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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 02:26:11     -    Audiosurf (PC)

    GAMEPLAY:

    For the second play period, the play was much the same as the first; I continued playing new songs, and started making a list of songs that I'd like to play but do not have at the moment - Dragonforce, Freebird, etc. You can get some extreme gameplay here, or extremely placid gameplay - it really is entirely up to which song one chooses.

    DESIGN:

    Where to begin? This game follows the overarching design philosophy of 'ride your music,' also the game's tagline. When playing, the mechanic is very, very simple: run your ship into blocks to get groups of three of the same color. Certain ships have special powers which can be activated by clicking the right or left mouse buttons, which means that the entire game can be played with nothing but the mouse and good coordination.

    What strikes me most about the design of this game is the elements that end up taking away from the brilliant gameplay. The designers got one thing right, which is the focus on the music being both played, and played, if you'll excuse the pun. What's missing is a good menu system and file browser implementation; if you're going to have the user be looking for music tracks, you want it to be easy to find them from within the game. The other complaint I have is the lack of a 'playlist' mode, where the player would be able to queue up several tracks and play each one sequentially. As it stands, the player must be forced out to the game menu before choosing the next track to play, and the play experience suffers for it.

    So that it might not sound like I'm set against the game, I will say that the part where the player is actually PLAYING is a study in design excellence. The game engine produces game tracks that seem like something out of a Technicolor dream, with bright colors and spinning geometry to liven up the landscape if the player has a moment to glance away from the oncoming blocks. The tracks are shown suspended in a black, grey, or white emptiness; downhill slopes represent relatively fast sections, and uphill slopes represent relatively slow sections of the song. The goal of the play, and it is a goal that is admirably achieved, is to make the game all about the music.

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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:30:56     -    Audiosurf (PC)

    SUMMARY:

    Audiosurf is a rhythm game where users can 'ride their music.' Players can select any track from their computer in a variety of formats, whereupon the game engine will analyze the features of the selection and create a sort of highway covered with colored blocks. Players earn points by running a car into these blocks and creating chains of three or more similarly colored pieces.

    GAMEPLAY:

    I can sum up Audiosurf in one word: Addicting. Since buying it yesterday, I have played it for no less than ten hours, rediscovering my music collection in the process. The game provides several different skill levels, each with several different modes of play. I prefer the Ninja Mono, where players have to dodge grey blocks and collect as many uniformly colored ones as possible.

    The control scheme is as simple as can be - move the mouse left or right. The real trick - for me, anyway - is to know WHEN to move left and right. The game will become harder if one chooses to play a very intense song, which meant that my trying to play 'Helter Skelter' by the Beatles on the hardest difficulty setting did not exactly turn out well.

    Skeltering aside, what I found as I continued to play was that I was listening to music that I hadn't bothered to listen to in years. I had fun anticipating how the game engine would handle certain tracks that I chose, and I had fun trying to attain the various achievements for each particular character. This game definitely encourages lots and lots of re-play, and even if you don't want to play the game, you can simply use it as a media player and watch the crazy multicolored tracks that are generated by the game engine.

    I'll be back with more, shortly.

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    Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:11:41     -    Super Mario 64 (N64)

    GAMEPLAY:

    This second play period was marked mostly by my increasing enjoyment of the game. Having played it only sporadically when it came out, and not at all in the last five or six years, I was pretty much seeing the game with a fresh perspective. There's so much to explore that I couldn't possibly fit the game into the time given for the gamelog, but I'm liking it so much that I will probably keep playing it even when I'm done with this.

    Also as I progress, I'm struck by the variety of the missions. The goals I have had set for me have never been duplicated, and if I get bored with one particular world I can just move on to the next. I find the level bosses particularly clever so far, but even then, not every level has a boss. One particular mission had me returning a lost baby penguin to the very concerned mother, a task complicated by the fact that the baby was at the top of a snow-covered mountain. It's things like this that make me love games.

    DESIGN:

    When talking about the design of a 3D platformer, the control system will inevitably be brought up. Super Mario 64 must have set the benchmark for control implementation - the game's controls are intuitive and very responsive to player motion.

    A huge variety of action is afforded by the N64 'trident' controller - varying combinations of buttons and joystick action allow the player to run, walk, tiptoe, crouch, jump, backflip, bodyslam, or slide, to name a few options. The game world itself allows for additional contextual actions, such as climbing trees and poles, or swimming. All of this adds up to enormous possibility for gameworld interaction.

    The gameworld itself is no less polished; from the very start, players are allowed to roam freely around different landscapes to a degree that was impossible in previous platformers. Birds can be heard chirping, butterflies flutter around, water flows in streams, and if one tires of walking around, one can simply admire the scenery by using the manual camera controls.

    Critical to this serene atmosphere is the lack of a time restriction on most levels. It is perhaps the most important design decision in the game; players can spend as much time as they like exploring, and get to the actual mission only when they decide they want to. It makes for a much more relaxing game experience when compared with a game such as Super Mario World.

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    Feb 21st, 2008 at 01:36:32     -    Super Mario 64 (N64)

    SUMMARY:

    Super Mario 64 is a 3D platformer for the Nintendo 64 console. The goal of the game, as with so many in the Mario series, is to rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of the malicious Bowser. The player must run, jump, slide, bop, and punch his way through a variety of challenges in several different worlds to acquire Power Stars and thereby proceed through the game.

    GAMEPLAY:

    I started the game with the mindset of a present-day gamer; that is to say, I was immediately critical of the graphics, which now seem dated and ugly. As I played, though, I found myself caring less and less about the graphics, if only because the game exists in a world worth exploring.

    I find myself at a loss to describe what it was I felt as I explored the grounds in front of the starting castle, but then I've never played a game where chasing birds around was something I could do. The world is so colorful and so alive that I found myself forgiving the dated graphics and simply enjoying myself; only later, as I began playing through the challenges proper, did I begin to understand the breadth of the accomplishment of the game creators. It took me a while to remember that the game was first published over ten years ago, and when I did remember that, my awe only increased.

    I haven't progressed far in the game, but I hope that what I have experienced so far - living game worlds, excellent sound and level design, a certain innocent charm - will hold true through the rest of the game.

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    1Audiosurf (PC)Finished playing
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    5Team Fortress 2 (PC)Finished playing

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