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Entries in insanity (2)

Wednesday
Aug212013

Gaming’s Super-Powered Savior

Saints Row IV had all the hallmarks of a disaster in the making. Rumors of stretching what was to be a small piece of downloadable content into an entire game, one with a mighty quick turnaround time from its predecessor, did not bode well. Neither did the marketing which appeared to be trying to out-crazy a game that was already exploring the outer limits of Crazy Town.

A scant few minutes into the game I was disarming nuclear missiles in mid-air, punching aliens in the face, and outrunning cars down city streets. Saints Row IV is glorious, and I couldn’t be happier. It is deeply refreshing to see a potential train wreck of a release turn out so right for once. That’s a rare sight these days.

I firmly believe the industry needs this kind of game right now. As our collective focus turns relentlessly to the maturity of the medium, deep storylines, realism, gritty overtones, and brown landscapes as far as the eye can see, we need a Saints Row IV to come along and remind us how to have fun. Staring at a screen and controlling glorified digital shapes with a hunk of plastic buttons need not be something we always take so seriously.

Am I glad we’ve gotten to the point where we can bring up discussions of gender roles in gaming stories and not be laughed out of the room? Am I glad my mind can be blown and my heart touched by stories told in games such as Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us? Absolutely.

Am I equally tired of the pretention and self-seriousness that comes with that territory? So much yes. For all that we’ve gained, it seems like gamers are afraid to go back and enjoy the gleeful colors and ridiculous fun games of old used to give us.

My plea to you: remember to enjoy the outlandish. Embrace the interactive insanity that only games can deliver. Go blast some aliens with a dubstep gun. 

Tuesday
Dec282010

Best of the Decade: New Super Mario Bros Wii

New Super Mario Bros Wii

Platform: Wii

Release Date: November 15, 2009

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo EAD

It has warmed my heart of late to see 2D platformers becoming acceptable again. From the sadistic challenge of Super Meat Boy to the retro thrills of Donkey Kong Country Returns to the adorable charm of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, to name just a few, the side scroller seems to be making a comeback.

Some games, such as Super Meat Boy, exist because downloadable games have made riskier titles possible. Others, such as Kirby and Donkey Kong, are actually, in a sense, children of Wii Sports and Nintendo’s movement toward making things simpler again. There’s something about the design of a classic side scrolling platformer that’s easy to grasp for just about anyone.

Both of these categories of old school game are representative of a happy truth. As a gaming culture, we have finally reached the point where 3D, and the complexity that normally comes with it, is no longer necessary for success. I love me some complexity in the right situations and simple isn’t always better, but it wasn’t too many years ago when the classic side scroller was basically dead because there was no market. To sell, you had to be 3D.

This is no longer true. Graphics may be in 3D, and you won’t find me complaining about that because there are some gorgeous examples of left-to-right hop-and-bops that feature pleasing use of the third dimension for eye candy, but what is once again most important is great gameplay, even if it’s in two dimensions.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why a game like New Super Mario Bros Wii is thrilling for me. I love Super Mario Galaxy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sincerely appreciate a return to glorious 2D form for Mario. 

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