Tokyo Jungle – A takeaway

Love it or hate it, Tokyo Jungle has a lot of what modern counsels need to do.  It’s execution as a game is lacking, but the elements are there.  It’s short, downloadable, fulfilling, and it’s cheap.  That’s basically what people want.  Content is only valuable if it’s enjoyable.  I can’t imagine anyone really enjoys collecting all the cars in LA Noire or doing all the side-quests in Red Dead Redemption.  But you will if you want that trophy.

Here you’ll play until you feel you’re done.  When you’ve seen everything you need,  you can walk away without feeling bad about it.  It  mixes brevity with an open ended world, and people will extend that to whatever amount is right for them.


Two Very Different Games

I’ve been playing a decent amount of Borderlands 2, which has in most ways been incredibly enjoyable.  But this enjoyment really only comes in the multiplayer, and with my friends indisposed I’ve taken a break to play LA Noire.  As a gap it’s an interesting experience.  I can’t say I love the way it “feels”, but it’s a good game to play after you’ve been rampaging around a foreign world for a bit too long.  It’s calm and calculating, the sort of thing you want to play after you’ve had a crushing day, allowing you to avoid further stimulation.  It’s not a weekend game; it’s a night game, best played in bits.

You have to stare gore straight in the eye.

Puzzle Quest 2 Review

Title:  Puzzle Quest 2
Maker: Infinitive Interactive
Publisher: D3 Publisher of America
System: DS
Cost: $15

Will make you question your choices in life.

Look at the cover. That’s it, that’s the game.

First thing, if you’re going to play this game, do two things: turn the difficulty up to hard, and turn off the hint cursor.  The game will still be a breeze, but that’s the only chance you have to lose a round.

Positives:  Auto-save is slow but thorough.  Occasionally, and I use that term very loosely, they will get the language right and put something funny together.  But I can only think of one exact moment where it was completely successful (see Memory below).  The first half-hour, as your clear out the town and get used to the mechanics, is entertaining without feeling bad.

Negatives:  You’ll notice the art-style is incredibly bland.  So was the first’s, but maybe playing it on the PSP left it with a little more sheen.  I chose the Assassin as a character because even though he looks stupid, I didn’t have to look at his face.  You would think these classes would determine a lot of your abilities, but neither class nor level seems to have any discernible effect on your ability to pick a lock vs. break it, for example.  In reality the game is just one long fetch quest stretched into a story.  It’s as fun as a typical fetch quest.  Meaning the game isn’t long, but it sure as hell feels long.

All this could be forgiven if the puzzle mechanics we’re captivating.  But the mechanics are the real failure.  Because of your characters spells, and the poor A.I., you’ll basically be doing the same thing every time.  Which is trying to get enough mana to combo out the opponent (and if they’re still alive, use your weapon to finish them off).  I could see how playing against another human could provide legitimate counter-strategy and unpredictability, but this potential doesn’t excuse the hours of mindless repetition that makes up the game.

End Result:  As I played Puzzle Quest 2 I was consciously aware of the time I was wasting on it.  This is fine when you’re on an airplane and need to waste two hours (but even then I thought- I should be reading a book…), but when you’re at home you become acutely aware of what this is doing to your life.  It’s like you can feel your body degrading as you play it.

One night, as I sat on the couch playing Puzzle Quest 2, I started to question if all games were just a waste of my time (probably, but they shouldn’t be reminding me), this of course lead to the question of what I should actually be doing with my life.  By the end I was fidgeting so badly and feeling so guilty, that I went to bed with a terrible taste in my mouth, slept horribly, and was still angry the next day.  I kept trying to play it, hoping something would redeem the hours I had already sunk into it, but like gambling, it just keeps taking from you until you have the guts to write it off.

Review:  1 Star (Out of 5)

Memory:  A zombie trying out for the city guard eats another guard recruit.  As a result the captain of the guard promotes him.

At least it was a quick read.

