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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 02:22:31     -    Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (PS2)

    GameLog #5, Part II, for CMPS 80K

    GAMEPLAY

    During my second session of Eternal Night, I was able to successfully guide Spyro in fending off an attack from the enemy Ape army that serve as the villains of this game. After ridding Spyro's homeworld of the invaders, I was able to meet up with Ignitus, Spyro's elder and mentor, and progress with the plot. After several boss battles and cutscenes, Spyro is encouraged to embark on a quest for a strange tree that he encounters in a vision, as well as seek out the mysterious Chronicler who manifests as a guiding voice throughout Spyro's ethereal dream sequences. While the concept itself may be lacking in originality and perhaps taking itself rather too seriously for a game about a purple dragon, I must admit that my curiosity is slightly piqued.

    Overall, the gameplay feels very similar to most other games within the 3D platform genre, with a distinct quirkiness and sense of freedom the promotes two-dimensional cardinality (in the ability to glide from platform to platform) that I would associate with playing a title from the Spyro series. Again, as a fan of the previous games, I am slighting disheartened by the absence of familiar elements of gameplay, such as the ability to collect and hoard brightly-colored gemstones for the sole reason of gaining completion points. Instead, however, players have the option of finding bonus items that unlock various goodies throughout the game, including truly beautiful concept artwork images.

    DESIGN

    While The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night is similar in most respects to the other Spyro titles, I think the design elements in this game (and, undoubtedly, its predecessor in the rebooted series) are a definite improvement on the original. The camera control is smooth and easy to use; the controller setup, while at first jarring in its difference to the original games, is very well-organized; and, as I have mentioned previously, the voice-acting is top-notch.
    What is best achieved, however, is the way in which the game implements challenge by requiring the player to utilize Spyro's various abilities by managing his available resources whilst quickly defeating enemies. The elemental powers with which Spyro is gradually gifted must be practiced if they are to be used effectively, and the Dragon Time ability which he gains near the beginning is made instrumental to solving a number of puzzles throughout the game.
    Another interesting addition to the game is the fact that Spyro can now reach higher levels in his skills by obtaining the equivalent of experience points, which may be cashed in for progression towards a new ability for one of the particular elements over which Spyro has control.

    The level design is also worth noting, since the Spyro games have, in my humble opinion, always been a good example of effective design for a three-dimensional platformer; the floating platforms utilize Spyro's glide and (in this game) time-influencing abilities well in the context of a 3D environment.
    In some aspects, however, the game is perhaps a little too challenging in that it requires the player to navigate complex levels at the same time as defeating enemies, a feat made particularly difficult by Spyro's limited magic points and restrictions on the range and effectiveness of his physical attacks.

    My major discrepancies with the game in terms of design so far would have to be the premise and initial setting of the storyline, in which the Ape army begins to invade and Spyro is motivated to fight them in order to protect his home, a device used frequently by Spyro games in the past. The character designs, while largely an improvement on the old series, are also sometimes a little odd-looking, especially since Spyro himself appears rather more bug-eyed than he did previously, a feature which I feel detracts from his appeal as one of the PlayStation's most iconic characters during their first generation of console. Additionally, there is little variation in the challenges presented to the player by this game, since they all follow the same basic mechanic of gliding from platform to platform and smashing up the enemies that confront him or her with a combination of elemental and mêlée attacks. However, as a fan of the series, I must admit that I intend to continue playing this game to its conclusion, even if everything besides the voice-acting were to become tiring for me as a player.

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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:27:22     -    Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (PS2)

    GameLog #5, Part I, for CMPS 80K

    SUMMARY

    Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night is a three-dimensional platform game developed by Krome Studios and published by Sierra. It is the second and most recent title in the Legend of Spyro series, as reboot of Insomniac's Spyro the Dragon games. Much like the other games in this series, the player takes control of a small purple dragon named Spyro and uses his various abilities to traverse worlds, defeat enemies and solve puzzles.

    GAMEPLAY

    Although a fan of the original Spyro the Dragon games since childhood, I have not yet had the opportunity to play either of the titles from the newer series until I picked up the PlayStation2 version of Eternal Night earlier this week. For that reason, I was rather disappointed to find that the game picks up right where its predecessor, A New Beginning left off, as I was unfamiliar with the story and felt rather disoriented at being thrown into the plot headlong. However, I found it fairly easy to pick up the gist of the story, and was able to begin playing without too much confusion.

    After the initial cutscenes, the player is guided through a small area via on-screen tips which explain the various controls and commands available to Spyro. Having played only the earlier Spyro series, I had some difficulty adjusting to the differences of the newer version. For example, Spyro's gliding ability follows a somewhat different mechanic from the one that I am used to, and several of the other abilities such as charging down an enemy with Spyro's horns or having him shoot flames from his mouth are now controlled by different buttons than they were in the original games. Spyro also has several new skills at his disposal, such as the abilities to grapple onto ledges and deal mêlée damage to enemies. The interface is also incredibly different from how I remember it in the Insomniac games, since Spyro's fire (and other elemental) abilities are performed using MP, which is displayed by a gage at the top of the screen. Spyro's health is also recorded differently by a separate gage, which eliminates the usefulness of his sidekick, Sparx the dragonfly. Instead of changing colors to indicate Spyro's health, Sparx now simply points out various significant events and objects, and has thus far been genuinely useless. (In fact, he has become very reminiscent of the persistently-annoying Navi in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.)

