Advent Calendar - December 7th.

by PaulEMoz in , , ,

killer7 (Nintendo Gamecube)

As soon as I'd hit on this advent calendar concept, I knew exactly what game I'd be playing on December 7th. It didn't matter that I've played it before; it didn't matter if there were other games out there that would fit. I was going to play killer7, simple as that.

I wrote a review of this for Way of the Rodent. I thought I'd have a quick re-read of it before writing this, and was stunned to see that I wrote it in August 2005. Is it really that long since I first played this? Apparently so, but it still feels as fresh every time I play it as it did then.

Hey, where are you going? Wait for me, I'm lost!

killer7 is in the top three most mental games I've ever played. It really grabbed me the first time I played it, but although I've had a copy sitting here for a while, it's been a fair bit of time since I played it. And that's just wrong, because a game as entertaining, intriguing and insane as killer7 demands to be played, or more accurately, demands to be experienced.

Well, you certainly are. I'm not hanging from the ceiling in a gimp sui, so I'm a bit better off.

It's very much a Marmite game, is killer7. Nobody thinks "it's alright". They either love it or hate it. I've learned this from many a discussion over the years. For me, everything hangs together in such a brilliant, freaky fashion that it makes for a videogame experience like no other.

Mmmm, blood. Very useful stuff, you're going to need as much as you can get...

The plot is mental. I'm not going to roll it out here, but if I say that you play as the physical embodiment of an old man's seven assassin personalities, you know you're not dealing with a conventional videogame. And when a man in a gimp suit, a man that you killed on a previous assignment, drops down and offers advice, it's obvious that you've gone way, way off the wall.

... although you're not supposed to spill it down your dress, Kaede!

killer7 is not set up in a way that is immediately accessible. Gameplay-wise, it's pretty much an on-rails shooter with something of a choice of routes. That doesn't sound too exciting, but it's the way it's presented that makes it stand out. The graphic style is stunning and unique, all strange angles and odd colours. It's tense... when the creepy "Heaven Smile" enemies are closing in on you and you're struggling to get a shot on target, you'll feel your nerves start to go. The game itself is bizarre... part shooter, part detective story, with its crazy characters it's interesting from the off and never lets its grip loosen.

You OK, old man? How'd you like a nice cup of tea?

There's so much more I could say about the game's plot and the storyline, but that makes for dull reading when you could be playing and experiencing it for yourself... by far the best way to get the flavour of it. As far as I'm concerned, killer7 is a twisted classic. It's a game that I'll never sell... I'll always want to pick it up for another play at some point. It's not for everyone... there's no way it could be. But it's original, funny, dark, bizarre and, if you do get into it, great fun. Playing it again for the blog has been a joy, and has reaffirmed my love for this intelligent, arty masterpiece.

Bionic Commando Rearmed (XBox Live Arcade)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , , ,

Bionic Commando is a name that goes back a long way. I used to love the Commodore 64 conversion of the arcade game. It was tough but fun, with great music. I never got to play the arcade version, but that hardly matters. If you're American, though, the Bionic Commando name means something entirely different. A brand new version was produced for the NES, which although having a similar main character was a very different game.

It's this version which has been remade for the modern consoles. I bought it the day it came out, played the tutorial, hated it and never loaded it again. Still, the name holds an appeal, and when Capcom produced a brand new, all-singing all-dancing update, I was interested. I wasn't forty quid's worth of interested though... but months and months later, I was able to nab it for £4.50 from Tesco. Rude not to, at that. Before playing that, though, I thought it might be wise to revisit BC: Rearmed.

Good decision.

Ka-BOOOOM! Even the poster is shocked at the power of that one.

Having spent a bit more time with Rearmed and getting to grips with the controls a little more, I started to enjoy myself. The game reminded me quite a bit of Shadow Complex, although that game came out later. It also reminded me of Impossible Mission, strangely enough. I think it was the behaviour of the guards that did it... they'd wander around their little areas quite happily, but when I got near they'd maybe move faster or start firing. It's quite a bit like Impossible Mission's robot droids.

Once I got myself over the fact that your commando can't jump (which I still think is silly, but no longer insurmountable), I started pinging myself around the platform-strewn environments quite handily. And it becomes fun, swinging across a gap, landing successfully , taking out a guard, catching onto the platform directly above, hauling yourself up, hanging there, blasting another guard and then vaulting up onto the platform. Turning that into a fluid, seamless action is very satisfying. It feels right, it feels good.

