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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 01:45:52     -    Grim Fandango (PC)

    Gameplay:

    Continuing the story, you end up stealing a premium client from your rival Domino, but when Manny tries to book a travel plan for this client, named Mercedes Columnar, he runs her name through the computer, and despite her bio indicating she lead a virtuous life, she doesn't qualify for any of the better travel packages. Before Manny can puzzle this out, he's paged to his boss' office.

    Manny's boss has discovered Manny's subterfuge, and threatens to fire him, until it's revealed that Mercedes has left to start her walk to the land of the dead without waiting for the situation to be resolved. This causes Manny's boss to go ballistic, and he locks Manny in a room in the Garage until the local authorities can come to question him. It is implied that Manny is in big trouble. But Manny eventually escapes the city, and sets about trying to find Mercedes so that he can rescue her and clear his own name.

    Design:

    The gameplay isn't very innovative, with the exception of the inventory system. When you press the inventory key, the camera switches to a view of Manny pulling things out from under his coat. You can cycle through his inventory in this view, Manny will put away the current inventory item and grab another from his coat. In this way, Grim Fandango avoids having obtrusive inventory screens that are common in adventure games.

    There's never a point where Manny is in real danger in the game, the player is always given as much time as he or she needs to think of a solution. Also, the game doesn't penalize you for making bad decisions, other than having to backtrack a bit to retrieve an item. It is impossible for the player to get stuck by throwing away a necessary item. This is a good thing, because the solutions to the puzzles in the game are strictly progressive, and the player has to solve them in exactly the way that the designers intended them to be solved. Since the game takes on a humorous tone, the way designers want puzzles solved is often in some very arbitrary way, which adds to the humor value.

    The reward that the game gives the player for solving the puzzles is strictly narrative. The player advances the story, and so learns more about the mystery. The player also gets access to more funny dialogue, which is the main thing that keeps players playing. I see this game as having no replay value until the player forgets every line of dialogue in the game.

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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 22:30:26     -    Grim Fandango (PC)

    Grim Fandango is an adventure game, where you take on the role of Manny Calavera, Grim Reaper/Travel Agent. Manny is trapped in undead indentured servitude, forced to sell travel packages to the land of the dead to newly deceased people. Manny doesn't know what he did to deserve such a dreary existence, but he tries to keep a cheerful attitude, cracking jokes and generally not taking unlife too seriously.

    You start out in Manny's office, after the intro cut scene. You wander around in a 3d environment, able to examine, use, or pick up items in the scene. The intro cutscene shows you that Manny is an unsuccessful Grim Reaper, because he never seems to get any “premium clients” people who led virtuous enough lives that they have it easy making it back to the land of the dead once they die. Truly virtuous clients can take a train ride to the land of the dead, whereas people with no redeeming qualities get issued a walking stick with a compass. Interesting to me, is that you're never actually told why going to the land of the dead is a desirable goal, you are just shown the alternative, purgatory, which is Manny's fate. Apparently, if Manny sells enough insurance, he can work off his debt, and eventually make the trip to the land of the dead himself.

    The first task you're given arrives via the message tube in Manny's office. There's been a mass poisoning at a diner, with so many deaths that clients will be handed out according to whoever meets them first. The problem is, that Manny's rival, Domino, has told Manny's regular driver to take the day off from work, as a way of insuring that Domino gets first pick of the clients. Manny meets Glottis, the mechanic elemental, who would love to drive Manny, except that he's too big to drive any of the cars in the garage, so he has to get permission from the boss to modify Manny's transportation in the form of a signature on a work order. Manny confronts the boss' secretary, Eva, and they have a funny conversation.

    Manny: Any messages for me?
    Eva: Besides the one about the poisoning?
    Manny: Yeah
    Eva: I only have one other message for you Manny...
    Eva: I'm not your secretary!
    Eva: I don't take your messages!
    Eva: So get it through your thick skull, and stop forwarding your phone to me!
    Manny: Alright, but that sounded more like FOUR messages to me

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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 22:17:35     -    Super Metroid (SNES)

    Part 2:
    Gameplay:

    I've explored a little bit more into the world, and noticed the difficulty does increase over time. In order to make progress through the game, you have to find the items that allow you to open doors to find new items. This starts out easy, as items are “hidden” in rooms with doors in them. You open the door, collect the item, and move on. Later on in the game, they hide the doors, so that you have to shoot some flooring to reveal a passage to a door. Sometimes, these secret passages are marked; there will be a cracked stone or a scorched tile. Other times, they won't be marked at all, and you'll have to infer the location of a secret passage by the fact that you're trapped in a deadend. Sometimes, you get stuck, and you'll have to do a brute force search, blasting every stone on every wall, ceiling and floor in your immediate area.

    This is a bad thing, I think. Sure, it sells more issues of “Nintendo Power” when you need to look up walkthroughs to find that one stray tile that is holding your progress back. But to me this is pure frustration, and takes me out of the game. I can imagine a person who disagrees with me, and doesn't want to be hand-fed the game. I feel the ability to progress should not be treated as a reward, or if it is, the goal should be made clear.


    Design:

    The game fools the player into believing it's freeform, when actually there's a very linear sequence of events that the player needs to accomplish before advancing to the next area. The game doesn't really have levels, but instead has areas, each of which has its own art style and set of dumb minions to challenge the player. These areas are backtracked through a lot, and this is provides the main illusion of non-linearity. Sometimes, the path will feature different enemies on the way back than on the way in, and these scripted events emulate the feeling that Samus is having an effect on the world, and that the world is reacting to her.

    Point A to Point B is the main challenge of the game, finding secret passages and avoiding pesky minions while doing so. The player isn't told what Point B is, but often you'll pass by an inaccessible door on your way to an item, and it's likely that the item you get will be of immediate use in opening said door, so it isn't necessary to keep notes. The game does provide you with some information on your progress by keeping a map of rooms that marks areas you've been.

    Every once and a while you'll meet a boss, which distinguishes itself from minions by having a slightly more complex behavior, with one obvious weak point that will allow the player to defeat it. Bosses are also special in that the player will only face them once, so the player will need to learn a new trick for each one.

    Bosses often reward players for beating them with a new item, which also reinforces in the player the idea that they've accomplished something. New items are the primary reward to players. They offer you new access to the world, and maybe an easier time vanquishing the minions in the world. Some items are more interesting than others... the morph ball changes the way you view the world, with every cranny a possible location of a secret. The spazer makes it easier to dispatch minions. This contrasts to the Varia Suit, which changes Samus' color scheme and lets her explore hot rooms without dying. The Spazer and the morph ball change the way the player looks at the game, while the purpose of the Varia suit is effectively to unlock doors. (Though, I do prefer its color scheme)

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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 22:17:25     -    Super Metroid (SNES)


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