instrument that plays the song is different in each section. Here’s what makes that interesting: the song doesn’t reset when this happens, but transitions naturally from one instrument to the other, as if that was part of the song. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a really subtle concept that I thought they executed very nicely.

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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 17:53:44     -    Sid Meier's Pirates! (PC)

    Sid Meier’s Pirates! is one of those games that will survive the test of time, a testament to both Sid Meier and American computer games (although the game has been ported to the Xbox).

    There are several aspects of Pirates! that makes it an example of excellent game design. One important aspect is its replayability, which this game addresses in an interesting way. The story progressions in most games are linear and unchanging; even open-ended games like Grand Theft Auto has certain story-telling “landmarks”, which are unchanging from game to game. In Pirates! the locations and timing of major events are randomized. Although two players playing separate games may ultimately do the same thing, how it’s done may be considerably different. This allows for someone to play the game over and over again, and not feel stagnant.

    Another brilliant aspect of Pirates! is its ability to make simple gameplay immensely enjoyable. The game is basically nothing more than a collection of minigames tied together by a larger sailing sim. For the most part, the minigames consist of pushing the right button at the right time. This mechanic is used for dancing with the daughters of governors, and for swordfighting (you actually get to choose from a few buttons in this mode). While the game mechanic doesn’t sound exciting, when put in context it’s actually quite entertaining. As an added bonus, its simplicity means that the game is more accessible to a wider variety of players.

    In the next log I’ll dive more into some of the mechanics of the game, and address the few issues that I have with the game.

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