That's the bugger, there. Let me pass!

There's a small amount of other spy elements here... hacking the computers is also IM-esque. It's a bit weird to start with, but it soon becomes manageable.

Just as I was really getting into it, though, I came to the first end-level boss. And that's where I remain. I just couldn't figure it out at all, even with the clues I was armed with. In fact, we came to an impasse... it couldn't hurt me, and I couldn't hurt it. After 15 minutes, it was back to the dashboard.

Shame, really... there's a lot of game for the MS points, and although it's tough, it feels more challenging than unfair. It's presented very nicely... modern, but with plenty of nods to the old-school. I expect I'll have another crack at this one, probably after I've had a look at GameFAQs or something. I hope the brand new version can live up to this one.

LED Storm/Mad Gear (Arcade/MAME)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

A bonus game today, as my missus is watching some cack on the telly that I'm not interested in. I only have the laptop available for gaming, so I've gone back to the arcades for a blast on LED Storm. Or Mad Gear if you prefer - I don't, I think that's a rubbish name.

LED Storm is a futuristic update on the Bumping Buggies/Burnin' Rubber style of game, which sees you racing against other cars and obstacles over dangerous courses, in a kind of crazy Cannonball Run affair. You can smash other cars into the sides of bridges or canyons and destroy them, although this is a bit dangerous as they will bounce you back. Safer is the option to jump on them... but jumping brings its own problems, as many of the bridges have huge sections missing.

Of course, you have to jump over those to safety, but if you're mid-jump in an attempt to smash an opponent, you're knackered.

Left: it's all a bit frantic at the moment. Right: you've made the jump, but there are other problems to deal with...

There are other reasons to jump... bonus balloons float by, giving extra points for your score, but more important than those are the energy cans that you can collect to prolong your game. Occasionally, you'll see a green canister floating by... jump for this and you'll receive a shield for a limited period, at which point you can just barge everything out of the way.

LED Storm is a game that was well reviewed on the Commodore 64 and Amiga, but I don't think I played it. I have a vague idea that my mate may have bought it for the Amiga, but it's not in my games pile so I'm not sure. It's a pretty enjoyable game, and playing it and then writing about it has seen off the TV cack quite nicely indeed. I can see it being frustrating for some, due to the slightly trial-and-error nature of the jumping, but I'd have been happy to see this arcade machine in any of my local haunts.

Devil May Cry 4 (XBox 360)

by PaulEMoz in , ,

I was quite excited about playing this. I played the first game way back when it was first released, and really enjoyed it. The second one wasn't much cop, though. And although I read good things about the third, I never actually got around to playing it. Being a bit of a cheapskate (credit crunch? Nah... I've been tight when it comes to buying games since long before that kicked in) I probably wouldn't have bought this one, if it wasn't for Currys being desperate to flog anything that's been sitting there longer than six months.

First things first: it looks stunning. Granted, I'm not a videophile (nor am I an audiophile - years of listening to fast guitars at high volume saw to that), and it's the first game I've really played in HD, but even so... well, I'm impressed.

As far as the game goes, it's pretty much what I expected, and that's not a bad thing. It's yer typical Capcom slash-'em-up fare: over-the-top characters, hordes of barely-threatening minions to dispatch, and some really impressive boss characters that will smash you all over the shop until you work out what you're supposed to do with them. And of course, there are glowing orbs... red ones, green ones, blue ones... flying out of everything you kill or destroy, with the purpose of being put towards the purchase of new skills or items. It's just as well these games are set in a fantasy world... if I tried to buy a pair of trainers or a new pen with glowing orbs, I expect I'd be sent packing with nowt but a couple of choice words ringing in my ears.

There are a couple of difficulty levels (to start with - I expect at least one more can be unlocked), and I've started on the easiest. Don't rag on me... I know how difficult these games can be, and lack of gaming time in the last year has dulled my reflexes. I'll ramp it up later on, perhaps... the difficulty can be changed at any time.

Devil May Cry 4 is proving to be very enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the story pans out. It's probably a bit cheesy - most of this stuff is - but it's all done with such incredible style that you can forgive it that.