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March 18, 2003

Wastrel

As you know if you've been following my posts, I've had a string of annoying problems which all seem to contribute to my lack of sleep. This isn't entirely true, as I actually slept more while fighting the flu than I had before. Now that the flu is pretty much gone, I'm apparently reverting to restless and choppy sleep, given last night as an example. I don't know when or if this condition will correct itself.

The upshot of this is that I concentrate all my mental acuity into the daylight hours at work, and by the time I arrive home, my brain is pretty much ready for a vacation. I've postponed my self-study evenings for this reason and the reason that I've been on call to act as math tutor during my wife's classes. But while I can handle algebra problems, I'm not in the mood for really tough mental acrobatics.

So where am I heading with this? Simply that I've been buying a few 'clearance sale' console games to fill the odd evening hour without a lot of thought. A few weeks ago I bought the Playstation 2 Winter 2002 Jampack, which is a sampler of playable demos and video previews for various games. This was a great purchase at $8, as I got to sample several games I was curious about without dropping list price for the full versions.

Kelly and I tried out Wild Arms 3, which looked like a cute premise, but had disappointing gameplay. Also on the disk were Mark of Kri, which has beautiful artwork and some interesting game mechanics, but overall didin't really grab me. I was very interested in the preview for Primal, as I'd just read a lengthy positive review in Play magazine. In the end, I think it's pretty clear that this is like Oni, a great idea, with an interesting story, but slanted toward someone with much faster reflexes and better coordination than I...

There were also a couple of platform games included. One, Sly Cooper and the Thievious Racoonus, was just too hard for me, so we gave it a pass, moving on to... Ratchet and Clank. I've got to say, if this didn't have so darn much blasting the bad guys built in, the platforming aspect would have made this a real winner. Kelly played it over and over, concentrating on the platforming, and throwing the controller at me whenever it came to fighting. She told me if I "wanted to buy the game, it would be okay by her." Sorry Kelly, you'll just have to make do with the demo.

The only other playable game I tried was SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs, which looked like an interesting game for it's stealth aspect, but overall didn't grab me.

Then I read a gushing review of Herdy Gerdy, a platformer with virtually no violence, and thought I'd get a copy for Kelly and I to play. So far we've just covered a couple of levels, but I think we'll be revisiting it on any given idle afternoon.

For my own entertainment, in the past month I've bought Onimusha, on sale for less than twenty bucks, and Silent Hill 2, also on sale.

Onimusha is interesting, and feels sort of like Resident Evil in medieval Japan. This right down to the 'auto-aim' Bushido blade! I kinda stalled out when I bought the Jampack mentioned above, but I'll be getting back to it eventually.

Way back when, I played the original Silent Hill, and it is probably my favorite console game of all time. It's certainly my favorite survival horror game. So I have high hopes for SH2. However, I don't have the brainpower or reflexes to take it on full force, so I've started the game in 'begginer' mode, where the monsters generally can't do a lot of damage, to spare myself the stress of trying to ax them before they bite my head off.

It's made for some amusing play. The first variety of monster I've run into is a sort of zombie-in-a-straightjacket shambling around town. If they're in a straightjacket (it's creepier than that, really), how do they attack? By bowing out their chest and spraying you with what I presume is poison. But since I'm playing beginner, it doesn't hurt my character so much as disgust him. It puts me in mind of the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the Black Knight is hopping around on his remaining leg trying to get Arthur to fight him one more time. " What are you going to do, bleed on me?"

In fact, I'm afraid that the game is a little too gentle in this mode, and I may have to restart at 'normal' level. For the nonce, I've taken to referring to my sessions with SH2 as "strolling around Spooky Town." Which can lead to trouble, as the second time I used the phrase to let Jean know I was going downstairs, she acted confused, then burst out laughing. "I thought you were using some weird figure of speech!"

Lastly in my pile of gaming distractions, I've begun revisiting my little stack of Gameboy Advance games, probably in preparation for the new GBA SP when it comes out. Lately I've been playing Tactics Ogre: The Knights of Lodis. This is a turn-based strategy game, with limited role-playing aspects. I really enjoy this kind of game, but seldom have the time to play it for any length.

The other game I've begun to revisit is Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. This is a platform adventure game, and as such can be put down pretty much anytime, provided you can hie thee to a save room first. But the reason I put it aside is that it is generally too full of detail for casual play. This game is directed at the idle fan who can try every variation of every level until they know the magic combo to unlock the next area. That's generally more work than I want to do on a handheld game, so I've let it sit idle.

Maybe I'll invest in a new game when I buy the GBA SP. Two candidates are Zelda: A Link to the Past and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, though the latter may not be out in North America on the GBA SP release date. I'll cover that when I buy the unit.

Posted by dpwakefield at March 18, 2003 08:37 PM