platformer

A Boy and His Blob

First Hour Review

a boy and his Blob CoverI’ve been on a bit of a Wii fix lately. Perhaps all the Wii U buzz inspired me to check out B-List Wii games that initially flew under my radar. Whatever the cause, my little white waggle box had a busy month, thanks to Lost in Shadow, Link’s Crossbow Training, and FlingSmash.

Up next, A Boy and His Blob. This 2D puzzle platformer is a modern take on the original Trouble on Blobolonia, one of many quirky NES games I remember seeing at the rental store as a kid. But I took home Super Mario Bros. 3 every single time.

In a way, picking up the new Boy and His Blob feels like atonement for Young Nate’s disinterest in anything without “Mario” in the title. But I also wanted it because it looks adorable. Seriously, you feed the blob a jellybean and it happily forms into a ladder. I probably had an imaginary friend just like that when I was six and couldn’t reach a tree branch.

Lost in Shadow

First Hour Review

Lost in Shadow CoverHudson Soft. Now there’s a name that you don’t see on game boxes much anymore. The company that used to pump out Bomberman and Mario Party titles wasn’t much of a player this generation, were they?

And it seems we’ll never see the old honey bee logo on another boxart ever again: as of March 1 this year, Hudson Soft is officially dead. The last of its assets have been absorbed into Konami, which will probably put the Bomberman brand to good use and seal Hudson’s other, less milkable properties in the vault.

That makes Lost in Shadow Hudson’s swan song. The company developed and published the  shadow-based puzzle platformer and released it in January 2011 in North America. Like most Hudson games, it found modest critical praise at launch and was quickly forgotten. With Hudson’s recent demise, I guess that makes this as good a time as any to try out the company’s last contribution to gaming.

Infamous

First Hour Review

Infamous CoverThere's something fun about playing catchup on a console like the PlayStation 3. I already know what most gamers think are the best games, and I can pick and choose from the rest that appeal to me. The games are cheap, the library huge, and the experiences brand new.

So here I am with Infamous (also known as inFAMOUS, but that's just awful), Developed by Sucker Punch Productions and released in mid 2009 on just the PlayStation 3. It didn't leave much of an impression with me at the time except that it was going head to head with a game called Prototype, which from afar seemed like a relatively similar gaming experience. Both games were successful in their own right, Infamous 2 landed last year which Nate reviewed, and Prototype 2 shipped last month.

Infamous is my fourth PS3 catchup game this year, following Batman: Arkham City, Heavy Rain, and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. I've enjoyed them all, and am currently very fond of the PS3 experience. Of course, I'm limiting myself so far to games I know are pretty great, so I may be biased. Here's my first hour review of Infamous.

Rayman Origins

Full Review

Rayman Origins CoverI never quite bought into the whole Achievements deal this generation. It's nice to have a (rather arbitrary) tally of "gamerness" on record, and I do like to occasionally check my friends' progress. But the achievements themselves tend to make a goal out of lengthy tedium, a checklist asking the player to kill X enemies using Y weapon, in a way that mimics the worst parts of grind-dependent MMOs. It's far from the creative metagame that I'd hoped would evolve through the generation.

As a result, my PSN trophy list accounted for 65 games long but lacked a platinum trophy. I had ambitions to 100% my very first PS3 game, Uncharted 2, until I saw that the majority of the trophies were based on finding "treasures" in the game, essentially an overgrown pixel hunt. I don't regret giving up that chase shortly after it began, and it kind of soured me on trophies in general. Still, there has always been this nagging feeling that, having played so many PS3 games, I should get one platinum trophy before the next generation arrives. Some people aspire to run one marathon in their lives. I figured I should have one pointless digital knickknack.

Now I have one. It's a bit underwhelming, actually. Maybe that's because it only took about fifteen hours of game time to achieve. Or maybe it's because Rayman Origins is fun enough that, even if the game lacked trophies, I would have finished all the requirements anyway.

Rayman Origins

First Hour Review

Rayman Origins CoverI had never played a Rayman game before last year, when I tried Rayman 3D. A port of the most renowned Rayman game, it didn't exactly endear the limbless whatsit to me. So when Rayman Origins was released six months ago, I was too busy scampering through Super Mario 3D Land to care.

Thus, I was busy gazing into a 3D mushroom kingdom when Origins earned rave reviews. The acclaim seemed fruitless, as Rayman Origins found slow initial sales and an early price slash. Still, the game made enough cash that a sequel is (almost certainly) on the way.

I had intended to check out Rayman Origins since it was showered with critical adulation, but it was the sequel leak (and heavy discounting) that pushed me into finally buying the game. I'm pretty keen at picking apart platformers in just a few minutes of play, so my first impressions of the game all but cemented my new outlook on Rayman.