It turns out JPod is about as pointless and unbelievable as could be conceived, and maybe that’s the underlying statement.  The characters lose themselves in fantasy, while their lives are beyond fantasy.  The irony of wanting to replace yourself with something that is less bizarre.  But that’s a lot of pages to get a simple ironic message across.  The only real sad thing is that nothing comes close to the promise of the first two pages.

One thing that did amuse me was impossible to plan, and can only come from reading something years after it was written.  They mention constantly the golden age of the 90’s, and they’re right, it was a golden age for tech.  But the videogame industry of 2006 compared with 2012 must seem like a forgotten golden age itself.  Most videogame companies haven’t even come close to their new worth in 2006 (check out Ubi-Soft’s or Nintendo’s stock history).  It’s easy to do nothing on the job when times are good, you’re rising with the tide, and it provides the temporary environment for the characters unrelatable nihilistic attitudes.

Do authors intentionally make their characters unrelateable?  It’s a hard thing to pull off, and something people like to try since Seinfeld.  But that was a stroke of genius, or a fluke.  I can’t understand why would anyone would want to.  How does that motivate you?

In the end the book left me hating the concept of a videogame culture.  Not games themselves, just the culture, or at least the one that’s portrayed in the book.  It turns out there’s good reason to avoid mixing passions for literature and games.

He’s also ruined the name Kaitlin for me.  I never minded it before, but now seeing it in writing makes cringe.

Chrono Trigger on the PSX…

I have heard of JPod before.  I realize it when the main character writes a bio about himself and says his favorite game is Chrono Trigger for the “Sony Playsation”.  And I instantly think to myself, who the hell picks the Playstation version of Chrono Trigger?  The main character is 30 in 2006, at that age there is no way your first experience with the game isn’t on the Super Ninentdo.  And then I remember, I’ve heard this somewhere… this same critique of this same passage.  At some point in my life I read an article pointing out the exact same ridiculous point.

Some new FMVs, no way does that make up for the load-times

He just can’t leave the poor game alone though.  Later in the book when they are collecting drug money, he enters a house and a biker gang member is playing Chrono Trigger on “Sony Playsation”.

All I can think is, “No he’s not.  That scenario has never existed in the history of the world.”

A Brisk Six Years Late – JPod

So this post is about a novel, that’s about videogames.  But as I’ve been reading it I realize, not really.

Novels and videogames are perhaps two of my favorite things in the world.  But I’ve kept them in separate universes.  They felt like different parts of my psyche, and ones that I shouldn’t mingle.  But I chose this book randomly.  It sat alone, facing outward, on a stand at the library, lego figures and a catchy name- “JPod” on the front.  I didn’t put it back when the slip cover told me it was about videogames.

Douglas Coupland must be somewhat famous.  The first real line inserts him into the novel in way that would imply he is well-known.   It came out around the same time as Brett Easton Ellis’s Lunar Park, so they both seemed to have grown the idea organically and independent of each other, but his insertion in the story doesn’t seem to be a metaphor.  It’s like a form of name dropping, but for yourself.  Still the name rings no bells with me.

All this being said, the first two and a half ramblings pages (followed by “$”s and “Ramen Noodles” printed over and over) that serve as a prelude before the book begins, are amazing.  Perhaps the coolest thing I have read in years.  But does two pages mean a lot?  Yeah, I guess it kind of does, as it’s a bright spot that you can hold onto.  The rest of the book remains decidedly uncertain for me.

DLC I would want to play

I rarely see DLC that interests me.  Yeah, sometimes it helps the game providing more weapons, outfits, characters, and scenarios,  but rarely does it seem like anything but a time extender.  The new Assassin’s Creed 3 DLC however seems cooler than the actual game.  The game itself has hardly registered while it constantly floats across the news sites.  But an alternative history DLC is an awesome idea.

Yeah, it would be tempting…

A tyrant king George Washington is an excellent idea, and the whole concept of famous individuals succumbing to the desires of man offers amazing possibilities.  Radically alternative history (vs. small strategic alternations, like being able to command Napoleon to victory at Waterloo) offers the chance to explore Faustian Tragedy in a way that literature and movies have been able to.  That’s not to say this is the depth that The Tyranny of King George will have, however the mere possibility for the future makes it intriguing.