Monday, July 14, 2008

Byte: Filling the gap

I think I'm finally Mass Effect-ed out. The irony is that it's because there aren't enough different classes to play with. There may be six different classes, but the achievements system which unlocks powers and abilities after you use them an arbitrary number of times means that the classes begin to overlap, Soldiers can pick biotic feats, Adepts and Engineers can pick weapons feats, so combat quickly becomes a walkover. That doesn't really stop it being fun, but it would be nice to be challenged beyond the set pieces. It still gets my vote for my favourite game of the year, but I'm ready to move onto something different now.

And with there being sod all out (still) on PC at the moment, it's the Wii that I'm turning to in this hour of need. I still desperately underuse the console, despite the fact I've got well over a dozen games for it that have probably averages less than 5 hours each in terms of play time so far. I finally got around to playing a bit of Super Mario Galaxy, which is quite an experience. The wrap-around worlds really mess with your head as the floor and camera warp around, bending your sense of perspective. In that respect it's quite hard to play, but it is a lot of fun, even if I can only play it in short doses, in order to stave off a migraine as I try and wrap my brain around the skewed spatial physics of the game world.

I'm also having a lot of fun with Family Ski. You really need to use the Wii Balance Board to get the best out of it and though there aren't really that many ski runs on the mountain, it's lovely to play a game that's essentially harmless and where you don't interact with people solely by rearranging their internal organs with gunfire. The worst you can do is knock someone over into the snow if you collide with them - though even that elicited horrified gasps from my girlfriend as she watched me play it at the weekend.

Mario Kart on the Wii remains absolutely delightful. I did some four-way multiplayer at the weekend when we were having dinner with some friends. Even Fleur quite enjoyed it, despite the fact she was dead last on every race. Perhaps it was just the tracks we were playing, but I found that the AI karts were pretty evil - I managed to podium once, but otherwise we were all struggling. The analogue steering with the remote works beautifully, though - particularly when you're counter-steering into slides to really get the sparks flying. You can really pull off some monumental slides on some of the tracks (the Delfino Square remake - originally a DS track - being one of my favourites), and it's great when you can chain slides together for sheer coolness value. It's not quite so easy to dip in and out of as the DS version (thanks to a distinct lack of portability), but it's still one of the best games to satiate your gaming lust if you don't have a huge amount of time on your hands.

One game I really need to devote a lot more time to (if I can ever find any) is Okami. It's absolutely captivating. The art style is gorgeous, and the combat is unlike anything you've ever played before. The Wii control set is perfectly suited to the Celestial Brush, and there's something inherently awesome about being able to paint over the screen and change things in the game world. It's probably about as far away as you can get from a game like Mass Effect in terms of aesthetic, but it should fill the RPG-shaped hole that needs filling in my life right now...
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