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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:31:51     -    Kirby's Adventure (NES)

    GAMEPLAY:

    During my second play period I found the difficulty increasing, especially during the boss battles. I got my first "game over" fighting the second boss in the game, and my second directly after the second boss. However, I didn't find it terribly frustrating to get a game over, if only because the boss battles and subsequent levels were so different from one another. I also felt that the bosses weren't arbitrarily hard; that is to say, I had to use my mind to figure out a way to beat them, rather than slugging it out in an endurance battle. This is something I particularly enjoy in a game.

    I don't know if it's proper to point out 'originality' in a 14 year old game, especially since I don't know what was genuinely new with the game, but I feel that based on how different the individual levels are from one another, the game itself must have been something new and exciting for a platformer. I never felt like things were getting repetitive, but then, I haven't played the whole game through to find out.

    So far, a fun, fun, fun game!

    DESIGN:

    On the design side of things, I have one immediate criticism - the game overstresses the NES hardware with regularity, to the point where the slowdown hinders gameplay. This is particularly noticeable with Kirby's special attacks when several enemies are on-screen.

    I had assumed that with console games (as opposed to PC games) the hardware capabilities of the system are uniform; that is to say, the developers know exactly what they have to work with before they even know what game they want to make. To make a game that doesn't suit the system one is working with is a bit silly, especially in this case; Kirby's Adventure came out four years after the Super Nintendo was introduced; the hardware was available to make the game run smoothly and then some.

    In terms of gameplay design, however, the game is nothing short of excellent. As with any platformer, the focus should be on the design and progression of the levels, and with Kirby's Adventure we can see a careful design philosophy at work.

    As with most platformers, the game is broken up into several worlds; each world has from 4-6 individual levels, along with a boss. Each world has a theme, the most obvious example of this being the Butter Building; the player works his way up to the top through a series of levels that take place both inside and outside the building.

    Where Kirby's Adventure stands out is with Kirby's attacks. Kirby has the ability to suck certain enemies into his mouth and thereby steal their attack. By this method, he can gain the ability to burn, freeze, crush, roll over, hammer, or spike his enemies - and those are just the attacks I can remember off the top of my head. Not only are there many attacks, but some secret areas can be accessed based on what particular attack you have at the time. It is a unique game element, well-executed - much like the rest of the game. An excellent, well designed, well executed platformer all around.


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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 00:32:04     -    Kirby's Adventure (NES)

    SUMMARY:

    Kirby's Adventure is a platformer that details the eponymous character's quest to recover the seven shards of the Star Rod, a device that allows the inhabitants of Dream Land to sleep, perchance to dream. The game was originally released in 1993 and follows the standard platformer progression model of several 'worlds' each with several levels to beat.

    GAMEPLAY:

    When I first started playing Kirby's Adventure, I was immediately struck by two things: first, by the quality of the graphics relative to other NES games, and second, by the extremely cheerful, fun atmosphere of the game. It is the first game in a long time where I found myself not caring too much about the story, or about getting to the end - I was having too much fun just playing the game. In these days of ultra-competitive FPSs and MMORPGs, it is refreshing to play a game like this where it is so obvious that HAVING FUN is the goal.

    In terms of characterization, Kirby is a lightweight, both figuratively and literally. This game doesn't flesh him out much; all I've found out so far is that he is a round pink guy with truly amazing lung capacity and a penchant for fixing broken Star Rods. That said, he is well rendered in the game itself; at one point, I found myself purposely running him into walls so I could see the entertaining animation that was provided for that purpose. He runs, jumps, slides, puffs up, shrinks down, falls, faceplants, and sucks down enemies like some sort of demented video-game Hoover vacuum.

    I look forward to playing this game through!

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    Jan 14th, 2008 at 04:00:07     -    Team Fortress 2 (PC)

    GAMEPLAY:

    Having spent some time with the game already, I found the game to be much less frustrating this time around. I was playing a different map, so perhaps that has something to do with it. I found myself having genuine fun while playing, and I was able to help out my teammates more than in the first round of play. I definitely got a more solid sense of the 'team' in Team Fortress 2.

