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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 01:13:08     -    Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (GBA)

    “Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars" (Game Boy Advance)

    GameLog entry #2:

    GAMEPLAY

    Playing the game more, I realized that I was becoming wrapped up in the story, and the story is what drives me to play most adventure games, not the gameplay. While impatient gamers may be turned off by the lack of action, I enjoy games that take their time to immerse the player in the game world. Yes, as a traditional adventure game, it is almost slavishly linear. It is a game of progression, but it's not the destination nor the progress that is compelling, but the journey. As such, like a good movie, I like to revisit the adventure games I have played in the past from time to time, to re-experience the unfolding of the story.

    The gameplay of "Broken Sword" is so familiar to me from countless other adventure games it almost feels like second nature, and so it is harder for me to be as objective, I admit, about it as a result. That said, I feel confident that what "Broken Sword" does well, and what any good adventure game does, is the same as what a good story does: allows the player/reader to identify with the main character, thus making the events in the story more interesting and involving. When I was in Paris, less than a year ago, I could have been George, sitting there in that café!

    DESIGN

    One of the most significant differences from the PC original is that there is no voice acting in this version, again due to space limitations of the cartridge format. While this is a significant loss, I don't believe it really hurts the overall game. Some may complain that this means there is too much reading (and there is a LOT of reading in this game), but I don't see that as a bad thing. Actually, I see it as a good thing--this videogame is one of the more literate around. The dialogue is well written, and the vocabulary of the characters is not limited to Basic English, unlike the vast majority of game characters.

    The other significant difference is that cut scenes use key frames from the fully animated original's, again due to the limited space on the cartridge. Because the original cut scenes were so well done to begin with, this is another lamentable loss, but the essential narrative remains soundly intact.

    I really enjoy games like "Broken Sword," and so I had a hard time coming up with much to criticize about it. One thing I always appreciate in an adventure game, which is lacking in this one, is a speed control. Sometimes it can be a bit trying to watch George traverse the screen from right to left or left to right for the umpteenth time. Some games allow the player a shortcut key so the character movement animation is skipped, and some have a speed control. I think either of those might improve the game slightly.

    I grew up with "King's Quest," "Gabriel Knight," and many other classic graphic adventures. Call me old fashioned, but I wish the industry would produce more of them. Whatever design or gameplay problems or limitations they may have had, their foremost goal--which they achieved, by and large, spectacularly--was to immerse the player in a good story, something that I enjoy diving into more than getting itchy trigger fingers.

    This entry has been edited 2 times. It was last edited on Feb 9th, 2008 at 01:22:40.

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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 01:11:01     -    Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (GBA)

    “Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars” (Game Boy Advance)

    GameLog entry #1:

    SUMMARY

    "Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars" (2002) for the Game Boy Advance is an adaptation of the 1996 PC third-person graphic adventure "Circle of Blood," the first of what now constitutes four installments in the "Broken Sword" series. This release for Game Boy Advance, one of the few traditional graphic adventure games available on hand held consoles, reflects the original title of the 1996 UK PC edition (it was developed there by Revolution Software Ltd.).

    The player controls George Stobbart, an American tourist vacationing in Paris. One day, while sitting outside a quaint, idyllic café, he sees a clown enter the building behind a man with a briefcase that he later discovers held an ancient manuscript dating back to the Knights Templar of the 14th century. Soon after, a bomb detonates, destroying the café's façade. George barely escapes with his life, and the game begins...

    GAMEPLAY

    I had played the original game many years ago on the PC, and remember enjoying it immensely at the time. I have always liked story-driven games, which is one of the reasons many of the games I own are traditional graphic adventures, and I was curious to know if this Game Boy Advance version of the game made a successful transition to the hand held system.

    I was pleasantly surprised. Rather than the point-and-click interface of the PC original, the D-pad is used to control George, and one of the things I particularly like about the gameplay of this edition of the game is that the dreaded pixel hunting of mouse-driven games has been eliminated by what Revolution calls the Vista menu. By hitting the R button multiple times, the game will cycle through the various "hot spots"--the things in the game world that George can either look at or interact with. This makes for far less frustrating gameplay. I wish the original PC game had a similar feature!

    I love the conventions of the adventure game genre, nearly all of which are present in "Broken Sword." There is the inventory (seemingly unlimited--George must have large pockets), puzzles that need to be solved by using inventory items on people and objects, and much observation about the game world made by George, etc. When I picked up this game, I knew exactly what to expect, and it delivered. It's the same reason I eat pizza.

    Other observations:

    The graphics are done as well as can be expected on the Game Boy Advance, and Revolution has done a respectable job of translating the more detailed original PC graphics to the smaller screen of the hand held system. At times, it almost feels like I am controlling characters in a doll house, and I mean that as a compliment.

