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    Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:10:35     -    Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)

    GAMEPLAY
    I finally got to the best part of the game: Krazy Kremland. This world has all of the most memorable and innovative levels. The ones before it in Gangplank, Crocodile Cauldron, and Krem Quay became sort of redundant (true Krem Quay is pirate ship ruins, but still…). In Krazy Kremland you have areas like the hornet hole, where you get to climb up sticky walls and view an inside world of the evil Zingers. A lot of games have you enter the enemy’s territory, where you must stealthily move through the level to reach a save point. However, in happy DK Country, the Zingers let you climb their hive an get honey all in your little monkey fur!
    I still consider Target Terror the best and most unique level of the game. You have to ride this sketchy-looking rollercoaster with a huge skull on the front. The background of the level includes fireworks and scenes of a carnival, while you must jump off the tracks at precise times to avoid obstructions and hit the arrows to make them green (or sometimes avoid hitting the arrows). By turning the arrows green, it allows your coaster cart to pass through doors that were somehow placed on the tracks. Diddy and Trixie get very expressive in this level, covering their eyes and widening their mouths in glee, surprise, or fright…whatever a monkey would feel on a rickety rollercoaster.
    This world also includes the toughest – and my least favorite – level, which is Bramble Scramble. I am crazy unstable using Squawkers (and that may be due to my emulator and using keyboard controls) and always hit the damn bramble walls.
    Donkey Kong Country games are always a blast to play. They don’t take 90 hours to defeat, they aren’t too repetitive, and DK2 includes a lot more mini games and bonus levels (such as the Lost World). These positive additions also improve in Donkey Kong Country 3: Trixie’s Double Trouble.

    GAME DESIGN
    DK2 added quite a few innovative new features in comparison to the original Donkey Kong Country. One of these additions is a more varied and complex reward system. There are much more bonus levels that give you coins for completing them; the end of each level is a targeting system where you choose a reward; and you can transform into animals in addition to riding them. The Kongs’ animal buddies are used more prominently in this game and are essential to completing certain levels – they are no longer preserved for bonus levels. For example, in the bramble and some beehive levels, you must use squawkers to move up. In some underwater levels, you must use Enguarde.

    The reward system’s usage is also unique in the game’s design. In order to save your progress at Kong College, you must pay tokens. Also, Cranky gives you useful tips – for a fee, of course. If you want to find the Lost World and add more levels to the game, you have to pay Klubba. Nothing sure is cheap in DK2!

    The only main concern I had while playing DK2 was control usage. This seems to be a regular complaint for me, so maybe it is a personal issue. Still, I died a ridiculous amount of times over-estimating a jump or underestimating a barrel toss. I mostly blame this on my lack of gamepad controller. I used an emulator and therefore used my keyboard for character movement: definitely not something I recommend. This was my only issue, and it’s mainly one of personal preference and lack of coordination? I kept jumping instead of picking up a barrel, or vice versa.

    Playing DK2 now, it definitely fosters a certain pattern of social interaction: nostalgia, reflection, and memorable video game moments. My age group grew up with Donkey Kong Country and most of my friends played them at one point. When we talk about the game, it’s usually ways in which we’ve improved as gamers, how difficult a certain boss was when we were 10, or how we used to be better and are now just rusty. Playing games from the classic list is always pleasurable because it forces you to consider how you’ve culturally grown and how your interests and preferences in video game genres have changed.


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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 20:47:45     -    Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)

    SUMMARY
    Donkey Kong Country…with no Donkey?! Gamers who played the first Donkey Kong Country for SNES, or any Donkey Kong for arcade, Atari, or 8-bit, may question the validity Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. How can a game take the name of DK without featuring the main ape himself? It can happen if Donkey is in fact “taken” by his arch nemesis, K. Rool! It is up to Diddy to rescue his uncle, with the help of his blonde and sassy ass-kicking girlfriend, Trixie. The two begin where DK Country left off: Gangplank Galleon. From there, they must find and defeat K. Rool on his Crocodile Isle in order to save Donkey Kong from his captors.

    GAMEPLAY
    Most platformers have a fairly simple style of gameplay: make your way through various stages within a world without dying, fight a final boss, and progress to the next world. Platforms are classis, quick-paced games that are enjoyable and generally easy. Donkey Kong Country 2 is a faithful platform game with a lively cast of characters. The storyline is fun and uncomplicated. It seems like today the more complex a video game is, the better the game’s interactivity is. However, replaying this mid-90s classic is a refreshing break from overly-detailed plot twists and extra mini games.

    I love the main ape characters in the game. Diddy is trendy with his red Nintendo hat and legit rap skillz at the end of a level. Trixie has the rocking hair whips down and doesn’t play around with the Kremling Krew. Cranky Kong is the stereotypical snarky grandpa who loves messing with the young’uns, and Donkey Kong represents the strong-willed hero, even though he is captured and not a huge part of DK2.

    The most prevalent emotion I feel while playing DK2 is nostalgia. I remember anticipating the second installment of the Donkey Kong series after watching my sister play the first one. Once I as finally old enough to play, Diddy’s Kong Quest had just come out, and it was my first Donkey Kong game to play through independently. The quirky, energetic Kongs are excellent protagonists that keep the game silly and light-hearted, even during a boss battle. While I was playing, my roommates decided to watch and reminisce with me because they, too, remember how it felt to hold that round-edged remote in your 7 year-old hands. Playing Donkey Kong in front of my roommates sparked a conversation of all the classic video games we used to play and love.

