A-Z Challenge – Organ Trail: The Director’s Cut

Zombies!

I finished the ‘O’ game for my A-Z Challenge, leaving only one game left until I’m done!  Then again, the ‘X’ game’s going to be a little tough, since Xenoblade’s way too long and Xenosaga Episode I is not a game I enjoy… but I’ll just have to soldier through.  Organ Trail is actually a game I bought just a few days ago, but I sat down to give a couple tries and managed to beat it, so now I don’t have to try and beat Okamiden quickly!

So, Organ Trail, is you could gather from the name, is a bit of a parody/remake/zombie version of Oregon Trail.  It plays just like the game we all played fanatically on out school Macs, including the god-awful shooting mechanics and an unfortunate amount of dysentery.  Of course, it’s far darker and less educational than the original, with a few situations involving you or someone else flat out killing your teammates.  I want to say that I didn’t have to kill anyone from getting a zombie bite or anything… but when one of my teammates ‘sat too hard’ on my remaining fuel and destroyed it, stranding us for two days while I tried to trade for just enough to get to the next landmark, you know I had to put the completely healthy man down.

And good lord is that shot hard.

For  the most part this nostalgia trip is pretty great, though your normal tactics with Oregon Trail may not work here.  My first runthrough, I kept running out of food and having to scavenge during times of high zombie concentration, which eventually led to my death.  The second time, I brought a ton of food and only a few bullets, and I did very well (other than the fuel situation), though I had to trade a lot for replacement parts for my car (how could three mufflers break in three hours?), but for the most part, everything went smoothly as long as I rested up and made sure I was stocked at every safe zone.

So, um… Organ Trail’s pretty cool.  I had a fair amount of fun with it, though the unfortunate souls that didn’t get to play Oregon Trail when they were younger probably won’t see too much fun in it.

A-Z Challenge – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Apparently it's hard to find a small version of this box art, so have the logo instead.

Twenty-three down, two to go!  Uncharted marks my U game for the A-Z challenge, leaving only Okamiden and Xenosaga Episode I to be completed!  Uncharted was also part of my Summer Gaming Challenge… last year!  Better late than never, right?

Anyway, Uncharted was a pretty interesting ride.  I enjoyed the story of Drake and trying to find El Dorado and the path is ancestor took.  It was refreshing to be introduced to a character that really isn’t that great of a guy, either–he lies, cheats and steals, and kills other people like it’s no big deal.

Check out that boat!  Let's loot it!

Then again, I suppose you have to get accustomed to killing a bunch of dudes, with what the massive amount the game throws at you.  It’s used as kind of a cheap padding; at a few points even Drake himself sounds off dismay at the number of foes that block his path.  This seems like a relatively small scale operation on the part of the antagonist, so I have trouble seeing how they got about 300 people onto this tiny island… and they even manage to make it into ‘secret passages’ and the like.  It’s really detracting from the whole experience.

However, the padding doesn’t stop the game from being great for the most part.  Exploration was a lot of fun, and the plot keep me interested for the whole ride.  It’s a nice little game, and now I really want to try Uncharted 2 and 3.  Maybe after I’m done with all these other marathons I’m doing…

A-Z Challenge – ICO

ICO is much of the non-mainstream gaming world’s darling.  Often at the center of ‘games as art’ debates, it’s hard to argue that ICO is not unique.  It is truly a different experience, and one that most gamers should at least try… even if they think they won’t like it.  With its and Shadow of the Colossus’ HD re-release on the PS3, now more people than before can try out the classic.  So, my thoughts? Well…

I don’t like Shadow of the Colossus too much.  It’s a game I’ve tried to beat several times, but the awkward control scheme, and a few other things, always drive me away.  It forces me to restart every time I do, since trying to re-learn how to call your horse, climb a beast, and swing your sword in tense scenarios is too difficult.  Because of my experiences with SotC, I felt that I wasn’t going to enjoy the developer’s previous offering very much.  However, going in with a fresh mind, I was able to.

Don’t get me wrong: The controls in this game are just as awkward.  Many times I’ve fallen or mis-jumped to my death, and the game uses buttons for things that could have easily been used in a more user-friendly way.  However, the game lends itself to a more calm atmosphere:  There’s still enemies and tense situations, but you have enough walking and puzzle-solving in between to keep frustrations mostly low.

The game’s setting and story are both bare-bones, but lends itself to the game well.  Little is explained, but you know what’s going on.  The presentation is at the forefront here, and really does make ICO different from many of the PS2 games released with and around it.

Like I said, ICO’s a game worth experiencing, problems aside.  As a game I would have been unlikely to even try otherwise, this challenge has gotten me to try and enjoy some good games too… unlike how my recent posts look with playing underwhelming and bad games to force them out of my backlog.

