When I rented the Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law video game a few years ago, I learned that some comedy has a minimum speed limit. I loved the rapid surrealist gags in the Adult Swim cartoon, but fifteen minutes was all I could take of the same humor decelerated to account for player input. What worked at twenty jokes per minute just didn’t translate to a relaxed visual novel speed.
Retro City Rampage has taught me that the funny/fast correlation works both ways. What was shaping up to be a parade of lazy puns and toothless parodies is acceptable entertainment when marched at a sprinter’s pace. It’s all in the delivery.
And Rampage delivers ‘80s nostalgia in spades. From head to toe, the game is decked out in pop culture knockoffs. You’ll accept missions from Principal Belding, find Game Genie codes, and change your appearance in a Michael Jackson facelift shop...with slight alterations that abide by intellectual property laws, of course.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing a full-blown Easter Egg epidemic. In just the last month, Dishonored re-enacted a scene from PC classic Thief: The Dark Project. The newest World of Warcraft expansion contains homages to everything from Battletoads to Harvest Moon to Star Fox.
There are even veritable egg trails: Torchlight II pays homage to Borderlands 2 which references Dark Souls. If this trend continues, it won’t be long until we have a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon on our hands, counting references back to either “Cake is a lie” or “Arrow in the knee.”
And Retro City Rampage isn’t helping matters. Released last week on PlayStation Network and Steam (and coming soon for XBLA and WiiWare), this Grand Theft Auto “demake” touches on dozens of classic NES-era videogames, if not hundreds. The launch trailer alone portends a never-ending assault of sly winks, like a pirate blinking War and Peace in morse code.
I 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.
I 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.
I love the LEGO videogames. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably keep on saying it, especially if the folks over at Traveller’s Tales use their magical powers to read my mind and make LEGO Lord of the Rings or LEGO Men in Black next. My favorite of the bunch so far has been LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, which managed to follow both the films and books while also giving fans a ton of love with their attention to details. It seemed perfect for LEGO-izing, with magic and a wide cast of characters, but I was disappointed that it only covered half of Harry’s legacy; the developers padded out the experience by giving players Hogwarts, a huge hub to explore that revealed more and more in a Metroidvania style after certain spells and classmates were acquired.
J.K. Rowling finished up all the books way back in 2007, and the money-making films now dead and done until some fool tries to remake them all in like ten years. I’ve never played any of the movie tie-in videogames—though I did have fun flying on brooms and catching Golden Snitches with Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup for the PlayStation 2—but from what I can gather, many of them are not great. Especially the Kinect ones, which tries to turn Harry into a new recruit for Gears of War. LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 could very well be the last greatest game for the franchise, simply because there’s probably not much else coming out for it afterwards.
My favorite thing about the LEGO videogames are that they are perfect for playing co-op. There’s a challenge, sure, but exploring the levels and piecing everything together is more fun with a partner. Like my wife, Tara Abbamondi. Comments from her are in red!
Okay, let’s see if the first hour of LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 is just as magical as the previous game’s.