Monday, September 28, 2009

What I've Been Playing, When I'm Not Working

Starting back in August, I worked an 11 day stretch, then was on vacation in San Antonio, Texas for six days. When I got back from that, I had a few days to play videogames before going back to work six days straight, then one day off, then six more. To summarize, I've had little time to play and less time to blog. So it's time for one of those quick-review wrap-up articles like I used to do.

Harvey Birdman : Attorney At Law (Wii)
I picked up this title (at last) when I saw it at a Half Price Books in San Antonio while on vacation. It lacks some of the depth of a Phoenix Wright title, but none of the difficulty. I'm stuck about halfway through it. It could be that I'm out of practice. The game looks just like the wacky cartoon and offers the same offbeat humor.

Mazes of Fate (Game Boy Advance)
This obscure GBA title was one I've been looking out for for awhile, and I got it at the same Half Price Books for less than ten dollars. I've only scratched the surface, but so far it's just as I'd hoped - and old school first-person dungeon crawler.

Retro Game Challenge (DS)
At a Gamestop in San Antonio, Monique and I each got ourselves a new DS game. Mine was this title, a mere twenty dollars. Retro Game Challenge is just was it says it is. Players play through challenges on old-school games. I've only unlocked two of the games, the first being a Galaga-style game that's better than Galaga, and the second an NES-era side-scrolling action platforming game.

The gameplay takes place on the top screen of the DS, while on the lower screen, you see yourself as a small child, sitting in front of the TV as you did so long ago, with your friend watching you play and offering encouragement. The whole experience is a nostalgic reminder of those simpler, more innocent gaming days. There are even videogame magazines lying around where you can read about the games you are playing and even get cheat codes and strategies. Awesome.

Space Bust-A-Move (DS)
Monique picked up Space Bust-A-Move for the DS, also for $20. In her words, it's great. It starts out easier than the other two versions we have (PS1 and Wii), but gets progressively harder, with boss battles and such. The space part comes from cosmic backgrounds and levels taking place on different planets. The stylus controls are also good, according to Monique. We have yet to try the single-card multiplayer, but I'm sure that it's fun too.

The Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion : The Shivering Isles (Xbox 360)
The Shivering Isles expansion takes the already huge world of the main game and adds another vast area to explore. The Shivering Isles, a place divided between Mania and Dementia, are ruled by the charming and often hilarious Sheogorath, who rambles on in a Scottish accent as he tasks you with stopping the Greymarch. It's a great quest, more challenging at times than the main game, with new monsters and items a'plenty. I played it on and off for a few months after beating the main game, and finally finished it a few weeks ago at the end of my vacation.

Halo 3 : ODST (XBox 360)
Last week I picked up this spin-off adventure in the Halo universe, where players play a rookie Orbital Drop Shock Trooper during the attack on New Mombasa in Halo 2. I think. Regardless of my tenuous grasp of Halo continuity, I had a blast over the last few days playing through the game's campaign mode on Heroic. The ODST is no Spartan like Master Chief is, and thus the gameplay has a few differences. He heals through healthpacks rather than waiting for himself to regenerate. He can't jump as high or melee very well.

But all these differences make the game, which has the same enemies, weapons, and vehicles as Halo 3, really refreshing. Also new is the visor that helps the rookie see better at night, and adds a nice red outline to ememies. The setting is also great - the rookie walks around the battle-scarred city at night, ducking Covenant patrols (or fighting them), and looking for clues as to what happened with to the squadmates that he got seperated from at the start of the game.

When the rookie finds such a clue, the game shifts players into the role of that squadmate, and what happened to him during the six hours the rookie was out cold. It's a very good storytelling method that really got me interested in the characters, in a way that Halo 3 completely failed to do with Master Chief. Each character's adventures aren't all that new - there's a Warthog driving mission, a sniper mission, and so on - but they're still all good fun.

The multiplayer aspect of Halo 3 : ODST comes with every expansion to Halo 3 on a second disk, as well as the all-new Firefight mode (a survival mode, I think), none of which I've tried yet. Halo 3 : ODST is a great package and well worth the price for fans of the game.

Ultime Online (PC)
Yep, I'm back in UO during the current Return to Britannia program. I'm not staying. All I've done so far is sail around the changes they've made to Avatar Island in Trammel with the Stygian Abyss expansion. They basically raised a volcano on the northwestern edge of the island.

All I can say is, man, I'm glad I sold that beachfront villa I had placed there back during the Trammel Land Rush of 2000 when I had the chance. All of that pristine beach is gone, replaced by cooled lava. None of the Stygian Abyss stuff looks like anything that would bring me back to the game on a permanent basis, but as long as it's free, I can sail around for old time's sake.

Well, that wraps up what I've been playing lately. My work schedule doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon, sort of like the fall videogame release schedule, so I'm not sure if my next update will be like this one, or back to single-game reviews.

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