    I'm starting to get more of a feel for the individual characters in the game, which is odd to say because multiplayer FPS like Counter-Strike don't tend to have any sort of characters, just two opposing teams. In TF2, the individual classes definitely have personalities. I've been playing the Soldier, who has a very gruff, gung-ho, war movie personality, whereas the Spy is a very reserved, fastidious fellow with a European accent; The Heavy is a thick-headed Russian, the Scout is a gleefully manic Brooklynite, the Medic is a German Dr. Kevorkian, and so on for all the rest of the classes - the Sniper, the Pyro, the Demoman, and the Engineer.

    All in all, I can say that my experience with the game, apart from my initial lack of skill, has been a very positive one!

    DESIGN:

    Team Fortress 2 is a very carefully designed game. The most obvious quality of the game from a design perspective is the garish, almost cartoony nature of the graphics. This makes the game an immediate standout among the crowd of modern hyper-realistic online FPS games, and also allows for a host of other design differences that would only make sense in an exaggerated environment.

    One of these differences is the use of color within the game. Territory controlled by the RED team is subtly warmer and redder, whereas territory controlled by the BLU team is cooler and bluer. This is most obvious on the map 2Fort, where the two team bases are static throughout the game. The BLU base is constructed of blue-tinted concrete and similar materials, whereas the RED base is made up of redwood and dirt. This design choice makes it immediately obvious when one is in enemy territory, but without being obnoxious.

    Another critical element of the gameplay is the assumed conflict between the BLU and the RED teams. The game rewards the execution of this conflict by awarding points to either team for successfully completing objectives while preventing the other team from completing theirs; however, this does not mean that the conflict is mandated. Put otherwise, the two teams can agree to a spontaneous armistice, as I witnessed in one particular match.

    Player agreement works in other ways, such as spontaneous agreements to attack only with melee weapons. While there is no "rule from on high" that this behavior is mandatory, players cooperate with the informal agreement to a surprising degree, and the result is a more fun experience for all. The game design allows for these meta-games by stripping the core game experience down to comparative simplicity, so that emergent behavior is almost guaranteed by player experimentation.

    If there is any part of the game I take objection to, it is the part that frustrated me the most - the initial period of inexperience that can only be alleviated by getting thoroughly beaten by other players for an indeterminate period of time. While it could be argued that this learning curve is common to all online first person shooters, I see no reason why some sort of tutorial or sandbox environment couldn't be provided to help new players learn how to play the game. It is frustrating and even embarrassing to play an online FPS for the first time, only to find that you are being utterly destroyed by more experienced players. I can easily see casual gamers and first-timers being discouraged by this if they have no other motivation to continue playing.

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    Jan 14th, 2008 at 02:22:40     -    Team Fortress 2 (PC)

    SUMMARY:
    Team Fortress 2 is a class-based team-play-oriented online first-person shooter. The game revolves around the ongoing struggle between the Builder's League United team (BLU Team) and the Reliable Expert Demolition team (RED team) for control of territory in a variety of maps. The game has a very unique, cartoony style with exaggerated gore and vividly colorful environments, making the game stand out among other, more 'realistic' shooters.

    GAMEPLAY:
    For my part, getting into the game took a while longer than usual, probably because I never really play any online first person shooters. I found myself dying pretty much as soon as I stuck my head out of the spawn point no matter what class I played. After a while I figured out that I could survive much better if I just kept moving, and things started to get a bit more fun after that.

    Once I got past the initial frustration of not being terribly good at the game, I started really enjoying myself. The game keeps track of your in-game statistics, such as kills per round, and tells you when you are close to beating your previous best scores. I found this system to be particularly motivating, and it definitely gave me more reason to to try stay alive, beyond the inconvenience of having to go back to the respawn every two minutes.

    I really started hitting my stride around the 30-minute mark, once I'd got accustomed to the controls of the game and the flow of battle. I made a point of trying all the classes for at least one round, and found that I played best as the Soldier. The Soldier is armed with a rocket launcher, a shotgun, and an entrenching shovel, the last of which led to some hilarious kills. I found something truly satisfying - and funny - in sneaking up behind people and whacking them to death with the shovel.

    The voice chat system was perhaps the most entertaining part of the gameplay, as I talked and bantered with the other players of the game. The chatter had a decidedly ribald nature, but the priority was given to tactical talk - when to make a rush on the enemy base, whether there were spies around, etc. Another thing I noticed and particularly liked was that there was no harsh criticism of unskilled players. Compared to a game like Counterstrike, where new players are bashed constantly and cruelly, this friendliness is like a breath of fresh air, and went a long way toward making the game enjoyable for me despite not being too good at it.



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