    However, in all the areas that the game is unfamiliar to fans of the old Spyro series, it still manages to impress in a variety of ways. First off, the game boasts a truly talented voice-acting cast, a drastic improvement on the older titles and featuring the voices of Elijah Wood and Gary Oldman, among others. Furthermore, while the overall concept of an invading enemy is not entirely original to the Spyro titles (or, moreover, any other videogame), the plot succeeds in delivering a far deeper level of storytelling than the initial games were able to offer. Even this early on during gameplay, there is already a fair amount of intrigue regarding the motives of various characters, both old and newly-introduced, for example, the mysterious “Chronicler”, who communicates with Spyro during playable dream sequences, and give him the power of Dragon Time, allowing him to slow the progression of events around him.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Mar 6th, 2008 at 02:23:08.

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    Feb 21st, 2008 at 01:01:51     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    (GameLog 4, Part II, for CMPS 80K)

    GAMEPLAY

    As I become better acquainted with San Andreas, I am glad to find that some of the tedium I encountered during my first session has worn off. Having by now become used to the gameworld city of Los Santos and its surroundings, I am more confident navigating the vast urban areas and undertaking missions. In this, my second gaming session, I once again took control of Carl and helped him to become reacquainted with his home turf.
    As with the rest of the GTA series, the missions that the player is asked to undertake begin as small, petty crimes – in this case, spray-painting walls with gang tags – but quickly escalate into more serious offenses such as the mass murder of an entire house of rival gang members. While killing on this scale is somewhat justified in the narrative (the victims consist largely of prostitutes and drug-pushers who are destroying the reputation of Grove Street), it is plain to see why a game like San Andreas might so radically increase public awareness of videogame violence in recent years.

    DESIGN

    While not necessarily innovative in its use of visuals or content, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas makes rather effective use of the PS2's capacity for interactive and immersive gameplay. The graphics, while not groundbreaking, are fairly well rendered, and do their job of conveying the gritty, urban streets of San Andreas to the viewer. The game also features some fairly decent voice-acting, and even through the characters are often stereotypical, they each add their own level of color and intrigue without deviating from the established, quasi-realistic tone for which the GTA series is known.

    What the game accomplishes well, as with previous installments in the series, is the freedom and ease with which the player can navigate the surrounding city, an event that is made particularly more entertaining when coupled with the player's ability to steal cars, bikes, and other assorted vehicles. The maps featured in both the lower left-hand corner of the screen and on the options menu make navigation even simpler, and when combined with the realistic style in which the streets are mapped and laid out, make for truly effective gameplay.
    Other fine details, such the ability to listen to a variety of radio stations while driving, collect a vast number of different weapons and vehicles, complete hidden stunts for bonus points, and engage in varying social interactions (most of which are threatening or deviant in some way) add further dimension and replay value.

    However, while San Andreas is undoubtedly entertaining, I would not consider it a personal favourite. Although the game's liberating escapist elements make for both fun and immersive gameplay, its violent (and in one, infamous scene, sexually explicit) content means that it is suited toward a limited audience of young adult males. Also, while its characters are obviously intended to be social stereotypes, the gender roles that are presented are unbalanced and often distasteful. While I think that perhaps critics of the Grand Theft Auto series assume that audiences will take the game more seriously than intended, it is easy to see where the basis for their argument stems from.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Feb 21st, 2008 at 01:02:55.

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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 18:53:51     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    (GameLog 4, Part I, for CMPS80K)

    SUMMARY

    Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is an action-based crime game for the Playstation 2 which was published by Rockstar Games in 2004. Like other games in the GTA series, San Andreas focuses on an individual who is encouraged to lead a life of lesser morals in an urban setting that is rife with criminal activity. In this installment, set during 1992 in the fictional county of San Andreas, California, the player takes control of the game's protagonist, a young man named Carl who decides to return to his home of Los Santos after discovering that his mother has been murdered.

    GAMEPLAY

    Crime games are hardly my preferred genre, so I have mixed feelings about playing any title from the Grand Theft Auto series, let alone a game so controversial as San Andreas. Having played a little of Grand Theft Auto III in the past, however, I was well enough acquainted with the series to know what I could expect. I was happy to find that the game provided a great deal more detail than its predecessors, although the core mechanics of gameplay are essentially the same.

    Although the game itself is mission-based, the open-ended nature of the Grand Theft Auto series is obviously what gives it its appeal. While the player is encouraged to the complete the story for the sake of narrative progression, the overwhelming number of interactive opportunities around the city of Los Santos offers a freedom that the player will inevitably take advantage of. Furthermore, rather than offer tutorials, the game encourages free-play and experimentation, more or less throwing the player headlong into the gameworld with little or no direction. Left to his or her own devices, the player is intended to test the limits of the character's abilities his or her self. On-screen hints do provide some direction, but they are quite easily dismissed or even ignored altogether.
    While I can understand why the liberation incited by this scenario would make for entertaining gameplay, I found the lack of direction a little frustrating and even a little counterproductive, since it inspired me with little desire to progress with the actual plot.

    Despite my personal misgivings, however, I did gain a small measure of enjoyment during my first forty-five minutes of playing San Andreas, which I chiefly spent traversing the streets on a bicycle in pursuit of vehicles to steal (and subsequently ruin). A cautious player by nature, I did not find the game to be very challenging in my time spent playing so far; I have not yet managed to antagonize the police force anymore than Carl did during the opening cutscenes, most likely because my character's social deviations were limited to harassment, petty theft, and minor vehicle-related damage.

    This entry has been edited 2 times. It was last edited on Feb 21st, 2008 at 01:00:49.

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    1Legend of Mana (PS)Playing
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