Fluidity

Full Review

Fluidity CoverThanks to the indie uprising, we have a heightened visibility for games that might have gone unnoticed just five years ago. A garage developer's labor of love can now share front page headlines with the AAA behemoths of the industry. Many fine media outlets even make a special effort to cover these smaller productions. Indie games have become the punk rockers of the industry, offering a lean alternative to overproduced AAA formulas, often with rebellious verve and spunk that resonates with us ninety-nine percenters (and at a price we ninety-nine percenters can afford).

But even in this new era, where the little guys yield as many pageviews as their big budget competition, an indie game needs to have some innovative hook or bombastic message in order to rise to the top. I can think of no other reason why Fluidity, a brilliant puzzle platformer with Metroidvania elements, has gone largely unnoticed. (Except that the game is marooned on Wii's invisible WiiWare digital distribution service, that is.)

It makes sense, though, doesn't it? So many indie darlings that went big had some kind of divergent aura about them. Limbo and Braid made their names with artsy themes and visuals that you just don't see in big money productions. The cheery brutality of Super Meat Boy, Magicka, and Castle Crashers upgraded them from mere mechanical joys to acclaimed game experiences. Fluidity, on the other hand, lifts its style and mood from airline safety manuals, of all things.

Super Meat Boy

Full Review

Super Meat boy CoverI started playing Super Meat Boy for our new Indie Impression feature, planning on maybe putting in a half hour with the meat and then heading off to write down my thoughts. Two weeks later and 10 hours of gaming in the can, I beat all of Super Meat Boy’s light world levels, rescued Bandage Girl over a hundred times, and died 2,345 times (to be exact). And even though poor Meat Boy splattered every 15 seconds, I still had an awesome time.

It’s a testament to developer Team Meat’s ability that they can make a platformer not only crazy hard, but also very fun. Almost nothing is harder in game development than properly ramping the challenge up for every kind of gamer, but they pull it off with Super Meat Boy.

Released on Windows, Linux, OSX, and Xbox Live Arcade (a WiiWare release was planned and then scrapped when the game exceeded the platform’s size limits) in 2010, it has since sold over one million copies, not bad for an indie release. Here’s my review.

Super Meat Boy

Indie Impression

Super Meat boy CoverOur second Indie Impression is of Super Meat Boy, the 2010 platformer from Team Meat. Known for its sadistic level design and smooth gameplay, Super Meat Boy has grown into a huge hit that's spread beyond the indie community, selling more than one million copies across all PC platforms and Xbox Live Arcade. We've got four impressions for that range from a few minutes to completing the game 100%, which is pretty much exactly how I envisioned this column working out. Greg was going to provide impressions also, but decided that since he ended up beating the game in about a week, he's going to provide a full review in the coming days.

Fluidity [Video]

First Hour Review

Fluidity CoverI don't know why I've bothered registering my games with Club Nintendo these past five years. So many surveys and registration codes, and what have I received in return? A couple calendars, an LCD relic, and a set of collectors' pins. It's downright sad next to the free eReader that Sony sent me.

But times have changed, and this is the new, modern Nintendo! The bold new Nintendo of 2012 not only releases limited-availability demos and supports paid DLC, it actually puts up some worthwhile prizes for Club Nintendo members. Specifically, Club Nintendo now offers a small selection of downloadable games in exchange for the coins that you earn by registering Nintendo products. First party games only, but hey, baby steps.

Fluidity, a WiiWare title of some renown (called Hydroventure in Europe), was one of the games available in December for a fair 150 coins (it's no longer there, but you can only get it on the Wii Shop Channel for $12). The game received positive press and has whiffs of Metroidvania and fluid dynamics puzzles, so that sounds like a winner to me. I've played an hour: am I happy with the coins I spent, or should I have gone for the Mario Folder and Bookmark Set instead? I'd be the coolest kid in homeroom with those folders...

Super Mario 3D Land

Full Review

Super Mario 3d Land CoverUpon starting Super Mario 3D Land, I was placing internal bets on whether the game would be filed with the 2D or the 3D Mario experiences. Miyamoto and the team say they combined the approachability of 2D Mario with the freedom of the third dimension, but one of the two styles must win out, right?

Exactly fourteen hours of playtime later, the answer still eludes me. There's bits of Super Mario Galaxy and pieces of New Super Mario Bros in the game, and it leans heavily towards the former. What's keeping me from committing 3D Land to the 2D Mario pile is all the Sonic Adventure mucking things up.

Despite the disappointment, elation, and outright disdain that those three names likely bring up, they ultimately mean little for the actual quality of the game. It would be difficult to argue that Super Mario 3D Land is anything other than the Nintendo 3DS' most compelling purchase to date. But it's also the first Mario title in several years that I can't just rave about.

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