    The MIDI music is well done too, and sounds very much like the original. The original game, as I recall, had a full orchestral score, but obviously, for space reasons owing to the cartridge format of the Game Boy Advance, it could not be carried over.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Feb 9th, 2008 at 01:18:29.

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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:38:13     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    “Shadow of the Colossus” (PlayStation 2)

    GameLog entry #2:

    GAMEPLAY

    In this second gameplay session, I found some of the controls to be awkward. For example, when riding Agro, I tired of continually pressing the X button to kick him into action. I would have preferred using one of the analog sticks for movement. I also think there are too many camera-related controls (analog stick, L1, R2)--it is difficult to remember the differences.

    I am not sure the camera is entirely successful. The player is able to control it using one of the DualShock analog controls, but the game itself sometimes chooses to move it in a way that prevents the player from seeing where he is going. This happened to me more often when I came upon a rocky impasse, and my horse would turn around and run the other direction, but the camera wouldn't. This is a minor quibble, however, for the camera effectively conveys a sense of excitement--when the horse is galloping full steam, the camera swoops in close, even slightly "jiggling" for a realistic hand held aesthetic.

    DESIGN

    What is good--very good--about "Shadow of the Colossus" is the challenge of defeating the colossi themselves. Each is a kind of puzzle, in a way, and the player must use logic and skill to defeat them. What is so-so about the game is the time it takes to get to the next challenge. As beautiful as the game world is, I often felt that it took too long to make any progress. The world is vast--so vast--that the player can ride his horse for miles and miles without encountering any body, creature, or object to interact with. The designers have implemented a clue to guide the player to his next destination--he can follow the beam of light reflected off his sword. But even with this as a guide, the pauses between colossi battles can drag on very long. Unfortunately, beyond the initial "wow" factor of the gorgeousness of the game world, this does not make for immersive gameplay. My entire second gameplay experience (1 hr. 10 min.) was spent riding around on my horse, making periodic stops to check the map and calibrate my sword-compass.

    The other criticism I have is the map, which is not much help in figuring out where to go next, and how it is implemented in the game. Perhaps I have been spoiled by the convenience of being able to always see both the game world and the map on my Nintendo DS, but I would have liked for the designers to have incorporated a map overlay. As it is, the player must hit "Start," which pauses the action and replaces the game world with the map. I found myself having to toggle back and forth this way all too often--more than I would have liked.

    This is a wildly ambitious game with some frustrating elements, but I don't think I will let them deter me from continuing to play and enjoy. Overall, my initial impression is that "shadow of the Colossus" gets more right than it does wrong. If nothing else, the game is a memorable visual feast of the first order.

    This entry has been edited 3 times. It was last edited on Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:54:38.

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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:37:57     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    “Shadow of the Colossus” (PlayStation 2)

    GameLog entry #1:

    SUMMARY

    "Shadow of the Colossus" (2005) is an action/adventure game for the PlayStation 2 in which the player, a callow youth, must defeat, with the help of Agro, his trusted steed, the eponymous giant, mythic colossi that populate an expansive fantasy world in order to reawaken his sleeping beauty from an eternal slumber.

    GAMEPLAY

    I was immersed in the world of "Shadow of the Colossus" from the opening cinematic, and indeed, the entire game has a very cinematic quality. The camera swoops, rotates, pivots, dollies, zooms, retreats; I noted that the designers even used Hitchcock's "Vertigo" technique of zooming in one direction while tracking in another, producing a disorienting effect, along with effective motion blur. The game generally runs smoothly, although its world is so huge that occasionally frame rate suffers.

    If I have a criticism of the game, it is that I spent a good hour or so just wandering (I note that the game's original Japanese title was "Wanda to Kyozo," which translates as "Wander and the Colossus") before I encountered the first colossus. The player must climb its leg, make his way up its back, to the top of its head, and thrust his sword through it multiple times to bring the creature down. This was easier said than done, and provided an efficient and exciting challenge.

    Other observations:

    The graphics in this game are exquisite, and the way the designers have carefully modulated light and shadow as the player moves through the game world is masterful; the game has the feeling of some half-remembered dream. Agro moves and behaves like a real horse, and the colossi are even a little whimsical, with their elephantine lumbering, intermittently furry body and legs, and tiny, beady eyes. I don't know why, but I felt a little sorry for killing them. They remind me of an overgrown Totoro, in their odd, Japanese way, and I mean that as a compliment.

    The music, particularly the majestic, fully orchestral piece that plays during the slaying of the first colossus, is suitably atmospheric. There are even some gorgeous choral chants during the opening cinematic.

    Also, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the game characters (well, so far, only the disembodied voice) speaking Japanese, as too often domestic versions of Japanese games are dubbed into English, losing part of their unique character and charm.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:40:32.

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    1Brain Boost: Gamma Wave (DS)Stopped playing - Something better came along
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    5The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)Stopped playing - Got frustrated

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