A-Z Challenge: NightSky

It’s sort of hard to talk about NightSky, which is why I put it off for writing my thoughts for it for so long.  It’s certainly a game, at the very least, albeit a largely uninteresting one.  It sort of reminds me of Marble Madness, though the only common factor is being in control of a round object that you have to navigate through certain areas.  It has something like a story, but don’t ask me what it is or anything to do with it.  NightSky, really, is a game I’d probably forget about if it wasn’t in my Backloggery list and not my ‘N’ game for this challenge.

To be blunt, NightSky is a physics based platformer/puzzler.  You navigate a marble-like ball through short three screen stages, using the terrain and objects available to get from the left hand of the screen to the right.  It’s very simple at its base, and only later in the game can your little marble gain ‘powers’ to float, defy gravity, and other effects that are rarely used.

I think the game’s major problem is in its presentation.  The stages are supposed to create atmosphere, but I personally find them a bit boring, since it’s mainly black silhouettes on a somewhat pretty background. In addition, there’s no music… at least, I think there’s no music.  If there was, it either played so rarely I forgot about it or it simply didn’t work.  With no music to entice me, and lack of interesting visuals, it makes for a game that leaves little impression on the player.

I suppose NightSky isn’t a bad game, it’s just… underwhelming.  It’s an idea that’s been done before, in a way that doesn’t help it stand out. In the droves of indie games, it kind of just blends in, making it a game easily forgotten against more original, eye-catching efforts.

A-Z Challenge – Zombie Driver

Ah, Zombie Driver, how I wish I had never gotten you in a bundle.  I guess I didn’t have much hope for you anyway; you were a gimmick at best, an even more annoying version of Crazy Taxi at worst.  But, I had an odd attraction to you, wanting to play you over the vastly superior Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner for my marathon.  Playing through you was bittersweet… wait, it was actually just bitter.

Zombie Driver isn’t exactly a great game.  As a man with slightly more sense than the average citizen in a zombie crisis, you jump in a taxi and start running over zombies, when the military contacts you to rescue survivors.  The game follows this formula for almost the rest of the game: Get mission, save people, next.  There are also secondary missions of time limits, clearing out zombies in certain areas, or killing a certain amount of zombies.  It’s all very cut and dry, and nothing unexpected happens until the final briefing.  Also, the story is so paper thin I’m surprised they even tried.

As you go through the motions, you unlock new vehicles, upgrades, and weapons.  It allows a little bit of customization and strategy in saving the survivors… will you use the bus to grab everyone, or use the police car for more speed, but multiple trips?  In the end, I went for the former almost all of the time:  Fast cars are hard to control, and it’s far too easy to ram into a Boomer-like zombie that’ll wreck your car effortlessly… and it was easy to run over tons of zombies at once, too.


Wait… why’s there a map in that corner?  Is this even Zombie Driver!?  DARN IT I NEEDED THAT MAP.

Zombie Driver’s real failure is in its gameplay.  It’s all simple enough, but the controls can sometimes be a struggle.  Why did Space have to be the handbrake, when it would be so much better off as the weapon button?  Why need a handbrake when stopping is as simple as holding down for reverse?  Also, the car movements feel a bit without weight at times, making it hard to judge speed and ramming power.  Even with these issues, the game would have been substantially less frustrating with a simple map feature, especially involving the final mission, where one wrong turn can make you lose.

So, Zombie Driver?  Probably not worth the effort of beating it.  I doubt many people that own the game actually bought it in the first place, but if you did, shame on you.  Go play Zombie Vs. Ambulance instead.

A-Z Challenge – Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

Persona 4 is a game that I find difficult to talk about.  It’s not that it’s bad, not by any means… in reality, it’s the fact that it’s good that makes it so difficult to talk about.  Persona 4 has a huge fan base, and there’s really nothing I can say that hasn’t been said by the droves already.

Since that’s the case, I’ll just say this… I enjoyed Persona 3 a lot more than Persona 4.

That doesn’t mean I dislike Persona 4; not in the least.  It’s a great addition to the SMT series, and does nothing to shame the series’ name.  However, the story just wasn’t to my tastes.  It was just a little too silly and over the top–you’d expect teenagers dealing with mysterious kidnappings and murders to be taking things a little more seriously.  I understand the need for some comic relief… but it’s just too much. It’s the one area that I think P3 does far better than P4; and for me, that’s a big enough area to decide that it’s the better game.

Other than that, though, P4 does pretty great in other areas.  Combat is the same as most SMT games; however, having all melee attacks under one category makes it a little more simplified.  Also, P4 allows you to control your party members–a boon when compared to P3 and its sometimes frustrating AI.  Dungeons are more interesting to look at (though fundamentally the same as the previous entry) and the difficulty is still cranked up high.

I can’t stress this enough:  Persona 4 is a great game.  So is its predecessor.  Both are worth tracking down and playing some version of if you’re a RPG fan.  Which one you like more seems to mostly depend on taste; while P4 has a few mechanical upgrades, the biggest changes are the mood and the story, and everyone has a different opinion on what they enjoy.