    Though there is a definite narrative to the game, it is not continually developed through the game by cut scenes or unlockable story add-ons. You simply know the situation from the beginning and what you must do to help Donkey Kong. Naturally, K. Rool is your antagonist, and Diddy and Trixie are the heroes. The game flows like any platform game: level by level. There are a bunch of great and innovative levels in DK2, such as the amusement park and beehives.


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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 00:44:39     -    No More Heroes (Wii)

    SUMMARY
    Travis Touchdown is one broke dude living in the No More Heroes Motel with his kitty Jeane in the free-roaming town of Santa Destroy. Good thing he's a damn good assassin, or there probably wouldn't be much to do besides pet his cat and ride his "Schpel Tiger" motorcycle. Thankfully, his status as 11th best hitman was brought to the attention of the sensual and bitchy Sylvia Christal (can't help the swear words - completely the game's influence) who is part of the United Assassins Association. The goals of the game are to defeat the ten best assassins ahead of Travis so he can be number one, make some cash executing dirty side jobs, and hopefully "doing it" with miss Christal.

    GAMEPLAY
    NO More Heroes is a unique, stylistic game full of quirky characters and innovative uses of the Wii controls. The tutorial was straight to the point, as was the introduction to the game. No BS. It's a fairly fast-paced action-adventure...with LOTS of action.
    The game begins by engaging in beam katana battles with a plethora of baddies who allow Touchdown to demonstrate his ultra gory, glorious skills. Each strike of the beam katana uses A, and then prompts the player to swing the remote in a direction selected at random to finish the opponent. There are also strategies you learn to use as you progress through battles, such as slashing high or low, or when to evade an attack. My personal favorite is violently - and suggestively - rocking the Wii remote back and forth to recharge the beam katana's battery.
    The over-the-top fight scenes, mixed with the retro slot-machine reward system, is a beautiful mixture of feeling both badass and hopelessly cheesy. The cut scenes are funny and definitely use adult humor: Travis is a raunchy, sex-obsessed egotist. The game is entertaining in its physical gameplay, as well as its crude jokes.
    One comment I must mention is its difficulty level. So far, the game is annoyingly simple. I know it's just the beginning, but even the first boss took less than 5 minutes to defeat. Hopefully the challenge will start to pick up as the game progresses. Also, I am not a huge fan of the GTA-type free-roaming maps - too easy to get lost. It took me forever to find the job center so I can earn some cash and continue the plot. Other than that, cool fighting, cool art, and cool protagonist. I feel cool after playing it.


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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 22:35:53     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    GAMEPLAY
    As I continue pursuing the colossi, no more of the story has been revealed. It is a mysterious plot that continually peaks my curiosity to play. Each colossus becomes successively harder to defeat. It takes more than just climbing and stabbing as I progress. With each new colossus, you must utilize more resources, such as Agro and the environment. This difference began aorund the third colossus: you must climb a spiraling tower in the middle of the sea to reach him, and in order to climb the beast, you must get him to strike a stone platform so his armor is weakened. This reveals hairy areas for Wander to clutch.
    In later colossus battles, Agro is also key to defeating the giant. You must stand on top of his saddle and aim at the colossus' weak points with your bow and arrows, while remaining balanced on Agro's back. That way, you can keep up with the colossus and strike his weak spots.
    The mysterious storyline keeps me excited to play every time, hoping for a new plot twist. Although nothing significant has happened, other than every time a colossus is defeated, Wander's skin pales and the woman's skin glows brighter, it isn't as if the game is stuck in a rut. Each colossus provides a unique lair and enviornment with which to work, and a new challenge.

    DESIGN
    SotC has an interesting design. Put into laymen's terms, it sounds rather mundane: no character interaction, no separate "levels," no other playable lands, and no immediate reward system. Sounds boring. However, SotC instead transforms these aspects into a simple, goal-oriented game without excess confusion. It provides for a quick, challenging, and direct game: defeat shadows. This way, maybe you, as the player, will learn more of the mysterious story plot.
    The space within its gaming world is enormous and free of confinement. I could ride Agro around the map for hours and be satisfied looking at the gorgeous light rays, clouds, and scenery of the game. The colossus almost seem to be part of the scenery. Each colossus is more terrible and beautiful than the one before it. These open spaces are also difficult at times, since it is easy to get lost or barred by mountains.
    The game's realism is also striking. One realistic element is the movement of Wander and Agro. Wander's moves are not fluid, but awkward and humanistic - if he has the sword in his hand, he runs slightly lopsided, and when he jumps, he lands hard, as if he were truly leaping heavily. Wander is easy to control, however Agro proves more of a challenge. He is oftentimes very hard to turn around and change direction. You must continually press x for him to gallop as well, which is irritating. If you don't keep pressing x, he will slow down in a short span of time. Aside from these slightly irritating control schemes with Agro, the rest of the game's controls are fairly simple.
    The simplistic beauty of Shadow of the Colossus makes it a refreshing change from the typical action-adventure game. There is no button-mashing (unless you're riding Agro), no onslaught of mediocre enemies, and a whole lot of open wilderness. If you enjoy this game, I highly recommend its sequel, Ico. You get even more story development, shedding light on the shadowy game of enigmatic majesty.

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